COMMENTS ON THE TEXAS NATURAL RESOURCES CONSERVATION COMMISSION

2002 TEXAS WATER QUALITY ASSESSMENT

 

Patrick Rocques, TNRCC

Office of Compliance and Enforcement

MC 150 P.O. Box 113087

Austin, Texas 78711-3087

 

Subject: Comments on Draft 305(b), 2002 Water Quality Assessment

Dear Mr. Rocques;

Introduction – This document provides comments on the draft 305(b),2002 document that we hope will receive consideration of those responsible for protecting water quality within the state. The Texas Association of Bass Clubs (TABC),Texas Black Bass Unlimited (TBBU). Sensible Management of Aquatic Resources (SMART) and the Piney Woods Chapter of the Sierra Club have endorsed these comments. The comments are critical of the draft under review and specific issues are identified herein and in enclosed reference material.

Rayburn & Fork Aquatic Vegetation & Fish Kills - Please consider the enclosed document titled Rayburn & Fork Aquatic Vegetation & Fish Kills in your preparation of the 305(b), 2002 assessment. The enclosure identifies significant measured concentrations of metals in both sediment and water columns that should be considered in the assessment. TNRCC water chemistry measurements, water chemistry analysis reports prepared for the City of Lufkin, U.S.G.S. measurements of pollutants in both sediments and water columns, EPA Toxic Release Inventory Records, and EPA records of ambient toxicity tests are referenced in the enclosed document and should be considered.

Comments on Application for Permit Amendment – Permit 00368 – Please consider my prior correspondence with the subject Comment on Donohue Industries, Inc. Application for Permit Amendment dated June 18, 2001. The correspondence provides a brief history of recent problems in the Rayburn fishery and excerpts from other agency documents that are relevant to water issues in East Texas.

TNRCC Protocol Requirements – If TNRCC determines that USGS water quality assessment protocol and or quality control measures are not adequate to provide reliable data that are referenced in the enclosure we request that TNRCC provide specific critique identifying the faults found in your written responses. If TNRCC determines that protocol and or quality control measures used in the City of Lufkin water quality assessment are not adequate to provide reliable data we request that TNRCC provide specific critique identifying the faults found in your written responses to comments.

Paper Mill Creek Classification - Paper Mill Creek in Angelina County serves as an open conduit for toxic waste water discharged by the Lufkin paper mill that passes through privately owned property and National Forest property. This fact is easily substantiated by review of Ambient Toxicity Test records and USGS topographical maps. These maps indicate that a major portion of Paper Mill creek is perennial. Moreover; Tom Creek, a tributary to Paper Mill Creek, is also classified as a perennial stream on U.S. Geodetic maps. Assuming that these maps are accurate, the classification of Paper Mill Creek as an intermediate stream is improper. Pages 13 through 16 of your Guidance for Assessing Texas Surface and Finished Drinking Water Quality Data, 2002 supports this conclusion.

More over, use of the National Forest Field Guide for the Identification of Ephemeral, intermittent and Perennial Streams clearly establishes that Paper Mill Creek is a Perennial well before it joins the Angelina River. Tom Creek is joined by Little Creek and two other Order 1 streams prior to joining Paper Mill Creek. Therefore Tom Creek is an Order II Stream prior to joining Paper Mill Creek as per the National Forest Field Guide. Consequently Paper Mill Creek must be classified as an Order IV stream. According to the Field Guide primary criteria, Order IV streams are classified as perennial.

The TNRCC classification of Paper Mill Creek as an Intermediate Stream, and the less restrictive permit limits that are a consequence of the classification, are unwarranted, according to assessments by the USGS and the assessment methods defined by the National Forest Field Guide. Please provide specific reference to the data that supports the TNRCC classification of Paper Mill Creek and Tom Creek, a tributary to Paper Mill Creek, in your "response to comments".

Regardless of the classification method or the assessment method it seems obvious that TNRCC should not allow effluent that produces acute or chronic toxic effects to flow through privately owned property or National Forest property.

305(b), 2002 Synopsis - A synopsis of portions of the draft 305(b), 2002 follows.

