September Retreat Minutes 2009


  • John Bechtel
  • Dave Bieter
  • Tom Dale
  • John Evans
  • David Ferdinand
  • Brad Holton
  • Garret Nancolas
  • Fred Tilman
  • Margie Watson

Staff and Guests

  • Barry Burnell, ID Dept. of Environmental Quality
  • Pete Wagner, ID Dept of Environmental Quality
  • Dr. Stephanie Witt, BSU Public Policy Center
  • Michael Zuzel, City of Boise

NPDES Primacy

Tom introduced Barry Burnell who had come to talk about NPDES Primacy. Tom indicated that Idaho was one of four states that did not have Primacy. During a recent float trip down the lower Boise River, they saw two instances where DEQ could work with us on drains into the Boise River. If we had DEQ working with us, we could solve these issues without costing our citizens millions of dollars.

Arizona and Alaska were recently awarded Primacy. States can have a range of Primacy options. Full-states include those that have; NPDES Permitting, Pretreatment Programs and Biosolids Programs and operating NPDES Primacy over Federal facilities. Not all states are full-States. All have permitting programs but a mixture of the other programs.

There are nine different factors that have to be met in order for Primacy to be delegated. In recent Supreme Court decision, endangered species is not one of these factors. This is important for us because of the Salmon issue in our river systems. Consultation regarding endangered species will occur when Primacy is provided.

The first Decision Analysis Report was done on Jan 1, 2001. It set out the initial framework identifying the major components of a Primacy Program. The second Decision Analysis Report, Nov of 2003, was more detailed and went into developing guidelines and technical support materials. It involved stakeholder groups and the use of a contractor for support. The 2005 Legislature asked the Department for an update. It included permit structure and costs to run a Primacy Program.

Part of the 2005 Legislation was to identify check-points that authorizes the State to undertake this Primacy Program. The direction given in HB176 was that rules the created for implementation, not be more stringent that the Clean Water Act. All rules developed need to be approved by the legislature that includes a stakeholder-involved process. Another element for approval is a Memorandum of Agreement with the EPA on how we would seek Primacy. There would have to be a Statute for approval of the Memorandum of Agreement.

There is a goal to have flexible permits so there is flexibility on how the State implements its permit programs in a Primacy package we could prepare. Additionally a goal is that there is no duplication of Federal or State Programs.

If we decide to accept delegation from the EPA to operate a NPDES Program, this is a decision that must to be made by the legislature.

Garret mentioned that he thought that State programs could be more stringent than Federal Programs. Barry stated it was the State Legislatures position that operating a Federal Program in this instance, then we are restricted from operating a more stringent program.

Tom stated that the principle remains in this EPA arena is we could make rules locally more stringent than the Federal regulations. The legislature is saying, we don't want to do that.

As far as the approval of a state program for NPDES Primacy then there are four steps.

1. In the first step, the department is authorized to explore the NPDES Program and prepare a report. They have pretty much done this.

2. Gain legislative authority to develop rules

3. Develop a Memorandum of Agreement between the State and EPA

4. Gain approval of Memorandum of Agreement through the legislature.

John asked that to solve this problem, how long is it going to take. Barry indicated that it is about 2 years per step for rule making, because of the procedure they go through. To do the MOA it won't take that long.

Dave asked, is there much push behind this from the Agency level? Barry indicated that he had told his director that he wants to achieve primacy before he retires. He was reminded about the climate they are in and the huge budget obstacles they have to overcome. He felt they have support from the Governor, if they can complete the funding package, that he would support Primacy. Barry felt that it is important to have this support from the Governor.

According to the EPA Guidelines for implementing Primacy, they have to have 23 FTE's costing about $2,125,000. Barry indicated they are directed to come up with a self-supporting program and after Decision Analysis 3, the EPA would not be providing set asides. So all of the costs would have to come from fees. A proposed breakdown of 100% cost of fees would be:

Cities 982K
Inudstry 356K
Aquaculture 212K
Storm Water 554K
Total 2.12K

Garret indicated that he felt that no matter what the fee structure comes to, he would rather see it paid by the fee users. He felt that it just made more sense to pay the fees to the local entity that understands our state than the EPA that would not understand our state. Tom mentioned that if every homeowner had to pay $5.00 more to ensure that licensing and permitting came through the State, it would be well worth it. Tom added that he felt we could have some push back from industrial and aquaculture industries. With the mining groups, it is a mixed bag. Hecla would say yes, cause they got slammed with a hefty fine. Some of the smaller mines, they might not be so interested in Primacy.

