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NRCS RCPP Project Opportunity for Alternative Funding Arrangements

April 3, 2020      Source Water     

The NRCS has announced that up to $50 million is being made available for up to 15 Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) Alternative Funding Arrangement (AFA) projects for FY 2020. The RCPP leverages funding from project partners for innovative solutions and benefits to on-farm, watershed, and regional natural resource concerns by addressing resource objectives in a State/multistate area or resource concerns within an NRCS-designated critical conservation area (CCA).

The AFA is a pilot program of the RCPP that is more like a grant where funding can go to other entities in addition to landowners, but with additional administrative and technical assistance responsibilities. While the AFA projects share the overarching focus of RCPP, the types of projects that can be implemented through the AFA versus the regular RCPP include those that:

  • Use innovative approaches to leverage the Federal investment in conservation
  • Deploy a pay-for-performance conservation approach
  • Seek large-scale infrastructure investments that generate conservation benefits for agricultural producers and nonindustrial private forest owners.

Interested and eligible applicants are advised to request a meeting with the appropriate NRCS State RCPP coordinator and begin the process to obtain a level 2 eAuthentication permission to be able to access the project submission portal as soon as possible. Applications will be accepted from all 50 States and the territories through May 17, 2020. For more information and to apply, visit the RCPP website, and read the FY 2020 AFA National Funding Announcement.

ASTHO Publishes Comprehensive COVID-19 Risk Communication Guide for Health officials

April 1, 2020      Drinking Water Headlines   ,   

The Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) has developed a field guide entitled, “COVID-19: Simple Answers to Top Questions,” with two doctors from the Center for Risk Communication and a working group of State Health Officials using the science-based, risk communication message mapping development process. Message maps are a tool used to organize complex information into a series of easily understandable messages. The guide uses this process to provide answers to many types of questions about COVID-19 in eight sections that cover the following topics:

  1. Basic questions about COVID-19 symptoms, health impacts for different population groups, and comparisons to other types of viruses.
  2. Travel restriction policies and effectiveness.
  3. Self-protection to prevent infection such as the use and supply of facemasks.
  4. Virus transmission from person to person proximity and contaminated surfaces.
  5. Outbreak such as the source, contagion, and spread of the virus.
  6. Response including vaccine development, medical treatment, and hospital capacity.
  7. Control measures such as prevention, quarantine, and preparation including the role of public health authorities, hospitals and healthcare providers, communities, businesses, and individuals.
  8. Media expectations and reactions.

The guide also includes appendices A – G with links to resources and more information. The nine principles for message mapping are provided in appendix B and start with developing the 3-5 short sentences to convey key messages in no more than nine seconds and 27 words, and then building out additional messages and information to support them. In addition to the extensive set of questions that make up the guide, these principles, along with the media tips and pitfalls in appendix C, and the period table for high concern communication in appendix D, provide a comprehensive set of tools for how to communicate with the public about COVID-19 and other types of crises. Visit ASTHO’s website to download and read the guide.

EPA and States Launch New SDWIS Modernization Board

April 1, 2020      Data Management, SDWIS Prime     

On January 31, 2020, U.S. EPA, the Environmental Council of the States (ECOS), and the Association of State Drinking Water Administrators (ASDWA) initiated the SDWIS Modernization Board (SMB). Formed following a series of discussions over several months, the Board will guide the SDWIS Modernization process, applying the principles of the E-Enterprise Digital Strategy. Benita Best-Wong, EPA Office of Water Deputy Assistant Administrator, and Victoria Phillips, Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection’s Enterprise Information Office Director, will co-chair the Board and ensure integrated participation from both State and EPA drinking water program and enterprise information management leaders. You can view the full Board Membership here.

The first phase of SMB activities will primarily focus on providing input to support an Alternatives Analysis. The high-level scope of the Alternatives Analysis will identify and assess options for a long-term replacement of SDWIS State that supports both Primacy Agency and EPA data management needs – including newly proposed requirements specified in the Lead and Copper Rule Revisions. The Alternatives Analysis is scheduled to be delivered at the end of June, with option selection in July.

The Board will continue to provide regular updates throughout the process.

