CSO Notification Plan Public Comments
 
 
   
  Mr. Toby Frevert, P.E.
Division of Water Pollution Control
Illinois Environmental Protection Agency
PO Box 19276
Springfield, IL 62794-9276
   

Subject:

CSO Public Notification Plan
Public Notification Meeting - January 20, 2004
Stickney WRP NPDES Permit No. IL0028053
Calumet WRP NPDES Permit No. IL0028061
North Side WRP NPDES Permit No. IL0028088

Dear Mr. Frevert:

In accordance with the requirements in Special Condition (SC) 10.12 of the subject permits, a public meeting was held at 12:00 p.m. at the Chicago Cultural Center in Chicago, Illinois. The subject Plan was originally submitted to the IEPA on August 27, 2002 and was tentatively approved by the IEPA on October 31, 2003. In accordance with the requirements of SC 10.12, a summary of all significant issues raised by the public at the meeting and the District's response to each issue is documented below.

Approximately 250 members of the public were invited via e-mail and direct mail. In addition, a public notice was placed in the Chicago Sun-Times newspaper on January 9 and 16, 2004. The invited public included representatives of government, municipal and civic organizations, TARP CSO communities, environmental groups, industry, consultants, academia, recreational and community groups, and all individuals and organizations participating in the Chicago Area Waterways Use Attainability Analysis. Also, those who commented on the subject permits during the Public Notice period were invited. The majority of the invitees' contact information was provided to the District by the IEPA and the USEPA. The list of invitees and a copy of the notices published in the Chicago Sun-Times are included for your information and records.

A total of 31 people representing government, environmental, and community groups attended the public meeting, in addition to District staff.

The meeting began with an introduction by the appointed hearing office, Mr. James Nally, a practicing attorney licensed in the State of Illinois and not an employee of the District. Following Mr. Nally's introduction, a presentation was given by Mr. Thomas K. O'Connor, Chief of Maintenance & Operations at the District, who explained the purpose of the meeting, gave general information regarding CSOs, the District's long term plan for mitigating CSOs (the Tunnel and Reservoir Plan (TARP)), and a description of the Plan. A meeting agenda, a copy of the presentation, and a transcript of the meeting, including comments offered by the public, are enclosed for your information.

Following the presentation, all attendees were given an opportunity to comment on the Plan. The District also invited submission of written comments, which were accepted through February 20, 2004. Copies of all written comments that were received are enclosed.

Specific issues that were raised either at the meeting or through written comments have been separated into six categories and are addressed as follows:

 
Comment1 Comment2 Comment3 Comment4 Comment5 Comment6 Comment7 Comment8
Comment9 Comment10 Comment11 Comment12 Comment13 Comment14 Comment15 Comment16
Comment17 Comment18 Comment19 Comment20 Comment21 Comment22 Comment23  
 

Administrative Concerns

Comment 1
Concern was expressed that the Plan was submitted late.

Response
The subject plan, due to the IEPA on September 1, 2002, was submitted on August 27, 2002. The IEPA responded to the Plan in a letter dated June 4, 2003. The District submitted a revised plan on August 22, 2003 which received tentative approval by the IEPA in its letter dated October 31, 2003. The meeting was held in a timely manner, within three months of the date of tentative approval.

Comment 2
Concern was expressed over the short notice given to the public regarding the meeting and the methods and resources used by the District to identify the members of the interested public and whether the list was inclusive of all types of interested parties.

Response
On January 7, 2004, a Public Information Meeting Notice was mass mailed and e-mailed to those on the compiled list of those identified as interested parties. The notice was posted in the Clerk of the District's bulletin board and on the District's intranet and Internet site. It also ran as a legal notice in the main news section of the Chicago Sun-Times. The mass mailing and e-mailing was repeated on January 15, 2004, and an amended notice published in the Chicago Sun-Times on January 16, 2004. Prior to scheduling the meeting, the District verified with members of the USEPA and IEPA that there is no minimum notification period required.

The list of interested parties was compiled by the District by utilizing lists received from the IEPA, the USEPA, and included the stakeholder list for the Chicago Area Waterways Use Attainability Analysis, CSO TARP communities, and those individuals who submitted comments during the Public Notice period or at the Public Hearing for the subject permits.

The Lake Michigan Federation expressed disappointment that it was not included in the Plan as one of the interested parties. The "Identifying the Affected Public" section of the Plan was not intended to include a comprehensive list of interested parties but rather to present representative examples of those who would be considered interested parties. The revised Plan includes the Lake Michigan Federation as an interested party. Several Lake Michigan Federation members were provided with written and e-mail notice of the hearing, as evidenced by the attached service lists.

Comment 3
It was stated that more proactive outreach is needed in this plan. Pro-active outreach will get to people who do not actively seek information about CSOs but are nonetheless affected by CSO events. Furthermore, more vehicles for communication should be utilized in addition to the internet.

