Bill requires independent wastewater studies before permits modified

A House bill requiring the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to conduct studies before setting wastewater emission standards is among the first to be reviewed by the Missouri House of Representatives on Thursday.

Sponsored by State Rep. Rocky Miller, R-Tuscumbia, House Bill (HB) 1074 prohibits the Missouri Clean Water Commission from modifying any permit dealing with wastewater discharge permits without doing a study to justify changes.

According to the bill’s language, this bill keeps the commission from “increasing or decreasing the volume of any water contaminants or pollutants authorized by the permit to be discharged from any point source, nor shall any existing limits within the 12 months immediately before any new construction or operating permit is issued, until an independent and unique study commissioned by the state verifies the environmental and economic need for the increase or decrease for each stream segment affected.”

“What it does is create changes in DNR’s permitting process. Instead of DNR blindly accepting permit limits, it requires them to do a study before modifying any wastewater discharge permit,” Miller said. “Currently, the DNR blindly follows what the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) requires. This bill helps them get on the right path and be an advocate … for (Missouri’s) water quality standards.”

Miller said DNR’s lowering their ammonia limits without forming a study is a recent example of how an independent and unique study is needed to lower the cost to the consumer and not simply follow EPA guidelines.

According to a DNR document dated for October 2013 titled “Changes to the Water Quality Standard for Ammonia,” the EPA finalized new water quality criteria for ammonia, based on toxicity studies of mussels, on Aug. 22, 2013.

The DNR stated in the document Missouri’s ammonia criteria, at that time, was based on toxicity testing of several species, but not mussels or gill-breathing snails. The state is home to 69 mussel species. The document said the Missouri Department of Conservation said nearly two-thirds are in concern for their survival considering water quality conditions and other impacts to streams, with nine mussel species listed as federally endangered.

The DNR document said the EPA conducted toxicity testing and developed ammonia water quality criteria, noting the new criteria will apply to any discharge of ammonia that may pose a reasonable potential to violate the standards. The DNR said nearly all discharging domestic wastewater treatment facilities (cities, subdivisions, mobile home parks, etc.) as well as certain industrial and stormwater dischargers with ammonia in their effluent, will be affected by the change in the regulations.

The DNR stated in the document that when the EPA establishes new water quality criteria, states must adopt them into their regulations in order to keep their authorization to issue permits under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System.

However, Miller says DNR automatically lowering the limits and following the EPA’s suggested water quality criteria to “protect the streams” can cost the consumers more. Instead of the DNR relying on what the EPA is saying of all mussels, it needs to ask if the same standard applies to the same mussels in Missouri. They need to conduct the “independent and unique study” to verify if it affects the mussels in the state, according to the Miller and his bill.

“The DNR lowered their ammonia limits without forming a study. It affects every discharging facility in Missouri. We don’t know if they have the mussels that they are trying to protect. Everyone pays a higher price over a lower limit than we need. We need to require the study,” Miller said. “This bill will help put (DNR) on the right track to do their job and get the respect from their community instead of creating a hindrance to their pocketbooks. We need to keep the water clean, but the DNR needs to put the work into it instead of deciding what needs to be done.”

In addition, Miller said this bill also proposed individual unique studies for varying discharge permits. If the study is performed, it won’t allow a permit to lump a small creek by a house or building into the Osage River. It will be performed on the creek, too, he said.

Miller is also sponsoring seven other bills and co-sponsoring 15 bills, which includes four with fellow Lake of the Ozarks area State Rep. David Wood, R-Versailles.

Miller’s HB 1048 places limitations on income tax credits or refunds. According to the bill’s language, a taxpayer is allowed to claim a credit or refund of an income tax over-payment when the director of the department of revenue examines the taxpayer’s return after the period of limitations expires and the examination reveals that the taxpayer would have been eligible for a credit or refund. “The department directors must notify the taxpayer of any over-payment discovered and the taxpayer must file a claim for the credit or refund within one year of the department director’s notice,” the bill states.

In HB 1192, Miller’s sponsored bill requires both custodial parents or the guardian of a minor to be notified prior to the performance of an abortion on their minor child. According to the bill’s language, “‘custodial parents’ means both parents in an intact family or any parent of a minor who has been awarded sole or joint physical custody of such minor by a court of competent jurisdiction. Custodial parent does not include any parent who has been convicted of sexual abuse of such minor or whose custodial rights have been terminated by a court of competent jurisdiction.”

Additional bills Miller is sponsoring include:

HB 1075, which states the State Treasurer must not enforce the provisions of Chapter 447 relating to lost and unclaimed property for a reportable period more than three years after the holder of the property filed a report with the State to the State Treasurer.

HB 1047, which requires a full-time non-resident student in a college, university or technical school to pay the same hunting, trapping and fishing license or permit fee as a resident applicant.

HB 1045, which allows an insurance policyholder to petition the court for reimbursement of insurance costs as they occur during the pendency of a dissolution of marriage or legal separation.

HB 1191, which changes provisions relating to rights-of-way of political subdivisions.

Miller is also co-sponsoring a number of bills, including Rep. Mike Kelley’s HB 1215, which raises the maximum speed limit on rural interstates and freeways in Missouri from 70 to 75 miles per hour.

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