NPDES Permits in New England
Public Interest Advisory Committee (PIAC) Meeting
May 2, 2000, 3:30 to 5:30 PM
Members Present: Polly Bradley, Safer Waters In Massachusetts; Robert Buchsbaum, Massachusetts Audubon; Marianne Farrington, New England Aquarium; Joe Favaloro, MWRA Advisory Board; Gillian Grossman, Save the Harbor/Save the Bay; Joan LeBlanc, The Boston Harbor Association; Susan Redlich, Wastewater Advisory Committee; and Steve Tucker, Cape Cod Commission/Bays Legal Fund.
Observers: Margaret Callanan, Cape Cod Commission; Cathy Coniaris, OMSAP/PIAC/IAAC staff; Matt Liebman, EPA; Steve Lipman, MADEP; Mike Mickelson, MWRA; Andrea Rex, MWRA; and Larry Schafer, observer.
Summary prepared by C. Coniaris. Post-meeting comments are included in [brackets]. All such comments have been inserted for clarification only. They do not, nor are they intended to, suggest that such insertions were part of the live meeting components and have been expressly set-off so as to avoid such inference.
SUMMARY OF ACTION ITEMS
- The October 1999 minutes were approved.
- PIAC requests that M. Mickelson present information
about the Dutch Phaeocystis model and HydroQual's Great Lakes
zooplankton modeling at an upcoming PIAC meeting.
- PIAC requests to meet in the fall of 2000 on the same day as OMSAP, unless the outfall goes on-line sooner.
PIAC approved the October 14, 1999 minutes with no amendments (S. Tucker abstained).
RECENT OMSAP RECOMMENDATIONS
C. Coniaris summarized the February and March 2000 OMSAP recommendations pertaining to MWRA's food web model scope of work, and the zooplankton, Alexandrium, and floatables thresholds [OMSAP minutes available].
J. LeBlanc asked if the request to change the floatables threshold was initiated by MWRA or OMSAP. C. Coniaris replied that MWRA realized that sampling the final floatables collections device was impracticable and proposed deletion of the threshold to OMSAP. Since amounts of floatables in the final collections device is an indication of plant performance, M. Mickelson presented other measures of plant performance to OMSAP.
P. Bradley asked if any whales have been found to be malnourished on the East Coast. S. Tucker replied that there has been research conducted on the right whales to try to determine whether they are undernourished. However, malnutrition has not led to any mortalities yet.
M. Mickelson described the Contingency Plan (CP) thresholds developed by MWRA in consultation with the Outfall Monitoring Task Force (OMTF). The CP was developed in response to the NMFS conservation recommendations. Much effort was put into developing the thresholds and many will continue to evolve. The permit included the CP, formalizing the thresholds in a "snapshot" in time and any further changes require OMSAP approval. He felt it was important to review the thresholds before the outfall went on-line (as early as September 2000).
R. Buchsbaum asked how it was determined which thresholds to review. M. Mickelson replied that he and Ken Keay reviewed the thresholds and of the 27, 8 were still acceptable, a few had typographical errors, and several needed OMSAP review. J. LeBlanc asked when there was a recommended deletion of a threshold, whether alternatives were discussed such as additional monitoring. M. Mickelson replied that alternatives were discussed and he will describe each threshold reviewed.
M. Mickelson described the floatables threshold in the CP ("floatables shall not exceed five gallons/day in the final collections device"). He explained that there were problems with feasibility in implementing sampling in the final collections device and then described alternative measurements that meet the goal of addressing concerns about aesthetics. The effectiveness of scum and sludge removal will be measured, as well as fats, oil, and grease concentrations in the effluent. MWRA also began conducting net tows in the nearfield to capture floatables. OMSAP recommended that MWRA delete the current floatables threshold in the CP and conduct a special study to measure floatables in the Deer Island Treatment Plant.
M. Mickelson described the final in-plant collections device. It is a skimmer in the disinfection basin that removes floating material. The problem with this device is that sampling from it cannot be quantified and the flow at that location is too great for a person to sample using a net tow. Instead, MWRA will sample in the nearfield. He agreed that sampling at sea brings a lot of uncertainty, which is why there will not be an associated threshold. If there ever is a plant breakdown of the skimmers, MWRA will survey to map the extent of any problems and determine the source.
