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Requesting an Exception to Rules and Regulations for Public Water Systems

A public water system (PWS) that does not meet a TCEQ standard (rule) in Title 30 of the Texas Administrative Code (30 TAC) Chapter 290 Subchapter D may request an exception by proposing another way it can meet the intent of the rule. We review each exception request to ensure that, if granted, the exception allows the PWS to still deliver safe drinking water to its customers at adequate pressures.

What is an Exception?

As specified in TCEQ regulations (30 TAC §290.39(l)), when it is not possible for a public water system (PWS) to meet the requirements in the regulations (rules), a PWS has the option of proposing an alternative method to meet a rule by requesting an exception (sometimes mistakenly referred to as a variance). The alternative proposed in the exception request must be substantiated by carefully documented data and be equally protective of public health. Exceptions are also required for approval to use innovative/alternate treatment technologies as defined in 30 TAC §290.38(38). Exceptions may be requested by representatives of PWSs, such as engineers, operators, or PWS owners. Exception requests are subject to a 100-day review period.

How Will My Request Be Reviewed? Are All Exceptions Automatically Approved?

Title 30 Texas Administrative Code (TAC) Chapter 290 grants us the authority to review exceptions. In accordance with Subchapter D, Section 290.39(l)Exit the TCEQ:

Requests for exceptions to one or more of the requirements in this subchapter shall be considered on an individual basis. Any water system which requests an exception must demonstrate to the satisfaction of the executive director that the exception will not compromise the public health or result in a degradation of service or water quality.

 §290.39(l)(1) The exception must be requested in writing and must be substantiated by carefully documented data. The request for an exception shall precede the submission of engineering plans and specifications for a proposed project for which an exception is being requested.

§290.39(l)(2) Any exception granted by the commission is subject to revocation.

§290.39(l)(3) Any request for an exception which is not approved by the commission in writing is denied.

§290.39(l)(4) The executive director may establish site specific design, operation, maintenance, and reporting requirements for systems that have been issued an exception to the subchapter.

§290.39(l)(5) Water systems that are granted an exception shall comply with the requirements established by the executive director under paragraph (4) of this subsection.

Per the rule above, all exception requests are reviewed on an individual basis. A PWS or its representative must substantiate an exception request with carefully documented data such as pressure recordings, historical daily-usage data, documentation of any surrounding hazards, or NSF International CertificationExit the TCEQ. Not all exceptions are automatically approved. It is up to the PWS representative to provide supporting, documented data to demonstrate that the proposed alternative method is equally protective of public health. Please see our Checklists and Guidance Documents section of this webpage for guidance on developing your submittal for an exception request or an Alternative Capacity Requirement (ACR).

Alternative Capacity Requirements (ACRs)

Requests for Alternative Capacity Requirements (ACRs) are subject to the requirements under 30 TAC §290.45(g). ACR requests are subject to a 90-day review period.

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When Should I Submit an Exception or ACR Request?

The best time to submit your request is before your PWS is locked into a course of action that will result in a deviation from the rules. Under the rules, the exception request must precede the submission of engineering plans and specifications. In most cases, the exception must be granted before you submit engineering plans and specifications for review and approval by the TCEQ Plan Review Team. This means exceptions required for innovative/alternate treatment must be granted before submission of plans and specifications.

Be sure to allow 100 days for our review, and any additional time needed for you to address any design modification issues that we identify in our review.

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How Do I Request an Exception?

Please start by completing the Microsoft Word DocumentException Request Form. If you are requesting an Alternative Capacity Requirement (ACR), please complete the Microsoft Word DocumentACR Specific Form instead. These forms help ensure that required information for our review gets submitted with your request, so it may be processed without unnecessary delays.

The submittal should include the following information:

  • A completed Exception/ACR Request form;
  • A signed cover letter that explains the request. Additionally, please clearly indicate in the cover letter the best email address to contact you if we have any questions about your submittal; and
  • Documentation to support the request demonstrating that your proposed alternative meets the intent of the rules. The checklists and external guidance documents listed below can assist you with providing supporting information for several common types of exception requests.

