Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Manganese Rider In Budget Bill Shifts Responsibility For Cleaning Up Water From The Discharger To Water Companies, Other Water Users

One of the riders the Senate passed in the Administrative Code bill-- House Bill 118 (Kaufer-R- Luzerne)-- was a provision eliminating the requirement in place for 28 years that the water quality standard for manganese be met when water is discharged into a stream, and replacing it with a requirement the standard be met at the point water is taken out of a stream for use as drinking water and without regard for the potential impact on fish and aquatic life in between.
If there is no water supply downstream, there effectively is no point of compliance for a manganese discharged from mining operations, according to the way the bill language is drafted.
Technically, what the provision in the Administrative Code bill does is direct the Environmental Quality Board to adopt a proposed manganese standard within 90 days that includes the 1 milligram/liter manganese standard established under 25 Pa Code Chapter 93.7 and insure the standard is met at the point of intake for water suppliers (25 Pa Code Chapter 96.3).
The 1 milligram/liter standard is 20 times the level of manganese water suppliers should have in their water supplies, according to EPA’s secondary maximum contaminant levels.
Since 1989 25 Pa Code Chapter 93.6 required all water quality standards to be met at the point of discharge so the water does not contain substances “in concentration or amounts sufficient to be inimical or harmful to the water uses to be protected or to human, animal, plant or aquatic life” or that “produce color, tastes, odors, turbidity or settle to form deposits.”
The change included in the bill was made at the request of the Coal Alliance because they had concerns about being able to meet the standard for manganese at the point of discharge from coal mining and reclamation operations.
The coal industry argued the “best solution to pollution is dilution” of pollutants discharged from their mining sites.
Just to be clear, this change in point of compliance and setting a manganese standard would apply to ALL manganese dischargers, not just mining operations.
A similar provision was added in the House to another Administrative Code bill-- Senate Bill 446 (McGarrigle-R-Delaware).
These changes have nothing to do with implementing the budget.
Impacts Of Manganese From Mine Discharges
Manganese, along with iron and aluminum, make up most of the contaminants found in mine drainage which make streams uninhabitable for fish and benthos life and can turn rocks in streams black.
Manganese is difficult to remove from discharges because the pH of the water must be raised to above 10.0 before manganese will precipitate. Manganese is persistent and can be carried for long distances downstream of a source of mine drainage.
How manganese specifically impacts fish and aquatic life in a receiving stream depends in large part on the pH of the receiving stream water, that’s why DEP has regulated manganese levels at the point of discharge like other pollutants from mining operations.
Impacts To Drinking Water
Manganese contamination in drinking water has a significant impact on its taste, color and odor.  High manganese levels can also stain laundry, plates and fixtures.
That’s why water supply companies monitor for manganese in their intake water to make sure they can properly treat it before it becomes a problem.
Moving the point of compliance for manganese from the place it’s discharged into a stream to the intake of a water company will increase the need for more water monitoring by water companies because there will be no more buffer area between the point of discharge and intake.
It will also increase drinking water treatment costs to customers because manganese will be coming into their systems at much higher levels than it was before.
In 2004, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued an advisory on manganese contamination concluding chronic exposure to high doses of manganese may cause problems with the nervous system and neurological effects, as well as problems with water taste, odor and color.
EPA set what is called a secondary maximum contaminant standard for manganese at 0.05 milligrams/liter (20 times LESS than the 1 milligram/liter discharge standard the bill language requires) that water suppliers should follow to avoid taste, color, odor, health and other impacts.
In December, 2016 EPA published a rule requiring water suppliers to start monitoring more carefully for manganese starting in 2018.  The results of that monitoring will be the basis to determine if there is a need to set a primary maximum contaminant standard for manganese.
Penalty Assessments
Over the past few years EPA has imposed significant penalties on mining companies in Pennsylvania for water quality violations, including for manganese.
In 2014, EPA fined Amerikohl Mining $140,000 for violations at 22 mining sites and Pennsylvania received $4.1 million from an EPA settlement the same year from several mining companies.
