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WWEMA Holds Spring Forum

On April 13-15, 2015, the Water and Wastewater Equipment Manufacturers Association (WWEMA) held it 42nd Washington Forum (attended by ASDWA staff).  Among the topics and speakers of particular interest to state drinking water administrators were the following: 
Congressional/Funding Update: 

  • Claudia Copeland (Congressional Research Service; Resources, Science, and Industry Division) shared insights on what the power change in Congress will mean for appropriations, environmental legislation, and infrastructure financing.  While members on both sides of the aisle are very receptive to water and wastewater infrastructure funding, EPA’s overall budget (and its component parts, such as funding for the SRFs) will be hamstrung by the caps required by the Budget Control Act.  Coupled with those constraints, are the increasingly acrimonious and delayed appropriations process that has characterized the past several years.
  • Michael Deane (Executive Director of the National Association of Water Companies)  offered the investor-owned companies’ perspective on new funding initiatives such as private activity bonds (PABs) and public-private partnerships.  NAWC remains hopeful that Congress will lift the cap on PABs and establish a new program establishing Qualified Public Infrastructure Bonds (QPIBs).
  • Raffael Stein (Director of the Municipal Support Division in EPA’s Office of Wastewater Management) provided an overview of the development and direction of EPA’s new Water Infrastructure and Resiliency Finance Center.  The center is envisioned as a collaborative undertaking – along with other Federal, state, and local partners — with focus areas including community resiliency, stormwater management (especially using green infrastructure solutions), and assistance to small and medium systems.

How Regulations Shape the Business Environment: 

  • Peter Grevatt (Director of EPA’s Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water) discussed new, non-traditional guidance being developed related to issues such as premise plumbing concerns with Legionella and harmful algal blooms.  Soon-to-be-issued guidances on both subjects are expected to include information on effective treatment technologies (a particular interest for WWEMA members).  Grevatt also mentioned some of the challenging trends facing the drinking water community, including a preponderance of small systems with particular needs, aging infrastructure, water scarcity exacerbated by extreme weather, source water contamination challenges, and emerging contaminants of concern.
  • Andrew Sawyers (Director of EPA’s Office of Wastewater Management) shared his Office’s priorities as well as insights into topics such as the status of “Buy American,” stormwater, reuse, green technologies, and traditional municipal wastewater treatment.  He noted that the Buy American requirements were now a permanent fixture of the CWSRF, due to the passage of WRRDA, but were still being addressed in appropriations bills, in the case of the DWSRF.  Integrated planning (in which communities may request phasing of permitting requirements and associated expenditures, based on the most pressing environmental challenges) remains a priority focus area for the office.   Sawyers expressed the hope that the WIFIA and the SRF programs will work in a complementary manner to achieve the best infrastructure financing outcomes.
  • Betsy Southerland (Director of EPA’s Office of Science and Technology) shared the latest updates on a variety of activities and initiatives, including effluent regulations for the power sector (final rule expected in the Fall of 2015), a new overarching water quality standards rule (final rule expected over the next month), and the status of the Waters of the U.S. Rule (final rule expected over the next month).  In addition, an update to the Agency’s human health advisory values for 94 contaminants is expected to be issued this summer.