NPDES Permits in New England
Public Interest Advisory Committee (PIAC) Meeting
October 16, 2001, 3:00 to 5:00 PM
Members Present: Patty Foley, Save the Harbor/Save the Bay (chair); Bruce Berman, Save the Harbor/Save the Bay; Peter Borrelli, Center for Coastal Studies; Ed Bretschneider, Wastewater Advisory Committee; Marianne Farrington, New England Aquarium; Joe Favaloro, MWRA Advisory Board; Sal Genovese, Safer Waters in Massachusetts; and Steve Tucker, Cape Cod Commission.
Observers: Margaret Callanan, Cape Cod Commission; Cathy Coniaris, MADEP; Bob Kenney, URI; Steve Lipman, MADEP; Ezra McCarthy, WIT; Mike Mickelson, MWRA; Susan Redlich, MADEP; Andrea Rex, MWRA; and Sal Testaverde, NMFS.
SUMMARY OF ACTION ITEMS
- C. Coniaris will forward to S. Tucker the Inter-Agency Advisory Committee (IAAC) minutes that include the discussion of the Cape Cod Commissions request to join IAAC.
- PIAC approved the July 2001 minutes with no amendments.
- PIAC will continue to meet on the same day as OMSAP, but earlier in the afternoon.
- PIAC discussed a number of items to do before the OMSAP workshops (see below).
- PIAC, OMSAP and IAAC meetings will be scheduled on a yearly basis.
P. Foley welcomed everyone. P. Borrelli asked why the Cape Cod Commission is not a member of the Inter-Agency Advisory Committee (IAAC). It seems like an oversight that should be corrected. S. Testaverde replied that the IAAC did discuss this topic and he wanted the Commission to join IAAC but the other members did not agree. C. Coniaris added that IAAC members are from state and federal regulatory agencies that are involved with the MWRA permit. P. Borrelli said that the Commission is a regulatory agency, in a distant way to this project, but it is a concerned party and represents an entire county of the state. S. Tucker offered that if this discussion ever comes up, he would be happy to discuss it. ACTION: C. Coniaris will forward to S. Tucker the Inter-Agency Advisory Committee (IAAC) minutes that include the discussion of the Cape Cod Commissions request to join IAAC [see: http://www.epa.gov/region1/omsap/iaac299.html].
REVIEW OF DRAFT JULY 12, 2001 MINUTES
ACTION: PIAC approved the April 4, 2001 minutes with no amendments.
P. Foley brought up PIACs meeting time. The group has been meeting later to accommodate two of the members who are teachers (W. Bergeron and former member M. Loebig). Since we seem to have several PIAC members that participate at OMSAP meetings, we should perhaps schedule the PIAC meetings a little earlier in the day. PIAC agreed. S. Tucker suggested moving the OMSAP meeting time if there is a conflict with W. Bergeron. P. Foley then mentioned attendance. Over the past year as chair, she has made a number of efforts to reach out to individual members of PIAC by telephone and email in an effort to understand if there is some conflict around the time of this meeting. People seem to be well-intentioned and believe that the work of this committee is important however often times things come up at the last minute in peoples schedules. She asked PIAC to think about what else she could do to help improve attendance. She understands that this project is not in crisis mode now and that may be a factor in the low attendance. ACTION: PIAC will continue to meet on the same day as OMSAP, but earlier in the afternoon.
OUTREACH EFFORTS FOR OMSAP WORKSHOP
P. Foley went over the handout on workshop public outreach efforts. Almost everyone on PIAC has contributed and participated in the work that has gone into informing the public about these workshops. She asked PIAC for suggestions, criticisms, new ideas, and last minute efforts. B. Berman noted the frustration that we all have that comes from an unwillingness of the public and press to deal with complicated issues, unless we are in a crisis. This is good outreach, but the reason why it may not work is because of the times that we live in. He urged PIAC members to reach out to their constituencies and make some phone calls. If all PIAC members did this, then we would have a good turnout.
