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NPDES Permits in New England

OMSAP  LogoPublic Interest Advisory Committee (PIAC) Meeting

December 15, 1998, 4:00 to 6:00PM
MADEP Boston

Members Present: Cate Doherty (interim chair), Save the Harbor/Save the Bay; Patty Daley, Cape Cod Commission and Bays Legal Fund alternate; Marianne Farrington, New England Aquarium; Joe Favaloro, MWRA Advisory Board; Sal Genovese, SWIM; Joan LeBlanc, The Boston Harbor Association alternate; Scott Mitchell, Association for the Preservation of Cape Cod; and Susan Redlich, Wastewater Advisory Committee.

Observers: Peg Brady, MCZM; Cathy Coniaris, OMSAP Assistant; Mike Delaney, MWRA ENQUAD; Christian Krahforst, MCZM; Steve Lipman, MADEP; Sal Testaverde, NMFS; and Carol Wasserman, MADEP.

Summary prepared by C. Coniaris. Post-meeting comments are included in [brackets].

PIAC Logistics and Responsibilities

  1. PIAC should meet approximately one month before each OMSAP meeting to examine their agenda and discuss issues. PIAC can also meet whenever it feels necessary.
  2. PIAC should understand what issues, data, and decisions the OMSAP is considering. At the same time, PIAC should understand and be sensitive to the concerns of its individual groups.
  3. Citizens' concerns should first be discussed by PIAC. PIAC will attempt to work towards consensus when determining which concerns to forward to OMSAP, EPA, and/or MADEP. Differences of opinion will be reported by the PIAC chair (or an alternate) at OMSAP meetings and recorded in the minutes. The role of PIAC is to highlight concerns as well as where there is disagreement.
  4. PIAC should develop a timetable of issues the group would like address, both before and after the outfall goes on-line.
  5. The availability of relevant publications, as well as information on how to obtain copies, will be announced by email and listed in the OMSAP minutes.
  6. OMSAP, PIAC, and IAAC will exchange minutes via email. Communication among the groups is very important.
  7. PIAC has asked that MWRA report whenever there is problem or if they are approaching a trigger exceedance.
  8. A one-page summary of each OMSAP agenda item is requested of speakers [PIAC members should decide if the information briefings that are currently produced meet this request].
  9. PIAC members are encouraged to try to attend OMSAP meetings when possible in order to hear their discussions firsthand. C. Doherty, M. Farrington, S. Genovese, and S. Redlich agreed to try to attend OMSAP meetings regularly. One PIAC member should also attend IAAC meetings. PIAC and IAAC may agree to schedule one or more future meetings together.
  10. PIAC welcomes comments from its audience.
  11. Flexibility and independence is vital for OMSAP and PIAC.
  12. PIAC has requested an overview of the Outfall Monitoring Program and Contingency Plan. Copies of these documents will be distributed.
  13. PIAC should consider reviewing MWRA's trigger parameters before the outfall goes on-line.
  14. In addition to reporting to OMSAP, PIAC should also report to EPA and MADEP.
  15. PIAC will schedule their next meeting once the next OMSAP meeting date is set.
  16. PIAC will be provided with some background materials on issues related to outfall monitoring. [An index of issues recently addressed by the Outfall Monitoring Task Force will also be provided.]
  17. C. Coniaris will email PIAC members a list of their email addresses to be used for email discussions among the group.

The summary of the December 15, 1998 PIAC meeting was approved with no amendments. S. Redlich and P. Daley gave a brief summary of the December 18, 1998 OMSAP meeting. According to their report, presentations at the OMSAP meeting included MWRA's draft food web model scope of work and a method of using nitrogen-15 stable isotopes to study the fate of nitrogen in effluent entering the marine environment. C. Doherty then gave a brief summary of the February 24, 1999 IAAC meeting. IAAC discussed its roles/responsibilities, Cape Cod Commission's request to leave PIAC and join IAAC, endocrine disruptors, and PCBs. [Meeting summaries are available.]

