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EPA Announces Industrial Control Systems (ICS) Cybersecurity Initiative for Water Sector

January 27, 2022      Drinking Water Headlines, Security     

This morning, EPA, in partnership with the National Security Council (NSC), the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), and the Water Sector Coordinating Council and Water Government Coordinating Council (WSCC/GCC) announced a new cybersecurity Action Plan explicitly focused on improving the cybersecurity of Industrial Control Systems (ICS). The Industrial Control Systems Cyber Security Initiative – Water and Wastewater Sector Action Plan is the latest in a series of progressive steps the Biden Administration has taken to shore up cybersecurity measures in critical infrastructure sectors, per a 2020 National Security Memorandum on Improving Cybersecurity for Critical Infrastructure Control Systems.

The Water and Wastewater Sector Action Plan focuses on promoting and supporting the water sector’s adoption of strategies for the early detection of cyber-threats and allows for the rapid sharing of cyber-threat data across the government to expedite analysis and action.

Actions include:

  • Establishing a task force of water sector leaders.
  • Implementing pilot projects to demonstrate and accelerate the adoption of incident monitoring.
  • Improving information sharing and data analysis.
  • Providing technical support to water systems.

The elephant in the room is the voluntary nature of these efforts, as EPA currently lacks the legal authority to impose cybersecurity measures on water systems. Still, EPA and its federal partners intend to work with the water sector to encourage, incentivize, and assist in the rapid deployment of ICS cybersecurity monitoring technologies. While the initial water sector pilots will focus on larger systems, the Agency hopes this Action Plan will lay the foundation for supporting enhanced ICS cybersecurity across systems of all sizes, ensuring improved cyber-preparedness.

The White House this morning released the following Fact Sheet with additional information:
Fact Sheet: Biden-Harris Administration Expands Public-Private Cybersecurity Partnership to Water Sector | The White House

ASDWA will update this post with additional information as it becomes available.


EPA Webinar on Advancing Water Equity on February 15th

January 27, 2022      Drinking Water Headlines     

On February 15th, from 2:00-3:30 PM EST, EPA will host a webinar on “DWSRF and Capacity Buidling in Action: Advancing Water Equity”. The DWSRF provides loans and principal forgiveness for all sizes of comunities and water systems. Some communities across the country face the challenge of aging or inadequate drinking water infrastructure. Many marginalized and underserved communities have difficulties in overcoming financial and managerial challenges to access DWSRF funding.

This webinar will focus on how States could use their DWSRF set-asides for activities that identify and prioritize water infrastructure and capacity building projects for underserved communities. This webinar will also provide details about States’ efforts to build capacity and advance water equity. Registration for the webinar can be completed on EPA’s Drinking Water Training webpage.


EPA Announces the Addition of Four PFAS to the Toxics Release Inventory

January 24, 2022      Drinking Water Headlines     

On January 24, EPA announced the addition of four per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) to the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI). The TRI, under section 313 of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act, is a resource for obtaining information related to chemicals such as annual releases, quantities of these releases, waste management, and pollution prevention activities. The data is reported by nearly 22,000 industrial and federal facilities.

The Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) identifies certain regulatory activities that automatically add PFAS to the TRI. EPA’s finalization of a toxicity value is one of the triggering actions. EPA finalized toxicity values for both perfluorobutane sulfonic acid (PFBS) and potassium perfluorobutane sulfonate and subsequently added both substances to the TRI.

Additionally, the NDAA required PFAS that are regulated by an existing significant new use rule under the Toxic Substances Control Act to be added to the TRI. The Agency has identified an additional PFAS that meets this criterion and has added it to the list. Finally, EPA excluded one known PFAS from the initial TRI update due to a confidential business information (CBI) claim related to its identity. After review by EPA, as required under the NDAA, this PFAS was declassified as CBI and therefore was added to the inventory.

 

 


EPA Making Progress on BIL Implementation

January 21, 2022      Drinking Water Headlines     

It’s been a little over two months since President Biden signed the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) and EPA is making progress on BIL implementation. EPA intends to have the BIL Guidance out by the end of February. There will likely be more version of this guidance and/or additional guidances throughout 2022. One of EPA’s primacy outreach efforts for guidance development has been through its State-EPA Workgroup, through a series of meetings the past two months. Additionally, EPA has started reaching out to heads of state agencies for additioanl outreach discussions with Radhika Fox, EPA Assistant Administrator for Water.


Environmental Groups File Lawsuit Against EPA for PFAS TRI Reporting Exemptions

January 21, 2022      Drinking Water Headlines, Source Water     

On January 20, Earthjustice represented the Sierra Club, the National PFAS Contamination Coalition, and the Union of Concerned Scientists in a lawsuit filed against EPA that challenges the Agency’s two final rules for the, “Addition of Certain PFAS; Community Right-to-Know Toxic Chemical Release (PFAS TRI) Reporting.” Per the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA)EPA has continued to add PFAS to the TRI under Section 313 of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA). However, the lawsuit alleges that EPA adopted the TRI PFAS rules in a manner that allows polluting facilities to use the de minimis concentration and alternate threshold exemptions, “in violation of the 2020 NDAA and EPCRA,” and “without providing the public with notice and opportunity for comment.” The lawsuit cites that these exemptions reduce the amount of important PFAS data and information that polluters must report for low concentrations of PFAS in chemical mixtures and at certain thresholds – that is essential for understanding the amount of specific PFAS being released and where it has the potential to impact water, the environment, and exposed communities.

