December 7, 2021
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – Region 1
5 Post Office Square, Suite 100 (06-4)
Boston MA 02109-3912
MassDEP Surface Water Discharge Program, Bureau of Water Resources
1 Winter St., 5th Floor
Boston, MA 02108
|Submitted via email: Chien.Nathan@epa.gov||Submitted via email: firstname.lastname@example.org|
Subject: Chang Farms Inc. Draft 2021 NPDES Permit
Permit Number: MA0040207
Dear Mr. Chien and Ms. Vakalopoulos,
I am submitting comments on the revised draft National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit for Chang Farms, Inc., on behalf of the Connecticut River Conservancy (CRC), formerly the Connecticut River Watershed Council. Chang Farms discharges into the Connecticut River, and we have commented on previous renewals of this permit. In 2016, we signed a consent decree with Chang Farms as a result of a lawsuit CRC filed in response to repeated violations of their NPDES permits. We are pleased that the facility has been mostly in compliance with permit limits since then. Our comments on the draft permit follow.
Unreported stormwater inputs. CRC is concerned about the previously unreported stormwater inputs described on page 13 of the Fact Sheet. CRC is glad that EPA has specifically called these out in the draft permit as not being allowed. It’s disappointing that this issue was not identified in the renewal application.
- coli monitoring frequency. Chang Farms requested a reduction in the frequency of E. coli monitoring from weekly to monthly. EPA has granted that reduction for reasons outlined in the Fact Sheet at Section 5.1.6. CRC concurs with this rationale, especially since there is no known pathogenic source of the bacteria in the sprout growing process.
Total Phosphorus monitoring frequency. Monitoring of total phosphorus (TP) has been reduced in frequency from monthly to once annual testing. CRC recommends quarterly testing instead of once annual testing, for reasons outlined below.
As shown in Appendix B of the Fact Sheet, monthly results for TP in the effluent at the facility vary greatly, from essentially zero to 0.59 mg/L. Section 3.2 on page 13 of the Fact Sheet also explains two sources of stormwater connected to the treatment system that previously had not been reported. It is possible that the previous TP concentrations had been affected by stormwater inputs into the system. In addition, the Fact Sheet on page 12 says that phosphorus fertilizer is added to the sprout irrigation water. Understanding TN and TP inputs from point sources is important to track long term nutrient loading trends in the Connecticut River watershed, especially when there are invasive plant species growing in the mainstem Connecticut River and its coves downstream in Holyoke and Agawam, and in the state of Connecticut. Long Island Sound is also impaired for nitrogen.
The Fact Sheet at Section 220.127.116.11 explains EPA’s rationale for allowing annual testing, with a reasonable potential analysis in Appendix C. CRC has never thought the Gold Book value of 0.1 mg/L was completely appropriate for the Connecticut River, which is a series of hydroelectric dam impoundments. In addition, the data EPA used for determining the ambient TP levels in the CT River are more than 13 years old. CRC is under the impression that DEP has conducted more recent sampling in the mainstem. CRC has conducted several years of “Samplepalooza” which is a one-day snapshot of nutrient levels in several dozen locations around the watershed. Our sampling locations in Northfield near the VT/NH/MA border, and Thompsonville, near the MA/CT border indicates significant TP and TN contributions within MA, and ambient levels through the MA section of the river may exceed the 0.015 mg/L median value EPA used from the 2008 data. Please see a graph below of our mainstem results from several years, simply as a reference (in the key, where it says Over Criteria, that is referring to the Ecoregion TP criteria, not the Gold Book criteria, which was used for evaluation purposes only).
TN loading requirement. CRC concurs with the rationale EPA has presented in Section 18.104.22.168 of the Fact Sheet for maintaining the current total nitrogen loading limit.
PFAS testing requirements (MA permit). CRC supports quarterly testing of the effluent for PFAS compounds in the MassDEP permit, at least for the first year of the permit. It is important to understand PFAS inputs to river systems.
CRC appreciates the opportunity to provide comments on the draft permit. I can be reached at email@example.com or (413) 772-2020 x.205.
Andrea F. Donlon
ATTACHMENT: see graph on next page