SEGMENT 0615 – ANGELINA RIVER / SAM RAYBURN RESERVOIR - 3.5 Miles above Marion’s Ferry to 1.71 miles above confluence with Paper Mill Creek

Data used in this assessment was collected in the period from 03/01/96 to 02/28/01

Note that this indicates that data which was considered in prior assessments has been excluded from the current assessment draft.

Downstream of Paper Mill Creek aquatic life use is impaired. TNRCC has listed aquatic life use as "Partially Supporting" because of acute concentrations of copper, "Not Supporting" because of chronic lead concentrations, "Not Supporting because of "impaired fish community", and finally, "Partially Supporting fish consumption use" because of mercury in fish tissue both below and above Paper Mill Creek . No other impairments were identified for this segment above Paper Mill Creek.

Downstream of Paper Mill Creek TNRCC has listed concerns for aquatic life use because of "depressed dissolved oxygen, ammonia, nitrate-nitrite nitrogen, orthophosphorus, total phosphorus, color, and impaired habitat". Upstream of Paper Mill Creek concerns were ‘nitrate-nitrite nitrogen" and "color".

Twenty –six "dissolved oxygen grab average" measurements were made below Paper Mill Creek and 11 were below approved standards. Eighteen "dissolved oxygen grab average" " measurements were made above Paper Mill Creek and 1 was below approved standards.

Note: The following is excerpted from an editorial in the July 26, 2000 Lufkin Daily news that parroted the much publicized paper mill propaganda. "Water Quality studies paid for by then-owners Donohue by outside sources convinced the TNRCC that the chemical level in the water did not impact the "actual ability of fish and other aquatic life to live eat and reproduce". The above TNRCC data certainly belies the editorial and the paper mill propaganda. The data referenced above also makes it extremely difficult to believe that TNRCC’s prior support of the Use Attainability Analysis submitted by the Paper Mill was objective and based on Sound Science as claimed.

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SEGMENT 0610 – RAYBURN RESERVOIR

The Current 305 document contains the following statement pertaining to segment 0610 Sam Rayburn Reservoir.

"Assessment Summary: The aquatic life, contact recreation, public water supply and general uses are fully supported." (Underscore added for emphasis)

The 305(b), 1996 document identifies many of the same problems currently identified in the 305(b), 2002 draft document.

In the 305(b), 2002 draft document 0610 segment list, the impairments associated with both Aluminum and Dissolved Oxygen are said to be based on "limited data", even though these problems have been documented and known to exist for many years. This fact is readily substantiated by referring to two documents. They are; 1999 Report of Sam Rayburn Task Force (FCTS-2000-002) and Intensive Survey of Angelina River Segment 061, Texas Department of Water Resources by Jack R. Davis 1985. We believe Mr. Davis is currently employed by TNRCC and is intimately familiar with the history of problems in the water shed as evident in the reference. The reference authored by Mr. Davis in 1985 says; "Water quality was poor in the headwaters of Segment 0610,with depressed dissolved oxygen concentrations at stations L-O (1.9 – 2.8 mg/l), which was attributed to low assimilative capacity in combination with excessive BOD5 loading from Paper Mill Creek.

In the more detailed table defining measurement locations, numbers of measurements, etc. for this segment, all measurement assessments were given one of the following status designations. No Concern, Not Assessed, No Concern – limited data, Fully Supported, with only one exception. There was a "Use Concern" status assigned to the Upper Attoyac Bayou arm because of Dissolved Oxygen measurements.

In the Contact Use (swimming / water skiing) appraisal there were 9 sampling stations that were not assessed (no samples collected). There were 10 sampling stations at which no "geometric mean" measurements were made. All stations were listed as being Fully Supported, or, No Concern- Limited Data.