For reference, ASDWA worked with the Association of Clean Water Administrators (ACWA), and the Environmental Council of the States (ECOS) to submit joint PFAS TRI comments to EPA on February 3, 2020. Our joint comments recommended that, “the NDAA reporting threshold of 100 lbs for the PFAS TRI is too high and not appropriate,” to capture important data from permitted discharges or accidental releases that, “can rapidly accumulate to unacceptable levels in waterbodies…potentially affecting public drinking water supplies, fish tissue intended for human consumption, aquatic life, and soils.”

For more information, read the Earthjustice article, and view the lawsuit.


ASDWA Provides States’ Perspective at US Conference of Mayors’ Winter Meeting

January 19, 2022      Drinking Water Headlines     

On Wednesday, 1/19, ASDWA’s Executive Director, Alan Roberson, was on a panel, “Federal Financial Assistance Program Funding in the IIJA,” at the US Conference of Mayors Winter Meeting, along with Bruno Pigott, EPA Deputy Assistant Administrator for Water, and Julia Anastasio, ACWA’s Executive Director. The meeting started off with a mayors’ roundtable, each telling a short story about the water issues in their cities, ranging from failing storm sewers to combined sewer overflows to water reuse to salt water intrusion from sea level rise. From the drinking water perspective, the IIJA funding over the next five years is larger than the combined total of the 25 years of capitalization grants for the Drinking Water State Revolving Loand Fund (DWSRF). Replacing lead service lines is the one of the Administration’s priorities with this funding, and lead service line inventories are the first step (and not a simple step) in replacing these lines. The mayors asked questions about timely access to the funds and what steps are necessary to get their infrastructure projects on states’ Intended Use Plans (IUPs).

PFAS problems were also discussed, as just about every states has at least one problematic site. Cybersecurity in the water sector was also discussed, as hacks and attacks on water and wastewater systems are increasing. The cybersecurity issue is complex issue and does not have a clear solution.


USDA RCPP Applications and Webinar for Projects that Can Protect Drinking Water Sources

January 14, 2022      Drinking Water Headlines, Source Water, Webinars     

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced up to $225 million in available funding for Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) projects. RCPP is a partner-driven program that leverages collective resources to find solutions to address natural resource challenges on agricultural land that can be aimed at protecting drinking water sources.

RCPP Classic funding projects are implemented using NRCS contracts and easements with producers, landowners and communities, in collaboration with project partners. RCPP Alternative Funding Arrangements (AFA) partners have more flexibility in working directly with agricultural producers to support the development of new conservation structures and approaches that would not otherwise be available under RCPP Classic. Funding is open to agriculture and silviculture associations, non-government organizations, Indian tribes, state and local governments, conservation districts and universities, among others. View the funding opportunity on grants.gov for RCPP Classic and RCPP AFA. Project proposals are due by April 13, 2022.

January 20th Webinar: From 3:00 – 4:30 pm (eastern time), USDA will share general program information for RCPP applicants. Visit the RCPP website for information on how to participate.

For more information, view the press release


EPA Holds First Virtual Meeting of the Science Advisory Board to Discuss CCL 5

January 14, 2022      Drinking Water Headlines, Regulatory     

On January 11, EPA held the first of a series of three virtual meetings of the Science Advisory Board’s (SAB) Drinking Water Committee (DWC) to discuss the draft Drinking Water Contaminant Candidate List 5 (CCL 5) and three associated support documents. This first meeting consisted of a briefing from EPA staff on the CCL process and the Agency’s work to develop CCL 5, a discussion of the charge questions, and public comments. The remaining two meetings, to be held on February 16 and 18, will focus on the DWC’s review of the CCL 5 supporting documents. The agenda and materials for all three meetings can be found on the Agency’s SAB page.


RCAP Webinar on Effective Utility Management for Small Systems

January 13, 2022      Drinking Water Headlines, DWSRF, Webinars     

On Thursday, February 3rd from 2:00 – 3:00 pm (eastern time), the Rural Community Assistance Program (RCAP), with funding from EPA, will host a webinar on Effective Utility Management. The webinar is entitled, “Increasing Your Utility’s Chances to Access Infrastructure Funding through Effective Utility Management.” Right now and in the near future, small utilities will have access to unprecedented levels of infrastructure funding. This webinar will describe how small systems can utilize the principles of Effective Utility Management to increase their chances of accessing this funding through improved operations, planning, and finances. The material in this webinar should be helpful for state drinking water programs and individuals who operate, manage, or own drinking water systems. Register for the webinar here.


EPA Webinar on Advancing Water Equity

January 13, 2022      Capacity Development, Drinking Water Headlines, Webinars     

On Tuesday, February 15th from 2:00 – 3:30 pm (eastern time), EPA will host a webinar on Advancing Water Equity as part of its DWSRF and Capacity Building in Action series. The webinar will feature state presenters and will focus on how states can use their DWSRF set-asides for activities that identify and prioritize water infrastructure and capacity building projects for underserved communities. For more information and to register, view the webinar flyer. For information about drinking water capacity and other upcoming webinars, visit www.epa.gov/dwcapacity.


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