S. Tucker asked if the press release was distributed. C. Coniaris replied that it has been sent to the media by MADEP. B. Berman added that he took the press release, agenda, and public outreach material and sent it to the three Boston reporters and a journalist from the Associated Press and he also plans on sending it to two reporters on Cape Cod. S. Tucker told the group that the Commission has a public relations person who is coordinating with the Cape and Boston media. It may be too late, but there are trade magazines on wastewater issues that we could advertise in. M. Farrington thought that it was too late but asked if they had listservers. S. Tucker said that the Commissions groundwater staff receives an email newsletter daily and he will see if there is a contact. B. Berman asked for S. Tucker to send him a copy of the newsletter and he will join the listserver and send them workshop information. P. Borrelli suggested that the workshop flyer be included in an issue of the Cape Codder. He thinks there is a high correlation between people who read the Cape Codder and people who are interested in this subject. C. Coniaris said that there might not be enough funds to do this. M. Farrington suggested asking if they would advertise for free. B. Berman thought maybe the best approach was to have the Commission contact them. S. Tucker said he is sure the Commission has contacted them but could do some follow-up. P. Borrelli said that the Center for Coastal Studies can send the flyer to the ~100 Baykeepers.
S. Genovese mentioned that Safer Waters in Massachusetts (SWIM) members know about the workshop but he is not sure how many will travel into the city for this workshop. In the future, SWIM and Northeastern University could host a seminar for North Shore people and maybe a speaker who has the materials from the OMSAP workshops could give an outreach talk. Even though we are not in crisis, it is important to know what is going on. Right now SWIM is involved with issues related to the proposed gas pipeline but the group is still interested in outfall issues. P. Foley asked that S. Genovese keep her posted on this.
OMSAP PUBLIC WORKSHOP TALKING POINTS
P. Foley summarized the July 2001 PIAC meeting for those not in attendance. During that meeting the group discussed what it is we think the public needs to learn from the OMSAP workshop. Since then, MWRA staff have spent a lot of time thinking about how to format their presentation. C. Coniaris gave an overview of the workshop format. The OMSAP charter states that OMSAP is to host a public workshop annually to present results of the monitoring. The workshop will be held at two locations, Boston and Hyannis. The workshop will begin with EPA and MADEP will describing permit and Contingency Plan, Andy Solow will describe OMSAP and its roles, and Patty Foley will discuss why public should be involved in this process. Then Andrea Rex and Mike Mickelson will present the monitoring and results for 2000 and the public will be given the chance to ask OMSAP questions at the end.
A. Rex said that after several discussions with OMSAP, it was clear that they did not want a long and technical presentation. It was also important to them to have plenty of time for questions and discussion. A. Rex then discussed the topics that she and Mike Mickelson planned to present as well as handouts and posters that will be available at the workshop. She asked if PIAC members had any comments on the content of the presentations. P. Foley said that though there will not be a presentation on beaches due to time constraints, this topic will definitely be brought up during the discussion.
P. Borrelli thought MWRA would have difficulty if it tried to make conclusions based on just one year of post discharge diversity data. A. Rex pointed out that she plans to show the harbor diversity data to highlight the effects of improved treatment, such as secondary treatment, the cessation of sludge dumping, etc. She added that this approach was taken because PIAC asked MWRA whether the Boston Harbor Project is doing what it was designed to do. P. Borrelli thinks that the general public is going to want to know whether the outfall is working the way it is supposed to be. A. Rex repeated that there will only be one year of post-discharge data available. P. Borrelli thinks MWRA should explain how they know that the outfall is working well. He thinks if MWRA presents data much older than September 2000, then it becomes a different topic. A. Rex thinks it is related because it shows the effects of improvements in treatment on the environment in Boston Harbor. M. Mickelson added that if this workshop is to be held every year, then harbor recovery is an item that gets updated annually.
P. Borrelli suggested MWRA only briefly touch on the baseline data because it gives background, but warned that reviewing too much historical data could bog down the presentation. B. Berman agreed. This is the first post-discharge workshop and next year the harbor presentation will only look at new information, but because there is a longer dataset for the harbor, it is worth spending a short amount of time (10-15 minutes) on this. It is worth looking at the benefits of the new outfall to the harbor at these workshops. A. Rex pointed out that the ratepayers want to know that their investment is working. P. Foley agreed that we should not get bogged down with too much of the past, but we also have to remember that there has not been a public workshop in two years and very little information has been generated for the general public. She thinks that there needs to be a balance. S. Tucker thinks it is a question of context. He thinks that the people coming to the Boston meeting will want to focus on the harbor and the Cape constituency will focus on the new outfall. He thinks it is ok to discuss the harbor, but to discuss it in context with the Boston Harbor Project.