Response
The Plan offered by the District reaches a significant cross-section of the public. As discussed in the Plan and parts of this response, the District's public notification activities include:
- Information posted on the District website
- Website links to further information on CSOs
- E-mail notification of CSOs
- Mass-media notification of reversals
- Signs posted on District property along waterways
- Press releases
Furthermore, the District will modify the website and issue press releases, as needed, to keep the public well informed.

CSO Notification Plan Text

Comment 4
It was requested that the District add to the proposed text on CSOs on the website a paragraph on what people can do to reduce CSO events and to include information as to what is currently being done to reduce CSOs in addition to TARP.

Response
The following will be added to the Plan on the District's website:

"How can the public reduce CSOs? During periods of high flow, every gallon of wastewater and stormwater kept out of the sewer system is a gallon that will not add to a CSO discharge. Examples of ways to reduce the wastewater load include avoiding unnecessary water usage, toilet flushing, dishwashing, clothes washing, and showering. Additionally, individuals and businesses could install rain barrels/cisterns to collect rainwater runoff from their roofs. This water would be used for garden/lawn watering and similar uses, thereby reducing both the impact of heavy rain events and the use for potable water for non-potable uses."

Website/E-mail

Comment 5
It was requested that the website be interactive.

Response
The District's website will allow members of the public to sign up to receive e-mail notification of CSO events. In addition, the public will be able to send questions or comments via e-mail.

Comment 6
It was requested that the District include a summary of CSO events on the website for a minimum of the most recent five years.

Response
The District will post a database on its website that documents the CSO events at the North Branch, Racine Avenue, 95th Street, 122nd Street, and 125th Street Pump Stations for the past five years.

Comment 7
It was requested that the location of specific CSOs be marked on the website CSO map.

Response
The outfalls are too numerous to effectively display on the on-line map; however, the District will add to its website a list of the 154 CSO locations we are able to monitor through remote telemetry. In addition, the District is only aware of CSO events at a portion of all outfalls, i.e., those that are provided with remote telemetry.

Comment 8
Ms. Janet Pellegrini of the USEPA requested that the District post her e-mail address on its website so the public can request a copy of USEPA's response to the District's proposed CSO Public Notification Plan.

Response
The District will post Ms. Pellegrini's e-mail address on the website.
NOTE: Ms. Pellegrini's e-mail address was later removed by her request.

Comment 9
It was requested that a statement be added to the website about water safety and public contact with the water for recreational users.

Response
A link to the Chicago Area Waterways website (http://www.ChicagoAreaWaterways.org) will be added to the District's website for further information about safety and health issues related to CSOs

Comment 10
It was requested that the District include the North Branch Canal as a segment on the website.

Response
The North Branch Canal is included in segment 3, which includes the North Branch of the Chicago River from the confluence with the North Shore Channel to Wolf Point.

Comment 11
An inquiry was made as to how long after a CSO event will the electronic address book be updated. The inquirer was hopeful that this would be within two hours of a CSO event.

Response
The electronic address book is updated every time someone new signs up. It is currently planned that the e-mail notices of CSO discharges will be automatically sent upon input to the website that a CSO has occurred. The on-line map of CSOs will be updated daily by 8:00 a.m.

Additional Notification Methods

Comment 12
It was requested that the District include additional methods for notifying the public of CSO events in addition to e-mail notification and posting information on the website so that those members of the public who do not have access to the Internet can receive the information. Methods suggested included the following:

1. Contact major media outlets, including TV news stations, newspapers and radio.
2. Telephone Hotline (number to be listed on posted CSO signs)
3. Direct mail via water and sewer bills (City of Chicago and impacted municipalities)


Response
E-mail and web notification is the fastest and most efficient means of notifying the public. In addition, the District currently uses and will continue to use a mass-media wire service in the event of river reversals to Lake Michigan. The District will add the e-mail address of the wire service to the CSO e-mail notification list. The wire service forwards District press releases to Chicagoland's major news outlets, including the Chicago Tribune and Excito! newspapers; WBBM-FM, WBBM-AM, and WGN radio stations; and CLTV, CNN, Telemundo, WFLD TV Fox 32, WGN, ABC7, NBC 5, and CBS 2 television stations.

The District does not have the staff to provide continuously updated information on a telephone hotline.
The signs to be installed by the District's 37 permitted CSO outfalls will include the Chicago Area Waterways hotline telephone number, 847-294-4000, as well as the District's Dump hotline, 1-800-332-DUMP, for citizens to report discharges during dry weather.

The District does not distribute water and sewer bills. Those TARP CSO communities which are permitted by the IEPA could implement a program to include information regarding CSOs in their sewer and water bills as a part of their CSO Public Notification Plan.

Comment 13
It was suggested that the District notify all beach management agencies including the Chicago Park District and park districts along the North Shore and not just the drinking water supply agencies in the event of a river reversal to Lake Michigan.

