Fw: Puerto Rico and Clean Water Act

CORALations corals at caribe.net
Fri Jan 28 16:40:26 EST 2000

We apologize in advance for duplicate postings.

> Attn: National Clean Water Organizations, Marine Conservation
> Organizations, and Puerto Rico Conservation Organizations.
>  Please sign on to the letter to Carol Browner. We wish to bring to
>  her attention EPA Region 2's failure to implement or enforce the Clean
> Water Act in Puerto Rico and the US  Virgin Islands. EPA is considering
> another Clean Water Act (301h) Waiver for a large public primary Waste
> Treatment Plant [WWTP] with ocean discharge,  yet to be constructed in
> Puerto Rico. All pending Clean Water Act (301h) waivers in the United
> are located in Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands,
> areas graced with biologically diverse coral reef ecosystem. There are no
> public health monitoring programs with associated beach closures in areas
> near primary diffusers in Puerto Rico, and monitoring to safeguard public
> health is much more complicated in warm tropical waters.
>  Text of letter to Carol Browner and a Background Information document is
copied below. (Sorry, we had trouble with the attachments)
>   Deadline is February 5th
>  TO: corals at caribe.net
>  Your support is greatly appreciated.

Mary Ann Lucking
PMB 222
5900 Isla Verde Ave. L2
Carolina, PR  00979-4901

Sarah Peisch
Community Advisor
Centro de Acción Ambiental
1357 Ashford #187
San Juan, PR  00907
> --------------------------------------------------------------
>  February 5, 2000
>  Carol Browner
>  Administrator
>  U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
>  1200 Pennsylvania Ave.
>  Suite 3000
>  Ariel Rios Building, North
>  Washington D.C. 20460
>  Re: 301(h) Waiver Application: failure to implement the Clean Water Act
>  Puerto Rico
>  Dear Ms. Browner:
>  The undersigned non-government organizations and concerned Puerto Rico
>  Representatives and Senators request your attention regarding an urgent
>  coastal clean water issue in Puerto Rico.  Whereas this petition
>  specifically addresses one primary waste water treatment plant waiver
>  application, this serves as a vivid example of the extent of the abuse of
>  the Clean Water Act in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. We have
>  expressed these concerns to both Jeanne Fox of Region 2, and Mr. Chuck
> and have received no adequate response.
>  EPA Region 2 is currently considering another Clean Water Act 301(h)
>  application for the Dorado Waste Water Treatment Plant, a regional
>  sewage treatment plant yet to be built on the north coast of Puerto Rico.
>  This 301(h) waiver application has been pending for 18 years, even though
>  the statutory deadline for exemptions to secondary waste treatment was
> 1982.
>  The enclosed chronology of the administrative record of this pending
>  application clearly demonstrates that Region 2 has abused its discretion
>  arbitrarily and capriciously granting countless extensions to the Puerto
>  Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority (PRASA) to submit a complete 301(h)
>  application.
>  EPA Region 2's inability to implement or enforce Clean Water Act
>  for waste water treatment in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands was
>  documented in the "Review of EPA's Processing of CWA Section 301(h)
> (Audit Report No. E1HWFO-O2- O140-O1OO482, September 18, 1990. Copy
> enclosed).  With respect to the pending 301(h) applications, the Office of
> the Inspector General stated that Region 2 "procrastinated in taking
> actions to render decisions or formally deny Puerto Rico and Virgin
> waiver requests when (I) applications were either incomplete and requested
> information was not timely or completely provided, (ii) applicants refused
> to withdraw tentatively denied applications, (iii) tentative approval
>  conditions were not met, and (iv) non-compliance with Administrative
> Order's effluent limits occurred".
>  Region 2 only denied the Dorado WWTP "first-round" waiver application in
>  1997.  The Region then established a deadline for a complete "second
>  301(h) application and required final permits and certifications be
>  submitted no later than December 15, 1999.  The affected community
>  intervened in the local government's permitting process and successfully
>  prevented the issuance of final permits to this proposed facility by this
>  date.  Nevertheless, EPA's Region 2 Regional Administrator has now
> dismissed the December 1999 deadline and has, in effect granted another
> extension for this 18-year pending application.  This unjustifiable and
> arbitrary
>  rejection of clearly defined deadlines  illustrates EPA's failure to
> fulfill
>  its statutory responsibility to implement the Clean Water Act in Puerto
>  Rico.