Food Web Model Scope of Work:

  1. OMSAP and PIAC [and IAAC] should review the questions raised in the 1995 Barnstable SAP report [this report will be distributed] in order to be clear on what types of questions a food web model would attempt to answer.
  2. Two PIAC members requested that OMSAP advise on what pieces of information are missing regarding a food web model, what pieces are beyond the scope of the focus of the MWRA, and what pieces would be more appropriate for other state agencies. PIAC may be asking if there is data that may still be collected before the outfall goes on-line in order to help determine what effect the MWRA may have. These points will be further discussed at the March 2, 1999 PIAC meeting.
  3. The draft NPDES permit which includes the requirement for the scope of work is located at: http://www.epa.gov/region1/eco/mwra/pdf/permit.pdf.


Members introduced themselves and briefly described their organizations. C. Doherty is with Save the Harbor/Save the Bay that works to promote and protect the resources of Massachusetts Bay and Boston Harbor. SH/SB has over 1000 member households from a variety of communities, both coastal and inland. P. Daley is with the Cape Cod Commission who has asked to sit on the Inter-agency Advisory Committee instead of PIAC. She is also representing the Bays Legal Fund at this meeting which is a citizens group formed through Barnstable County out of concern for the potential impacts of the MWRA outfall on water quality in Mass and Cape Cod Bays and endangered/threatened species. M. Farrington works in the Edgerton Research Lab at the New England Aquarium. The NEAq's mission is to present, promote, and protect the world of water through exhibits, education, and research. J. Favaloro is the executive director of the MWRA Advisory Board that represents the interests of the MWRA ratepaying communities. S. Genovese is new member of Safer Waters in Massachusetts (SWIM) which was formed about 15 years ago in response to concerns about water quality issues in Boston Harbor and Mass Bay. J. LeBlanc is with The Boston Harbor Association whose mission since its formation in 1973 is to promote a clean and accessible Boston Harbor. S. Mitchell is the assistant director of the Association for the Preservation of Cape Cod. The APCC's mission is to protect and restore the natural resources of Cape Cod. The membership of this 30-year old organization consists of approximately 4,000 households. S. Redlich is a member of the Wastewater Advisory Committee, which is a citizen advisory group to the MWRA Board of Directors of the MWRA that works on long-range planning for the Authority.

The observers then introduced themselves. C. Coniaris is the assistant to the OMSAP and contractor to EPA. M. Delaney is the acting director of MWRA's Environmental Quality Department which responsible for the Outfall Monitoring Program and the lab at Deer Island. S. Testaverde works for the National Marine Fisheries Service and is the interim chair for the Inter-agency Advisory Committee. NMFS deals with protected species and marine resources. S. Lipman works for the MADEP and is the Boston Harbor coordinator. Carol Wasserman also works for MADEP. Others arrived after this introduction.

PIAC Logistics and Responsibilities
PIAC members were given the latest version of the OMSAP charter. The charter is mentioned in the draft NPDES permit but is not included in the permit. The group then had a discussion of EPA/MADEP expectations, how PIAC will operate, what kind of resources PIAC will need, frequency and structure of meetings, and what kinds of issues PIAC should examine. PIAC needs to figure out how to work amongst its members and how it can most effectively advise the OMSAP. R. Manfredonia of EPA was unable to attend so C. Coniaris outlined a few of the themes of PIAC. The PIAC should try to work towards consensus. However, disagreements will be noted in the minutes and C. Doherty will report the various views of the group to OMSAP. Citizens' issues should first be discussed by PIAC and then be brought to OMSAP. PIAC should decide which issues are important for OMSAP to review. OMSAP currently consists of nine scientists who advise EPA/MADEP on matters related to MWRA's monitoring and any potential future exceedances related to the NPDES permit and Contingency Plan. It has two subcommittees, PIAC, and the Inter-agency Advisory Committee (IAAC).

