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E-M:/ public's right to know about toxic spills under attack

Enviro-Mich message from davemec@sojourn.com (dave dempsey)


Citizens Have Just Days to Respond

Polluters and the state Department of Environmental Quality have hatched a
new scheme to undermine the public's right to know.  Their proposed changes
in spill prevention rules would eliminate state notification and public
awareness of toxic contaminant spills fouling soils and groundwater in
large areas of Michigan.

A meeting scheduled next Monday, June 23, and an accompanying public
comment period may be the last chance to affect the proposed Part 31, Part
5 rules of the Waste Management Division.

The rules first became a target for the "regulatory reform" agenda of the
Engler Administration when the Division proposed minor changes last year.
Since then, an effort by major Michigan polluters to promote wholesale
weakening of the rules has gained momentum.  Here are the changes pending:

*  Industries want to wipe out a requirement in the proposed rules that
spills of polluting materials (oil, salt, items listed on the critical
materials register and Part 201 hazardous substances) of greater than 10
pounds must be reported to the state.  The industry proposal is to use
"reportable quantities" as defined by the federal Superfund law.  In some
cases these quantities are as high as 1000 pounds.

The industry proposal would convert a prevention program to one designed to
address only catastrophic releases.  Spills far smaller than 1000 pounds
can cause enormous groundwater degradation.  Concerned citizens should
support a basic threshold of 10 pounds, or less in those rare cases where
the reportable quantity is less.

*  Industries want to wipe out a requirement that those who handle more
than a kilogram (2.2 pounds) of acutely hazardous wastes have secondary
containment to prevent spills.  Their proposed threshold: 1000 kilograms
(2,200 pounds).  These acutely hazardous wastes (about 200 in number)
include forms of mercury and other metals, heptachlor, parathion, some
phenols, and forms of cyanide.

Concerned citizens should demand that DEQ stick to its previous proposal of
a secondary containment -- and spill prevention -- requirement of 2.2
pounds for acutely hazardous wastes.

*  Industries want to weaken the secondary containment requirement.
Current rules require that those governed must have the ability to contain
"150 percent of the liquid polluting material stored or used" in most
instances.  The new DEQ proposal:  not less than 10% of the total volume of
all tanks or containers or 100% of the single largest tank or container,
whichever is larger.

This proposal increases the likelihood of inadequate secondary containment
if spills do occur.  Concerned citizens should insist that the current
requirement be maintained.

It's your groundwater -- now's the time to act.  Here are the key contacts:

Jim Sygo, Chief
Waste Management Division
P.O. Box 30241
Lansing, MI  48909

Philip Schrantz
Jackson District Supervisor
Waste Management Division
301 E. Louis Glick Hwy.
Jackson, MI  49201-1556

Dave Dempsey
Michigan Environmental Council
119 Pere Marquette, Suite 2A
Lansing, MI  48912
(517) 487-9539
(517) 487-9541 (fax)

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