Sludge Watch ==> Cities, utilities, farmers criticize new US sewage rule

M Reilly maureen.reilly at
Tue Dec 21 19:26:20 EST 2004

 Cities, utilities, farmers criticize new sewage rule

By MIGLENA STERNADORI of the Tribune’s staff
Published Tuesday, December 21, 2004
A slew of critical letters has poured into the Missouri Department of
Natural Resources in response to the agency’s assessment of the cost of more
stringent water-quality standards.

Prodded by the federal Environmental Protection Agency, DNR is proposing a
rule that would require many public and private sewer operators to disinfect
effluent discharge into many Missouri streams and lakes.

The requirement would apply to "classified" waterways that now have uses
such as boating and watering for livestock. The goal is to make these
streams and lakes, if they are deep enough, usable for fishing and swimming.
Such recreational activities require water that’s free of pathogens found in

An association of Missouri cities has said that DNR’s effort to make changes
to the water-quality standards is good in principle but that the agency’s
assessment of the effects of such changes is inadequate.

"We believe the current version of the regulatory impact report sets a poor
precedent for future environmental rulemaking in the state," the Urban Areas
Coalition said in a letter to the resource agency. The coalition includes
the city of Columbia.

A DNR report made public last month estimated that disinfecting effluent
from more than 900 public and private sewer operators would cost about $305
million, not including subsequent annual costs for maintenance and operation
of disinfecting equipment.

The report was open for public comment until Thursday. DNR released copies
of comments it received at the Tribune’s request.

The Urban Areas Coalition says the impact assessment fails to describe the
economic costs of the proposed rule and identify all sewer operators that
would be affected by it. The report also "relies on subjective and
inappropriate statements when describing environmental benefits," the
coalition’s letter said.

Other cities in the group are Kansas City, St. Joseph, Moberly, Jefferson
City, Independence, Macon, Springfield and Joplin. The two biggest
wastewater operators in the state, the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District
and the Little Blue Valley Sewer District in Kansas City, also are in the

The Missouri Farm Bureau Federation and Missouri Chamber of Commerce also
filed blistering remarks.

The chamber said DNR "fails to present a cogent reason" to designate all
waters with beneficial uses for fishing and swimming.

The report "does not identify any tangible benefits to justify its enormous
costs" and "does not identify and consider a reasonable number of regulatory
alternatives," the chamber said.

The Farm Bureau expressed concern that hundreds of private and public
entities operating near 22,000 miles of classified streams and 300,000
classified lakes could be affected by the new rule.

"Therefore, the potential costs associated with the proposed amendments have
been grossly underestimated," the Farm Bureau said.

Two private companies, St. Louis-based Scott Consulting Engineers and the
Jefferson City-based law firm Newman, Comley & Ruth, were also unhappy with
DNR’s assessment.

A law firm that represents the Missouri Ag Industries Council took issue
with the proposed protection of small streams that flow only after storms.
The new rules would be "overprotective and impose a severe economic burden
on small business," the law firm said.

Tom Ratermann, manager of the Boone County Regional Sewer District, said the
district would be affected by the new rule, though he declined to discuss
it. The sewer district operates dozens of wastewater facilities.

Kerry Cordray, a DNR spokesman, said the agency plans to respond in writing
to all comments, and an analysis of their content is ongoing.

"It’s too early for us to make any substantive comment on the comments,"
Cordray said, adding that, based on the received input, DNR employees are to
decide whether to recommend to the Missouri Clean Water Commission any
changes to the proposed water-quality standards.

The clean water commission will meet next on Jan. 5 in Columbia.

Missouri is one of the few states in the nation not requiring disinfection
of effluent and enforcement of the so-called fishable/swimmable goal
outlined in the Clean Water Act in the 1970s.

A lawsuit by the Missouri Coalition for the Environment has prompted the
upcoming changes to the water-quality standards.

Many sewer operators are expected to apply for exemptions from the new rule
by arguing that streams into which they discharge are not deep or safe
enough for recreation.

Reach Miglena Sternadori at (573) 815-1709 or mmsternadori at

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