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E-M:/ NPDES PCB Permit Levels

Enviro-Mich message from Terry & Barb Miller <terbar@concentric.net>

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE             CONTACT: Terry Miller (989) 686-6386
FEBRUARY 6, 2002                           Lone Tree Council
                                               Neil Kagan  (734) 769-3351
                                               National Wildlife Federation

December Saw Water Permits Issued for PCB Discharges 8,000 Times Above Level
Considered Safe for Human Health 
After years of wrangling over water discharge levels for PCBs
(polychlorinated biphenyls) between the Michigan Department of Environmental
Quality (MDEQ) and lobbyists for Ford, Chrysler and GM, on December 6, 2002,
the Harding/Engler administration okayed PCB levels nearly 8,000 times the
level considered safe for human health.

National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) water discharge
permits for  Waste Water Treatment Plants in Bay City and Saginaw, and GM
facilities in Bay City, and Flint were all provided the higher
quantification number on December 6, 2003.  

Industry argued the difficulty of measuring levels of PCBs that are close to
the water quality based level of .026 nanograms (ng) per liter.  To resolve
the conflict, the MDEQ set a quantification level of 200 ng/l, stating that
it would consider the permittee to be in compliance if a water sample is
below that level - effectively making the quantification level the actual
limit.  The National Wildlife Federation argued in comments before the
permits were issued that there are several scientific measures that allow
for detecting  PCBs closer to the actual water quality based level.

According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR):
"Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are a mixture of individual chemicals
which are no longer produced in the United States, but are still found in
the environment. Health effects that have been associated with exposure to
PCBs include acne-like skin conditions in adults and neurobehavioral and
immunological changes in children. PCBs are known to cause cancer in animals".

   "Here we go again," said Terry Miller, Chairman of the Lone Tree Council,
"another eleventh-hour  decision by the former director of the DEQ, that
puts money above people. 

Miller noted that this may be a setback in the fight against PCBs in local
fish and waters.

   "Our watershed has struggled with PCBs.  We still have fish consumption
advisories based on the uptake of these persistent toxins, but we were
making progress, in particular, through the removal of PCB hotspots thanks
to the Natural Resources Damage suit -- then we have this setback.
Hopefully, we can get this thing changed through the appeal process."

Although efforts to reverse the permit levels will focus on the Bay City,
Saginaw, and Flint facilities, the issue is statewide in scope, and
environmentalists are hopeful that the situation can be corrected.

"These contested cases give us an opportunity to work with the DEQ to
correct bad decisions made under the old, Engler administration. We trust
that the new DEQ will be more protective of the environment than of
polluters," said  Neil S. Kagan, Senior Counsel for the National Wildlife

The Lone Tree Council, represented by Neil S. Kagan, Senior Counsel for the
National Wildlife Federation, Great Lakes Natural Resource Center, filed a
petition opposing the permits with the MDEQ's Office of Administrative
Hearings on Monday, February 3, 2003.  The group is asking that the DEQ
revisit the permits and pursue a lower PCB limit.

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