NPDES Permits in New England
Public Interest Advisory Committee (PIAC) Meeting
Members Present: Wayne Bergeron, Bays Legal Fund; Peter Borrelli, Center for Coastal Studies; Robert Buchsbaum, Massachusetts Audubon; Patty Daley, Cape Cod Commission; Marianne Farrington, New England Aquarium; Joe Favaloro, MWRA Advisory Board; Gillian Grossman, Save the Harbor/Save the Bay; Mary Loebig, Stop the Outfall Pipe; and Susan Redlich, Wastewater Advisory Committee.
Observers: Cathy Coniaris, OMSAP/PIAC/IAAC staff; Mike Mickelson, MWRA; Andrea Noronha, MIT student; Andrea Rex, MWRA; Larry Schafer, retired; Mark Silver, Center for Coastal Studies; and Sal Testaverde, NMFS.
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
1) PIAC unanimously elected a Gillian Grossman as chair.
PIAC approved the May 17, 1999 meeting summary with no amendments.
PIAC unanimously elected Gillian Grossman as chair. The previous chair, Cate Doherty, resigned upon her leaving Save the Harbor/Save the Bay.
M. Farrington and C. Coniaris summarized conclusions from the September 22-23, 1999 OMSAP workshop. Abstracts, poster presentations, and a summary of the questions and answers will be compiled on a CD-ROM for distribution.
M. Mickelson responded to a question about outfall start-up. He said that it would take several weeks to remove the remaining riser plugs, fill the tunnel, and remove the diffuser caps. He guessed start-up would be in March 2000, though there is no official date due to the ongoing investigation of the accident in the outfall.
PUBLIC BRIEFING ON OUTFALL MONITORING
S. Redlich led a discussion on whether PIAC and/or OMSAP should host a public briefing on outfall monitoring. She feels that a public meeting would bring interested members of the public up to speed on MWRAs Outfall Monitoring Program in a less technical format. She believes that a meeting such as this would give the public a chance to ask questions and suggested having a 45-minute presentation and then a question and answer session. This would give the public the opportunity to see how MWRA and OMSAP are held accountable. P. Daley agreed and thinks that representatives from EPA, MADEP, and OMSAP should attend. J. Favaloro feels that if this meeting were to take place, it should be hosted by OMSAP, not the agencies.
PIAC members were unable to reach an agreement as to whether to host this type of meeting. Those who felt that there should be a public meeting agreed that it be held in Boston and on Cape Cod. S. Testaverde thinks that a meeting also be held on the North Shore. B. Buchsbaum suggested Nahant since they have shown the most interest in the North Shore. M. Loebig thinks that the meeting also address permit issues. A. Rex pointed out that this would be a meeting on the monitoring program, not the permit, since OMSAP advises on monitoring. M. Loebig thinks that it would be difficult to narrow the scope of a public meeting. R. Buchsbaum cautioned that PIAC needs to be careful of OMSAPs time since they are volunteers. P. Borrelli added that OMSAP members are also not spokespeople for MWRAs Outfall Monitoring Program. Their job is peer-review and not to speak on behalf of the MWRA.
W. Bergeron believes that though there is the possibility that attendance to a public meeting would be low, the point is that the public would be given the opportunity to attend. P. Daley thinks that the meeting should focus on conclusions, not methodology. M. Loebig suggested that PIAC sponsor the meeting, with questions still directed to MWRA or OMSAP. PIAC would be involved with advertising and meeting planning.
P. Borrelli believes that people need substantial purpose in order to attend a meeting (e.g. to vote or voice opposition on an issue). At this point, the outfall is built and will go on-line, so it may be difficult to motivate people to attend. However, on an educational level, it is important to have more people understand the outfall. There also need to be convenient ways of disseminating information. He thinks that a meeting is not the best way and suggested using the Internet, especially for interactive questions and answers. He also suggested radio talk shows since radio hosts have the ability to popularize complicated issues. He feels that everyone should be more creative about public education and the Internet allows people to participate at whatever level in a controlled manner.