>  We feel that the repeated failure of Region 2 to follow through with
>  established deadlines for the Dorado WWTP application and the other six
>  pending 301(h) applications for plants built and operating in Puerto Rico
>  has contributed to the degradation of valuable tropical marine resources
> and
>  has posed a threat to public health.  In direct violation to the CWA,
>  environmental monitoring of the ocean outfalls of these 301(h) facilities
>  was not required for nearly two decades.
>  We ask that the pending 301(h) waiver application for the Dorado WWTP be
>  denied immediately.  This is urgent.  EPA Region 2 should deny this
>  application before the Puerto Rico government  issues a final water
>  certificate to avoid expensive and lengthy litigation over a 301(h) NPDES
>  permit.
>  To many of us, this decision regarding the use of primary waste water
>  treatment was decided by the U.S. Congress 27 years ago, when the Clean
>  Water Act was passed. Allowing a new primary plant to be built in the
>  2000 was not what the 301(h) waivers were intended for. Primary sewage
>  treatment with shallow ocean outfall does not constitute best available
>  technology for our biologically diverse tropical coastal waters with
> rapidly
>  declining coral reefs, and violates Executive Order 13089, which calls
>  Federal Agencies to protect coral reefs.
>  Your immediate attention is greatly appreciated. We have enclosed copies
>  documents from the administrative record and a summary of the abuse of
>  CWA in Puerto Rico.
>  c: Hon. Bruce Babbitt
>   Mr. Jeffrey Farrow
>   Ms. Ellen Ethas
>   Mr. Chuck Fox
>   Ms. Jeanne Fox
>   Mr. Carl Soderberg
>  ----------------------------------------------------------
>  Background Information - CWA 301(h) Waivers in Puerto Rico
>  Puerto Rico and the Clean Water Act
>  All pending CWA 301(h) waiver applications are located in Region 2's
>  jurisdiction, specifically Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
>  Caribbean islands are graced with biologically diverse tropical coastal
>  ecosystems and nutrient sensitive coral reefs. In Puerto Rico, three
>  outfalls from the existing primary plants discharge less than a mile
>  offshore. These outfall diffusers are located in coastal waters 40 to 100
>  feet in depth which do not qualifying as "deep ocean outfalls". The waste
>  fields are neither trapped nor diluted. Plume surfacing is common outside
>  the mixing zones.
>  For the past two decades, seven regional primary WWTPs with ocean
> have been operating in Puerto Rico without the benefit of 301(h)
>  environmental monitoring, a clear violation of the CWA.  Only one waiver
> has
>  been denied, the rest have "tentative" approvals that have been pending
>  more than ten years.
>  Proponents for the primary sewage treatment plants in Puerto Rico have
>  dramatically increased the discharge flows in the most recent NPDES
>  applications. The relatively small island of Puerto Rico currently
>  discharges close to 200 million gallons of heavily chlorinated primary
> waste
>  water into shallow coastal waters every day. The new NPDES permit limits,
>  including the proposed Dorado primary WWTP, would increase these
>  to more than 400 million gallons per day.
>  The 301(h) program in the United States
>  The 301(h) program has been implemented in three other EPA regions in an
>  extremely different manner from Region 2's implementation in Puerto Rico
> and
>  the U.S. Virgin Islands.  In Region 1, a total of 16 very small
>  discharge a combined total of only 15.5 million gallons of water per day
>  [mgd].  These facilities are located in coastal areas with high tidal
>  ranges, between 20 and 25 feet. Region 10 has nine facilities in the
>  program, which are very remote from most of the urban populations and are
>  located in areas of huge flushing and tidal bores.  EPA Region 10 also
>  an extremely conservative model to calculate dilution, including a worst
>  case scenario of "zero" for ocean current velocities in the mixing zone
>  model.
>  The 301(h) program in Region 9 has been most often compared to Puerto
>  because it includes primary facilities in the warmer climates of Hawaii
>  California.  However, the strict requirements for monitoring and
>  do not even remotely resemble the laxity in Puerto Rico and the U.S.