If you have questions, or require access to ASDWA’s SDWIS User Community, please contact Anthony DeRosa of ASDWA.

The SDWIS Modernization Team

EPA Science Advisory Board Hosts Call Discussing LCRR

April 1, 2020      Drinking Water Headlines     

Earlier this week the Science Advisory Board (SAB) held a call with EPA discussing the Proposed Lead and Copper Rule Revisions. The call included an overview and background of the proposed rule given by Eric Burneson with the Office of Groundwater and Drinking Water, public comment from Earthjustice and the Institute for Policy Integrity at New York University School of Law, and the vote to determine whether the SAB should review the scientific and technical basis of the proposed rule.

Although not unanimous, the SAB ultimately voted to review the proposed rule. Some of the most discussed topics included:

  • Concerns on the additional nutrients added through orthophosphate,
  • Rationale behind the 3% value for the annual lead service line replacement for community water systems serving > 10,000 people                           if the 90th percentile is > 15 ppb,
  • Concerns on the effectiveness of point-of-use  devices,
  • Concerns on communication with the public and community confusion on what levels of lead represent concern.

For the call agenda, presentation slides, and background documents click here.

Water and Wastewater Personnel Considered Essential Workers by EPA & CISA

March 30, 2020      Drinking Water Headlines   ,   

Last week, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler sent a letter to Governors in all 50 states, territories and Washington, D.C. urging them to ensure that drinking water and wastewater employees are considered essential workers by state authorities when enacting mobility and travel restrictions to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Drinking water and wastewater services are critical during this public health crisis. In the letter, Wheeler requests that, “water and wastewater workers, as well as the manufacturers and suppliers who provide vital services and materials to the water sector, are considered essential workers and businesses by state authorities…” The letter was announced in an EPA press release which includes additional information. EPA continues to add new information and resources for water stakeholders to use to support operations during the pandemic. Greening Tinker: Water treatment plant gushing about conservation ...

In addition, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, an agency that operates under the Department of Homeland Security, released a memo on Identification of Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers During COVID-19 Response. The memo provides a list of “Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers” to help state and local officials ensure continuity of functions critical to public health and safety during COVID-19 response. The following functions are listed as essential employees needed to operate and maintain drinking water and wastewater/drainage infrastructure:

  • Operational staff at water authorities
  • Operational staff at community water systems
  • Operational staff at wastewater treatment facilities
  • Workers repairing water and wastewater conveyances and performing required sampling or monitoring
  • Operational staff for water distribution and testing
  • Operational staff at wastewater collection facilities
  • Operational staff and technical support for SCADA Control systems
  • Chemical suppliers for wastewater and personnel protection
  • Workers that maintain digital systems infrastructure supporting water and wastewater operations

The National Governor’s Association has compiled statewide actions Governors have taken to address COVID-19, including which states have instituted business closures.

$2 Trillion COVID-19 Stimulus Package Passes; What’s Next?

March 30, 2020      Drinking Water Headlines   ,   

Last week, President Trump signed a $2 trillion stimulus package that will provide aid to individuals, businesses, and states, among others, in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Highlights of the bill include:

  • $500 billion for loans and assistance to companies and state and local governments, including $29 billion for loans to U.S. airlines and related businesses.
  • $349 billion in low-interest small business loans
  • Payments of $1,200 for individual taxpayers, and $500 per child, for those with incomes below $75,000 for individuals and $150,000 for couples filing jointly. An additional $600 per week for those receiving unemployment benefits.
  • $150 billion for aid to state, local, and tribal governments in COVID-19 response expenditures.

The water sector was conspicuously left out of the third coronavirus economic stimulus bill, leading water industry associations to push hard for the expected fourth coronavirus aid bill to include funding to support the water industry. While water and wastewater services are essential, especially as the nation faces a public health crisis, many water utilities are expecting dramatically lower revenues as large commercial buildings and industrial facilities adapt to low or no water use. Federal assistance is needed to support utility operations and to help low-income customers pay for their services. Several states and water systems have banned or halted water shut-offs due to non-payment during the pandemic in an effort to provide an essential service to all customers, especially with stay-at-home restrictions in place.

