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Several Members of New EPA Leadership Team Sworn In

January 22, 2021      Drinking Water Headlines     

On Wednesday (1/20), several members of the Biden-Harris Administration’s EPA leadership were sworn in. EPA’s press release details the positions and the backgrounds of each member of this team. Radhika Fox, the former CEO of the US Water Alliance, was sworn in as Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Office of Water and her biography from the press release is below.

Radhika Fox has more than 20 years of experience in developing, policies, programs and issue-based advocacy campaigns on the most salient water issues facing the nation including climate change, affordability and innovative finance, water infrastructure investment, equity, and the evolution of the One Water movement. Previously, Radhika directed policy and government affairs for the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, which is responsible for providing 24/7 water, wastewater, and municipal power services to millions of Bay Area residents.  She also served as the Federal Policy Director at PolicyLink, where she coordinated the organization’s policy agenda on a wide range of issues, including infrastructure investment, transportation, sustainable communities, economic inclusion, and workforce development.  Radhika has a M.A. in City and Regional Planning from the University of California, Berkeley, and a B.A. in Religion and Philosophy from Columbia University.


EPA’s Recent Regulatory Actions Now Face a Slightly Uncertain Future Schedule

January 22, 2021      Drinking Water Headlines     

Three recent regulatory actions from EPA (Final Lead and Copper Rule Revisions [LCRR], proposed Fifth Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule [UCMR5] and final regulatory determinations for PFOA, PFOS, and other Fourth Contaminant Candidate List [CCL4] contaminants) are now all in flux. Based on the new Executive Order “Regulatory Freeze Pending Review”, all three of these regulatory actions will be reviewed and assessed, and what that really means as far as effective dates, timing, and potential revisions are all up in the air.

The final LCRR falls under paragraph #3 of this Executive Order. As far as the path forward for the final LCRR, EPA has been directed in this Executive Order to consider moving the effective date 60 days and to consider opening up a 30-day public comment period. Another possibility would be a more thorough review (such a review would likely require additional extensions to the effective date), comparable to the review of the arsenic rule in 2001 and all that can be said at this point is that a similar set of panels for the LCRR is a possibility, as well as some revisions to the final LCRR through a Supplemental Proposed Rule (not sure what new data has become available to make this a likely option) and/or some unforeseen regulatory path all being possibilities.

The proposed UCMR5 and the final regulatory determinations fall under paragraph #2 (that also goes back to paragraph #1) of this Executive Order, in that both notices were signed by the former EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler but not published in the Federal Register. Recent Biden-Harris Administration appointees to EPA will have to review and approve these two regulatory actions before publication. Linking approval to Federal Register publication also opens the door for potential revisions to these two regulatory actions. Going back to Greek philosophy, Heraclitus made the assertion that “Life is Flux”, and the water sector will certainly be seeing lots of changes for the balance of 2021 and beyond.


EPA Final Regulatory Determinations for PFOA, PFOS, and Other CCL4 Contaminants Issued but Now Pending Review

January 21, 2021      Drinking Water Headlines     

This week, EPA announced its final determinations to regulate perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) in drinking water, two of the contaminants on the fourth Contaminant Candidate List (CCL4). However, the Biden administration has now issued a new Executive Order “Regulatory Freeze Pending Review” that will delay and ultimately could change the regulatory determinations and other information provided in the Pre-publication Notice, along with many other recent EPA PFAS actions. This notice, as it currently stands, also includes EPA’s:

  • Determination not to regulate six other CCL4 contaminants (i.e., 1,1-dichloroethane, acetochlor, methyl bromide (bromomethane), metolachlor, nitrobenzene, and RDX).
  • Decision to continue the evaluation of 1,4-dioxane without making a preliminary regulatory determination as it reviews the new TSCA risk evaluation for 1,4-dioxane and considers the upcoming Canadian guideline technical document.
  • Clarification that it is continuing with its previous 2016 decision to delay a final determination for strontium as it further considers additional studies related to exposure.

For PFOA and PFOS, the next step after the regulatory determination is to initiate the process to develop a National Primary Drinking Water Regulation (NPDWR) for which the pre-publication states that EPA will seek recommendations from the EPA Science Advisory Board, continue further review of new science, collect and review additional state and other occurrence information, and consider public comment. Under the SDWA regulatory development process, EPA has 24 months after publication in the Federal Register to propose a regulation for PFOA and PFOS, but that timeline could be upended by the Biden Administration review. The pre-publication notice also provides more information about EPA’s determinations, responses to public comments, and plans to fast track the evaluation of additional PFAS for future drinking water regulatory determinations if necessary information and data become available. Stay tuned for more information as we await the Biden Administration review.


Proposed UCMR 5 Signed

January 20, 2021      Drinking Water Headlines     

On January 14th, the proposed fifth Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR 5) was signed, which would require sample collection for 30 chemical contaminants between 2023 and 2025 using analytical methods developed by EPA and consensus organizations. All community and non-transient non community water systems serving 3,300 or more people, and a representative sample of smaller water systems, will conduct monitoring for the priority contaminants between 2022-2026.

The proposed UCMR 5 specifies assessment monitoring for 30 contaminants (29 PFAS and lithium). For more general information and the specific PFAS proposed for monitoring, access EPA’s draft factsheet here.

The total average national cost, which will fall upon systems and state regulatory agencies, is estimated at $21 million per year over the five-year effective period of the rule (2022-2026). EPA’s cost estimates utilized ASDWA’s previous 2013 State Resource Model.

