MADISON, Wis. – The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources will hold a public hearing Dec. 9 starting at 9 a.m. in Wisconsin Dells to receive comments on the proposed multi-discharger phosphorus variance.
The proposed multi-discharger phosphorus variance is designed to provide a new tool for industries and municipalities facing restrictive phosphorus compliance costs. A multi-discharger variance extends the timeline for complying with low-level phosphorus limits. In exchange, point sources commit to step-wise reductions of phosphorus within their effluent while addressing nonpoint sources of phosphorus from farm fields, cities or natural areas.
Wisconsin’s Legislature authorized the concept of the multi-discharger variance in April 2014 through the approval of Act 378. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency also has acknowledged that wastewater permit holders affected by similar technical and economic challenges may be considered for a multi-discharger variance process.
Since passage of the state law, the Department of Administration and DNR have been working to quantify the economic impacts that would occur without flexibility in managing phosphorus. The preliminary conclusion of the analysis is that complying with phosphorus limits causes substantial and widespread social and economic impacts totaling some $6 billion in costs to upgrade municipal and industrial treatment plants.
A hearing on the preliminary economic determination for the multi-discharger variance process was held May 12 in Wausau and comments from that process have been incorporated into the proposed determination and implementation procedures. At the upcoming hearing scheduled for December 9, DNR officials will briefly explain the proposed determination and draft materials for potential submittal to U.S. EPA.
The December hearing will be held at Chula Vista Resort, 2501 River Road, Wisconsin Dells, Wis., 53965.
Documents regarding the proposed variance submittal may be found by visiting DNR.wi.gov and searching “phosphorus statewide variance.”
In addition to comments provided at the hearing, written comments also may be submitted to DNRphosphorus@wisconsin.gov or sent via U.S. mail to Amanda Minks, DNR water resources management specialist, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707-7921. The deadline for submitting comments is Dec.16; written comments carry the same weight as comments provided at the hearing.
The department will consider all comments received before submitting the final variance package to U.S. EPA.