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Mass DEP Public Hearing Re: Spencer Waste Water Treatment Plant Permit

Posted April, 2018

Mass DEP Public Hearing Re: Spencer Waste Water Treatment Plant Permit

The EPA held a Public Hearing in Spencer on March 26 regarding the proposed ‘Permit’ for Spencer’s Waste Water Treatment Plant [ SWWTP ]

The meeting was attended by the presenters: several folks from the Federal Environmental Protection Agency who have responsibility for the oversight of the operation of the SWWTP (the ‘plant’). Also several employees of the town of Spencer were there plus the engineer advising Spencer on the plant’s redesign. The QQLA was represented by several members of the Board of Directors, other members and friends. In addition the attorney retained by the QQLA for this purpose Jamie Vander Salm, Esq. was present.

This meeting had two parts:

1> A presentation by Robin Johnson of the EPA – the author of the proposed permit.

She presented a slide show detailing alterations to the SWWTP (the ‘plant’) – this included a handout of an over- view diagram of the plant / alterations. Informal questions were allowed after the presentation – these for ‘clarity’.

2> Formal Public Hearing. This was recorded by audio, a transcript of which will be part of the permit archive. After an introduction by the EPA – the ‘official’ comment period began. Among the 6-7 people making oral comments was Meg Noyes of the QQLA who made a number of points that have been developed over many years by numer- ous QQLA members. She rightly concluded, “Thousands of hours” have gone into the effort to insure the Spencer Plant no longer harms our lakes. It’s been a long haul to get to this point – our efforts ARE bring about change.

Most notably, Jamie Vander Salm, the QQLA attorney, spoke for about 20 minutes outlining the seven points on the document previously submitted for the QQLA. These points were developed by Jamie in consultation with the QQLA Board of Directors over the previous month.

The proposed new phosphorus limits on the plant must be lower to comply with the facility’s TMDL waste- load allocation. The limits of .2mg / liter (winter) and .1mg / liter (summer) specified in the permit are HIGHER than the TMDL allocation, which if applied to the plant’s ‘output volume’ would result in limits of 1.3mg / .09mg winter/summer.

The Growing Season Phosphorus Limit Should Apply for Seven Months rather than the proposed 6 months. Note that there does not seem to be a single other permit in MA that uses the 6/6 formula…switching to the ubiqui- tous 7 month summer / 5 month winter will work to constrict the plant’s output during the month of April – as it should be.

The Timeline for Compliance with the Proposed New Phosphorus Limits is Unreasonably Long. The plant has been operating to date for 6 years with an expired permit. Yet the EPA proposal only calls for Phosphorus com- pliance to be online by December 2024, another 6.5 years. Vander Salm and The QQLA have proposed a faster time- line.

The Phosphorus Timeline Should Be More Specific. This also involves the call for additional testing to insure that the phosphorus level requirements can be tracked more easily.

The Phosphorus Timeline Should Require a Detailed Annual Progress Report and Annual Public Presenta- tions Regarding the Town’s Progress. Translation: “TRANSPARENCY”

The Agencies Should Appoint a Third-Party Reviewer of the Town’s Progress.

There Should Be Specified Consequences for Failing to Comply with the Phosphorus Timeline. It was noted by Vander Salm that some plants have been fined as much as $50,000 per day for certain violations. The current permit has no specific penalties for non-compliance.

Stay tuned !! Developments will appear on the QQLA FaceBook page and in future Newsletters

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