Russian River Watershed Protection Committee
P.O. Box 501
Guerneville, CA 95446
June 7, 2012
State Water Resources Control Board
1001 I Street, 24th floor
Sacramento, CA 95814
RE: Comment letter: Amendment to Recycled Water Policy
Sent Via Email to: email@example.com
Dear Chairman Hoppin and State Water Board Members:
About our group….RRWPC is a nonprofit public benefit organization incorporated in the State of California since 1980. Our supporters include property and business owners, residents, recreationists, and other concerned citizens in the lower river area from Healdsburg to Jenner. They utilize the Russian River for recreation, fishing, swimming, artistic expression, spiritual well being, and exercise for themselves, family, friends and pets. Many own property in the Russian River area for their summer enjoyment, but reside and work in the greater Bay Area and beyond. RRWPC’s major goal is to protect these beneficial uses from toxic discharges that deteriorate water quality and deny or degrade enjoyment of the river and harm the environment.
RRWPC’s history with and concerns about Recycled Water Policy….RRWPC submitted lengthy comments to your Board on the Recycled Water Policy on October 26, 2007, September 1, 2008, and December 22, 2008. In those comment letters, we indicated significant concern about the ‘incidental runoff’ issue. Furthermore, we also submitted extensive comments on the same issue to the Regional Board for both their MS4 permit review and revised permit review processes, in addition to their Basin Plan Amendment for low threat discharges. We provided verbal testimony at hearings as well, yet for the most part, our concerns went unaddressed.
At all times, our concerns were the same: we consistently expressed trepidations about tertiary wastewater runoff, especially into impaired water bodies (in our case the Laguna de Santa Rosa and the Russian River). Furthermore, the runoff would carry with it the herbicides and pesticides (endocrine disruptors) and added soil amendments applied to landscape when creek flows are low and assimilation of toxins poor.
The situation is complicated by the temporary authorization by your Board to lower minimum flows in the Russian River. The Sonoma County Water Agency has applied for permanent lowering of flows in response to a Biological Opinion that was never vetted for environmental impacts. On the one hand justification for expanded irrigation with wastewater is viewed partially as a way to save fish suffering from too little flow, and on the other supposedly improving habitat by lowering the flows in the river to expand and deepen a lagoon at the mouth.
This has all been done with minimal concern for the lower Russian River and its water quality, its recreation and tourism, and its aquatic habitat and wildlife. Ironically the North Coast Regional Board has written a lengthy scoping letter enumerating extensive concern about potential water quality impacts resulting from anticipated permanent low flows. If water quality is further exacerbated by irrigation runoff, vacationers will be swimming in a toxic stew. We implore you to not let this happen.
Even the best irrigation systems fail….RRWPC filed two complaints with the Regional Board in 2010 and 2012 about irrigation runoff in Rohnert Park and Santa Rosa, including many pictures of the multiple incidents and locations. (Story and pictures of the Santa Rosa runoff can be viewed at our website on home page at www.rrwpc.org) These were repetitive events occurring over about three weeks, and occurred in spite of the fact that the City of Santa Rosa has produced a great deal of information to irrigators about proper application of the wastewater. Furthermore, they claimed to have spent a great deal of time working with irrigators to teach them the proper way to apply wastewater. We believe that some irrigators just want to use the water and don’t want to be bothered with the regulations. Regulatory enforcement must be a strong component of this policy.
Incidental runoff and AB 2398….The definition of “incidental runoff” in the Recycled Water Policy is, in our view, rather weak. RRWPC recently provided extensive comments on AB 3298, legislation crafted to implement the Policy and assist in meeting the State’s goal of irrigating 2.5 million acre feet a year of wastewater by 2030. This Bill, which cleared the Assembly with flying colors but went nowhere in the Senate and is now dead for the year, declassified tertiary wastewater as a waste. (We are concerned that the Bill will be back again next year in a similar form.)
The legislation seriously downgraded the meaning of ‘incidental runoff’ in the legislation. Our comments about AB 2398, contained in a letter to Senator Noreen Evans states:
“Similarly, the following statement is made on page 32 under (m): “The recycling of water, the supply, storage, or use of recycled water in accordance with the requirements of this division shall not be considered a discharge of waste or sewage for purposes of Section 13264 or 13271, or a nuisance, as defined in subdivision (m) of Section 13050.” (Our reading of these sections implies that because irrigated water is not considered waste, it doesn’t fall under the regulations governing runoff. So by simply declaring something is NOT a waste, with no burdon of proof to demonstrate that fact, enormous environmental harm can occur by allowing large amounts of runoff.)