W. Bergeron thinks that there is an advantage to public meetings since not everyone has web access. Personal interaction is very important to allay fears. Worried citizens would also like to go on record with their concerns. If all of the presentations are technical, then there will be distrust with the scientific community (although he wanted to point out that the Cape feels they have been well-responded to).
S. Redlich believes that there could be supplemental Internet activities in addition to a meeting and thinks that the Center for Coastal Studies (CCS) has a good website. P. Borrelli pointed out that the CCS website gives visitors the opportunity to ask questions which are answered by experts. Face-to-face meetings are important but using the Internet would allow for prepared answers.
M. Mickelson suggested instead of a public meeting, having PIAC members ask their constituencies if they have questions that can be forwarded to OMSAP. G. Grossman thinks PIAC needs to explore this further at its next meeting.
FOOD WEB MODEL SCOPE OF WORK DISCUSSION
P. Daley briefly described Barnstable County Science Advisory Panels (BCSAP) alternate proposal to MWRAs Food Web Model Scope of Work (FWMSOW). The BCSAP has not finalized the proposal to date. They met to discuss the problems and complexities with food web modeling and attempted to develop a way to address what they see as the potential impacts from the outfall, particularly on right whales. They have developed a food chain concept (not a model) which has three steps and three general hypotheses. The first step is that nutrients from the effluent may affect or change phytoplankton composition and abundance. The second is that a change in phytoplankton may affect zooplankton composition and abundance, and lastly, a change in zooplankton may affect right whales. The BCSAP intends to include several assertions as part of each step of the chain referenced from the literature. They believe that the purpose of a food web model scope of work is to look at contingencies and uncertainties. This proposal will be presented in greater detail to OMSAP at their October 26, 1999 meeting. [UPDATE: The BCSAP postponed the presentation of this proposal and the OMSAP meeting was also postponed.]
M. Loebig added that the BCSAP proposal examines trophic levels. For example, if studies show changes in phytoplankton species, would zooplankton be impacted? Would whales be impacted? M. Mickelson stated that the food web model scope of work is a permit requirement. Earlier this year, P. Daley requested that the scope of work examine the food web in another way. He feels that P. Daleys request is a way of saying that MWRA work to integrate monitoring.
P. Daley feels that any uncertainty in the MWRA scope of work flow chart leads to a dead-end. M. Mickelson pointed out that continued monitoring on the flowchart is not really a dead-end. P. Daley thinks that there is no impetus to change things. M. Mickelson believes that there is nothing wrong having structure in the flowchart. P. Borrelli agreed. He thinks that the list of potential research topics on page 12 of the FWMSOW is useful and asked whether these studies be done, and by whom? There are still lingering concerns, especially regarding biology in the farfield. It would be good to have a better understanding of the system but how many of these research concerns can be addressed by the Outfall Monitoring Program? The CCS has developed some proposals subject to funding. He does not think that at this point the number of stations in the permit can be argued. But it is up to OMSAP to amend the station locations if there are unanticipated effects after the outfall goes on-line. Jerry Schubel [New England Aquarium] had said that agency monitoring may not satisfy all lines of inquiry, but perhaps MWRA may be sympathetic and collaborate with others.
S. Redlich asked P. Daley if she would like OMSAP to reconsider the FWMSOW. P. Daley replied yes, and that the list of questions on page 10 should be the focus of the scope. P. Borrelli pointed out that developing a successful food web model is a multi-million dollar, multi-year, and multi-institutional effort. OMSAP would not recommend that this be entirely MWRAs responsibility a logical conclusion.
S. Testaverde mentioned that a recent right whale study concluded that the right whales will go extinct in 191 years [Caswell H, Fujiwara M, Brault S. 1999. Declining survival probability threatens the North Atlantic right whale. PNAS 96: 3308-3313]. He feels that MWRA should be responsible for a year-round study, not just a few months.
[For further discussion on this topic, see the October 14, 1999 Inter-Agency Advisory Committee meeting summary.]
- October 1999 OMSAP/PIAC/IAAC membership lists
- May 17, 1999 draft PIAC meeting summary
- S eptember 1999 OMSAP Workshop Agenda
- WRAs Food Web Model Scope of Work
- Questions for PIAC Discussion on Public Briefing (by Susan Redlich)