A March 23rd letter from 11 water industry associations to U.S. House and Senate Leadership asks for federal funding for all utility providers, regardless of ownership, through existing water infrastructure funding programs such as the State Revolving Funds and WIFIA as well as USDA’s rural development program and the Bureau of Reclamation’s Water Reclamation and Reuse Program.

Another option to address low-income customers’ ability to pay for water service is to expand the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which provides federally funded assistance to manage costs associated with home energy bills.

However, with the House on indefinite recess and the Senate on extended recess until April 20th due to growing concern around coronavirus, it is unclear when future rounds of legislation to address the wide-reaching affects of the pandemic, including support for the water sector, would be passed.

ASDWA’s 2019 Year In Review

March 27, 2020      Drinking Water Headlines     

ASDWA’s 2019 Year in Review is now available for members, partners, and water stakeholders. The Year in Review summarizes ASDWA’s activities throughout 2019, highlighting the development and implementation of ASDWA’s first ever strategic plan, fostering state-to-state communications and information exchange, as well as emphasizing our commitment to strengthening collaboration with Federal, Congressional, and industry partners.

Looking ahead in 2020, ASDWA will continue working to provide members with the tools and resources to face challenges and work together to fulfill each member’s public health protection mission.

EPA Issues Memorandum on Enforcement Discretion During COVID-19 Outbreak

March 27, 2020      Drinking Water Headlines   ,   

On Thursday (3/26), EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA) issued a memorandum – COVID-19 Implications for EPA’s Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. This memo provides some suggestions (not requirements) for potential prioritization of Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) compliance monitoring, while leaving any final decision-making on potential prioritization to the primacy agencies. This memo maintains the historical relationship between states’ SDWA implementation with EPA oversight, as needed.

Drinking water systems are specifically addressed as follows in the memo – “The EPA expects operators of such systems to continue normal operations and maintenance as well as required sampling to ensure the safety of our drinking water supplies. The EPA expects laboratories performing analysis for water systems to continue to provide timely analysis of samples and results.”

“In anticipation of worker shortage and laboratory capacity problems, the EPA considers the following tiers of compliance monitoring to assure the safety of our drinking water supplies and prioritize prevention of acute risks. Of highest priority is monitoring required under National Primary Drinking Water Regulations to protect against microbial pathogens. Additional priorities include nitrate/nitrite and Lead and Copper Rule monitoring followed by contaminants for which the system has been non-compliant. States may wish to adopt similar priorities.”

“EPA strongly encourages public water systems to consult with the state and EPA regional offices without delay if issues arise that prevent the normal delivery of safe drinking water and encourages states to continue to work closely with the EPA on measures to address the potential impacts of COVID-19. The EPA also encourages certified drinking water laboratories to consult with the state and the EPA if issues arise that prevent laboratories from conducting analyses of drinking water contaminants.”

EPA Webinar on Water Treatment Modeling for PFAS and Other Contaminants

March 26, 2020      Drinking Water Headlines     

On Wednesday, April 29th from 2:00-3:00 pm (eastern time), EPA will host a webinar entitled, “Water Treatment Modeling Tools for Removing PFAS and Other Contaminants,” as part of EPA’s Safe and Sustainable Water Resources Research Program series. The webinar will provide information about a new series of carbon adsorption models available from the Michigan Technological University at no cost, and share examples of how these models can be used to help design pilot treatment systems and provide a first-cut prediction of full-scale results. Register for the webinar here.

Upcoming Risk Communication in Environmental Health Webinar

March 26, 2020      Drinking Water Headlines     

The Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) is hosting an upcoming webinar Risk Communication in Environmental Health: Back to Basics. This is the first webinar in a two-part series that will focus on risk communication practices at the state and federal level. Speakers from CDC and Arkansas Department of Health will outline the basics of environmental risk and crisis communication, including considerations for different audiences, message development, and the importance of message timing and credibility, while drawing from practical examples in their own work.

The intended audience for this webinar are environmental health professionals at the local, state, and federal levels interested in familiarizing themselves with basic risk and crisis communication practices.

DATE:                 Tuesday, April 14

TIME:                  3:00 – 4:00 pm (Eastern)

REGISTER:          Click here

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