News Release

For release: Jan. 6, 2011

Contacts:
Jennifer Wigal, Manager, Water Quality Standards and Assessment Program, Portland, (503) 229-5323

DEQ Proposes Revisions for Water Quality Standards to Help Reduce Toxic Pollutants in State’s Waterways

Comment deadline is Monday, March 21; new limits on toxic discharges to enhance health protection

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality is proposing revisions to the state’s water quality standards used to regulate levels of toxic pollutants in Oregon waterways. The revisions ensure greater health protection for Oregonians who eat fish from state waters and cleaner waterways for providing drinking water to Oregonians.

 

The revised rules will affect cities and facilities that discharge one or more regulated pollutants to state waters. These pollutants may include methylmercury (a byproduct from the burning of fossil fuels) and bis (2-ethylexyl) phthalate, a plasticizer. Forestry, agricultural, construction and other activities could also be affected by these rules, if they release toxic pollutants such as the pesticide compound endosulfan, PCBs and the now-banned but persistent toxic pesticides DDT and aldrin into lakes, rivers and streams.

 

“These proposed revisions are necessary to protect human health,” said DEQ Director Dick Pedersen. “Toxic pollutants can accumulate in fish that people may eat. Some of these substances may lead to cancer, hinder human development and cause other health problems. These pollutants can also affect the quality of water that communities rely on for drinking water. Reducing the level of these toxics in our water makes for healthier, more livable communities and, as a result, a healthier economy. It is important that any water quality rules are implementable, and we believe through working with a broad group of stakeholders we have a proposed rule package that achieves that end.”

 

 Several documents about this rulemaking proposal are available for public comment and may be accessed through DEQ’s website at http://www.deq.state.or.us/wq/standards/toxics.htm (scroll down to “toxics rulemaking”). The public may comment on the proposed rule changes and toxic pollutant levels, a proposed statement of need and fiscal impact, a land use evaluation statement and a document about the proposed rules’ relationship to federal requirements.

 

Due to public interest in this proposal, DEQ has extended the deadline for all comments on the proposed rulemaking to 5 p.m. Monday, March 21. Comments may be e-mailed, mailed or faxed to DEQ. Send e-mail comments to ToxicsRuleMaking@deq.state.or.us. Mail comments to Andrea Matzke, Oregon DEQ, Water Quality Division, 811 SW Sixth Ave., Portland, OR 97204. Fax comments to Andrea Matzke at 503-229-6037.

 

Public hearings scheduled Feb. 1-16 throughout state

 

DEQ will hold seven public hearings throughout Oregon to explain the proposed revisions and how they may affect cities, industrial facilities and other entities. The public may submit both oral and written comments about the revisions during the hearing. DEQ will record and review all comments.

 

Hearings are scheduled for the following locations. An overview of the rulemaking proposal precedes the formal hearing:

·         Bend, Tuesday, Feb. 1, 1 p.m., Oregon Department of Transportation Office, 63055 N. Highway 97, Deschutes River Room.

·         Eugene, Wednesday, Feb. 2, 9 a.m., DEQ Eugene office, 165 E. Seventh Ave., Suite 100, Willamette Conference Room.

·         Medford, Wednesday, Feb. 2, 6 p.m., DEQ Medford office, 221 Stewart Ave., Suite 201, Large Conference Room.

·         Coos Bay, Thursday, Feb. 3, 1:30 p.m., Coos Bay City Hall, 500 Central Ave., Council Chambers.

·         Ontario, Monday, Feb. 7, 2:30 p.m. (Mountain Standard Time), Ontario City Hall, 444 SW Fourth St., 2nd floor, Council Chambers.

·         Pendleton, Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2 p.m., St. Anthony’s Hospital, Cascade Room (first floor), 1601 SE Court Ave., 1st floor, Cascade Room.

·         Portland, Thursday, Feb. 10, 6 p.m., DEQ Headquarters, 811 SW Sixth Ave. (SW Sixth and Yamhill), 10th floor, Room EQC-A.

 

DEQ has also added a public hearing before the Oregon Environmental Quality Commission beginning at 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 16 at DEQ Headquarters, 811 SW Sixth Ave., Portland, in Room EQC-A on the 10th floor.

 

DEQ will respond to all comments submitted during the comment period and may modify the proposed rules based on comments received. DEQ will recommend that the Oregon Environmental Quality Commission adopt the rules at the commission’s June 2011 meeting, at a location yet to be determined. DEQ will notify all those submitting comments as well as those who request to be on DEQ’s mailing list for the rulemaking of the time and place for final commission action.

 

How DEQ developed the proposed changes

 

DEQ developed this proposal with input from advisory groups about the rulemaking’s human health considerations, how the new standards could be implemented and enforced, and fiscal impact on dischargers. A group of public health specialists and toxicologists helped DEQ develop a recommended fish consumption rate of 175 grams a day – equivalent to about 23 fish or shellfish meals a month. The Oregon Environmental Quality Commission agreed with this recommendation and directed DEQ to use this rate as a basis for revising human health criteria.

 

In June 2010, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rejected DEQ’s human health criteria submitted in 2004 based on a 17.5 g/day rate as not being protective enough for all Oregonians. As a result of EPA’s rejection of that proposal, DEQ’s human health criteria reverted back to values which are largely based on a fish consumption rate of 6.5 g/day.

 

DEQ also identified possible financial impacts this rulemaking could have on regulated entities and land-use practices. It consulted two groups of affected stakeholders, one of which included two economists, to provide input on DEQ’s cost analysis of the proposal. In cases where it may be difficult for cities and businesses to reduce toxic pollutant levels to meet the new standards, DEQ will offer variances and other options to help foster compliance and pollution reduction.

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