Garret felt that the industry side might be a mixed bag. The smaller outfits probably would not be interested in Primacy, but the larger ones probably would because of the complexity of their permits. On a smaller basis, we have Kirkham Seed Company, they recently brought a load to our plant, and as a result, we had a momentary violation. They fined them what it cost them to correct the situation. They spent a month or so battling with the EPA because they wanted Caldwell to fine them a huge fine.

Tom stated, that given that we would have mixed lobbying efforts, from industry. There may be a way that we can minimize the concerns of industry and spread it around a little, it might work for the cause. Anything we can do to avoid the lobbying into special interest legislators who will raise issues, the better off we are. The less push back we have from industry the better off we are to obtain Primacy through the Legislature.

Dave agreed. He felt we ought to scope the carrying capacity of the cities to minimize impact on industries. What it is worth to us is big money. Tom added that if we just took Caldwell and Nampa and looked at worse case scenario for phosphorus removal, it would cost us about $3 mil per year in just chemicals. This is just ongoing yearly maintenance cost.

Garret indicated it would be cheaper to deal with an added cost of say $1 mil; it would cost us less than dealing with the EPA on some of these regulations. Barry stated that their goal is to parcel out the costs to as many participants as possible to keep the costs palatable across industry and jurisdiction.

Garret asked how much the permitting would be if we spread it out to connections to services. Barry stated that it comes out to less than $5.00 per connection. Garret added that there are ways to promote it and sell it to insure Primacy becomes a reality. Barry felt that the agriculture industry will be supportive of the need to have local Primacy vs. EPA permitting.

Barry stated that doing State Primacy would eliminate a bunch of work that the EPA is currently doing. The danger is that they would have free time to invent further work the EPA should do.

Barry finished with what we would get with an Idaho run Primacy Program

  • We would write the permits.
  • We would issue permits through regional offices.
  • We would have a local staff person running inspections.
  • The local office would have the monthly compliance and enforcement aspects.
  • There would be some oversite from the State office.

Brad asked that the new plant would have to meet the 0.7 phosphorus. We do this Primacy, what does that do to the rest of the users on the Boise River. Barry stated that the implementation plan for the Boise River would establish the load allocations per all point source discharges and that was the 200 micrograms per liter rather than the .70 which Kuna was looking at. If the State runs this program, there would be a compliance schedule that would have milestones on discharge requirements. It is the compliance schedule that governs whether there would backsliding. What ends up happening is you trade off a non-point source problem and we end up having better water quality at Brownlee.

Under enforcement, the EPA has their $7,500 per day as a base penalty. Very infrequently will they negotiate these. Typically the State goes through technical assistance, warning letters, issues notices of noncompliance, etc. Sometimes they issue penalties. It all depends on the circumstances surrounding the noncompliance. Some of the EPA Enforcement Penalties include; Burly – Feb 08 - $45,000, Buhl – Mar 08 - $38,000, etc.

What we need to do and the timing. Developing a funding strategy in 2009. Develop rules from yrs 2010 – 2012. Present rules, the MOA and Statutes to the legislature between 2010 and 2012. And phase in the program beginning in 2013. Once we achieve the phase-in of the Primacy Program. At that point in time, we will be building the expertise in the different areas and would require phase in based on where the expertise is. We would be writing permits in 2013.

Water/Sewer Operator Licensing

There are three rules that relate to operator licensing. Wastewater rules establish wastewater classifications. The drinking water rules establish the drinking water system classifications. And the operator rules that the Bureau of Occupational Licenses has establish how you actually get a license.

Licensing of individuals gives us expertise that helps to establish good management practices. Individual licensing establishes protections to limit system owner liability. And with proper operations of your facilities, then it protects public health and the environment.

Regarding the classifications, it basically depends on the size, complexity and the source of water for drinking water. And for wastewater, size, complexity and the source of your wastewater determine license classifications. The more complex your system, the higher your classifications is.

With respect to classifications, and drinking water, there is a very small classification that is three hundred people or less and is a distribution type of operation. Class 1's and 2's, are a little bigger and have more lift stations for example.

On the wastewater side, they just added a very small system classification. They did a temporary rule in February. This applies to systems where there are 500 connections or less. It covers both treatment and collections and for the most part are lagoon type systems. Pretreatment is not used as a factor in your classification.