>  Islands.  First, California standards are very close to secondary
> treatment,
>  requiring 70% to 80% removal of total solids and nearly  60% removal of
>  biochemical oxygen demand. Moreover, the facilities discharge into the
>  dynamic Pacific Ocean with true deep ocean outfalls, up to 4.5 miles off
>  shore in 300 to 400 feet deep waters. Plume surfacing, which transports
>  contaminated water outside of the mixing zones in Puerto Rico, does not
>  occur at any of the other primary outfalls, according to the EPA
>  who direct these programs. In California, state law requires reclamation
>  waste water, reducing the flows from primary ocean outfalls and
> replenishing
>  ground water supplies.  In Hawaii, reclamation plans are currently being
>  developed.  Only in Puerto Rico are plans for the construction of a new
>  primary sewage treatment plant with total ocean discharges being approved
> by
>  EPA.
>  The most shocking difference between the programs is the strict 301(h)
>  monitoring programs in California and Hawaii, which stress a holistic
>  ecosystem approach to monitoring, instead of being "pipe centric" as in
>  Puerto Rico.  California has incorporated regional monitoring of beaches
> and
>  coastal resources, whereas in Puerto Rico we cannot even achieve a
>  monitoring program that looks at coral reefs just hundreds of meters from
>  the outfalls or sampling for human pathogens on recreational beaches
>  a mile of the discharges.
>  Politics vs. Environmental Protection
>  The Puerto Rico government refers to primary waste water treatment as
>  "Puerto Rico Government Policy". The NGOs' commitments to this issue
>  from serious concerns regarding the sustainability of primary sewage
>  treatment with respect to its impact on our tropical coastal natural
>  resources and public health. This concern is shared by the Puerto Rico
> Hotel
>  and Tourism Association, and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.
>  Unfortunately,  the economic reasoning surrounding these primary plants
> has,
>  to date, failed to take into consideration the value of the ecosystem at
>  stake and potential costs to public health.
>  Proponents' Position
>  The Puerto Rico government and the publicly owned Puerto Rico Aqueduct
> Sewer Authority (PRASA) have two arguments for their reliance on primary
> waste water treatment. The first is economic. Proponents contend that
> Rico cannot afford to upgrade technology to provide adequate sewage
> treatment. PRASA's second argument is their concern about not being able
> operate a secondary WWTP  in compliance with the CWA, given their well
> documented inability to operate primary WWTP with ocean discharge in
> compliance with the Act.
>  The Communities' Response
>  The people of Puerto Rico are paying the Government of Puerto Rico for
> waste
>  water treatment.  It is time that we receive waste water treatment, not
>  ocean dumping.  Despite arguments presented to the local government by
> NGOs, technical experts, other government agencies, and the Puerto Rico
> Hotel and Tourism Association, proponents never factor into their analysis
> for the primary plants, the value of the coastal ecosystem these plants
> impact.
>  This translates into big dollars and cents for Puerto Rico tourism. The
> Blue
>  Flag tourism ecolabel for safe beaches currently being considered in
>  Rico, will not consider a beach located near a primary wastewater ocean
>  discharge.
>  Proponents also failed to factor in the long term cost of maintenance of
> the
>  primary plants and the extensive trunk systems associated with these
>  regional facilities.  Advanced waste water treatment technologies,
>  appropriate for use in the  tropics has never been evaluated.
>  primary sewage treatment plants in Puerto Rico have not serviced the
> coastal
>  communities they impact. The same communities who rely heavily on
>  subsistence fishing in the area of outfall. They have instead been used
>  demonstrate infrastructure to support inland development. Poor
>  where primary plants have been constructed 20 years ago still have to
>  contend with sewage bubbling up in their streets and washing down to the
>  sea. The costs associated with impacts to coral reefs and related
> fisheries,
>  public health and tourism, outweigh the short term bottom line economic
>  benefits proponents mistakenly associate with primary waste water
> treatment.
