Water Resources Committee Overwhelmingly Urges DEP To Move Forward With A Proposal To Set New Toxic Substance Limit For Manganese Due To Health Impacts
On July 25, the Water Resources Advisory Committee overwhelmingly urged DEP to move forward with a proposal to set a new toxic substances health water discharge limit for manganese of 0.3 mg/L, rather than 1 mg/L, because existing literature shows the 1 mg/L standard is not protective of human health due to its neurotoxic impacts.
The new analysis of the existing 1 mg/L standard, which has been in place for nearly 30 years, was prompted by Act 40– passed in 2017 as a last minute amendment to the Administrative Code– to move the point of compliance for the 1 mg/L from the point of discharge to the point of water supply intake.
The change puts the entire burden of meeting the manganese standard on water suppliers at a significant cost.
The Administrative Code amendment was done as a favor to the coal mining industry by the General Assembly as part of a package of many other amendments.
DEP would still propose moving the point of compliance of the 1 mg/L standard to the point of water intake as required by Act 40, although several members of the Committee were opposed to moving the compliance point from “polluters to the public.”
The new proposed 0.3 mg/L toxic health standard would apply to all discharges going into surface waters as the 1 mg/L had been before Act 40.
There will still be increased costs for the proposed new standard to water suppliers, but less than moving the compliance point for the 1 mg/L standard alone (see below).
The Committee approved the DEP’s proposal to set a new toxic substance health standard for manganese and recommended it move forward to the Environmental Quality Board for public comment with this motion:
— To acknowledge the legislative requirement in Act 40 of 2017 to propose a regulation moving the point of compliance for manganese to the point of all existing or planned surface potable water supply withdrawals; AND
— To support proposing a regulation, either through the Annex or by discussion in the Preamble (whichever is the most legally appropriate) that adds manganese to Table 5 in Section 93.8(c) as a toxic substance for human health at the level of 0.3 mg/L. The compliance point for this standard will be met in all surface water, as described in section 96.3(c); AND
— To recommend the Environmental Quality Board request public comment on his combined approach for consideration in developing a final regulation.
Manganese – Cost To Water Suppliers
During the Committee discussion, Jeff Hines, P.E., York Water Company, said the cost of meeting the original change required in Act 40 alone would impose an estimated upfront cost of $1 million per 1 million gallons per day of water treated, just to get to the .05 mg/L secondary contaminant level, plus $100,000 in annual operating costs.
Even at the .05 mg/L standard, Hines said customers could experience some taste, odor and laundry stain issues.
Hines said meeting the proposed 0.3 mg/L standard would still be significant, but not as high as if the Act 40 change was done alone.
DEP said of the 340 surface water treatment plants in the state, they received comments saying 280 of those plants would have to do an evaluation to determine what water treatment process changes would be needed to meet the Act 40 change.
DEP also said one major water supplier estimated a $40 to $60 million facility upgrade would be needed to meet the Act 40 change alone.
Hines voted against the Committee recommendation, only because it would still impose significant costs on water suppliers like Act 40.
[Note: Senators Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson), President Pro Tempore of the Senate, and Gene Yaw (R-Lycoming), Majority Chair of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, filed a petition with Commonwealth Court in March to compel DEP and the Environmental Quality Board to implement Act 40 of 2017.]
Nathan Crawford, DEP Bureau of Clean Water, gave the Committee a presentation on the draft PAG-01 which would apply to a project site of under 5 acres where the impervious surface totals no more than 20,000 square feet or 12 percent of the site, whichever is less.
Crawford said DEP worked with Villanova University’s Stormwater research program to develop cookie-cutter, non-structural Best Management Practices, like a rain garden, landowners could use without doing engineering work and specific calculations for the site.
He said the basic design theory behind the new General Permit is that stormwater hitting an under 5 acre site with limited impervious surface and if the prescribed BMPs are installed, will be treated and dissipate on the site.
The new PAG-01 would be a master permit that once finalized individual landowners could request coverage under through a simplified notice to DEP without engineering work and with limited expense.
Earlier DEP presentations said about 40 percent of the 1,700 PAG-02 permit applications received by DEP for review could be eligible for coverage under the new PAG-01 simplified permit or about 680 permits or so.
The PAG-01 is part of a series of initiatives by DEP to simplify and speed up permit reviews under the Chapter 102 (Erosion and Sedimentation Control) and Chapter 105 (Dam Safety and Encroachment) Permit Programs.
Click Here for the draft PAG-01 language.
DEP is accepting comments on the proposal from members of the Committee and during the comment period on the draft.
Update To Chapter 105 Regulations
Roger Adams, Bureau of Waterways Engineering and Wetlands, gave the Committee a general overview of DEP’s first update to Chapter 105 Dam Safety and Encroachment Regulations in 28 years which he said should be available later this year and go to the Environmental Quality Board with a proposed regulation in the first quarter of 2020.
Amy Williams, DEP Bureau of Clean Water, gave a presentation on the status of DEP’s research into contaminants of emerging concern which are compounds that may not have detected before in testing, do not have existing water quality standards, can affect hormones, but are not necessarily new.
DEP’s work on emerging contaminants in surface water began with the Susquehanna River Study done in connection with the collapse of the smallmouth bass population in the lower Susquehanna.
Specific sampling for emerging contaminants began in 2012 using passive samplers left in place for a month at a time. It has expanded to sampling locations in the Allegheny River, Beaver River, Delaware River, Juniata River, Monongahela River and the Susquehanna River.
DEP also collected sediment, surface water grab samples and sampled springs for a period of time.
Williams presented information on test results dealing with pharmaceuticals, PCBs, pesticides, hormones, metals and other contaminants by locations.
She also noted DEP is working with the U.S. Geological Survey to sample for PFAS at all water quality monitoring sites across the state. That information should be available in the next few months.
A copy of the PowerPoint presentation given to Committee members should be posted on the Committee’s webpage.
For more information and available handouts, visit the DEP Water Resources Advisory Committee webpage. Questions should be directed to Diane Wilson by calling 717-787-3730 or send email to: [email protected].