M. Farrington is concerned that MWRA may be blamed for an aesthetic problem because of floatables measured in the nearfield from other sources. M. Mickelson agreed that it is difficult to dissect the sources, but MWRA still would like to sample in the field to see what is out there. J. Favaloro asked why MWRA did not decide to instead take samples in the treatment plant. M. Mickelson said that there are various in-plant measurements of efficiency. He showed data detailing how sludge and scum removal has improved over time, assuming constant input. He then showed the decrease over time of fats, oil, and grease concentrations in effluent to levels as low as the method detection limits. There will be a small special study to examine the nature of any small floatables that may go through the treatment plant. J. LeBlanc asked for a description of the in-plant special study and when it will be conducted. M. Mickelson replied that the special study has not been designed or scheduled yet. He prefers to conduct the study when the treatment plant is fully functional with all three secondary batteries on-line.
S. Redlich asked what the percentage of scum removal is. M. Mickelson replied that since MWRA does not know the input term, a percentage cannot be calculated. If input is assumed constant, removal is improving. Perhaps the special study should attempt to quantify that input. A special study is a one-time study, not routine monitoring. L. Schafer thinks it is more important to consider the condition of the ocean, rather than the effectiveness of the treatment plant. He thinks it is important to sample the ocean for floatables before the outfall goes on-line. M. Mickelson repeated that MWRA has recently begun floatables sampling in the nearfield.
R. Buchsbaum asked what MWRA actions would be taken if more debris than expected is found. M. Mickelson replied that it is difficult to decide too far in advance but promised that results will be reported. M. Mickelson will prioritize the floatables special study and make sure that results of outfall monitoring are effectively communicated to the treatment plant. P. Bradley asked when the 3rd battery of secondary is scheduled to go on-line. S. Lipman replied that battery C is currently being tested and will go on-line in approximately three to four months.
M. Mickelson provided background to the zooplankton threshold. This threshold was developed to address concerns regarding the potential effects of nutrients on the zooplankton community that could potentially harm whales. Further analysis of the zooplankton data shows that differences between inshore and offshore communities are due to salinity differences and water depth, not nutrients, thus the threshold is not an effective indicator of eutrophication. However, though the data are variable, they are very valuable. There is also a growing recognition of the influence of the Gulf of Maine (GOM) and MWRA is most likely sampling inadequately offshore of Cape Ann, where the GOM current enters Mass Bay. It is likely that OMSAP will recommend additional monitoring stations at that location. Additional understanding of upstream of the "conveyor belt" flow will give a better understanding of Massachusetts and Cape Cod Bays. With that, OMSAP recommended deletion of the threshold, but that MWRA analyze the zooplankton using a method that considers the GOM current.
M. Mickelson stated that MWRA discussed the dissolved oxygen (DO) threshold at the February OMSAP meeting. The current dissolved oxygen warning threshold is 6 mg/L and caution level is 6.5 mg/L based on the Massachusetts surface water quality standard derived from freshwater organism toxicity studies. This standard is occasionally exceeded (i.e. falls below 6.0 mg/L). State regulations do allow for site-specific criteria, in other words, factoring in baseline conditions, which involves complex calculations. EPA is developing a new marine criterion for DO. A draft EPA document recommends 4.8 mg/L from Cape Cod to Cape Hatteras. OMSAP will await more information on the EPA guidance before making any recommendations regarding the MWRA threshold. In the meantime, MWRA will continue monitoring.
J. LeBlanc asked why the threshold was being decreased from 6 to 4.8 mg/L in the draft EPA guidance document. M. Mickelson replied that there are differences in oxygen solubility between freshwater and saltwater. M. Liebman added that an important part of the guidance will be how to develop criteria outside of the range of Cape Cod to Cape Hatteras. A. Rex pointed out that the scientific understanding of low DO in the marine environment is recent, within the last decade.