Who needs a license? For wastewater operator licenses, all operating personnel at public drinking water systems that are making process control, system integrity decisions about water quantity or quality, must have a license. These process control decisions really have to do with water quality that can affect public health.

There are different types of Licenses. There is a responsible charge operator license, there is a substitute responsible charge operator license, an operator license and an operator in training license.

The State has had a grant from the EPA to provide Operator licensing reimbursement. It is for operators that serve systems of 3,300 or less. We can reimburse costs associated with training to keep your license. There is still money left in this grant to help you get certified operators. They reimburse the application and exam fees for two people per system.

Through 2008, there have been total licensing reimbursements of $1.36 mil. There is still roughly 500K left in this grant program and it has been extended through 2011. After 2011, drinking water operators will be on their own to obtain licensing.

Regarding Operator Licensing rules, DEQ developed the very small wastewater classification in February. At the August board meeting of Idaho Bureau of Occupational Licensing, similar licensing requirements were developed. The purpose of this was to combine licenses for very small system operators. The final rule will be presented to the legislature this session.

The idea behind the very small wastewater system classification is to increase licensed operator compliance and to reduce the cost to small communities by reducing the number of license fees collections and treatment from two to one. The Bureau of Occupational Licenses will have a rule for licensing that will be out for comment this fall.

There is a three-legged stool which licenses are built on. One is experience in collections, one is experience in treatment and the last is training. For the very small wastewater operator license, there is a GED or high school diploma requirement. There is a 50 hours of experience in collections and treatment requirement and there is an 18 hours of training required for a total of 118 hours of experience and coursework.

Brad asked the time period required to go take the test. Once you have the exams completed, then it is just a matter of getting the experience required.

On the water side, for a full Class One license, you are looking at 1,600 hours. For a restricted license the requirement is less than 300. Once you get your experience, then you could get your full license.

Brad stated his public services director is extremely upset that he is still concerned he is going to be held to the 1,600 rule. In essence, they are not going to be able to train another operator for their small system. Barry stated that for the restricted license, all you would need is between 2-300 hours of experience plus training classes.

Brad's concern is that they have mutual aid agreement between cities, and this restricted license foregoes that and you cannot switch between systems. This has the effect of cutting us off at the knees. His size of City is the norm not the exception in the State.

Vehicle Emission Testing

Garret stated that with the assistance of DEQ. The Canyon County Elected Officials have been working on what parameters they needed to take in order to comply with HB586. They discussed lots of different options and it boiled down to three options. One was to ignore everything and have DEQ tell them they were not in compliance. The second option was to send a letter to DEQ telling them the things they were going to implement in order to comply with HB586. And the third option was to develop some sort of vehicle emissions testing program.

They have had their first public hearing in Canyon County regarding air quality and emission testing. They all decided to follow the lead of the County. David stated that we have to talk about taking the emissions from cars off the road. The State of Washington, does not test any cars that are newer than 1996.

David stated that the biggest problem you have is when a vehicle cannot pass, the people that own that vehicle, do not have the money to fix it. The idea is to have a fund, to help fix these vehicles. In Canyon County, the potential number of affected vehicles is 100,000. He then asked some of the Vehicle Testing operators and they told them that he might have 2 out of 100 that do not pass. This would leave 2,000 of the cars on the road that would be out of compliance with a Vehicle Testing Program.

David asked if he could create a lottery to help pay for testing and fixing of noncompliant vehicles. It would work that if you voluntarily had your car tested, the money paid for this would provide an opportunity to win the lottery to help pay for fixing your vehicle.

Canyon County has submitted the letter outlining their program to the DEQ. That is where they are standing now. They are waiting on the response from DEQ.

Pete was asked if the lottery, voluntary system is going to make it. Pete indicated State Law binds them. Not one of the letters that were submitted included the emission reduction numbers. They will working on the letter from Canyon County and will be coming up with a response.

Dave stated that the point is that no one wants to do vehicle testing. What happens if we do this and then still go into nonattainment? The fact we have implemented vehicle testing, does not grant us a reprieve. Pete indicated that in that scenario, we would still have to institute vehicle testing.

Dave asked how we are doing on the rolling average. 2006 was our worst year and this will be dropping off. With our new monitor we have to follow the EPA requirements for that monitor. This will give us a sort of reprieve over the course for next couple of years. However, if this monitor continues to read higher numbers, then we will have to be drafting a letter to EPA saying we are in nonattainment.

