PA Senate Environmental Committee To Hold Sept. 9 Hearing On Setting Proposed Toxic Substances Standard For Manganese In Water
The Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee is scheduled to hold a virtual hearing September 9 on the proposed Environmental Quality Board regulation adopting a manganese water quality toxic substances standard that is protective of public health (July 25 PA Bulletin).
The hearing will start at 9:00 a.m. and will be available online on the Senate live stream.
Sen. Gene Yaw (R-Lycoming) serves as Majority Chair of the Senate Environmental Committee and can be contacted by calling 717-787-3280 or sending email to: [email protected]. Sen. Steve Santarsiero (D-Bucks) serves as Minority Chair and can be contacted by calling 717-787-7305 or sending email to: [email protected].
“In reviewing the effects of manganese on human health, DEP determined that the current standard was not acceptable, and we consulted the latest research data to determine a new standard,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell and Chair of the EQB. “We believe this standard will protect human health from the neurotoxicological effects of manganese, as well as ensure adequate protection of all water uses.”
The EQB proposed a new numeric human health criterion for manganese of 0.3 mg/L in Chapter 93.8 – Water Quality Criteria For Toxic Substances, and would delete the existing 1 mg/L standard because it is not protective of human health.
The regulation, however, is proposing alternative language for public comment which would make the point of compliance at the discharge point or the point at which water is taken from a stream consistent with the 2017 law.
A 2017 change in state law, added at the last minute as part of a budget-related bill, directed the Environmental Quality Board to adopt a proposed manganese standard within 90 days that includes the 1 milligram/liter manganese standard established under 25 Pa Code Chapter 93.7 and changing the point of compliance from the point pollution enters a stream to the point where it is taken out by a water user (25 Pa Code Chapter 96.3)
The 1 milligram/liter standard is 20 times the level of manganese that water suppliers are allowed to have in their water supplies, according to EPA’s secondary maximum contaminant level. Click Here for more.
Local government groups, drinking water suppliers and many other groups opposed the amendment. Click Here for more.
The last minute change was a favor to the coal industry and shifts the burden for treating manganese discharges from mine sites and other sources from those who pollute the water to those using the water, like public water suppliers.
The change in law swept away nearly 30 years of environmental protection for Pennsylvania waterways impacted by the consequences of acid mine drainage, and imposes additional testing, monitoring and treatment at public water supply operations along these waterways.
Current science shows manganese is harmful to human health as a possible nervous system toxin with implications to early childhood development at levels that are less than the threshold levels that impact aquatic life.
In January of 2018, DEP published an advance notice of proposed rulemaking requesting information on changing the water quality standard to gather more information on manganese impacts and setting a 1 mg/L standard as part of the regulation development process. Click Here for more.
Both the Water Resources Advisory and Small Water Systems Technical Assistance Center Board voted to support the 0.3 mg/L standard proposed by DEP, while acknowledging the 2017 law moving the point of compliance.
The Agricultural Advisory Board provided DEP with background on manganese related to the proposal.
Concerned about the delay in proposing a 1 mg/L manganese within 90 days of the adoption of the 2017 law, Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson) and Sen. Gene Yaw (R-Lycoming), Majority Chair of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, filed a lawsuit in Commonwealth Court asking that the EQB be directed to take action.
On November 12 of last year, Commonwealth Court ruled the Senators lacked standing to file a petition for mandamus relief to compel DEP and the Environmental Quality Board to propose a change in the manganese standard as required by the 2017 law. Click Here for more.
The deadline for public comments on the proposed manganese standard is September 25.
The Environmental Quality Board has scheduled virtual public hearings on the proposal for–
— September 8 at 2:00 p.m.
— September 9 at 6:00 p.m.
— September 10 at 2:00 p.m.
Links to join the virtual hearings are posted on the Environmental Quality Board webpage.
Persons wishing to present testimony at a hearing must contact Jennifer Swan for the Department and the Board, 717-783-8727 or [email protected] at least 24 hours in advance of the hearing to reserve a time to present testimony.
The public has the opportunity to submit comments on this proposed regulation in multiple ways, including DEP’s eComment webpage.