C. Doherty then added her thoughts on PIAC. Section B of the OMSAP charter states that the committee will advise the OMSAP on the values and uses of the natural system important to society. She believes that each member is responsible for bringing the concerns of its constituents to PIAC and hopefully the group can come to some agreement on some of those concerns. OMSAP has been charged with making scientific decisions but must understand what the public is concerned about. PIAC should understand what issues, data, and decisions the OMSAP is considering, and at the same time PIAC should understand and be sensitive to the concerns of its individual groups. It is also important to note that the PIAC will be advising EPA and MADEP in addition to the OMSAP. Some issues raised by the PIAC may be policy-oriented and thus more appropriately forwarded to EPA and MADEP.

The group then discussed frequency and structure of meetings. C. Doherty feels that PIAC should meet approximately one month before each OMSAP meeting to examine their agenda and discuss issues beforehand. In addition, PIAC should meet whenever it feels that it is necessary. C. Coniaris added that OMSAP will meet approximately 4-6 times per year.

S. Genovese suggested that PIAC make a timetable of issues the group would like address, both before and after the outfall goes on-line. M. Delaney confirmed that the most recent estimation of the outfall going on-line is July 1999. C. Doherty agreed that the group should begin to put together a list of issues. She pointed out that PIAC will also address issues not on the OMSAP agenda.

J. LeBlanc asked about PIAC representation at the OMSAP meetings. C. Doherty replied that as interim PIAC chair, she plans to attend all OMSAP meetings, but will find a replacement if she can not attend. J. LeBlanc pointed out that even if PIAC does not have any issues to bring forth, there still should be at least one PIAC member present to hear the proceedings. She asked if there is a schedule set-up for distributing outfall-related reports to OMSAP and PIAC. C. Coniaris replied that reports are being provided to OMSAP members, but copies could be provided to PIAC if requested. S. Redlich suggested that perhaps a list of distributed materials be added to the OMSAP minutes so that the PIAC know they exist and could request them from the MWRA on their own. C. Coniaris added that she is looking into setting up an OMSAP website that would include new reports, agendas, minutes, and other information. She will also distribute the OMSAP minutes to PIAC via email. Several members approved the idea of a website and electronic distribution of materials. P. Daley added that if something important is being added to the website, to send an email notification of the posting. Others agreed.

J. LeBlanc suggested that MWRA report to the PIAC whenever there is problem or are approaching a trigger exceedance. J. Favaloro asked about the status of the NPDES permit. S. Lipman guessed that the final version would be ready in about two months.

J. LeBlanc feels that PIAC is at a disadvantage since the group as a whole does not hear the scientific analyses at OMSAP meetings, and that most members of PIAC are not scientists. This will make it difficult for the group to have collective and intelligent input into the process. She suggested receiving one-page descriptions on the various issues, as they arise. M. Farrington volunteered to interpret any technical issues for any of the PIAC members.

C. Doherty suggested that any important actions, such as the formation of a focus group be highlighted in the minutes. She asked if there should be a one-page summary drafted for every issue, or instead have members request a one-page summary as needed and possibly schedule an expert to speak at a PIAC meeting. J. Favaloro suggested that it would be very helpful for PIAC to have a one-page layperson synopsis of each issue that includes whether there is a vote coming forward, or if there is a report available on the topic. C. Doherty suggested that PIAC members take the responsibility of skimming the OMSAP minutes and if any members would like more information, they should contact C. Coniaris.

C. Krahforst agrees that there is a "disconnect" the way things are set-up compared to the OMTF. He urged PIAC to try to attend OMSAP meetings to best absorb information, especially if there is an issue of key importance to one's organization. P. Daley added that PIAC should not solely rely on the minutes since they describe decisions that have already been made. C. Doherty suggested announcing the availability of reports by email.

M. Farrington pointed out that PIAC also needs to develop its own issues to forward to the OMSAP. C. Doherty feels that this goes back to S. Genovese's suggestion that PIAC make a list of issues, determine which issues should be addressed, and determine what information PIAC needs. S. Testaverde suggested that time frames listed in the permit be added to the PIAC time line.

C. Doherty asked which PIAC members plan to attend OMSAP meetings. M. Farrington, S. Genovese, and S. Redlich agreed to try to attend OMSAP meetings regularly. M. Farrington asked if PIAC meetings are open to the public. C. Doherty replied yes. The group agreed that observers are welcome to give their input at PIAC meetings.