We sort of have a reprieve now for two years. By Jan of 2012, we will know if we will be in attainment or not.

Household Hazardous Waste

Pete started talking about mercury and what it is doing to our water quality. Pete explained that there are a lot of waterways in the State that are polluted with mercury. Margie asked how these waterways became polluted with mercury. Pete indicated that some of it is deposits from mining other is deposition from air. Because when it rains, the water droplets pick up mercury. Some of it is localized some of it is international. He added that fires do deposit mercury.

Health issues and cost issues associated with mercury are significant. The state has spent upwards to $660,000 the last couple of years dealing with mercury spills. The health issue rears its head in that we have actually had several people in the valley that have suffered from mercury poising. If a kid gets this level of mercury poisoning, they can actually suffer neurological effects because they are younger messes with development.

Eagle had a spill at a house. They had to remove the grass and sidewalk to the tune of $40,000. Emmett High School had thermometers break. The cost of clean up for this spill was $45,000. A residence saw a response that from the EPA. They actually saw backhoes come in and tear up the yard and haul this waste off to a site that could dispose of it.

Tom asked where people were actually getting the mercury? Pete indicated that in this case, they did not know for sure, but they suspect a jar of mercury actually broke. The clean up for this spill was $400,000. Mountain View High School had a spill that cost $130,000 to clean up. Just recently there was a mercury response in Twin Falls and it looks like this one is going to be significant.

Pete responded to the question why people actually have mercury around. A lot of it is that people had mercury passed down through generations of mining activity and had it on the shelves. Additionally, you can still go buy mercury in thermometers and lab equipment.

The goal is to try to take mercury out. The DEQ has actually went into schools and provided technical assistance to help them pull out the mercury. After the Mountain View High School incident, the school went back in after the clean up and actually found another ten pounds of mercury spread throughout their labs at school.

Tom asked if there is commercial value in liquid mercury? Pete stated that there are some companies that are still producing it. It is used in electronic gear and mining processes. Highly precise lab equipment has a use for mercury. But high schools rarely have a need for such precise equipment.

EPA estimates cost of clean up of mercury spills throughout the State is well over $1 million since 2005. The State is trying to solve this problem. They have partnered with district Health officials, Dept. of Health to attack this problem. In September, they had a training for emergency response personnel. In October, they are going back out to schools.

Pete stated that Ada County has a great hazardous waste program. He was unsure the kind of programs in Canyon County. He was there to try to pitch a Feb. or March household hazardous waste training. They were hoping to hold this training to explain what it would take to get a household hazardous waste program up and going.

Tom asked if there were a replacement program to replace the old household thermometers. If the members of the Partnership were interested, they would partner with HHS and Ada County to provide the training on a household hazardous waste program. They would want to target mercury to get the program up and running.

Fred mentioned that they are trying to get people to think that there are alternatives and exchanges for the old style mercury thermometers. You do not have to buy the mercury thermometers. There are alternatives. Part of the education is to get people think in terms of the alternatives. There are some different stores are taking it on their selves to not purchase these types of thermometers for resale.

They have already secured 5 CEU Credits from the Solid Waste Association of North America to be offered in conjunction with these trainings. Around April-May of 2010, they are thinking of also hosting a spring-cleaning day. The goal would be to have collection sites in each of the communities to just collect mercury.

Fred indicated that spend over $1 mil a year on household hazardous waste management. They try to recycle stuff that is still in its original containers. They have a set up kind of like a store and encourage people to come up and purchase paints and weed killers to eliminate the need for disposal. A lot of their costs is associated with the contractor that us running this program.

Tom asked that near lake Roosevelt, they have been getting communications that there are high levels of mercury in the water. Barry stated that the top predator in any water system is fish that eat fish. These sorts of fish have higher quantities. These Statewide advisories are for Bass. Children and pregnant mothers are susceptible for picking up neurological disorders.

State Budget Forecasting

Tom indicated that Bill had gotten a call from Wayne Hammon and that he was not coming today. He did send a fax and Bill had passed this information out. He added that he would like it if Wayne would come to a future meeting of the Partnership.

Bicycle/Pedestrian Safety

This summer they began an initiative on bicycle safety. These recommendations have not been given to the Boise Mayor and Council yet, so the Partnership is getting a preview of the work that has been done.

