Senate Passes America’s Water Infrastructure Act

Today, by a vote of 99-1 (Sen. Mike Lee, R-UT, was the lone dissenting vote), the Senate approved America’s Water Infrastructure Act (S 3021).  The bill now moves to the President’s desk for signature.

Although this measure has traditionally funded Corps of Engineers water resource development projects, there are quite a few provisions that directly affect state primacy agencies as they implement the Safe Drinking Water Act Amendments of 1996.  Once this bill becomes law, look for the following…

Funding:  Chief among the provisions is the PWSS program funding authorization at $125 million for FYs 20 and 21.  If appropriated by Congress at a later date, this would be an increase from the current appropriations of $101.9 million. Following closely on this good news is an authorization for the DWSRF at $1.174 billion (FY 19), $1.3 billion (FY 20), and $1.95 billion (FY 21).  Other funding authorizations include $25M each fiscal year 2020-21 to support continued voluntary lead testing in schools and childcare facilities and an additional $5M each year for FYs 19-21 to replace school water fountains manufactured before 1988.  The source water petition program is funded at $5M for each FY 20-21; WIFIA is reauthorized at $50M for FYs 20-21; and there’s a new water infrastructure and workforce competitive grant program authorized at $1M for FYs 19-20.

Disadvantaged/Small Systems:  Numerous provisions apply for underserved or disadvantaged communities.  Among them are options for states to require consolidation assessments for PWS with repeat violations; that fail to return to compliance; or are unwilling to work toward a return to compliance.  A new consolidation incentive allows contractual agreements for significant management/administrative functions as a means to correct violations identified in the plan.  States may also extend DWSRF repayment periods to 40 years for disadvantaged communities.  However, DWSRF funds used to support disadvantaged communities are capped at 35% with a 6% minimum.  There is also a provision that allows EPA to issue grants to requesting states on behalf of underserved communities for activities related to a present or likely to be present contaminant that has the potential to present an imminent and substantial endangerment to health.

Rule & Reporting Requirements:  New provisions allow electronic distribution for Consumer Confidence Reports but call for community systems serving populations greater than 10,000 to publish CCRs twice a year.  Further, corrosion control is added to the compliance information list as is the identification of corrective action for lead exceedances during a monitoring period.  Separately, provisions add a new requirement for UCMR monitoring by systems in the 3300-10,000 population range as long as there is sufficient lab capacity for analysis.  EPA must develop a strategic plan to improve compliance data monitoring and a separate report on Federal cross-cutters.  The bill also extends American Iron & Steel provisions through FY 2023.

Risk & Resilience:  While most of these provisions more directly affect water utilities, at least two connect with state primacy agencies.  The first amends the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA) to require that state emergency response commissions promptly notify applicable state agencies (such as drinking water programs) of any release that requires notice; provide Tier II information; and provide a written follow up emergency notice.  Receiving state agencies, in turn, forward the notice and other information to any CWS with affected source waters.  The second allows DWSRF use by any system with a Stafford Act declaration after 1/1/17 that has provided disaster assistance or is capable of extending service into an underserved area (defined as fewer than 50,000).  Authorizes $100M for EPA to provide additional capitalization grants to eligible states for 24 months.

While the above is not an exhaustive list of drinking water provisions included in S 3021, they do represent most of the principal highlights.  To review the bill, please click here. Although this is the House version of the bill, no amendments or corrections were made to the Senate bill prior to today’s passage.