Response
Drinking water supply agencies are not the only agencies notified of a reversal to Lake Michigan. Additional agencies currently notified include Cook County, the USEPA, the IEPA, the Chicago Park District, the National Response Center, the City of Evanston, and the Villages of Glencoe, Kenilworth, Wilmette, and Winnetka.

Comment 14
It was requested that the District inform the beach management agencies in advance of a river reversal.

Response
Despite the use of advanced forecasting technology to manage the flow in the Chicago waterways, the decision to reverse to Lake Michigan is not straightforward and is as unpredictable as the weather. The District does not reverse to Lake Michigan unless absolutely necessary and only as a last resort method to prevent flooding and the resulting property damage. There may not be sufficient time to inform the beach management agencies or the public prior to opening the locks and after the decision is made to open them without resulting in area flooding. In addition, reversals only occur during periods of excessive rainfall when the public typically does not recreate at the beaches.

Comment 15
It was suggested that the text explaining CSOs be included with semi-annual water bills so that all citizens are aware of this issue.

Response
As stated above in the response to Comment 12, the District does not distribute water and sewer bills. Those TARP CSO communities which are permitted by the IEPA could implement a program to include information regarding CSOs in their sewer and water bills as a part of their required public notification plans.

CSO Identification Signs

Comment 16
Concern was expressed that the proposed notification sign was not available at the subject meeting. It was requested that a new plan with the sign attached be resubmitted to the public, and methods investigated for distributing that sign to the public outside of web and e-mail notification. It was requested that the sign not only identify the discharge points but also explain to the public the health risks associated with CSOs.

Response
The proposed sign is enclosed and will be posted on the District's website.

Comment 17
Concern was expressed over where the District intends to post the CSO signs. It was requested that they be posted at affected shoreline areas where those areas are accessible to the public, including all beaches and all marinas up and down the lakefront from Wilmette Yacht Club down to the Jackson Park Yacht Club near 63rd Street, and on the area waterways.

Response
The District can install the signs on District property only; including the 37 permitted outfall points. Other municipalities and jurisdictions will be responsible for installing signs on their respective properties.

Comment 18
Concern was expressed as to how the District would inform the public that the waterways are not safe for recreation not only during and after CSOs but during dry weather due to "the lack of disinfection at these plants".

Response
Signs which prohibit swimming will be posted along the waterways on District property at each public access point to the waterway.

Comment 19
It was requested that signs placed near public use areas explaining to the public what a CSO event is and the associated health hazards. The signs should also update the public in the event of a CSO within 2 hours of the event and the District should keep the signs up for two days after the event.

Response
The signs will be permanently installed. Removing the signs following individual CSO events as implied in the request is not possible.

Additional Comments

Comment 20
In 2002, 97-of-222 beach closings were attributable to lock openings. In 2001, 148-of-220 beach closings were attributable to river reversals.

Response
The District is uncertain as to how this information was derived and disputes the claim that all of the referenced beach closings were attributable to lock openings. Only three reversals were required in 2001 (August 2, August 21, and October 13, 2001) and one reversal was required in 2002 (August 22, 2002). The District has not had to reverse the river since that date.

Comment 21
The question was asked as to "why there can't be some treatment of the waste before released."

Response
Treatment of CSOs is beyond the scope of the public notification plan process. The public can refer to the District's website, http://www.mwrd.org, for more information on CSOs.

Comment 22
Concern was expressed that TARP funding has fallen behind schedule.

Response
Funding is not affecting the completion of the TARP Phase I tunnels, which are scheduled for completion in early 2006. The majority of the funding for the TARP Phase II/Chicagoland Underflow Plan (CUP) reservoirs is to come from the federal government. The District has entered into a project cooperation agreement and committed its share of funding towards the two remaining reservoirs, Furthermore, the District actively appeals to Congress for appropriations for the CUP reservoirs. However, these appropriation decisions are ultimately beyond our control. Additionally, the District has entered a contract for the removal of overburden material at the McCook Reservoir site, and executed agreements for the mining of rock at both the Thornton Composite and McCook Reservoir sites. These overburden and mining contracts were undertaken entirely by the District and have not been impacted by federal funding delays.

Comment 23
It was requested that, in order to help reduce additional loads of storm water and sewage to the river, public notice be given of any new or additional drainage hooked up to the sewer system so that the public can comment on the project.

Response
The District is not notified of every proposed additional sewer and/or outfall connection. These issues should be addressed within the planning processes of the individual communities in which the new connections are to be established. Concerned parties should contact the particular municipalities involved for further information on any public comment or review period. Further, specific proposed outfalls may be subject to permitting (NPDES) procedures for which the IEPA could provide additional information.

If you have any questions, please contact Ms. Susan O'Connell of my staff at 312.751.6550.

    Very Truly Yours,
   
    Thomas K. O'Connor
    Chief of Maintenance & Operations
Enclosures