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Re: E-M:/ DEQ Violates Clean Water Act -NWF and Lone Tree Council

Enviro-Mich message from "Stanley Pruss" <PRUSS@michigan.gov>

I feel compelled to respond to the National Wildlife Federation and Lone Tree Council's May 18 press release concerning NWF's challenge to the DEQ's issuance of a 401 Certification.  On 3/16/05, the DEQ issued a Section 401 Water Quality Certification for the Detroit District of the Army Corps of Engineers (COE) Upper Saginaw River Navigational Dredging Project and Associated Dredged Materials Disposal Facility (DMDF).  The 401 Certification is, by its terms and conditions, the most rigorous ever issued by the DEQ for any of the numerous confined disposal facilities used around the state for the receipt of dredge materials.  

The DEQ's 401 Certification contains navigational dredging and DMDF operational requirements, DMDF effluent limitations and monitoring requirements, pre-release wastewater characterization and discharge authorization requirements, corrective action plan stipulations, and other conditions necessary to ensure the Upper Saginaw River Navigational Dredging Project and the effluent discharge from the associated DMDF will comply with the Michigan Water Quality Standards (WQS).  It should be noted that Michigan's WQS were approved by the U.S. EPA in 1999 to be consistent with the Great Lakes Initiative and hence are considered by the U.S. EPA to be adequately protective of the Great Lakes watershed.

The DEQ's 401 Certification imposes several restrictions on the DMDF's effluent discharge to the Saginaw River:

*	The volume of sediment dewatering water discharged from the DMDF cannot exceed 1.29 mgd.  Even under extreme low river flow conditions, the DMDF effluent will comprise less than 0.5 % of the Saginaw River.

*	DMDF effluent can only be discharged to the Saginaw River for a total of 14 days during a calendar year.  DMDF effluent discharges are restricted to periods of April 1-May 31 or November 1-December 31.

*	Prior to discharging any effluent from the DMDF to the Saginaw River, the COE must receive permission from the DEQ.  To obtain such permission, the COE must provide the DEQ with comprehensive DMDF wastewater characterization data (chemical and toxicological) which proves that the proposed discharge will meet all of the effluent limitations contained in Certification and all applicable requirements of the MWQS.  This Certification requirement is extremely restrictive and pollution preventive.

*	Water quality-based effluent limitations and/or monitoring requirements are included in the Certification for dioxins/furans, PCBs, mercury, heavy metals, cyanide, total dissolved solids, pH, acute toxicity, phosphorus and a broad range of other organic chemicals and conventional pollutants.  The "No net increase" effluent limitations for dioxins/furans, PCBs and mercury ensure the DMDF effluent concentrations of these chemicals are less than or equal to their respective concentration in Saginaw River water at a point upstream of COE dredging activity.  These requirements ensure Michigan's WQS, as approved by the U.S. EPA, are met.

The Certification issued by the DEQ is an extremely stringent, pollution preventive, state-of-the-art regulatory control document.

Given these facts, it is extremely disappointing and discouraging to the DEQ managers and staff who labored long and hard developing that Certification, when they read Mr. Neil Kagan's (Attorney, National Wildlife Federation) 5/18/05 press release which claims that the DEQ's Certification authorizes the COE "to discharge toxic pollutants from a dredged material disposal facility into the Saginaw River at concentrations higher than allowed for the Great Lakes."

The NWF has considerable legal resources at its hand through the administration of its clinical program and its affiliation with U of M's law school. These resources are in extraordinarily capable hands and represent the potential to advance many important environmental initiatives to the benefit of Michigan's citizen's.  It is difficult for us at the DEQ to understand why we have become NWF's target.

>From the DEQ's perspective, the COE's Upper Saginaw River Navigational Dredging Project represents a unique opportunity for Michigan's environment and economy.  The dredging of 3.1 million cubic yards of silt from the Saginaw River will allow freighters to navigate to Michigan's eighth-largest port without being required to first lighten their loads; and sediments contaminated with dioxins/furans, PCBs and other legacy pollutants will be removed from the Saginaw River and placed in a properly managed containment facility.  The ecology of this river and Saginaw Bay will clearly benefit from this project, if it can be completed.   As described above, the DEQ's 401 Certification contains the necessary operational requirements, effluent limitations and other conditions to ensure all aspects of the COE's project, including the DMDF's effluent quality, will comply with the Michigan Water Quality Standards.  And we appreciate how important it will be to ensure that the facility is properly managed.

The DEQ stands ready to defend the 401 Certification that it issued to the COE on 3/16/05.

>>> <MICHDAVE@aol.com> 05/18/05 10:50 AM >>>

Discharge  Permit for Dredging Facility Violates 
Clean Water Act, Organizations Assert  in Lawsuit 

National  Wildlife Federation, Lone Tree Council Challenge Permit Allowing 
For the  Discharge of Toxic Dioxin, Mercury and PCBs into Saginaw River 
ANN ARBOR, MI  (May 18)*Conservation organizations asked an administrative 
law judge to  nullify a permit that would allow toxic pollutants including 
dioxin, mercury and  PCBs to be discharged into the Saginaw River. 
The National Wildlife Federation and Lone Tree Council are challenging as  
illegal under the Clean Water Act a permit issued by Michigan Department of  
Environmental Quality that authorizes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to  
discharge toxic pollutants from a dredged material disposal facility into the  
Saginaw River at concentrations higher than allowed for the  Great Lakes. 
"The state of Michigan failed to require  limits on toxic pollutants as 
mandated by law to protect the quality and safety  of Great Lakes water," said Neil 
Kagan, senior counsel for National Wildlife  Federation's Great Lakes office. 
"Under the  permit approved by the state, the contamination of the Saginaw 
River will be perpetuated, and this is not  acceptable." 
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers applied for the permit as part of its  
effort to dredge the Saginaw River to accommodate commercial  navigation. The Corps 
intends to build a dredged material disposal facility in  Zilwaukee Township, 
Saginaw County. The facility will discharge  effluent containing toxic 
pollutants into the Saginaw River. 
"We support the dredging of the Saginaw River for commercial navigation," 
said  Michelle Hurd Riddick of the Lone Tree Council. "However, we remain very  
concerned about the tradeoffs in terms of public health, resource protection 
and  environmental impacts associated with this site. The Saginaw Bay Watershed 
has  already been identified as one of the most-polluted in the region. We 
need  policies that restore this vital system, not exacerbate its  condition." 
For Immediate  Release:  May 18,  2005 
Contact:           Neil  Kagan, National Wildlife Federation * (734) 769-3351 
Michelle Hurd Riddick, Lone Tree Council * (989) 799-3313 
Jordan Lubetkin, National Wildlife Federation * (734) 904-1589 
Contested Case brief available- E-mail _michdave@aol.com_ 
(mailto:michdave@aol.com)  or call the above contacts 

Stanley F. Pruss
Deputy Director
Department of Environmental Quality
P.O.Box 30473
Lansing, MI 48909-7973

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