Water Quality

Steptoe lawyers are armed to tackle issues related to water quality and discharges, whether as a result of urban waste, industry, or agriculture, and we have broad experience on Clean Water Act issues, including permitting, litigation, civil and criminal enforcement, and wetlands decisions.  We assist clients in obtaining permits/certifications for new and/or modified facilities or as needed for large infrastructure projects, including section 404 dredge and fill permits; aquifer protection permits; NPDES and storm water permits; and section 401 certifications.  Our lawyers also assist clients in responding to potential or existing violations and in responding to EPA or state enforcement actions.  We have experience with matters regarding drinking water, ground water, and rivers, and the requirements under their relevant regimes, including the Urban Waste Water Directive, IPPC Directive on industrial emissions, Agriculture/Nitrates Directive, and Drinking Water Directive.

Steptoe lawyers regularly provide advice on complying with section 404, and have represented clients in cases challenging the government’s jurisdiction over wetlands in several cases.  We have worked extensively with the US Army Corps of Engineers on the impacts to wetlands of energy, rail and pipeline construction projects.

Representative Matters

  • Representing a major pipeline company on issues related to spills
  • Representing a paper company on secondary treatment and water quality issues requiring the use of bioassays in order to demonstrate the acceptability of the company’s discharge to rare fish species during spawning.
  • Representing a major oil/mining company with respect to its surface water discharges to a feeder stream of a Wild and Scenic River and the impact of highly treated discharges to the stream’s food chain.
  • Litigating a surface water discharge enforcement action for a major steel company in which a demand for over $1 million in damages, was reduced to $45,000.
  • Negotiating toxic discharge regulations relating to the use of algicides and slimicides by pulp and paper mills in their wastewater treatment process.
  • Representing a consortium of businesses with respect to user fees proposed by Milwaukee and litigation brought by Chicago against Milwaukee relating to storm event by-pass discharges into Lake Michigan.
  • Representing a major malting company with respect to user fees proposed by the metropolitan sewer district to which it discharged. 
    Counseling a developer on dredge and fill matters with the Corps of Engineers and litigating against a state agency on whether a wetland was in the “bed” of an adjacent river.
  • Rule-making negotiations to establish priority pollutant numeric water quality standards and acute and chronic narrative/biomonitoring analytical methodologies. 
  • Successful appealing a jurisdictional determination by the US Army Corps of Engineers over wetlands on a site in Alaska. 
  • Successfully litigating a wetlands determination for a developer in Richmond, Virginia.
  • Working with a national trade association on the national NPDES permit applicable to certain pesticide applications.