Put another way, it defines sewage as (adequately) treated wastewater, but then states that this sewage/treated wastewater does not include recycled water. Put another way, Section 13050 of the Water Code it states (n): “Recycled Water” means water which, as a result of treatment of waste, is suitable for a direct beneficial use or a controlled use that would not otherwise occur and is therefore a considered a valuable resource.”
The question remains, how can “recycled water” be treated differently than treated sewage (wastewater) when the definition, based on treatment methodology is the same for both? And, because the treated sewage is designated as recycled water, which is a high use, therefore it is safe.”
In addition, there are inconsistencies regarding reporting limit triggers, which include the following:
Report any runoff that occurs as soon as it is known,
Report 1000 gallons or more of runoff,
OR report after 50,000 gallons have run off.
(RRWPC letter to Senator Evans provides more detailed information on these triggers.) These are problems that should be cleared up in the Policy.
Recycled Water Policy Amendments…The principal subject for discussion here is the proposed amendments to this policy. For the most part, these amendments are based on findings by the Scientific Panel established under the Recycled Water Policy to make recommendations on the monitoring of Contaminants of Emerging Concern (CEC’s). They concluded that “….monitoring of individual CECs is not proposed for recycled water used for landscape irrigation, although monitoring of some parameters is proposed.” (page 2 of State notice on this amendment)
The Panel’s Report on CECs was released on June 25, 2010. A hearing on its findings was held on December 15, 2010. RRWPC looked at the report and sadly found it way beyond our expertise to comment on. Similarly, we did not submit comments and/or attend the hearing either for the same reason. We had been following articles on the risks of endocrine disruption for both humans and wildlife, but did not feel we could address the highly technical findings of the Report.
Yet we have followed the extensive comments of Linda Sheehan of California Coastkeeper Alliance and others on this issue. We have been extremely impressed with her characterization of the problem and are in total agreement with her concerns. On January 10, 2011 she submitted a letter to your Board on the CEC Monitoring for Recycled Water. We especially share her concerns about the general lack of addressing impacts to wildlife in these policies (AB 2398 also shared the same weakness.) She expresses the following important concerns:
Extremely limited set of monitoring proxies
Concern about deference to CDPH
Public’s relative ignorance about far reaching impacts of these chemicals
Monitoring major focus on human health impacts
Ms. Sheehan calls for development of standardized interim list of CECs to be monitored that includes treatment plant efforts to identify appropriate CECs for freshwater eco-toxicological concerns. With this we fully agree. In regard to the monitoring recommended in the Study, she states on page 4 of her comments,
“However, the final Panel recommendations are completely inappropriate in light of the data and fail to meet the requirements or goals of the Recycled Water Policy. For example, the Panel did not expressly acknowledge the fact that discharge of recycled water to receiving waters occurs on a daily basis, ……or that many northern California streams that may receive recycled water effluent interact regularly and closely with groundwater. As such, the importance of including monitoring recommendations for those CECs that potentially pose a risk to aquatic life and ecosystems is absolutely critical. By failing to recommend a robust monitoring program even in the short-term in light of this dearth of data, the Report will only delay the increased, safe use of recycled water that California needs to ensure a sustainable water future.” She goes on to recommend specific additional monitoring which we support.
New information should be considered in this process…..RRWPC learned about AB 2398 on March 15th, 2012. We quickly read the proposed legislation and back up materials and submitted comments as to our concerns about the far reaching implications of the Bill. About this time, we also learned about a new scientific study that had recently been released that justifies revisiting the basic assumptions behind this Panel’s Report. These incorrect assumptions form the basis not only for this Recycled Water Policy Amendment, but for AB 2398 as well. We submitted comments and a copy of the study to the Assembly Committee on Water, Parks, and Wildlife at their hearing in Sacramento on March 20, 2012.