The task force was formed in June as a result of three fatalities that took place in a period of three weeks. Deputy Chief led the task force, which included members of the bicycle patrol, and representatives from the highway District and ITD. It was put on the fast track and met weekly for a period of six weeks. They decided to group their recommendations by the 6 E's of cycling equity by the League of American Bicyclists.

They looked at engineering by evaluating intersections, lanes, shoulders etc. They focused on Enforcement which includes what laws and how they are enforced. Education is self-explanatory. How do we explain to cyclists and motorists alike on what the rules are? Encouragement deals with cycling as a healthy activity and how do we ensure that accidents don't discourage people from riding their bikes. Equality is issue they talked about a lot. It does not mean that cyclist are equal with motorists, because obviously they are not. The idea is that if you can get there in a car, then you can get there on a bicycle. Then finally the task force looked at evaluation. How you do assess the work of the taskforce and how you continually look at them over time.

The recommendation is that we take a look at cycling accident databases and look at the roadway's and intersections to see if there are any improvements that can be undertaken on those high incident areas. The recommendation is that these improvements be accelerated.

Many of the sounding board members talked at length about bike lane maintenance. There are lots of issues here, from degrading pavement to overhead trees that force bikes out into traffic.

In the enforcement area, our guiding principle is that because both motorists and cyclists share the road, then both publics are in the enforcement mix. One ordinance they have proposed is an actual harassment of bicyclists by motorists. The idea here is that cyclists are at a disadvantage. Some members of the task force are unsure about this issue. Another ordinance component is the reckless operation of a bicycle. Another recommendation is the three feet to pass recommendation. This has been enacted in other states and the concept is simple. You do not pass a bicyclist unless you can give three feet.

Fred asked if the reverse applies to bicycles. Do they have to give three feet when passing a vehicle? Michael indicated that it does not. He added that one of the big problems is that cyclists act as pedestrians on the sidewalk, then switch to acting like a motorist. This gets to the heart of motorist cyclist interaction and that is predictability. A cyclist is much more nimble than a motorist. The predictable nature of being on the sidewalk vs. the roadway is the key.

Three lessons they have learned.
1) The valley is growing and the prevalence of cycling is increasing. So conflicts between cyclists and motorists are bound to increase as well. One study shows that the City of Boise has the third highest cycling population than any city in the country. 2) Consistency in enforcement and education is desirable across jurisdictions.
3) When you are faced with a public affairs issue that needs solving, he recommends utilizing the sounding board idea.

Dave stated that the unfortunate situation with the fatalities gave us a window to look at the issue. They will take it to the Boise Council and hopefully bring it back to the Partnership to see if we can get some uniformity in the valley with respect to bicycle/pedestrian safety.

Open Forum

Bill stated that he had a couple of things he wanted to get accomplished. First, as far as meeting dates of the Partnership, we tried to accommodate Owyhee County and tried a rotating Monday/Wednesday schedule. He indicated he would like to take the meeting dates back to the 4th Monday.

The TVP Budget for 2009-10 is included in the packet and includes the costs for the SAUSA Project. Bill stated that Eagle pulling out of the Partnership has a $3,600 impact on the budget. Bill suggested that we may get some reprieve at the tail end of the fiscal year. The Criminal Justice Commission has made the recommendation to move the SAUSA Project to the Dept. of Corrections with a $50,000 match from the State. If this happens it will free up the Partnership budget.

Brad Holton suggested we write a letter to the Eagle City Council with regard to their participation in the Partnership. David concurred. He felt the impact of the activities of the Partnership go beyond any one jurisdiction. Bill stated he would draft a letter for the Eagle City Council and have ready for the October meeting of the Partnership.

Fred indicated that one thing we need to look at as it happens is consolidated elections. This is something we need to keep an eye on. When it comes to these new ballot's, your wording on ballot initiatives will be a critical issue. Fred stated it is all kinds of things like the number of pressings you have to have. Ballot space becomes very critical.

Brad mentioned that in the State of Oregon, there is local option ordinances that say if you get picked up for a DUI, you could end up having your car seized and the jurisdiction can then sell it. He will look into this and bring the information to our next meeting.

Dave said that one thing it would be nice to have uniformity on is the smoking issue. He has bar owners approach him individually and are requesting the City to just do it. He felt that our previous Partnership discussions pointed toward the State should be taking this issue one.

Garret indicated it would be nice to get our planning officials together in a room to discuss pathways.

John mentioned that his traffic school is working very well and maybe we could have an education section on this issue at a future TVP meeting.