New EPC Chair Makes Extreme Comments

EPC Elects New Chair, Notices New Water Quality Standard, & Hears Impact of DNR Budget Cuts

On Tuesday, May 19, 2009, the Iowa Environmental Protection Commission (EPC) elected a new chair, Charlotte Hubbell, an attorney from Des Moines. The new chair is a leading activist on the EPC to expand the independent authority of the panel beyond the limits of its codified authority. Since the new chair has been on the Commission, it has increasingly butted heads with the Administrative Rules Review Committee, the legislative oversight panel.

Comments from Hubbell during the EPC meeting in regards to proposed new water quality rules dealing with chloride, sulfate and total dissolved solids suggest discord will grow.

For example, Hubbell suggested during a discussion on new water quality standards that the state, instead of using road deicers, shut down roadways until the snow and ice can be removed. Additionally during this discussion, she commented that homeowners might have to be prohibited from using water softeners in their home as this process concentrates and elevates the level of chloride and total dissolved solids in the wastewater. The notice rule was approved for public comment by the EPC and DNR prepared EPC agenda materials indicate that between 252 and 520 facilities in the state will not comply with the new standards, most of them in the northwestern one-third of the state that relies on deep groundwater wells of hard water.

The DNR acknowledged to the EPC that for the affected communities, solutions to this problem will not be easy as there are no affordable mechanical or chemical processes to deal with the issue. In most instances, communities will have to explore eliminating water softening processes, switching water sourcing to surface water if available, shipping waste water to a larger more dilute receiving water or diluting the wastewater with consolidated outfalls. In the process of determining what options might best suit the affected system, additional water testing requirements will be triggered to determine site-specific monitoring. The cost to each system is estimated to be nearly $7,500 per year in new testing expenses for at least two years. The noticed rule will be published in June in the Iowa Administrative Bulletin and seven public hearing on the matter are scheduled across Iowa for the July at the following venues:

11 a.m. – July 7, 2009
Orange City Public Library
112 Albany Avenue SE
Orange City, IA
6 p.m. – July 7, 2009
Spencer Public Library
21 E. 3rd St.
Spencer, IA
1 P.M. – July 9, 2009
Wallace State Office Building
Fifth Floor Conference Rooms
502 East 9th Street
Des Moines, Iowa
11 A.M. – July 13, 2009
Dubuque Public Library
360 W. 11th Street
Dubuque, Iowa
6 P.M. – July 13, 2009
Iowa City Public Library
123 S. Linn Street
Iowa City, Iowa
10 a.m. – July 15, 2009
Atlantic Public Library
507 Poplar Street
Atlantic, Iowa
11 a.m. – July 16, 2009
Clear Lake Public Library
200 N. 4th Street
Clear Lake, Iowa

During the final aspect of the EPC meeting in which DNR provides the panel with reports, Wayne Gieselman, head of the DNR Environmental Services, briefed the EPC on the likely service cuts his division would make to deal with the ~10% general fund budget cut for DNR. He told the Commission that there would be 4 to 5 fewer field office employees dealing with livestock regulatory matters. He also said the agency would scale back its geological services and reduce ground and surface water quality monitoring. As a consequence of these reductions, commissioners should be prepared to hear from the regulated communities about permitting delays.

At the close of Mr. Gieselman’s report and comments, the EPC chair instructed the agency to meet and work with the Attorney Generals office to explore aspects of existing livestock regulatory law. Specifically in regards to the constitutionality of the confinement animal feeding operation construction permit approval/denial appeal process.