1999 GREAT LAKES WATER QUALITY FORUM
SEPTEMBER 24-26, 1999
LIGHTLY EDITED, VERBATIM TRANSCRIPT
SATURDAY AFTERNOON, SEPTEMBER 25
Emily Green, Director, Great Lakes Program, Sierra Club
I wanted to really talk about the issue of toxics and to thank you for your continued support of that issue and your continued work on, what I see is, the most difficult and challenging problems we face in the Great Lakes, but one that is critically important. On the issue of contaminated sediments, a couple years back the Commission did a white paper, Looking at the Barriers to Sediment Clean-up, and the Sierra Club, Lake Michigan Federation, and Grand Cal Task Force took a closer look at one of those barriers, public involvement. From a community perspective we sort of looked at why communities were having a tough time getting involved and what would make the process easier. We've actually put together a model, a flesh-out of a draft model for a different way of doing community involvement in sediment clean-ups, a better way to reach out to the public. It will require a different way of doing business on the agency's part. We'd be happy to share that with you when it's final. I would like you to think about and maybe encourage you to push the agencies to look at doing business a different way, because we feel that it's a good way of certainly addressing that particular barrier to sediment clean-ups.
I also hope that you'd look at the issue of some permanent treatment technologies. We believe that the industry is out there and that the possibilities are there but it needs a push. It needs more research, it maybe needs a full pilot project in one area to see how the costs might come down with an economies scale of treating a full sediment site. We've been pushing for that for a long time and we've had a hard time getting it through. I'd ask for your support on that issue as well.
Finally, I think one of the major problems that we run into in sediment sites around the Great Lakes is, of course, the issue of resources. The common problem, both countries are cutting resources to environmental programs across the board but, to the extent that we can try to maintain funding for sediment clean-up, I think it's very important.
On the issue of air toxics, we believe that one of the most critical things we need to do is use the information we have now and take some action. The EPA is just about to release its third report on air toxics to Congress that will like the other two be long on description. It has a good description of the problem as we see it but it really doesn't contain a strategy for how we are going to address it. We believe that the agencies, at least in the U.S. have the authority that they need to take some action to address this problem, but they're just not doing it. We'd like to see the parties pushed in that respect as well and, in particular, there is a disconnect between some of the control programs that are currently being used, for example, there are MACT standards, technology-based controls implemented under the Clean Air Act. There is one recently published for petroleum refineries, which are a source of mercury to the Great Lakes. Yet the standard that was published by EPA didn't address mercury emissions at all. We find that to be a real problem when you're trying to achieve the virtual elimination of pollutants like mercury.
Finally, we would like to emphasize again that we agree with the assessment to not reopen the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. We feel that it is a good tool as it stands and we just need to work to implement it. So again, I appreciate your listening to us and thank you very much.
If I may respond on the first issue you brought up about public participation and the way it interacts with sediment remediation. I think that your publication or the paper on the analysis that you've done might be very helpful. We made some recommendations in the 9th Biennial Report and the U.S. government has responded and one of the things I've said in a couple of the forums is that they not only recommitted very strongly to the RAP process, but they are recommitted very strongly to public participation. I think that they are as anxious for new ideas about public participation as we are. So that might be a very useful dialogue for us to be able to pass on your thoughts as well as for you to be able to pass them on. I think it's very timely and the other thing I'll say without talking to my fellow Commissioners, that's always a little bit risky, but this SedPAC task force of the Water Quality Board is due to sunset. They've had four years of work. They've been very productive and I think one of the questions I'll be bringing to the Commission is, and some of the recommendations from SedPAC, will be how can the Commission continue to be an influence on the policies regarding sediment remediation and the funding sources regarding sediment remediation. That is certainly going to be under consideration in terms of the priorities that we have under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement.
On the first point, the public involvement, you're right and in our discussions, it was very preliminary with agencies who have been very receptive. I should say that off the bat. I just wanted to let you know that we are doing this because we felt it was a really important barrier and that maybe we could offer a perspective from the community level about what might work. On the second point, I don't know whether the sunsetting of SedPAC is a done deal or not but, you know you've identified maybe half a dozen barriers and did a great job of addressing, or at least looking at economic benefits, valuation side, we've sort of have taken a stab at the public involvement but there is certainly a number left to do and the problem's not done yet so to the extent that you can keep the focus on it, I think it would really be helpful in pulling the community together. Thank you.