S. Testaverde asked what the relationship should be between PIAC and IAAC. He suggested that eventually the two groups meet together, and at the very least, the two groups should communicate. S. Redlich agreed with the suggestion but felt that a joint meeting should wait until the two subcommittees both begin to deal with issues. S. Testaverde believes that having two subcommittees of OMSAP is an obstacle. J. LeBlanc agreed and feels that the groups should find a way to have regular communication. C. Doherty suggested that all groups exchange minutes, a PIAC member attend the Inter-agency Advisory Committee meetings, and that PIAC/IAAC possibly schedule future meetings together as issues arise. She agreed with C. Krahforst's encouragement that PIAC members try to attend OMSAP meetings. Since PIAC members are coming from different groups and different constituencies, it is important that everyone keep track of the OMSAP agendas. C. Coniaris suggested coinciding every other OMSAP meeting with PIAC/IAAC meetings and have the subcommittees meet either before or after OMSAP on the same day.

M. Farrington suggested having email discussions in order to avoid scheduling meetings too often. The New England Aquarium subcommittees accomplish a lot of work this way. Each member would set up a mailing list with all addresses except their own. S. Redlich thinks it could work since PIAC is relatively small. It could be a way of helping develop PIAC's meeting agendas. C. Coniaris will email PIAC members a list of the email addresses. Members agreed that email could be used for discussions. C. Doherty asked that "PIAC" be put in the subject headers so that the messages get noticed.

J. LeBlanc believes that though this structure may work, the committees still need to maintain flexibility both in function and structure. C. Krahforst does not think that there should be concern that this will not work since most of the OMSAP members were on the Outfall Monitoring Task Force (OMTF) which was very receptive to issues which came from the audience. C. Doherty stated that based on additional public concern, PIAC can consider adding topics to the OMSAP agenda which have already been discussed by OMSAP. However, PIAC should make every effort to get all information and concerns to OMSAP before they discuss a particular issue so that they do not have to revisit topics.

J. Favaloro asked if there are going to be by-laws since PIAC will eventually vote on recommendations and the membership is not fairly weighted. J. LeBlanc added that even though PIAC may not agree on an issue, it does not mean that it is not important and should not be addressed. C. Doherty feels that the role of PIAC is to highlight concerns, but also to highlight where there is disagreement. She also pointed out that individual groups can bring concerns to the OMSAP, but ideally, PIAC is where issues should first be discussed. J. Favaloro believes that there will be difficulty when the NPDES permit is released since PIAC members may "agree to do disagree" for entirely different reasons. The Cape, ratepayers, and Save the Harbor/Save the Bay may all decide that they do not like the permit for different reasons.

S. Redlich pointed out that one purpose of PIAC is to determine what concerns are out there and how weighty each of those concerns are. There might be a consensus over the need for certain information-type questions to ask OMSAP. Another purpose of PIAC is to try to articulate what the differences are and where there are disagreements. Since PIAC members are a conduit to other groups, PIAC should be as informed as possible about the exact nature of the concerns and be able to describe them to others. She supports a way of informing OMSAP about PIAC's discussions as a way of assuring that no view is silenced. C. Doherty suggested distributing the minutes to OMSAP as a way of addressing this. Several members agreed. P. Daley suggested that minority views be included in the minutes and individual groups can still have the option of going directly to the OMSAP.

C. Krahforst believes that since OMSAP is clearly a scientific advisory panel, the consensus that this group will be striving for is which issues will be brought to OMSAP in order to shed some light in terms of what the science says. He does not necessarily see that as a struggle for PIAC. J. LeBlanc asked him if that meant that PIAC does not necessarily need to reach a consensus since concerns discussed here should be brought to the OMSAP. C. Krahforst replied that this group would act as a filter for OMSAP. C. Doherty feels that PIAC is not going to be asking the OMSAP to necessarily look at every single issue which may be important to our individual groups regarding the permit or the outfall. PIAC will have to have some discussion about what issues are really important overall and make sure that the OMSAP is devoting some time to addressing them.