The study is entitled Hormones and Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals: Low-Dose Effects and Nonmonotonic Dose Responses, developed and written by Laura N. Vandenberg, Theo Colborn, Tyrone B. Hayes, Jerrold J. Heindel, David R. Jacobs, Jr., Duk-Hee Lee, Toshi Shioda, Ana M. Soto, Frederick S. von Saal, Wade V. Welshones, R. Thomas Zoeller, and John Peterson Myers, to the Assembly committee. We were later told that the Study could not be entered into the record because of copy write requirements. We have since received authorization from Tasha McKenzie of The Endocrine Society to reproduce this document. We attached the email granting permission to this comment letter. It also contains the name and contact email of the person granting the permission in case you want further documentation on this.
The Scientific Panel failed to address the issue of low dose responses to endocrine disrupting chemicals. While this study had been released in March of this year, many/most of the authors listed above have been working on these problems for many years. In particular, Theo Colborn’s and Tyrone Hayes’s works have been extensively publicized in the media for a very long time. (RRWPC held an all day conference on the issue in May, 1995 where Dr. Colborn appeared and made a presentation.)
The January/February issue of Mother Jones (page 44) carried a lengthy article entitled The Frog of War, about Dr. Tyrone Haye’s work with frogs. He discovered that levels of atrazine in the parts per billion range (below what is considered safe for humans) caused significant alterations in their sexual make up. In other words, male frogs developed ovaries, and females developed aggressive, dominant behavior.
We have many articles on this topic, but realized that providing your Board with a stack of papers would probably not serve the purpose we hope to accomplish. So we approached the lead author of the Study, Dr. Laura Vandenburg and told her about the Notice of the Amendment to the Recycled Water Policy. She agreed to write a letter about low dose affects and informed me that she has submitted it, along with an article written by herself entitled, “Environmental Chemicals, Large Effects from Low Doses” published in “San Francisco Medicine” June 2012.
Dr. Vandenburg is an academic scientist who has worked on issues related to endocrine disruption for the last nine years. She has published more than 25 peer reviewed studies and has served on expert scientific and risk assessment panel in the US and Europe. The above mentioned study on low dose effects had her working with eleven of the top scientists in the field, who together had published over 1000 studies on environmental chemicals.
The group examined over 800 studies during a three year period and (page 2 of Dr. Vandenburg’s letter to the Board) “….concluded that there was clear and consistent evidence that a large number of EDCs have effects at low doses…These chemicals include herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, preservatives, industrial chemicals, surfactants, plasticizers, pharmaceuticals, flame retardants, and anti-bacterial agents, among others.” (emphasis added)
Her comments are powerful. She adds, “The concept of low dose effects and non-monotonic dose responses is not at the fringe of science. The Endocrine Society, the world’s largest professional association of clinical and research endocrinologists, has released two recent statements regarding EDCs, and has repeatedly reiterated the conclusion that low doses of EDCs are harmful to humans and wildlfe. This conclusion has widespread acceptance in the field of endocrinology due to the strength of the published data.”
She also expressed these and other views in an article entitled: “Opinion: ‘There are no safe doses for endocrine disruptors” appearing in the 5/26/12 issue of Environmental Health News.
She states, “Hundreds of studies have examined people from the general population and found associations between low levels of hormone-altering compounds and infertility, cardiovascular disease, obesity, abnormal bone health, cancer and other diseases.”
It appears as though the State is considering setting up a new Science Panel to address these issues. We suggest that Dr. Vandenburg be invited to sit on the Panel. In the event she cannot do that, I would suggest that at least one, if not more, of the eleven others who participated in the Low Dose Effects study be invited instead.
In light of this information, the issue of “incidental runoff” becomes far more significant than what is considered in the Recycled Water Policy. Not only is the applied wastewater liable to contain at least trace amounts of these chemicals, but the prolific use of weed killers and other toxic applications to landscapes and agricultural areas may be the death knell of many species resulting from allowing runoff into water ways.
Issue getting widespread attention by media….This issue is receiving more and more attention in the main stream media. Only today (July 1, 2012) in the Sunday Press Democrat on page B9, there is an article entitled “What is stealing childhood years?” by David Sortino. In it he refers to early onset of puberty in young girls. He specifically mentioned hormones used in cattle beef as perhaps being one of the culprits. He also talks about many other environmental toxins which “…act as hormone-disruptors.”