R. Buchsbaum asked about the rate of DO decline threshold. M. Mickelson replied that OMSAP review of that threshold is also on hold, pending the finalized EPA guidance. The current threshold states that the rate of decline over the summer months will not double. R. Buchsbaum thinks that even if EPA changes their DO standard, there should still be a way to examine any changes due to the outfall, even if it is above the standard. The same could be said for other parameters such as chlorophyll. A. Rex said that this pertains to the concept of meaningful change, just because there is a change, does not mean it is meaningful.
M. Mickelson then described the harmful algal thresholds. There are three species of concern in this region (Phaeocystis pouchetii, Pseudo-nitzschia multiseries, and Alexandrium tamarense). The current CP thresholds of these species states that their abundance means will not exceed the 95th percentile.
S. Redlich asked how simple it is to determine species and how much time it takes to identify a bloom. M. Mickelson replied that it takes three days for a qualitative analysis but two weeks for quantitative results. However, MADMF uses microscopes that can identify Alexandrium cells in the field.
M. Mickelson then described Phaeocystis pouchetii, a nuisance species that can form large gelatinous colonies. Stormy Mayo (Center for Coastal Studies) observed that the right whales exited Cape Cod Bay early during the 1997 bloom. Blooms do not occur every year and are confined to a specific season. Though there are technical problems with accurately counting cells, a great deal is known about this species. Phaeocystis does respond to excessive nutrients and thus is a good indicator of a possible eutrophication effect. MWRA is working on a more ecologically based threshold.
P. Bradley asked whether Phaeocystis bloomed this year. M. Mickelson replied that Phaeocystis bloomed in 1992, 1994, 1997, and 2000. He did not have 2000 data available but it appears to be a large bloom. L. Schafer asked if there is a relationship between nutrients and the occurrence of Phaeocystis blooms. M. Mickelson replied that there is a relationship between nitrogen loading and Phaeocystis abundance. M. Liebman asked if this connection between nutrients and Phaeocystis has been demonstrated in the field and the lab. M. Mickelson replied that there have been studies but it is still unknown why with constant nitrogen loading, Phaeocystis appears some in years and not others. The role of silicate concentrations is currently being investigated.
M. Mickelson then described Pseudo-nitzschia multiseries, a diatom that produces a toxin that can lead to amnesic shellfish poisoning in humans. This diatom is relatively common (unlike the other two nuisance species), however identification of the toxic species is difficult, requiring special techniques such as scanning electron microscope. Levels in this area are not considered to be a serious health risk, however, when MWRA measures high levels, results are reported to MADMF. MWRA presented to OMSAP progress on calculating this threshold.
M. Mickelson then described Alexandrium tamarense, a toxic dinoflagellate. Sporadically present in low numbers, a special high-volume technique is needed to detect cells. Alexandrium is detected in the spring and blooms may be brought into Mass Bay through Cape Ann by currents or winds. P. Bradley asked if there was a bloom detected this year. M. Mickelson replied not in Mass Bay, but in some enclosed coastal ponds that have annual blooms. In the coastal ocean, Alexandrium is often moved offshore by water movement. Physics is the controlling factor, not nutrients. The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution measures Alexandrium more effectively than MWRA since it is the focus of Dr. Don Anderson's research. Paralytic shellfish toxicity measured by MADMF is a more reliable measure than cell counts in the water column. Therefore, OMSAP recommended deletion of the cell count threshold, and for MWRA to focus on the PSP incidence threshold. This threshold is under development, but is based on the concept that toxicity travels "downstream". Increased paralytic shellfish toxicity downstream of the new outfall may be an indication of outfall influence. OMSAP approved of this approach, and would like to review the final threshold.
M. Mickelson summarized that MWRA found that the Phaeocystis and Alexandrium threshold calculations were not useful. OMSAP suggested a less statistical and more ecological approach for Phaeocystis, and to delete the current Alexandrium cell count threshold. They thought the Pseudo-nitzschia threshold was sufficient. R. Buchsbaum asked if there was any speculation on what an ecologically sensible threshold may be. M. Mickelson replied that it will require more thought. The Dutch have been modeling the occurrence of this and it may be that MWRA may want to incorporate their Phaeocystis model into the BEM.