You may choose to submit your complete submittal either electronically or physically (submission by both methods is not required). To submit electronically, send the complete submittal via email to PTRS@tceq.texas.gov. In order to ensure an efficient review of the electronically submitted material, please align the submittal with these electronic guidelines:

  • All documents must be submitted in Adobe Acrobat PDF format (flattened with all comment/markups deleted and with no password protection)
  • If the documents are too large to be attached to the email (files larger than 25 MB), do not send via Dropbox. TCEQ’s firewall prevents files from being accessed from Dropbox links. Instead, please utilize the TCEQ secure File Transfer Protocol (FTP) site for transfer of files. For information regarding the FTP site, please see the following website: https://www.tceq.texas.gov/help/helpcmpr.html

Please mail your complete submittal to the Technical Review and Oversight Team (TROT) to this address:

Technical Review and Oversight Team
Plan and Technical Review Section, MC-159
Texas Commission on Environmental Quality
P.O. Box 13087
Austin, Texas 78711-3087

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Checklists and Guidance Documents

General information for common exception requests can be found in the checklists below. In many cases, guidance regarding the intent of TCEQ Rules is useful for both individuals outside TCEQ and for TCEQ staff. External Guidance documents provide additional information on a specific topic. In some cases, prior review of these checklists and external guidance documents is useful when an exception is being pursued. Please see the links below for current checklists and external guidance documents maintained by the Technical Review and Oversight Team.

Checklists

  1. Microsoft Word DocumentBlending Chloramines Checklist
  2. Microsoft Word DocumentAlternative Capacity Requirements
  3. Microsoft Word DocumentACR Alternative Pressure Maintenance Methods
  4. Microsoft Word DocumentWholesale Pressure Maintenance Checklist
  5. Microsoft Word DocumentSanitary Control Easement (SCE)
  6. Microsoft Word DocumentOrdinance in lieu of an SCE 
  7. application/pdfOrdinance Form 
  8. Microsoft Word DocumentWell Setback
  9. Microsoft Word DocumentWell Construction
  10. Microsoft Word DocumentWell Cementing 
  11. Microsoft Word DocumentSOR/HDT Pilot Requirements Checklist 
  12. Microsoft Word DocumentHLR Pilot Requirements Checklist
  13. Microsoft Word DocumentSCBA Checklist 

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External Guidance Documents

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Additional Guidance for Innovative Treatment and Mobile Water Treatment System Exception Requests

Membrane/Cartridge Filter Challenge Studies for Installations & Replacements

Exception requests for the use of innovative treatment using membranes or cartridge filters must ensure these units are approved by the TCEQ for pathogen removal/inactivation. Public water systems proposing to use membrane or cartridge filtration for removing cryptosporidium and giardia must use filters approved by the TCEQ. Membrane modules must undergo challenge testing to evaluate removal efficiency [30 TAC §290.42(g)(3)], conducted in accordance with 40 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) §141.719(b)(2); bag and cartridge filters must also undergo challenge testing [30 TAC §290.42(g)(2)], conducted in accordance with 40 CFR §141.719(a). For more information about membrane modules and cartridge filter models for Cryptosporidium and Giardia removal that have been reviewed and approved by the TCEQ can be found in the Membrane Challenge Studies, Cartridge Filter Systems, and Alternative Membrane Filter Monitoring website.

Ultraviolet Disinfection for Public Water Systems

Exception requests for the use of innovative treatment using ultraviolet disinfection must ensure the units are approved by the TCEQ for pathogen removal/inactivation. A public water system may get approval from the TCEQ to use ultraviolet (UV) disinfection for inactivation credit. In lieu of conducting a pilot study per 30 TAC §290.42(g)(4), the PWS may select a UV light reactor that has undergone validation testing per 40 CFR §141.720(d)(2). For more information about UV-reactor validation tests approved by the TCEQ, please visit the Validating Ultraviolet Disinfection for Public Water Systems website.

Review and Approval Process for Regulation of Mobile Water Treatment Systems

A new process has been developed for review and approval of Mobile Water Treatment Systems (MWTSs). This process is similar to the regulatory process for water haulers. To learn more, please see our Mobile Water Treatment Systems Guidance (coming soon).

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Compliance with Granted Exceptions

When we approve an exception request, we may attach a set of conditions crafted specifically for the site-specific issue addressed in the exception. These conditions are developed to ensure the alternative method approved in the granted exception will protect public health, ensure adequate and reliable water service, and maintain drinking water quality in the PWS in lieu of meeting the rule. These conditions may involve sampling, treatment, public notice, or other activities.

The established conditions of a granted exception must be met and are enforceable per 30 TAC §290.39(l)(5). If your PWS fails to meet a condition of a granted exception, the TCEQ may revise or revoke the granted exception; additionally, the PWS may receive a violation.

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Can I Check the Status of My Exception Request?

To check on the status of your request, go to the Water District Database (WDD). application/pdfDownload illustrated instructions for accessing the status of an exception request.

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