Nickolas D. Kristof, syndicated columnist for the New York Times, whose articles also appear in our local Press Democrat and probably many other California newspapers, wrote “It’s Time to Learn From Frogs”, where he also mentions the trans sexual nature of fish as well as frogs who are exposed to endocrine disrupting chemicals. He also alludes to sexual anomolies in 1% of human male newborns having the birth defect entitled hypospadias, in which, “…the urethra exits the penis improperly, such as at the base rather than the tip.” There is a clear, non-technical explanation of this by Dr. Theo Colborn in her video, The Male Predicament, which can be viewed at her website.
Dr. Vandenburg mentioned the editorial article by Linda S. Birnbaum, director of the National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services, entitled Environmental Chemicals: Evaluating Low-Dose Effects. This editorial was dated March 14, 2012. Dr. Birnbaum is the author of over 700 peer reviewed publications, book chapters, abstracts, and reports. She states: “Thus, human exposures to thousands of environmental chemicals fall in the range of nonnegligible doses that are thought to be safe from a risk assessment perspective. Yet the ever-increasing data from human biomonitoring and epidemiological studies suggests otherwise: Low internal doses of endocrine disruptors found in typical human populations have been linked to obesity,… infertility,… neurobehavioral disorders,…..and immune dysfunction,…among others.”
Some other recent articles include:
““Low doses, big effects: Scientists seek ‘fundamantal changes’ in testing, regulation of hormone-like chemicals” by Marla Cone, Editor in Chief, Environmental Health News on March 15, 2012.
She states (after summarizing most of the points made in Dr. Vandenburg’s comment letter): “The breast cancer drug tamoxifen “provides an excellent example for how high-dose testing cannot be used to predict the effects of low doses,” since breast cancer growth is stimulated at low doses and restrained at higher doses. Therefore, for those whose breast cancers are hormone sensitive, the drug is often prescribed for breast cancer patients in high doses.
This is an report that appeared in YALE Environment 360 on March 19, 2012 and written by Elizabeth Grossman. She is the author of Chasing Molecules: Poisonous Products, Human Health, and the Promise of Green Chemistry, High Tech Trash: Digital Devices, Hidden Toxics, and Human Health, and other books. Her work has appeared in Scientific American, Salon, The Washington Post, The Nation, Mother Jones, Grist, and other publications.
She states: “Thomas Zoeller, a University of Massachusetts biologist and paper co-author, said that regulatory testing of chemicals for endocrine-disrupting impacts lags behind the growing evidence of the compounds’ health effects, particularly at levels to which people are routinely exposed. “There is a very large disconnect between regulatory toxicology and the modern science of endocrinology that is defining these issues,” said Zoeller.”
More information on endocrine disrupting chemicals can be found at www.endocrinedisruption.org .
There is one final article we will mention entitled “Key Officials Grapple With Ways To Speed Endocrine Science in Decisions” written by Pete Myers (lead scientist of the 12 authors of the Study) and posted on May 18, 2012 in “Inside EPA”.
(John) “Kerry’s comments suggest he fears a long road remains to finding enough political support for restricting the use of chemicals that a growing number of scientists say mimic and interfere with hormones, creating developmental problems in humans that do not often manifest until later in life and whose potential effects often are missed by traditional toxicological methods.”
And then: “But NIEHS Director (see above) Linda Birnbaum, one of the panelists, told Kerry that endocrine disruption data continue to accumulate and that the absence of perfect knowledge shouldn’t justify inaction.” She said, “Science is never certain. It’s constantly advancing and constantly moving forward. If we try to wait until we have 100% certainty, we’re never going to do anything.”
Finally, in my own comments to the Water Board on the Recycled Water Policy, written on December 22, 2008, I note numerous other studies (pages 5-9) and articles current at that time 3.5 years ago. I resubmit them here for their historical value.
I will close with a quote from Theo Colborn, the Rachel Carson of our time, which appeared in Elizabeth Grossman’s article quoted above. In reference to the recent study on low dose effects of endocrine disrupting chemicals, she said:
“I hope that this paper opens the door to the realization that the endocrine system is the overarching control system of all other body systems…..It controls how we develop, function, and reproduce from the moment we are conceived—in other words, the quality of our lives and our existence”.
Please take this information to heart and address these issues as you contemplate the Amendment to the Recycled Water Policy.
Brenda Adelman, Chair RRWPC