J. LeBlanc is concerned about refining the thresholds before the outfall goes on-line. M. Mickelson replied that MWRA reviewed all of the thresholds and determined which need OMSAP review. They also would like OMSAP to review some of the benthic and fish and shellfish thresholds and will suggest that OMSAP recommend to tighten some of the current thresholds.
S. Tucker stated that the Cape Cod Commission has some concerns about recent OMSAP recommendations. In particular, he is unclear about what the actual obstacle is in collecting a quantifiable measure of floatables in the final collections device. He feels that the sampling hazards or alternatives to the sampling were not discussed in detail. He wondered if other treatment plants are able to quantitatively measure floatables. M. Mickelson replied that a similar measure, the removal efficiency of scum, will be quantified. Sampling for this not just in the final skimmer, but all skimmers further upstream. He regretted not bringing the photographs he showed OMSAP of the final skimmer to better describe the final collections device. The final skimmer is automatically flushed and the amount cannot quantified the due its design. This device is a tip tube that blocks floatables, periodically tips, and washes materials out. A volumetric comparison of floatables versus flow is not possible.
S. Tucker agreed that M. Mickelson described the operational difficulties of this sampling but the Commission is concerned about moving from a systematic and quantifiable measure towards an "opportunistic" net tow at the end of the pipe. The fats, oil, and grease measurement seems like a very subjective reading. A. Rex pointed out that this is a subjective threshold because its purpose is to address aesthetics, a subjective concern. S. Tucker disagreed and believes there should be concern for the potential of plastics harming sea turtles. A. Rex asserted that the DITP will not contribute enough plastics to affect marine life.
M. Mickelson believes that MWRA's main responsibility is within the treatment plant. MWRA needs to know that they are doing their job correctly and he is receptive as to how to ascertain this more effectively. As mentioned, there will be web reporting of other measures of plant performance. There were discussions of possibly using a video camera, but he is not sure how feasible that would be.
S. Tucker thinks MWRA could be held responsible for any floatables found in the nearfield. Conversely, there could be problems with the treatment plant that go undetected. A. Rex believes that MWRA currently deals with the same problem within the harbor. MWRA often receives calls when garbage is found in the harbor. MWRA takes samples in the harbor and determines if there was any treatment plant upset. She thinks that S. Tucker is correct in that one cannot rule out other sources, but MWRA still takes a look. J. LeBlanc thinks that one problem is that trash can accumulate in the harbor where it is more visible whereas trash in the nearfield is more dispersed. A. Rex pointed out that the floatables threshold was originally developed to address the aesthetic question. J. LeBlanc thinks that just because the same amount of floatables will be discharged by the new outfall and dispersed more effectively, it does not mean this is less of an issue.
ACTION: J. LeBlanc suggested that PIAC becomes involved in the development of the scope of the floatables special study. She hopes that the project can be targeted to answer some of PIAC's questions.
S. Tucker thinks it may be important to look for seasonal variation within the plant and also to conduct periodic sampling to look for changes. He thinks it is important to have a dynamic reading of what is MWRA's responsibility. M. Mickelson asked S. Tucker if he foresaw material from the new outfall traveling to Cape Cod Bay or harming whales locally. S. Tucker thinks that it is difficult to say.
R. Buchsbaum asked if there is a possibility of looking at patterns of Phaeocystis blooms since MWRA will be blamed if there are frequent blooms. A threshold will not be in place by the time the outfall goes on-line and it sounds like there is no consensus between MWRA and OMSAP about a reasonable way to evaluate this species. A. Rex thinks this type of problem is inherent of having an early warning system that is more stringent than the permit. The purpose if the CP thresholds is not to attribute blame, but instead to determine whether the outfall is somehow affecting the environment. R. Buchsbaum understands that the CP ambient warning thresholds do not necessarily attribute fault to MWRA.
S. Tucker stated that the Commission is in favor of the Phaeocystis approach. The connection between Phaeocystis in the Bays, whales, and the outfall is not well known. The Commission approves of the ecological approach, though there is some concern about the time frame for finalizing the threshold.
