National Drinking Water Advisory Council Meets

The National Drinking Water Advisory Council (NDWAC) met this week at EPA’s offices in Washington, DC.  The NDWAC provides advice to EPA on a wide variety of drinking water issues and includes two state drinking water program representatives – Jill Jonas of Wisconsin (new NDWAC chair) and Sarah Pillsbury of New Hampshire.  The two day meeting focused on regulatory topics on the first day and harmful algal bloom (HAB) related issues on the second day.

Peter Grevatt, Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water (OGWDW) Director, and Ken Kopocis, Deputy Assistant Administrator, Office of Water, opened the meeting by highlighting some of the priorities for the Office of Water and the EPA Administrator.  Peter also reminded the NDWAC members of their role in providing practical advice to EPA on regulatory and other issues.  Eric Burneson, Director, Standards and Risk Management Division, followed with a review of regulatory activity including details about the preliminary determination to regulate strontium.  States will be able to learn more about this preliminary determination in a public information webinar that EPA expects to hold later in the year.  Eric also covered the special health effects modeling work they are doing in cooperation with the Food and Drug Administration to support setting an MCLG for perchlorate.  This is a major hurdle before the rule development work can be completed for that contaminant.  Another major effort on the horizon is the next Six Year Review of existing regulations which will address the complex and challenging M/DBP rules.

The NDWAC also heard a report from members of the special work group examining the Lead and Copper Rule (LCR).  The work group is reviewing rule elements such as optimal corrosion control treatment, sample site selection, lead sampling protocols, public education and lead service line replacement.  The work group expects to prepare recommendations for long term revisions to the LCR to be shared at the NDWAC’s spring meeting.  During the Q&A time for this topic, one NDWAC member raised concerns about the need to balance adding orthophosphate for corrosion control with the need to reduce the discharge of phosphates from wastewater treatment plants.

EPA asked the NDWAC for advice on compliance flexibility for small and medium water systems (serving <100,000) for the Long Term 2 Enhanced Surface Water Treatment Rule (LT2).  Language calling for an evaluation of options for this flexibility was specifically included in EPA FY14 appropriation language.  EPA reviewed the requirements of the rule, including the criteria for placing systems in bins based on source water Cryptosporidium monitoring results.  Also as part of the discussion, EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA) provided information about their Enforcement Response Policy (ERP) and Enforcement Targeting Tool (ETT).  A single violation of the treatment technique for LT2 would be 5 points, not enough to put a water system in the priority enforcement category (requiring a formal enforcement action within 6 months).  However, other types of violations or a continuing unresolved LT2 violation could put the water system over the limit of 11points. The NDWAC discussed non-enforcement alternatives and interim protection measures that can be implemented until full “tool box” measures can be installed.  Members provided a number of alternatives that EPA can report back to Congress:

  • Implementation of source water protection or other bolstering of the multi barrier approach
  • Encouraging consultation with technical assistance providers to help systems find practical solutions.
  • Leveraging the SRF – more priority points, etc.
  • Additional monitoring or possibly genotypoing of Cryptosporidium to reduce the bin level. (EPA is not sure if this is possible since the rule does not address changing bins.)
  • Targeting vulnerable populations with public education.
  • Moratoria on new connections.

The Council also heard about progress in EPA’s development of a carcinogenic VOC (cVOC) group rule.  EPA has found it challenging to determine the best approach for a group MCL.  There appears to be two primary options – an additive approach that treats each contaminant equally and a more complex risk based approach that gives each contaminant a weight based on relative risk.  There are pros and cons to each approach but the NDWAC appeared to favor the approach that considered risk, although some questioned whether the group MCL was any better than individual MCLs.  EPA will take this additional input and continue to work on a possible group rule for cVOCs.

The NDWAC heard a presentation on Climate Ready Water Utilities including CREAT (Climate Resilience Evaluation and Awareness Tool) and other tools being developed by the Water Security Division.  EPA also shared information on its work with water reuse – both indirect potable reuse and direct potable reuse. EPA has some existing guidance but may need to do more.  They are engaging with other organizations on water reuse projects that will increase the knowledge base on reuse and will be consulting with states on the need for national guidance.

On the second day, members heard from Peter Grevatt and Eric Burneson of EPA’s OGWDW, Lesley D’Anglada of EPA’s Office of Science and Technology (OST), and Tom Wall of EPA’s Office of Wetlands, Oceans, and Watersheds (OWOW) about the Toledo HAB (Harmful Algal Bloom) incident as well as the Agency’s activities aimed at addressing HABs and cyanotoxins in drinking water supplies:

  • Three cyanotoxins (microcystin-LR, cylindrospermopsin, and anatoxin-a) are currently on EPA’s Contaminant Candidate List (CCL). EPA will develop health advisory levels for microcystin-LR and cylindrospermopsin.  These reference doses are expected to be available in December 2014 and the final levels are expected in May 2015.
  • EPA is also working on validating a new method (LCMS MS) for cyanotoxins that is expected to be ready in the next few months. This method could be used for more specific sample analyses where the presence of cyanotoxins has been detected using the ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) screening method.  EPA plans to work with stakeholders to help develop lab capability, expertise, and protocols for using the LCMS MS method, and to help states and utilities with decision-making processes.
  • EPA OWOW is relying on states to develop numeric water quality criteria and nutrient management frameworks, and working with other partners (e.g., USDA) to help address nutrients that can cause HABs in water supplies.

The NDWAC has been tasked by EPA to develop a set of recommendations for the Agency on what more they can do to help the drinking water sector address this growing problem.  A small group of members will draft the recommendations to discuss with the full NDWAC in an open forum during the Spring 2015 Council meeting.