Manganese Proposal Raises Questions and Concerns

While the first alternate point of compliance proposed by the Bureau of Water Quality does comply with the letter of Act 40 of 2017, it totally ignores the intent of the legislature by adding manganese to the table of Human Health and Aquatic Life Criteria for Toxic Substances of 0.3 mg/L in 25 Pa Code Chapter 93.

However, the Department has taken a position that if a water supply withdrawal does exist downstream from a manganese discharge site, the proposed new criteria will be modelled from the upstream point of discharge and account for attenuation of the effluent and it travels downstream.
The discharger’s effluent limitation would be based on achieving the proposed criteria of .3 mg/L at the point of the potable water intake. While very few mining operations discharge close to potable water withdrawal/intakes, depending on the discharge site and its distance from a point of withdrawal, this could have an adverse impact on mining operations.

The second alternate point of compliance proposed by the DEP does not comply with Act 40 and continues to keep the burden of treatment and compliance on mine operators. The Department acknowledges that using this basis of compliance to meet new effluent limitations costs to treat water “may exceed that which is required under existing guidance.”

However, when reviewing the preamble, the second alternative does seem to be the choice favored by the Department. In its preamble the Department states if the first alternative point of compliance is adopted, “those holding permits or seeking permits to discharge manganese into the surface waters of Pennsylvania will benefit. If the proposed criterion (.3 mg/L) is adopted and the second point of compliance alternative is adopted, all users of surface waters will benefit.”

The Department is expected to publish its proposed regulation change sometime in March in the Pennsylvania Bulletin. This will trigger a 30 review and comment period and initiate the rulemaking process. The Department will also hold at minimum one public hearing on the topic as well. Following that it will follow the normal regulatory process and if not changed, amended or withdrawn, will take effect in 18 to 24 months.

The Pennsylvania Anthracite Council has been in close consultation with the Pennsylvania Coal Alliance and will work with the bituminous mining organization to coordinate its regulatory and legislative efforts.

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