J. LeBlanc asked why PIAC has to meet separately if the best way to be substantively involved in issues is to attend the OMSAP meetings. Someone replied that this is a good way for PIAC to discuss issues before OMSAP meetings. Someone else added PIAC meetings make it possible for the different groups to learn how the others feel on an issue. J. LeBlanc feels that since the OMSAP meetings are where decisions will be made, whoever is present representing PIAC must have the ability to ask intelligent questions. C. Doherty added that another purpose of PIAC meetings is to figure out how to advise OMSAP based on the interest of our constituencies. P. Daley believes that an additional goal of PIAC is to make the information from this process available to the public in an understandable and meaningful way.

P. Brady encouraged PIAC to not think of this process as "set in stone", to set the pace on how to present the various issues, and not look to EPA/MADEP for guidance. She sees this process as a balance among all of the players and PIAC should advise everyone, not just OMSAP. This structure is a new model and everyone is learning in the process. There needs to be interactive communication among the groups that is quick and responsive. The independence of PIAC as well as the other groups is very valuable. C. Doherty added that she believes that R. Manfredonia agrees in that he said EPA does not want to control the process.

P. Brady then gave a little background information on the formation of OMSAP and its subcommittees. Many of the current public concerns have already been discussed by the OMTF and decisions were made based on the best information available at the time. The OMTF was successful, due in part, to its flexibility. OMTF membership consisted of environmental advocates, scientists, and agency representatives who were interested in the Boston Harbor clean-up project. The OMTF was advisory to MCZM, but as the permit, permit standards and guidelines were developed, it was recognized that the regulators (EPA/MADEP) would need a direct line of communication to the scientific advisory panel. Recommendations came forth to maintain the advocate voice and the institutional knowledge of agencies such as NMFS. Thus it was determined that there be the two subcommittees. This reconfiguration was not meant to diminish the role or voice of anyone, instead it was meant to develop more rigor around the science.

P. Daley suggested that it would be helpful if there was an overview of the Outfall Monitoring Program and Contingency Plan for the group. She thinks that a good first step would be to make sure that everyone has copies of these documents. P. Brady also suggested that members review OMTF minutes from the past year since many issues came to a head during this time. J. LeBlanc believes that some issues were left vague regarding the MWRA triggers and that PIAC should review this before the outfall goes on-line. C. Doherty asked if anyone needed any information before the December 18 OMSAP meeting. No one did.

Food Web Model Scope of Work
J. Favaloro asked why the MWRA is scoping out a food web model if the NPDES permit, in which this requirement is listed, will not be ready for another two or three months. He believes that in theory, this requirement does not exist until the final permit is issued. P. Brady agreed with J. Favaloro, that certainly food web modeling should be discussed but that it is too early for scoping and expenditures on the project. M. Farrington thought that the OMTF had asked the MWRA to scope this out due to concerns for endangered species. C. Krahforst agreed with M. Farrington. The OMSAP is considering the food web model scope of work since it was a recommendation carried from the OMTF to OMSAP, independent to its attachment to the permit.

M. Delaney added that since the scope of work was in the draft permit. MWRA presented a few possible approaches at the October OMSAP meeting hoping to get some feedback from OMSAP on what approach to take. MWRA was also told that the language in the final permit would not likely change significantly from the draft permit and that the December 31, 1998 deadline for the development of a scope of work would not change. J. Favaloro disagreed and stated that requirements "do not exist" until they are issued in the final permit. P. Daley believes that the delay in the outfall going on-line gives us an opportunity to identify baseline monitoring which could occur with respect to a food web model. J. Favaloro stated that he is not arguing whether or not there should be a scope of work, but rather, why should MWRA be penalized for the fact that the regulators have delayed the issuance of the permit?

