Sep 25, 2019

Pennsylvania DEP Proposes Stricter Manganese Standards

The agency has proposed stricter manganese standards in the state’s waterways, which impacts drinking water intakes

The agency has proposed stricter manganese standards in the state’s waterways, which impacts drinking water intakes

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced plans to propose new limits on the amount of manganese that can be released into state waterways. The move comes in response to research that demonstrates the potential harm the mineral can have to children’s development. 

According to The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the regulations also will follow a two-year-old law that previously loosened restrictions on manganese discharges by coal mines and other industries in Pennsylvania. The new recommendation would limit manganese in waterways to 0.3 milligrams per liter, or less than one-third the amount allowed before the law was changed two years ago, reported the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

“Act 40 relies on a 1979 standard for water quality protection and increases the amount of manganese in water without evaluating further the human health impacts,” said DEP Press Secretary Elizabether Rementer. “Updating a water quality standard impacts the health of our environmental resources but it also impacts public health and so those factors must be considered.”

DEP reviewed a total of 78 studies regarding manganese in drinking water before recommending a stricter standard. The proposal is expected to mitigate expenses for some drinking water suppliers who found the current standard to water intakes without any added protections would result in the need for costly water treatment plant upgrades.

Furthermore, Pennsylvania American Water “estimated last year that upgrades at its affected plants could cost $40 million to $60 million while annual chemical and monitoring costs could increase by between $700,000 and $1.4 million,” reported The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

However, the coal industry has expressed skepticism regarding DEP’s health advisory analysis. Rachel Gleason, executive director of the Pennsylvania Coal Alliance, said that the agency’s interpretation of a safe level of manganese is below what established research supports. 

While the proposal is still in its early stages, it will be presented to the Environmental Quality Board before the conclusion of 2019 before being opened to a public comment period.

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