B. Berman asked if it would be possible to include some preliminary information on the Center for Coastal Studies monitoring as a handout at the workshop. P. Borrelli said the executive summary and full report are on-line at http://www.coastalstudies.org/research/monitoringupdates.htm and we can have that as a handout and perhaps a poster. S. Mayo emphasized that their work is preliminary.
P. Borrelli thinks the State of the Harbor reports are excellent, but if MWRA is looking to the future, they should budget the production of something similar on an annual basis, but instead call it State of the Bay. These are the reports that the people working on the issue are not going to throw away and they become reference documents. MWRA could limit the cost of printing by putting them on the Internet. This reaches people better than an evening workshop. There is enough interest in this project and there is a wealth of information that should not be wasted. It would be great to see this type report produced annually.
SUMMARY OF OMSAP MEETING
C. Coniaris summarized the IAAC and OMSAP meetings [see October 2001 IAAC and OMSAP minutes]. P. Borrelli commented that he thought that the report on the enhancement of the modeling program is potentially exciting. He thinks it is good that we are not moving forward with a static model, that there is a continuing effort to improve the model and verify it in the field so that we have a greater assurance that there is a predictive capability that it is something that we can use.
CAPE COD BAY MONITORING PROJECT
P. Borrelli mentioned again that the Center for Coastal Studies report is posted on the Internet. For this to be an effective monitoring tool, they are going to have to report more than once a year, at least on a seasonal basis, if not more often. He thinks that it is important for people to know that they are in Cape Cod Bay and that they are informed if anything out of the ordinary is occurring. On fine scale, the systems are much more complicated than previously thought. For example, in the case of the chlorophyll exceedance, it is clear that this is a regional occurrence. The concern is that this is a regional phenomenon that is affecting the two bays, and what additional things (natural or unnatural) could trigger something that is not in the model, e.g. difficulties at the treatment plant combined with a Noreaster. When S. Mayos group is studying zooplankton in the winter, they are not looking at just biomass, they are looking for these extraordinary concentrations or patches that the whales feed off of. We still, after all these years do not know what causes these patches to form. Conversely we do not know what causes them to un-form. We have seen some spikes in the data that show the influence of the outfall, right on the border of Cape Cod Bay. That is something that we will continue to look at. We were not alarmed by the toxic algae that we saw this past spring, but we are concerned if these natural events collide with a nutrient load that may be in exceedance of normal operations. Those are the kinds of things that we will be in the position to spot over time. MWRA has been helpful to this effort by sharing information, data, and samples. MWRA and the Center for Coastal Studies are comparing equipment to make sure it is comparable so that there is no need to correct the data in the future. It is important that we view Cape Cod Bay as a healthy, relatively pristine, ecosystem and not be forced into a reactive mode the way they were in Chesapeake and Delaware Bays. There is now national interest in setting up Marine Protected Areas and he thinks Cape Cod Bay is a prime candidate for special protection so the more background data we can collect, the better off we are. M. Mickelson complimented P. Borrelli and S. Mayo on the quality of their report and the speed at which they produced it.
P. Foley offered that it was ok if people who attended the OMSAP meeting had to leave because S. Mayo was about to give the same presentation that he gave earlier today. She said that she and C. Coniaris will work on the issues discussed regarding the workshop and thanked everyone for attending. S. Tucker suggested that PIAC communicate by email or conference call after the workshop. P. Borrelli suggested that all three committees set an annual meeting schedule to make things easier. P. Foley agreed. S. Testaverde suggested PIAC and IAAC meet together on a separate day from OMSAP because of time constraints. P. Foley thinks it is useful to meet on the same day as OMSAP because it makes it easier for PIAC members to attend the OMSAP meeting but the group can change the format if it would like. B. Berman thinks meeting on a different days than OMSAP adds a lot of wasted driving time. P. Foley agreed that it would be a good idea to schedule meetings a year in advance and also keep meeting on the same day as OMSAP. PIAC members agreed. S. Tucker added that PIAC should be able to meet more often if it has additional business. P. Foley agreed. ACTION: PIAC, OMSAP and IAAC meetings will be scheduled on a yearly basis.
S. Mayo then presented the preliminary results of the Center for Coastal Studies monitoring program to those who did not attend the morning OMSAP meeting [see October 2001 OMSAP minutes].
- October 2001 OMSAP/PIAC/IAAC membership lists
- July 2001 draft OMSAP minutes
- MWRA information briefings to OMSAP
- Workshop public outreach efforts
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.