ACTION: PIAC requests that M. Mickelson present information about the Dutch Phaeocystis model and HydroQual's Great Lakes zooplankton modeling at an upcoming PIAC meeting.
FOOD WEB MODEL SCOPE OF WORK (FWMSOW)
M. Mickelson stated that the FWMSOW was added to the permit in response to the Commission's concerns regarding the outfall and the complexity of the ecosystem. MWRA addressed these concerns in three reports that were briefly described by M. Mickelson. ["Conceptual food web model for Cape Cod Bay, with associated environmental interactions", http://www.mwra.state.ma.us/harbor/ enquad/pdf/1998-04.pdf ; "Scope of work for a food web model to characterize the seasonal abundance for important prey species of endangered species in Massachusetts and Cape Cod Bays", http://www.mwra.state.ma.us/harbor/enquad/pdf/1999-09.pdf ; "A review of issues related to the development of a food web model for important prey of endangered species in Massachusetts and Cape Cod Bays", http://www.mwra.state.ma.us/harbor/enquad/pdf/1999-14.pdf ]. The NMFS Biological Opinion decision that the outfall would cause "no jeopardy" to endangered marine species was based on conservative assessments using higher nitrogen loading than is likely to occur. The BEM runs were used to calculate a nitrogen budget of the bays and results indicate that the outfall contributes only about 3% of Cape Cod Bay's nitrogen with the Gulf of Maine as the dominant source. Observable changes due to the outfall will be local. S. Redlich and P. Bradley asked what is meant by "local". M. Mickelson replied that "local" means on the order of ~0.97 square km. He added that the two food web modelers consulted for MWRA report 99-14 agreed that in order to develop a food web model, a perturbation is needed to model effectively. Based on the information to date, there will not be a significant perturbation. Even if MWRA undertook some type of steady-state analysis, a lot more detailed information would be required. The modelers felt that MWRA would especially need more information on whale energetics and behavior.
J. LeBlanc asked if the two modelers thought that a food web model would provide useful information. M. Mickelson replied that they were interested in becoming involved but became concerned that it would be a futile effort. He thinks the Commission may agree and say that they just want MWRA to think hard about the various parts of the ecosystem and how they fit together. This is why MWRA had its speakers at the September 1999 OMSAP technical workshop preface their presentations by explaining how their work fits into the overall ecosystem. The proceedings of the workshop will be available on CD shortly. He then showed BEM model projections of improvements in water quality due to the relocation of the outfall. R. Buchsbaum asked if these projections use secondary treatment. M. Mickelson replied that all of the model runs use primary treatment.
Barnstable County Science Advisory Panel (BCSAP) Briefing S. Tucker handed out a synopsis describing the BCSAP proposed food web model. Stormy Mayo is presently developing a way of examining the caloric requirements of right whales as it relates to zooplankton and factors that may impact the zooplankton. He feels that M. Mickelson accurately paraphrased what the Commission's position is. The Commission would like to see a food web model that uses a "holistic approach". Examining the biotic components of the Bays system in a similar manner that the BEM looks at the physiographic components would be too large and MWRA would not be able to obtain results in a reasonable amount of time. Thus the BCSAP decided to examine only the most proximal and important features to try to develop a link between changes in nutrient loading and environmental conditions, and possible affects on phytoplankton, zooplankton and right whales. He is concerned that since some thresholds may not be valid, OMSAP's recommendation was to delete them entirely, without replacement.