In the "Sediment Contaminants" appraisal Bear Creek, Upper Angelina arm , Lower Angelina Arm, Lower Attoyac Bayou Arm, Main Pool by Dam, Mid-Angelina Arm, Upper Ayish Bayou Arm, etc., were found to have Arsenic concentrations expected to affect the Macro-Invertebrate (critters that live in the mud) Community. TNRCC uses the acronym PEL for "probable effect level" to flag such concentrations. Nickel in Upper and Mid-Angelina arms, and Selenium in Bear Creek arm were also at levels expected to affect the Macro-Invertebrate Community. In addition; Barium. Lead, Manganese, Nickel, Selenium, and Zinc concentrations were unusually elevated (85th percentile) in sediment at various locations over the water shed even though the number of measurements were very sparse; e.g. 2 to 5 measurements over a five year span. Arsenic and many other of these sediment contaminants are found in poultry manure and litter. While there may be "nothing in our chickens but chicken", enormous quantities of most of the elements listed above are excreted and transported into water bodies in East Texas via run off. All the data discussed in this paragraph were labeled as "Not Assessed". We request that TNRCC responses explain why these sediment contaminant data and similar data documented in the readily available 1996 305(b) document were not considered in the current assessment.

Excerpts from the preceding 305(b), 1996 assessment publicized in ANRA documents follows. "Contact recreation and public water supply uses are supported; however the aquatic life use is not supported in several areas. These areas include 5,102 acres at the upper end of the Angelina arm downstream of Paper Mill Creek. The aquatic life use is partially supported in five other areas due to depressed dissolved oxygen concentrations. In three acres at the extreme upper end of the Angelina arm upstream of Paper Mill Creek because of sub-optimal fish community characteristics. The aquatic life use is partially supported in 5,120 acres in the middle portion of the Angelina arm near SH 103 because dissolved aluminum concentrations exceed the aquatic life criterion at 25% frequency". Underscores have been added for emphasis. The 303(d), 2000 Impaired Waters List also identifies the same problems described in the ANRA document and the prior 305(b) document.

The State of Texas Water Quality Inventory, 1996 - Please refer to page 358 of The State of Texas water Quality Inventory 96. The following is an excerpt of the 0610 Segment Summary therein. " Depressed oxygen levels and elevated fecal coliform densities occur in the upper portion of the reservoir and contribute to nonsupport of the high aquatic life and contact recreation uses, respectively. The low dissolved oxygen levels are caused by organic pollutants contributed by Paper Mill Creek. Ortho and total phosphorus levels are elevated in the upper portion of the reservoir. The elevated nutrient levels do not appear to affect dissolved oxygen or chlorophyll a but they have the potential cause increased algal growth. Arsenic, manganese, mercury, and zinc levels in sediment are elevated."

Discussion - 305(b)96 versus 305(b) 2002 and 303(d), 2000 - Comparison of the draft 305(b), 2002 assessment to the above ANRA documents and the 303(d), 2000 document illustrates rather remarkable differences.

Assuming that the following quote from the new 305(b),2002 document is an accurate assessment, there are no longer any problems on Sam Rayburn needing attention. It reads; "Assessment Summary: The aquatic life, contact recreation, public water supply and general uses are fully supported". It’s magic without a wand! No doubt the differences in these assessments is a direct result of the use of the 2002 Guidance document in lieu of the 2000 Guidance document. It is certain that the apparent improvement in water quality is not real.

SEGMENT 0611 – ANGELINA RIVER (above Rayburn)

The only Impairment listed for the Angelina River segment is for contact recreation use because of elevated bacteria levels. The "concerned list" includes Aquatic life use for almost the entire segment because of concentrations of cadmium (acute & chronic concentrations), copper (acute & chronic concentrations), silver (acute concentrations), and lead (acute & chronic concentrations), in water. Fish consumption use is listed as a concern because of lead in water and general use is of concern because of low pH. The Public Water Supply Use is listed as fully supported according to this TNRCC assessment.


TNRCC Guidance Document, 2002 - The number of samples TNRCC requires to assign impairment status is dependent upon the use of the "Binomial Method" described in the TNRCC Guidance for Assessing Texas Surface and Finished Drinking Water Quality Data 2002, pages 6 through 11. Application of the "Binomial Method" and statistical processes used in analysis of random processes is appropriate for data sets or data "populations" whose variables are truly random such as describing expected results in a series of coin flips. We do not believe that water and sediment sampling and analysis results should be treated as if they are random variables. They are not random variables.

The guidance document is short on logic. The Guidance document does not even consider the magnitude or severity of standard violations. In some cases the designation of Non-Support status will now actually require a 100% increase in the number of times a standard is exceeded (relative to the 2000 Guidance) before TNRCC will assign a Not Supported status to a segment.

