Proposal aims to eliminate reporting 'nonmajor' spills

  • Follow Metro

A cost-cutting proposal by Georgia's Environmental Protection Division could eliminate a requirement that the public be notified of "nonmajor" sewage spills from municipal wastewater programs.

Under existing rules, almost all sewage spills trigger a public notice to local media and require a one-year stream-monitoring program for larger spills.

The proposed amendment, which is up for public comment until Oct. 29, would eliminate the requirement that cities notify media outlets of nonmajor spills -- and loosen the costly requirements for follow-up environmental monitoring at spill locations.

Major spills are typically defined as involving more than 10,000 gallons of raw sewage, or incidents that result in environmental violations. Such incidents would remain subject to the public notice rule, but nonmajor spills (less than 10,000 gallons) would no longer require public notice.

All spills would continue to be reported to state regulators and local health departments, according to the proposed amendment.

According to an EPD position paper on the proposed change, the media rarely report nonmajor spills.

"Therefore, this requirement hasn't improved the public awareness but it has increased the Publicly Owned Treatment Works' operational costs," the paper states.

The plan is likely to meet opposition from clean-water advocates such as the state's network of Riverkeeper groups.

"It's still in the decision phase, but it's looking like the Riverkeepers will probably come together to fight this rule change," said Savannah Riverkeeper Tonya Bonitatibus.

Details on nonmajor spills can help public interest groups track trends and reduce opportunities for polluters to avoid scrutiny.

"The public relies on the media to get its information, and the media may not publish all the notices," she said. "But, keep in mind, those notices also go to the Riverkeeper groups. We consider it our jobs to know about these spills. Do we really want a situation where the Riverkeepers don't even know what's going on?"

Find out more

- Notice of proposed amendments and opportunity to comment: bit.ly/9EE9ne

- Synopsis of proposed amendments and rationale: bit.ly/9ivnTx

- Proposed amendments to rules for water quality control: bit.ly/cegtpw

Comments (8) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
Little Lamb
47283
Points
Little Lamb 09/11/10 - 10:20 am
0
0
When you buy into the

When you buy into the victimhood mentality, you suffer paranoia for the rest of your life. Tonya Bonitatibus said:

We consider it our jobs to know about these spills. Do we really want a situation where the Riverkeepers don't even know what's going on?

You can whine and whine, but what have you ever done to prevent one of these spills?

Little Lamb
47283
Points
Little Lamb 09/11/10 - 09:53 am
0
0
The proposed change will save

The proposed change will save money for the cities operating waste treatement plants and will not add one single harm to the environment.

corgimom
34766
Points
corgimom 09/11/10 - 05:44 pm
0
0
See, LL, on this I don't

See, LL, on this I don't agree with you.

Every sewer leak is serious. Taxpayers have the right to know, they are the ones paying for the sewer system.

Water is critical for life, and there's no substitute for it. Clean water is a must for everyone.

The way that people prevent sewer spills is by paying taxes- but instead of spending that money on appropriate infrastructure, many municipalities chose instead to spend it on other things.

And, of course, this would be absolutely true of the City of Augusta.

Little Lamb
47283
Points
Little Lamb 09/11/10 - 06:11 pm
0
0
Yeah, Corgi, but did you read

Yeah, Corgi, but did you read this up above?

According to an EPD position paper on the proposed change, the media rarely report nonmajor spills.

The wastewater utility folks are spending money on reporting to the media, but the media are not reporting them to the public. The relaxation of the rules is just showing some common sense and some reflection of life as we know it.

I ask again, what are you going to do about the spill even if you know about it?

danielwdavis
0
Points
danielwdavis 09/14/10 - 03:47 pm
0
0
"The relaxation of the rules

"The relaxation of the rules is just showing some common sense and some reflection of life as we know it."

Uh-huh. Little Lamb continues to love to divert focus from the important to the trival, and to stand up strawmen and knock them down to draw attention away from deeper concerns.

