Letter to State Board on Recycled Water Policy decision

January 18, 2013

RE:  Comment letter:  Amendment to Recycled Water Policy
Send Via Email to: commentletters@waterboards.ca.gov

Dear Chairman Hoppin and State Water Board Members:

RRWPC submitted extensive testimony on the issue of endocrine disruption both in writing and as our oral presentation at your Oct. 16th Board Meeting.  Our comments focused on the Scientific Panel’s finding that monitoring for endocrine disruptors will not be required where tertiary wastewater is used to irrigate urban landscapes.

I would like to thank the Board and Staff for taking additional time to further respond to RRWPC’s earlier comments on the Recycled Water Policy Amendment.   While there is more substance in the most recent response, nevertheless we find that it continues to be inadequate on the issue of low dose effects of endocrine disrupting chemicals both on humans and wildlife, the latter of which was not addressed in this process at all.

We make the following four points:

  • A new article appeared in Environmental Health News on Dec. 13, 2012 in which the introductory paragraph states the following:
  • Spurred by mounting scientific evidence, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is initiating a new effort to examine whether low doses of hormone-mimicking chemicals are harming human health and whether chemical testing should be overhauled. The EPA, responding to a report by a team of 12 scientists published in March, is collaborating with other federal agencies to assess whether traces of chemicals in food, cosmetics, pesticides and plastics affect human development and reproduction. As part of that review, they will evaluate whether current testing is capturing an array of effects linked to hormone mimics, and if the agency should alter its risk assessments. The federal scientists will complete a “state of the science” paper by the end of 2013. The scientists in the March report criticized the federal government’s decades-old strategy for testing chemicals – exposing lab rodents to high doses then extrapolating down for real-life human exposures. They said it is inadequate to protect people and urged reforms because hormone-like chemicals can have health effects at low doses that do not occur at high doses, a phenomenon called “non-monotonic dose response.” “I’m thrilled they’re doing this and it’s desperately needed,” said Universty of Missouri scientist Frederick vom Saal. “Hopefully it won’t take long and we can stop asking whether there are low-dose effects and then deal with the fact that there are.”

    The study referred to here is the same one we submitted to you with our original comments last summer.  We ask the Board to reserve the right to reopen the public process on this issue, in order to review EPA findings in above mentioned study.  If EPA verifies that the concerns raised by the March study are justified, we ask that you not wait another 4 years before responding to the information.

  • Staff responses assume that the Policy adequately assures that incidental runoff will not have impacts based on the fact that no one will be drinking it.  Yet no information has been provided on the amount of runoff occurring, where it is going or even whether minimal amounts of endocrine disrupting chemicals are being discharged.

    In 2010, our group did a study of irrigation runoff in Rohnert Park which resulted in our filing a complaint with the North Coast Regional Board.  At one golf course in Rohnert Park we witnessed and reported excessive runoff on several occasions.  We have no idea what Regional Board did with our complaint. There was no public action.

    In April, May, June, 2011, according to official reports, the golf course irrigated 60 million gallons but claimed only 150 gallons ran off.   60 million gallons in three months is about 650,000 gallons a day.  That’s sounds impossible for one golf course.  Our local community of about 2500 hookups generates about 350,000 gallons a day in summer when we have many visitors.

    The response to comments on the Amendment repeatedly stated that the Policy has defined “incidental runoff” and that if runoff is not incidental it should be enforced by Regional Board.   But that agency has inadequate enforcement staff and few funds to expand and as a result, they don’t conduct much enforcement.

  • We believe that circumstances need to be specified under which a complaint of incidental runoff is required to be treated as a violation.
  • We also  support the provision of additional enforcement staff for this
    program to assure its implementation.
  • If indeed endocrine disrupting chemicals are as harmful as we think they are, and if it turns out that these chemicals are present in tertiary wastewater or running off irrigated landscapes, then it behooves the Board to take precautionary measures to assure the health and welfare of our people, our wildlife, and our watersheds, not just with words, but with strong supportive actions as well.

    Finally, in a recent study by US Geological Survey, where they studied many river systems around the country (not our area), they found an alarming number of feminized fish.  It is theorized that this is a result of exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals in the water.  We really need to have such studies in our State.  We request that fish tissue samples be taken and studied (University of CA at Davis were doing studies on this several years ago.)  We also want to emphasize the importance of determining the extent to which estradiol is present in the waste stream and in our water ways.

    We request that you demonstrate to the public that indeed, your policy is a safe one.  Again we call on the Precautionary Principle here.  Yes, it may be expensive to conduct even a limited study, but the findings can save potentially huge health care costs down the road.  It may also prevent the loss of species as well.  The potential consequences of this Policy are huge.  We hope you will take steps to address our concerns.  Waiting five years may allow tragedy to happen.