>  If properly implemented, the cost of adequate environmental health and
>  safety monitoring in this complex tropical marine ecosystem as required
>  the 301(h) waiver amendment to CWA, would demonstrate that these plants
>  not cost effective. For example, the isolation of a sewage indicator
>  organism,  for marine tropical waters and a cost effective method of
>  analysis has yet to be accomplished. Bioassays to demonstrate toxicity,
>  currently relied upon by EPA, have also been scientifically proven as
>  unadaptable for the coral reef ecosystem. Water quality standards for
> Puerto
>  Rico are based on uncritical adaptation of standards for cold water
>  are not sufficient to protect our coral reefs. The threats presented to
>  public and environmental health, with no adequate safeguard mechanisms in
>  place, compel us to consider advanced waste water technologies which do
>  depend on the outdated, and scientific invalid premise that "dilution is
> the
>  solution" for our coral reef ecosystem.
>  In response to the inability to adequately operate waste water facilities
> in
>  compliance with the CWA,  the people of Puerto Rico are more than
>  to operate technologically advanced facilities, as are individuals and
>  governments in financially compromised regions as the third world.  We
>  believe the reasons the primary plants with coastal discharge operate so
>  inefficiently in Puerto Rico may have more to do with 1) the failure of
>  mixing zones to function as modeled due to the warm, shallow waters in
>  area of discharge and 2) the repeated failure of Region 2 to follow
>  with clearly established consequences for compliance with the CWA.
>  Coral Reef Disease and Threats to the Caribbean Region
>  A dramatic increase in diseased coral was documented by EPA scientists
>  responding to community complaints regarding the Carolina/Loiza WWTP
>  diffuser.  EPA Region 2 has dismissed the need for long term
>  monitoring of the coral reefs in the region of this diffuser, as required
> by
>  section 301(h) of the CWA,  stating that the adjacent coral reef is
>  dead. We contend that "dead" organisms do not contract disease, but
>  the propagation of such diseases in this nearby coral reef is indicative
>  living coral in highly stressed waters. These diseases could potentially
>  carried by currents to infect corals as far away as other Caribbean
> islands.
>  Two decades of non-monitored discharges has most likely killed adjacent
>  coral reefs and other important tropical coastal habitat near other
>  diffusers.  EPA has shifted the burden of proof for environmental impact
>  from these diffusers to the shoulders of the community, who cannot
>  studies due to limited resources and the serious health risks associated
>  with being in the waters around the diffusers. In this case, EPA is
> allowing
>  reef degradation as a result of almost 20 years of discharge from these
>  outfalls and cumulative impacts from adjacent river mouths to serve as an
>  excuse to dismiss the strict environmental monitoring demanded by CWA
>  [301(h)] waivers.  Two decades of non-compliant discharges from these
>  diffuses has resulted in a serious injustice to poor coastal communities.
>  Environmental Justice
>  The failure of EPA Region 2 to implement or enforce CWA constitutes an
>  example of environmental injustice against the people of Puerto Rico. An
>  internal audit,  already a decade old, documented Region 2's failure to
>  render CWA [301(h)] waiver decisions or formally deny PR and Virgin
>  CWA 301(h) waiver requests in a timely manner. [Audit Report No.
>  E1HWFO-O2-O140-O1OO482, September 18, 1990].  These plants are located
>  and impact, poor coastal communities who rely heavily on subsistence
> fishing
>  and local tourism. The majority of these coastal communities are not
>  connected to and do not benefit from the primary WWTP's that actually
>  service inland populations and industries.
>  The Future
>  Prominent coral reef scientists agree that the decline in coral reef
>  around the globe is so severe that when we talk about conserving coral
>  today, we must address methods to reverse degradation. This translates
>  improving coastal water quality. Given the knowledge accumulating on the
>  sensitivity and importance of our tropical coastal ecosystem, we would
>  to see EPA begin moving toward the implementation of appropriate tropical
>  water quality standards for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.  EPA
>  must consider abandoning the use of mixing zones, as they have never
>  functioned as projected in our warm tropical waters. We would like to see
>  EPA recognize and comply with the national objectives to conserve coral
>  reefs in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, as stated in Executive
>  Order 13089. We would like EPA to enforce clean water standards for some
>  four million U.S. citizens living in Puerto Rico, so our coastal waters
> will
>  again, one day,  be safe to swim and fish.

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