In this case, those deeper concerns are: (1) a facet of this proposal that even the article barely mentions - that the proposed change would "loosen the costly requirements for follow-up environmental monitoring at spill locations;" and (2) that our wonderful, environmental-litigation-attorney-led EPD is using the contention that the media "rarely" report nonmajor spills as a reason to discontinue "minor spill" public notices entirely. (As an aside, how is a 9000-gallon spill more minor than a 10,000-gallon spill? Hint: the seriousness of a spill does not correlate with its volume.)

Here's what I'll contend: a one-day perusal of the EPD operating budget would find fat to trim that would far exceed any costs saved from this proposal. In any case, this proposal is not really about cost-cutting -- it is instead about a gradual but systematic dismantling of the EPD's ability to enforce real environmental protection. The first step of all such efforts is always to incrementally limit public access to the information that would enable us to easily recognize the degradation.

All that is why this matters, Little Lamb's ridiculous finger-pointing notwithstanding. ("You can whine and whine, but what have you ever done to prevent one of these spills?") It is not the public's responsibility to prevent these spills -- our responsibility is to see that the entities we the public have created to perform these tasks and to oversee their conformity to regulations do so as we the public have mandated.

EPD Director F. Allen Barnes, having made a career of defending large corporations against a public who demanded only that they act responsibly, will have a somewhat different perspective. Look there first, then follow the money.

unbiased_propaganda
165
Points
unbiased_propaganda 09/15/10 - 09:30 am
0
0
Well stated

Well stated Daniel.

LittleLamb - are you really that gullible to believe that this proposal is all about cutting some minute costs?

And regarding your nonsensical (almost comical) statement "You can whine and whine, but what have you ever done to prevent one of these spills?"

What about murders? Just because we can't prevent them, would you want the police to keep the 'nonmajor' murders from you? and only report the massacres?

Come on LL, don't believe everything you hear, especially when it comes from the person proposing the BS.

Little Lamb
47283
Points
Little Lamb 09/15/10 - 10:34 am
0
0
Corgimom wrote: Every sewer

Corgimom wrote:

Every sewer leak is serious.

Not really. If the leak is teensy-weensy, it is not serious. That is what the proposal is saying. The cost of reporting and stream monitoring following very small spills is greater than the benefits of the reporting and monitoring.

danielwdavis
0
Points
danielwdavis 09/15/10 - 05:41 pm
0
0
Little Lamb, that's the real

Little Lamb, that's the real issue with establishing a minor-major transition cutoff (and I'd like to think it's why the previous regulations didn't try). The proposed modifications make no distinction between a 100-gallon spill and a 9,999-gallon spill, and do not even address the issue of frequency: If a treatment facility has three 5,000-gallon spills within a five-day period, we have the real equivalent of a major spill but with absolutely no obligation to report it to the public. A swimming pool-sized volume of raw sewage has entered the water supply in a single week, and the public has no way of knowing it ever happened. Making the regulations the same for all spills means there's no need for special provisions to manage either of these issues.

Regarding your cost vs. benefits statement: Let's see the numbers. If treatment facilities still have to report ALL spills to health departments, and the reporting requirements are the same (which, according to the amended document, they are), where is this tremendous cost savings from eliminating publi notification? Cost of envelopes, paper, and stamps? Cost of adding additional addresses to an email? And how is the EPD saving money here? I'd like to see some incremental cost calculations or activity-based costing models to substantiate the EPD's contentions.

I think we can agree that the real cost is in the monitoring - and I'd eagerly support a more sopisticated mechanism for determining what monitoring is necessary - but what is that cost of monitoring minor spills? How do we know that this proposal significantly reduces that cost (unless we suddenly see an amazing rise in the percentage of spills that magically fall under the 10,000-gallon line - which I'm betting we will).

I'm all for cost-cutting - especially in goverment entities - but you can be sure that there are ways this whole process could be made less onerous and less expensive without jeopardizing public health or the environment. If it really is onerous or expensive in the first place, which I question.

Back to Top

Search Augusta jobs