1999 OMSAP Workshop Introduction

Arleen O’Donnell (MADEP)

Welcome everyone to the 1999 Outfall Monitoring Science Advisory Panel (OMSAP) Technical Workshop. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the OMSAP, which has been in existence for one year, for doing an excellent job. I have a tremendous amount of respect for the members of OMSAP and the work that they do. I would also like to thank Cathy Coniaris who has been staffing this effort.

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MADEP) and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) wanted to remain as uninvolved as possible in the selection of the Panelists to make sure that the OMSAP was objective, neutral, and peer-nominated. Dr. Jerry Schubel (New England Aquarium) organized a nominating committee which selected applicants that best represented the environmental interests involved with the outfall permit. Since its inception, the OMSAP has been operating independently. This entire process is an example by which others can learn from.

To date, the OMSAP has successfully dealt with policy issues related to outfall monitoring which require scientific expertise. I was struck by how well OMSAP dealt with concerns regarding the lobster fishery and the outfall and how they have begun discussing the food web model scope of work permit requirement. Rather than having the stereotypical scientific research perspective, i.e. "we need more information on this, this is a great research project, let’s study it more", the Panel has suggested very practical applications to these problems. We appreciate that the Panel consists of in-depth scientists with a practical sense about decision-making. By looking at the NPDES outfall permit for MWRA, it is clear that MADEP and EPA are going to be relying heavily on OMSAP for advice. We will be engaging in a lot of dialogue over the next few years so that we may obtain the full benefit of their input on a number of very important matters.

I would also like to mention that though the panelists are covering for all of the disciplines listed in the OMSAP charter, there are five vacancies in specialized areas – fisheries, modeling, phytoplankton, zooplankton, and benthic biology. If anyone is interested, please contact the OMSAP chair Dr. Andy Solow. Thank you for the opportunity to welcome everyone to this workshop. I hope that this will be a very informative information exchange over the next two days.

Ron Manfredonia (EPA)

On behalf of EPA, I would like to thank everyone for attending this technical workshop. I look forward to hearing the discussions on the science of the Massachusetts Bays ecosystem. I encourage the presenters to think about some of the common themes we heard when developing the MWRA permit. They include: the potential impacts of the outfall to nearshore waters and endangered species; the request for a "food web model"; and monitoring using an "ecosystem" perspective. One thing that we need to develop is a managed process by which we analyze the data and make judgements once the outfall goes on-line. If possible, I would like to ask the presenters to talk about their data in light of the caution and warning levels that have been developed. To what extent have the baseline data already exceeded caution or warning levels for the ambient conditions? I predict that, at some point after the outfall goes on-line, we will see some caution or warning level exceeded. How are we going to manage the information in order to able to make unemotional, informed decisions, based on science? Again, thank you all very much for attending and I look forward to hearing the discussions.

Andy Solow, (OMSAP chair/WHOI)

The OMSAP was formed one year ago to advise the EPA and MADEP on scientific and technical matters related to the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority’s Boston outfall and any potential impacts of the discharge on its receiving waters. Its predecessor, the Outfall Monitoring Task Force, had a similar charge and worked successfully for about 10 years.

Currently there are nine members on the Panel including myself: Dr. Robert Beardsley (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution), Dr. Norb Jaworski (retired), Dr. Robert Kenney (University of Rhode Island), Dr. Scott Nixon (URI), Dr. Judy Pederson (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), Dr. William Robinson (University of Massachusetts Boston), Dr. Michael Shiaris (UMB), and Dr. James Shine (Harvard School of Public Health).

There are two subcommittees that advise OMSAP. The first is called the Public Interest Advisory Committee (PIAC) [chaired by Gillian Grossman from Save the Harbor/Save the Bay as of October 1999] and its members consist of a representatives from a number of groups [Bays Legal Fund, Center for Coastal Studies, Massachusetts Audubon, Conservation Law Foundation, Cape Cod Commission, New England Aquarium, MWRA Advisory Board, Safer Waters in Massachusetts, Save the Harbor/Save the Bay, The Boston Harbor Association, Stop the Outfall Pipe, Association for the Preservation of Cape Cod, Wastewater Advisory Committee]. The second is called the Inter-Agency Advisory Committee (IAAC) chaired by Sal Testaverde (NMFS). [Member agencies: EPA, MADEP, MA Coastal Zone Management, MA Division of Marine Fisheries, United States Geological Survey, US Army Corps of Engineers, Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, and National Marine Fisheries Service].

The OMSAP charter states that: "The OMSAP shall convene a public forum at least once a year to present findings, to explain their significance and to hear and respond to concerns from the public." The goals of this workshop are to:

  1. Review and discuss baseline monitoring and what it has added to our understanding of the Massachusetts Bays system.
  2. Provide a forum for discussing the potential or predicted effects of the new outfall on the Massachusetts Bays system.

There will be some time for questions at the end of each presentation and there will be discussion periods at the end of each day. With that, I would like to introduce the first session.

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