Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) opportunity

Opportunity: Water Quality Standards Uses, Antidegradation and Variances

Organization: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

Reference Code: EPA Water 2017-412

The Standards and Health Protection Division directs the national water programs for water quality standards (WQS) to protect the quality of lakes, rivers, estuaries and other water bodies, and advisories for safe fishing and swimming. The ORISE participant will be trained in the Division’s National Branch (NB), one of the two Branches in the Division that work on water quality standards. NB develops policy, guidance, and technical documents to assist states in implementing their water quality standards programs. These policies, guidance documents, and technical documents focus on protecting high quality waters, establishing goal uses for surface waters, and implementing water quality criteria (i.e., amount of pollutant(s) allowed in the waterbody.

The applicant will learn to provide science and policy analysis on water quality standards program issues that have national implications, particularly those pertaining to uses for surface waters, antidegradation and WQS variances. This would include research and development of pertinent technical and policy materials. The applicant would participate in planning and executing the WQS Academy which is held twice a year (https://www.epa.gov/wqs-tech/water-quality-standards-academy). The applicant would also be involved in revising, issuing and communicating EPA’s primary guidance on WQS: the WQS Handbook (https://www.epa.gov/wqs-tech/water-quality-standards-handbook).

The participant will be part of a multi-disciplinary and/or cross-program team on any given project or issue. The participant will be involved in a range of activities that support EPA’s Water Quality Standards Program, with a particular emphasis on national policies on designated uses, antidegradation components of WQS and WQS variances. The participant will be trained to: (1) produce policy reports and technical documents related to water quality standards issues that have national implications; (2)  develop and deliver training programs for states or tribes on the Water Quality Standards Program including the popular WQS Academy classroom sessions; (3) assemble data and information and developing materials and concerning biological, chemical, and other scientific aspects of the Water Quality Standards Program; and/or, (4) coordinate with other offices in the Office of Water to support policy and technical analyses related to uses, antidegradation and WQS variances; (5) contribute to the development and communication of national WQS Program guidance, in the form of the WQS Handbook, in coordination with internal and external WQS counterparts.

The participant will learn about the role of water quality standards in achieving the goals of the Clean Water Act, and the relationship between standards and related core Clean Water Act programs such as the CWA 402 NPDES permit program and the CWA 303(d) listing and TMDL programs. In addition, the participant will gain familiarity with relevant EPA regulations and guidance documents. The project will provide excellent exposure to:  (1) a broad range of water pollution control technical and policy issues; (2) the process of applying technical data and information to policy development; (3) interpretation of Clean Water Act statutory and regulatory language and its application to state-specific water quality standards proposals and submissions; and (4) synthesizing technical and policy information for presentation to EPA senior managers and appropriate stakeholder groups, including honing the skill of communicating complex scientific or technical information to a non-technical audience. (5) coordinating both within EPA and with regional and external counterparts to develop and disseminate information on national WQS policy.

This program, administered by ORAU through its contract with the U.S. Department of Energy to manage the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education, was established through an interagency agreement between DOE and EPA.


More details about the position, and information on how to apply, can be found at: https://www.zintellect.com/Posting/Details/3295.


For more information please contact:

Jennifer Brundage (MEES 2010 grad)

Regional Branch

Standards and Health Protection Division| Office of Science and Technology

|Office of Water U.S. Environmental Protection Agency