TNRCC should rely heavily on indicators that serve to illustrate an integrated effect, such as aquatic community assessment, fish tissue assessment, etc. Data contained in the six years of studies prepared for the Lufkin Paper Mill that were intended to determine the magnitude of Dioxins accumulating in fish tissue should also be considered. The six years of Dioxin accumulation studies are indicators of the integrated effect of Dioxin discharges. The grossly underestimated 1998 and 1999 fish kills on Sam Rayburn, the

Epistylus found in significant numbers in the Rayburn fish community that is documented by a TPWD study, the deformed appearance of that were caught this past fall are examples of "integrators" that should not be ignored. Others have offered testimony of additional fish kills on the upper reaches of Rayburn that have occurred sons 99. TNRCC has photos of Epistylus infested fish and also at least one photo f a large carp with it’s tail fin rotted off that was elctrofished by TNRCC personnel from the Angelina River below Paper Mill Creek. We believe that these Biotic indicators are far more important to assessment of water quality than th4e statistical estimates of probable error called for in the 2002 Guidance document and should receive the utmost consideration.

With reference to the preceding comments on the Guidance Document, consider the following analogies.

Assume an aircraft inspector inspects 100 aircraft in which each has three critical motor mount bolts. He discovers that one of these bolts has broken in five separate aircraft. An FAA statistician may analyze the data from these inspection reports and come to a conclusion that the bolt failures were not statistically significant. The pilots and passengers know otherwise.

If you watch an old western movie you will see an image with horses and stage-coach moving forward across the ground but the stage-coach wheels appear to be rotating backward. The image that we see is "aliasing" at work in the time domain. The image we see misrepresents what is actually happening because the camera did not acquire images at a fast enough rate to accurately characterize the motion of the wheel. The fix is simple and is accomplished by sampling (acquiring images) at a higher rate. Increasing the number or total quantity of samples (picture frames) acquired is of absolutely no benefit. No matter how many samples we acquire, we will see no improvement in characterization of the motion or image we see until the sample rate is increased. If we rely on the Bi-Nomial method, as in the TNRCC guidance document, it indicates we can gain confidence or decrease probability of error by simply taking more samples. The fact is; no matter how many samples are acquired the characterization or image will not improved. Conversely, a few samples taken at the proper rate will accurately characterize the phenomenon being studied, e.g., motion of the wheel.

In the last election the statisticians supporting the Democrats came to court with a statistical analyses that proved Al Gore would win if a proper recount was conducted. Conversely, the statisticians supporting the Republicans performed an analysis that came to just the opposite conclusion. Neither were lying. Each analysis had merits and was defensible. The use of the TNRCC Guidance for Assessment . . . 2002 document invites similar litigation.

Conclusions - Based on comparison of the 305(b), 1996 and 305(b), 2002 and 303 (d), 2000 documentation, problems that have been identified well over six years ago are still not receiving attention. Consideration of the data used in the prior 305(b) assessments would reduce the number (quantity) of Limited Data and Not Assessed listings found in the 305(b) document under review. In fact, no valid data should be excluded from consideration. Comparison of the conditions described in the 1985 report authored by Mr. Davis to current conditions makes it even more evident that TNRCC has not been able to remedy water quality problems. The new Guidance document will exacerbate this situation and allow the continued pollution of waters that should be cleaned up while creating an illusion that water quality is being improved and protected. The appraisal scenario TNRCC has used to rate impairment status in the draft 305(b) document has resulted in general deferral of impairment ratings that should be slated for remedial action. Identification of pollution problems is avoided with the simple statement "Limited Data" and support of the statement with probability statistics and an assumption that water chemistry data is a population of random variables. The ultimate consequence will be negative impact on human health and aquatic life that can be associated with polluted water.

Thank you for the opportunity to review and comment on the draft 305(b), 2000 assessment.

 

 

Texas Black Bass Unlimited

Texas Association of Bass Clubs

Sensible Management of Aquatic Resources

Sierra Club – Piney Woods Chapter

 

Cc: G. Cooke

Enclosures: (1) Rayburn & Fork Aquatic Vegetation & Fish Kills

(2) Comment on Application for Amendment – Permit 00368