A. Rex clarified that an important distinction is that the thresholds are not associated with the permit, but with the CP. S. Tucker believes that the "no jeopardy" conclusion means that the proposed activities are not likely to jeopardize the future survival of the protected species, not that there is no harm or risk at all possible. The Commission is concerned about the accuracy of this finding given the complexity of the system and the fact that there is not a complete understanding of the entire system at this present time. EPA guidance to OMSAP regarding the development of the FWM suggested that they take a precautionary approach. That means if there is not adequate scientific information available, MWRA must go further and try to explore possible outcomes as well as institute safeguards. The Commission feels that the FWM that the BCSAP developed to examine the energetic requirements of whales was a good safeguard to adopt from a precautionary standpoint. He was heartened to hear that OMSAP recommended to keep the zooplankton monitoring in place and that MWRA develop a workplan to interpret the information. The Commission will be interested in pursuing ways of modifying the existing monitoring program to see if there is a nexus there between our zooplankton composition model, the interrelation of different physiographic features, caloric requirements of whales, and the MWRA zooplankton data. They will be attempting to gain a better understanding of the many episodic events in the bays that are not quantitatively understood such as Phaeocystis blooms. The Commission was somewhat disappointed with the scope of work that OMSAP recommended for adoption. The BCSAP feels that their proposal is a real step towards understanding the ecosystem and developing a food web model. Many of the decision points in the MWRA food web model scope of work are "dead-ends", unless there is an actual impact. This is not an example of precautionary management because it is difficult to see a chain of decision points leading to the development of a food web model.
S. Redlich asked if the right whale research is centered at the Center for Coastal Studies (CCS). S. Tucker replied that there is a lot of research at the CCS and elsewhere, especially studying distribution. He thinks this is a broadening field of study since there is a lot of support for studying the right whales. J. LeBlanc asked if this relates to the press release from the CCS regarding a nitrogen isotope tracking study. S. Tucker said that these are separate efforts that will someday be linked. CCS has undertaken both studies, right whale behavior and ecology and stable nitrogen isotope monitoring of the outfall plume. He hopes it will be possible to track nitrogen isotopes through different trophic levels. The collection of seawater samples should begin this week and MWRA has already contributed samples of effluent. This method is likely to be more informative than only measuring nutrient concentrations. C. Coniaris asked if the CCS will examine the isotopic signatures of nitrogen from other treatment plants and groundwater. S. Tucker is not sure what the breadth of the baseline sampling is. G. Grossman asked if the BCSAP food web model briefing distributed today was given to OMSAP. S. Tucker replied that OMSAP did receive a similar briefing prior to their last meeting.
R. Buchsbaum asked if OMSAP commented on the Commission's briefing. S. Tucker replied that there was a discussion and OMSAP decided to accept MWRA's food web model scope of work. C. Coniaris added that OMSAP believed it was more valuable to deliberate on ways to supplement the monitoring rather than food web modeling. S. Tucker agreed and said that the Commission is likely to explore developing a proposal for supplemental monitoring.
P. Bradley is concerned that OMSAP believes that developing a predictive food web model is not warranted. She thinks that though the current information available is inadequate, further work should be done. She is grateful that the Cape Cod Commission is trying to develop some type of model that would work. She feels that just because MWRA has a long and confusing document does not mean that the idea of a food web model should be dropped. J. Favaloro disagreed with respect to the report since it was written by a respected firm (Battelle) and was reviewed by a respected group of scientists (OMSAP). The members of OMSAP are clearly capable of reviewing detailed reports by either the Commission or MWRA and forming their own conclusions. P. Bradley thinks the Commission has some very good scientists working for them. J. Favaloro agreed. P. Bradley does not think PIAC should pit scientist against scientist. S. Tucker said that the Commission tries to avoid that. MWRA's scope of work was distributed some time ago but it took the BCSAP a while to develop this proposal.
M. Mickelson thinks the core of the BCSAP briefing is on page 2. It lists the variables that should be components of this model: physics, nutrients, phytoplankton, zooplankton, and interactions among each of these. Focusing on this, he would like to ask what changes to the BEM would be needed to adequately address these issues. He thinks that MWRA needs to do a better job modeling phytoplankton species and may be able to incorporate the Dutch Phaeocystis model into the BEM. Regarding zooplankton species, HydroQual has done some work on zooplankton modeling in the Great Lakes. MWRA could ask HydroQual to consider if it would be possible to add a zooplankton component to the BEM and this could be reported to PIAC. With this, he thinks MWRA can address the concerns that are expressed as the core of BCSAP's model.