The result of this proposed revision will shift the burden for reducing manganese in our streams from the coal industry to our drinking water suppliers who will likely see increased costs for source water monitoring and treatment to meet the .05 mg/L EPA secondary standard for drinking water to avoid taste, color and odor complaints from their customers.
Other Environmental Riders
The following is a summary of the major environment-related riders added by the Senate the Fiscal Code, Tax Code and Administrative Code bills--
Fiscal Code - House Bill 453 (Ryan-R-Lebanon)
-- Oil and Gas Lease Fund: Annually transfer $20 million [supposed to be $35 million] from the Oil and Gas Lease Fund to the Marcellus Shale Legacy Fund for distribution to the Environmental Stewardship Fund and $15 million transferred to the Marcellus Legacy Fund to transfer to the Hazardous Sites Cleanup Fund.
-- Air Pollution Act Transfer: $30.4 million from a settlement by the Attorney General relating to violations of the Air Pollution Control Act by Volkswagen received during the fiscal year to the General Fund.
-- Small Water And Sewer System Funding: $15 million available for small water and sewer projects with a cost of not less than $30,00 or more than $500,000.  Transfers an additional $10 million from Building PA Program to small water and sewer projects.
-- Funding Sewer/Water Laterals: Allows public municipal authorities to use funds to replace private water and sewer laterals.
-- Susquehanna and Delaware River Basin Commissions: Authorizes the Auditor General to audit the river basin commissions and no more than 25 percent of the appropriations to the commissions may be spent in any quarter and the commissions shall reimburse the Auditor General for the cost of the audit.
-- Natural Gas Pipeline Fund: $6 million transfer from the Building Pennsylvania Program to the Natural Gas Pipeline Fund
-- Repeals Drilling Moratorium End Date In Southeast: Repeals the January 1, 2018 expiration on the drilling moratorium in the South Newark Basin in Southeast PA.
-- Temporary Cessation Of Oil & Gas Wells: Provisions relating to payments of royalties during periods of nonproduction.
-- Farm Succession Planning Grants: Allows the Department of Agriculture to use funds from the Agricultural Conservation Easement Purchase Fund for succession planning grants to continue agricultural operations.
Click Here for the amendment
Tax Code - House Bill 542 (Thomas-D-Philadelphia)
-- Natural Gas Production Severance Tax (New): $108 million, would range from 1.5 to 3.5 cents per MCF depending on the price of natural gas.  Revenues generated from the tax will be pledge to hold harmless the Unconventional Gas Well [Act 13 Impact Fee] Fund at $200 million and the remainder will be deposited in the General fund.
-- Gross Receipts Tax (News) - Natural Gas: $303.7 million of which $20 million dedicated to LIHEAP, $20 million for natural gas infrastructure improvements and to expand market access for residential gas customers
-- Wild Conservation Tax Checkoff: Made permanent
Click Here for the amendment.
Administrative Code - House Bill 118 (Kaufer-R-Luzerne)
-- Recycling Fee Extension: Removes the sunset date for the $2/ton municipal waste recycling fee and funds will remain in the Recycling fund for grants.
-- Solar Borders: Requiring solar energy credits under the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards to be purchased within Pennsylvania. [Senate Bill 404 this session, House Bill 2040 last session.]
-- Manganese Standard: Directs the Environmental Quality Board to propose regulations setting a point source water quality criterion for manganese and changing the point of compliance from the discharge point to the point of intake by public water supplies. [Supported by the Coal Alliance adopting a standard used by West Virginia prohibiting enforcement of a manganese discharge standard unless it was within 5 miles of a water supply.]
-- Conventional Oil & Gas Wastewater Treatment: Requires water treatment facilities providing water disposal services exclusively to conventional oil and gas wells shall be allowed to operate under existing permits through December 31, 2019. \[Supported by conventional oil & gas drilling industry and applies to three privately-operated conventional wastewater treatment facilities.]
-- Wyoming County State Park: Requires DCNR to conduct a feasibility study for the establishment of a state park in Wyoming County, including an appraisal of the fair market value of property proposed for a state park. [No funding provided.]
Click Here for Administrative Code bill amendment + summary
These bills are all now in the House for action.
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