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E-M:/ deq adrift on groundwater policy

A new policy permitting the increased dumping of toxic chemicals into
Michigan's groundwater is on hold pending DEQ staff revisions.

At a Monday meeting of the DEQ's Part 22 groundwater discharge permit rules
advisory committee, DEQ staff explained that Director Russell Harding
rejected a staff proposal to allow industries and municipalities to dump
chemicals at 20% (for cancer-causing substances) and 50% (for non-cancer
causing chemicals) of the state's cleanup standard for contamination sites.
Michigan's traditional approach for most contaminants has been to insist
on "non-degradation" -- a policy which dischargers argue is unrealistic and
unreasonable, and environmental organizations argue is critical to
protecting the resource for current and future generations.

Instead, Harding directed the staff to make a new proposal that would take
into account site-specific and pollutant-specific factors including rate of
groundwater flow, type of effluent, variability of effluent, and soils.
This could lead to a site-specific permit limits.

When asked what regulatory philosophy would guide the staff in its
development of the new proposal, DEQ replied that it would not allow
dischargers to create contamination sites by exceeding 100% of the cleanup
standards.  How close could pollution come to that standard?  We'll have to
wait to see what the DEQ staff proposes.  But it wouldn't hurt for
concerned citizens to let DEQ know they want a policy that protects clean
groundwater rather than allowing new pollution of this valuable,
hard-to-clean up resource.

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