J. LeBlanc asked if the Commission is proposing a separate scope of work or if they simply do not agree with the MWRA FWMSOW assessment. S. Tucker replied that the Commission does not approve of the MWRA FWMSOW. Rather than draft a critique, they thought to develop this line of reasoning. They will continue to work on this, even though OMSAP did not recommend its adoption. P. Bradley asked if the Commission has funding to do some of the needed work. S. Tucker replied that the stable nitrogen isotope study is funded independently from the Commission. The food web model is in this form is in its relative infancy and the Commission will have to find funding so that they can study some aspects, as well as build partnerships. P. Bradley wished them luck. G. Grossman thanked S. Tucker for his presentation and urged PIAC to review the Commission's briefing document.
J. LeBlanc thinks that though OMSAP did not recommend the Commission's alternative FWM, the issues raised for the possible need for a FWM are still on the table. She thinks that though M. Mickelson has started to answer this, it would be interesting and useful to have more discussion at a future meeting and a more detailed response to some of these points. M. Mickelson replied that MWRA will respond to this request.
J. Favaloro asked if there are any other alternatives besides the Dutch model. M. Mickelson replied that the Dutch have already conducted a lot of research on these issues and MWRA would not have to repeat their efforts. J. Favaloro asked about the cost of incorporating the Dutch model. M. Mickelson guessed approximately $100K.
INTER-AGENCY ADVISORY COMMITTEE (IAAC) UPDATE C. Coniaris reported that IAAC has been having discussions about its mission – to advise OMSAP on environmental regulations related to the outfall. IAAC feels that this mission is too narrow. Sal Testaverde (NMFS, IAAC chair) met with EPA and MADEP last month and they are currently working on a revised mission statement. R. Buchsbaum asked if IAAC sees an additional role for themselves. C. Coniaris replied that since the members of the IAAC are knowledgeable scientists, they would like to provide scientific advice, not just regulatory information. EPA and MADEP feel that this would be taking a step backwards since the three groups were formed so that scientific advice was given by independent scientists not affiliated with any organization or agency. J. LeBlanc thinks the structure should not limit people's input. Scientists on PIAC are allowed to discuss scientific issues. C. Coniaris added that EPA and MADEP were also concerned that since they are represented on the IAAC, the two agencies would, in a sense, be advising themselves. One alternative is to have IAAC become a communication forum that meets to share information about new regulations or revisions to the MWRA permit.
P. Bradley thinks one strength of the Outfall Monitoring Task Force was that everyone (advocates, agencies, and scientists) sat around the same table having productive discussions. Perhaps there is a way of keeping this communication and allowing the scientists vote separately. C. Coniaris pointed out that PIAC and IAAC members attend OMSAP meetings and provide input. P. Bradley thinks OMSAP is not hearing PIAC. G. Grossman added that as PIAC chair, she attends all of the OMSAP meetings and reports PIAC's concerns. She asked the group if there were suggestions on how to improve communication among the groups. R. Buchsbaum thinks it may be interesting to evaluate how this process is working. From a practical standpoint, attending all three meetings takes too much time, making this system unwieldy. He is not sure what is gained with the new groups.
C. Coniaris said she once suggested attempting to schedule the three groups on the same day. PIAC's meeting would be shorter since presentations would not have to be repeated. P. Bradley liked this idea. J. LeBlanc thinks people did not like that idea because it implied a whole day of meetings, but if this means shorter subcommittee meetings, then it seems like a good idea. C. Coniaris suggested that PIAC meets after OMSAP to discuss any OMSAP recommendations and plan for future issues to bring forth to OMSAP. M. Mickelson said he does not mind presenting distilled versions of his OMSAP presentations to the subcommittees. J. LeBlanc thinks that by not being present at OMSAP meetings, PIAC loses the benefit of hearing valuable discussions.