P. Brady stated that the OMTF raised questions about what type of food web model would be appropriate in order to tease out whether the discharge was causing changes in the food web. The discussion of whether a food web model is needed, what type of model is best, and at what cost has not been completed. J. LeBlanc pointed out that perhaps this is more appropriate for another agency to undertake such as EOEA, MBP, MCZM. TBHA does not necessarily feel that it is fitting for this requirement to be in the permit since it may not be appropriate to have ratepayers pay for this. P. Brady added that this discussion began because some advocates believe that the discharge may cause an impact on the food web. This raised the question of ownership -- Commonwealth or MWRA? The scientists have not determined a scientific strategy to tease out any impacts of the outfall yet. J. LeBlanc asked if PIAC should ask the OMSAP to try and determine some percentage of MWRA responsibility for the food web. C. Doherty thinks that this is a policy issue and that it is her understanding that OMSAP is responsible for is advising EPA and MADEP on scientific issues such as whether there is a FWM which can actually produce the desired information. P. Brady believes that the OMSAP needs to respond by determining what the science is to get to that answer. PIAC needs to think about whether this is what OMSAP should evaluate. Another question, which might have to be examined by MCZM, MBP or EPA, is what the status is of the food web in Mass Bay, regardless of any impact. That is a big policy question with shared ownership and is not a part of the permit. S. Testaverde added that the OMSAP is trying to address what the food web is and how it relates to protected species.

J. LeBlanc and J. Favaloro asked if there is a statewide food web model. M. Delaney replied that there is not a Mass Bays food web model. J. Favaloro asked why MWRA is proceeding with this if there is not already a model. M. Delaney replied that he is hoping that the OMSAP can give guidance on what is possible and not possible. J. Favaloro asked if PIAC could request that OMSAP ask an agency such as MCZM to develop a food web model and then ask MWRA how it might impact the food web. M. Farrington pointed out that the various public interests can always approach OMSAP individually with their concerns. P. Daley believes that this new outfall - the largest in the world - will be the largest contributor of pollutants to the Bays system. This should weigh in on how much responsibility MWRA may have in determining its impact. J. Favaloro feels that this is an excuse to try to get MWRA to do everything. P. Daley disagreed. C. Krahforst thinks that it may be appropriate for OMSAP to determine who should shoulder the burden for the development of a food web model. P. Brady added that Jerry Schubel [OMTF chair] tried very hard to sensitize members that this is not a limitless amount of funding for scientific study in the Bay.

C. Doherty felt that there was no consensus on this topic for her to report to the OMSAP since it seems that PIAC members have differing opinions as to whether or not MWRA should develop a food web model. She asked if there is anything PIAC would like to ask the OMSAP for clarification. J. Favaloro asked what the roles of other agencies would be with the food web studies. S. Testaverde stated that there are 11 wastewater treatment plants that discharge to Mass Bay. The average flow of MWRA is five times all of the other 10 sources combined. J. Favaloro feels that this has to be an overall food web model which then looks at how MWRA and the other 10 treatment plants fit into the picture. P. Brady pointed out that the 1995 Barnstable Science Advisory Panel report raised this issue. She suggested that PIAC go back to that document and review the questions that were raised. C. Coniaris will provide copies. J. LeBlanc thinks it would be useful if OMSAP could tell PIAC what pieces of information are missing, what pieces are beyond the scope of the limited focus of the MWRA, and what pieces would be more appropriate for other state agencies. C. Krahforst agreed with P. Brady that the original questions and reasons raised for developing a food web model should be reviewed by OMSAP. If those questions are relevant to MWRA, then the question becomes, can a food web model be designed to answer those questions? He suggested that P. Daley deliver those questions to the group. P. Daley stated that they are included in an information briefing from the Cape Cod Commission for the December 18 OMSAP meeting.

M. Delaney pointed out that what MWRA is working on is not a detailed work plan, but rather a look at what can be done, an examination of background information, what the questions are, and how one would get started with a food web model. P. Brady hopes the questions asked regarding the food web model be clarified for OMSAP so that they can effectively do their work. S. Genovese thinks that PIAC should ask OMSAP what data is available related to the food web, and what data can be collected before the outfall goes on-line to see if there is an impact.


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