Ecology Extends Comment Period on SMS Changes (USA)

Ecology Extends Comment Period on SMS Changes

The public has two additional weeks to review and comment on draft rule changes to the state’s Sediment Management Standards (SMS) for cleaning up contaminated in-water sediments.

The current public comment period started Aug. 15, 2012, and was slated to end Oct. 15. But the Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) is extending the end date to Oct. 29 in response to requests for more time to comment.

In 1991, Ecology adopted the SMS rule to guide management of sediments. The SMS rule is used to conduct environmental cleanup work, manage the dredging of sediment for navigation and cleanup, and manage sources of contamination to sediment from dischargers.

The proposed changes will clarify requirements for cleanup of contaminated sediment sites to make the cleanup process more effective. They include:

– Clarifying requirements for cleanup of bioaccumulative chemicals that pose risks to human health and the environment. Examples of such chemicals include polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dioxins and mercury.

– Integrating the cleanup requirements in the SMS and Model Toxics Control Act rules. The Model Toxics Control Act is the state’s cleanup law, which stems from a voter-approved citizens initiative in 1988.

– Adopting freshwater standards to protect aquatic life that lives in and on sediments.

The proposed changes do not include a revised fish consumption rate for sediment cleanup projects. Ecology heard a number of concerns about identifying a specific rate, including questions about how it could impact a separate process to update water quality standards.

After reviewing public comments, Ecology decided to clarify current requirements that specify that site-specific cleanups are designed using a “reasonable maximum exposure” standard. This is based on protecting Washingtonians who eat large quantities of fish, which in turn will protect all those who eat fish from Washington waters.

Ecology now is accepting public comments through Oct. 29. Ecology recently held public hearings on the proposed changes in Seattle, Bellingham, Lacey, Spokane Valley, and Richland.


Press Release, October 12, 2012