R. Buchsbaum thinks the role of PIAC is to express public concern, not to second-guess OMSAP's decisions on a scientific level. C. Coniaris also thinks PIAC has a role in public outreach. R. Buchsbaum thinks it would be good for PIAC to understand the science so they can bring it back to their constituents. M. Farrington decided her constituents are the visitors to the New England Aquarium, even though they are not all from Massachusetts. She has begun speaking with staff about developing some type of information panel for the public. C. Coniaris also suggested an article for SeaBits, the New England Aquarium's email newsletter. M. Farrington thinks the New England Aquarium is a great way to reach many different people. G. Grossman thinks it is important to share ideas about how to reach out to PIAC's constituencies.
C. Coniaris asked if PIAC would like to forward a recommendation to OMSAP about meeting scheduling. She will schedule an OMSAP meeting in June and then September or October. J. LeBlanc asked to try to have PIAC and OMSAP meet on the same day. G. Grossman asked when PIAC would like to meet again. M. Farrington would like to meet after OMSAP, on the same day. G. Grossman agreed. C. Coniaris pointed out that PIAC members Wayne Bergeron and Mary Loebig are both teachers and cannot attend meetings during the day. If OMSAP meets from 10:00 to 2:00 and PIAC meets after that, then they can at least attend the PIAC meeting. P. Bradley thinks that perhaps the best option is to have everyone attend the OMSAP meeting and raise his or her points of view.
J. Favaloro has no preference as to when to meet and thinks it would be good to try to have both groups meet on the same day. M. Farrington agreed. M. Mickelson is grateful for S. Tucker's counterpoint. If he were not present, the group would hear only one side. The main thing that PIAC would gain by attending the OMSAP meetings is hearing the issues that are challenged and questioned scientifically from all angles. M. Farrington said that even though the minutes include a lot of information, they do not express the tone of the meetings. C. Coniaris agreed.
P. Bradley had been on the OMTF for many years and thinks the value of that group was that everyone communicated with one another. She understands that it is the scientists that should be voting but now communication among the three groups is more difficult. G. Grossman suggested that perhaps PIAC ask some of the OMSAP members to attend a PIAC meeting. M. Farrington pointed out that the duty of the PIAC chair is to report to OMSAP on PIAC views. G. Grossman agreed and asked that PIAC members let her know if they want her to report anything specific to OMSAP.
R. Buchsbaum said that the main reason why the OMTF was split up was to separate the advocates and agency representatives since the Commission believed this would assure the science was as objective as possible. The goal was to have an unbiased science panel that examined scientific issues. However, there is going to be a lack of consensus, even among the scientists, on different scientific values. G. Grossman pointed out that there have been a lot of OMSAP discussions and all votes to date have been unanimous. M. Mickelson added that they are good scientists and he respects them. J. LeBlanc thinks this system will be tested when something controversial occurs and PIAC ever feels that OMSAP is not responding appropriately. She likes the idea of having PIAC meet on the same day as OMSAP as a trial but she does not want to become caught up with process. She thinks the three groups should continue to work collectively and not be limited by the structure. C. Coniaris is open to hearing suggestions on how the three groups can interact more efficiently.
ACTION: PIAC requests to meet in the fall of 2000 on the same day as OMSAP, unless the outfall goes on-line sooner.
S. Tucker responded to an earlier question from P. Bradley. He is not asking PIAC to vote on a motion to counter OMSAP's recommendation to accept MWRA's FWMSOW because PIAC has not had time to review the material. He thinks it would be important for this group to express that a precautionary management principle is warranted in Mass and Cape Cod Bays. G. Grossman asked PIAC if they would like to participate in drafting a sign-on letter (that organizations choose whether or not to sign) or if this requires further PIAC discussion. R. Buchsbaum would like more discussion because he would to hear more about their definition of "precautionary" since he thinks OMSAP would agree that MWRA is indeed being precautionary. He thinks PIAC would need to make the case that MWRA is not being precautionary. It is not the role of PIAC to second-guess the science but certainly the group can examine the philosophy behind recommendations. He would be uncomfortable signing a letter without more discussion.
- May 2000 OMSAP/PIAC/IAAC membership lists
- October 1999 draft PIAC minutes
- Recent OMSAP recommendations
- MWRA reports 99-09 and 99-14 regarding food web model scope of work
- Presentation handout from M. Mickelson
- Information briefing from the Cape Cod Commission