EPA plans to hold two virtual stakeholder meetings during the public comment period. Topics will include the proposed UCMR 5 monitoring requirements, analyte selection and rationale, analytical methods, the laboratory approval process, and ground water representative monitoring plans (GWRMPs). Stay tuned for additional details on these webinars (dates and times), which will also be posted here.

Additional information that expands upon the details above, including EPA’s evaluation of contaminants not selected for UCMR 5 (Legionella pneumophila; four haloacetonitriles (dichloroacetonitrile, dibromoacetonitrile, trichloroacetonitrile, and bromochloroacetonitrile); 1,2,3-trichloropropane; and “total organic fluorine” (TOF)), can be found in the pre-publication here.

 

 


Final LCRR Published in the Federal Register

January 15, 2021      Drinking Water Headlines     

The final Lead and Copper Rule Revisions (LCRR) were published in Friday’s (1/15) Federal Register. This rule represents the culmination of a significant amount of work by a broad range of stakeholders to revise the existing 1991 Lead and Copper Rule (LCR). EPA staff deserves credit for getting the LCRR to the finish line.

Today, the real work for LCRR implementation begins. There will be several simultaneous moving parts with LCRR implementation, starting with service line inventories and lead service line (LSL) replacements plans (noting that there are many other critical parts within the LCRR). While there are only nine required data elements for the inventories in the LCRR regulatory language, how to handle unknowns and how much analysis of existing information by the water system is needed for a credible initial inventories are just two of the “gray areas” within the LCRR. ASDWA has developed two white papers on inventories that are a starting point for figuring out some of the inventory issues, but a lot more work by a broad range of stakeholders is needed for the final LCRR to work well across the country.


Upcoming EPA Asset Management and Workforce Webinars

January 15, 2021      Drinking Water Headlines     

EPA is hosting two upcoming webinars in late January: Asset Management 101 and DWSRF and Workforce Development.

Asset Management 101

This webinar will include a comprehensive guide to the core components of an asset management framework, as well as best practices. Attendees will also learn about New Hampshire’s program to encourage asset management implementation. Prior to the webinar, attendees can familiarize themselves with EPA’s overview of asset management for water and wastewater utilities here.

Date:        Thursday, January 21

Time:       2:00-3:00pm (Eastern)

Register:  Click here

DWSRF and Workforce Development

This webinar will give an overview of the goals and activities included in the America’s Water Sector Workforce Initiative and the current eligibilities of the DWSRF set asides to address drinking water challenges through workforce development. The webinar will include presenters from New Jersey and Tennessee to share how they use their set asides for workforce activities.

Date:        Wednesday, January 27

Time:       3:00-4:00pm (Eastern)

Register:  Click here

 


Michigan’s Ex-Governor Charged in Flint Water Case

January 14, 2021      Drinking Water Headlines     

Yesterday, former Michigan Governor, Rick Snyder, was charged with two counts of willful neglect of duty after a criminal investigation into lead contamination in Flint, Michigan’s drinking water and a fatal outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease. Both charges are misdemeanors; if convicted, Snyder could be sentenced up to a year in jail and fined $1,000 per charge. The charges are historic, as no sitting or former governor in Michigan has been charged with crimes related to their time in that office before, per the Associated Press. The criminal investigation has lasted five years, and all together, it is estimated to cost the state more than $1 billion, including a separate case and settlement of $600 million settlement with residents over the water crisis. File:Michigan state capitol.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

Snyder served as governor from 2011 to 2019 and appointed a manager to run Flint in 2014 after years of municipal financial struggle. The manager decided to switch the Flint water source from water purchased from Detroit to the Flint River. The corrosive river water was not properly treated and caused wide-scale lead release from lead service lines and plumbing. An investigation also found the improperly treated water to be the cause of at least 90 cases of Legionnaires’ disease, resulting in12 deaths.

Flint has returned to using Detroit-supplied water and the federal government also has provided more than $100 million to Flint to replace lead service lines. More than 9,700 lead and galvanized steel service lines have been replaced, and it is estimated fewer than 500 service lines were left to be checked for lead as of early December.


55 Water Projects Invited to Apply for EPA WIFIA Funds

January 12, 2021      Drinking Water Headlines     

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that 55 new projects in 20 states are invited to apply for $5 billion in Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) loans, which will be leveraged to finance over $12 billion in water infrastructure projects.

See the source imageLast year, EPA received 67 letters of interest in response to the 2020 WIFIA Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA), 55 of which were selected to submit applications for loans. Three prospective borrowers have been placed on a waitlist.  Five of these projects are from states that have not had an entity selected for a WIFIA loan in the past, including Alabama, Iowa, Ohio, Texas, and West Virginia. Seven borrowers who have received a WIFIA loan in previous cycles or are in the process of closing a WIFIA loan have been invited to apply for additional financing. EPA announced last November that California, Iowa, and Rhode Island were invited to apply for a total of $695 million in loans through EPA’s new state infrastructure financing authority WIFIA program (SWIFIA).

More information and a full list of the 55 invited projects and entities is available here: EPA Invites 55 New Projects to Apply for WIFIA Loans to Improve Water Quality | U.S. EPA News Releases | US EPA


EPA Rolls Out Multiple PFAS Actions

January 12, 2021      Drinking Water Headlines, Source Water     

EPA has rolled out multiple PFAS actions in the last month for Clean Water Act (CWA) effluent guidelines; CERCLA (Superfund) hazardous substances designations for PFOA and PFOS; PFAS contamination from fluorinated pesticide containers; PFBS human health toxicity values; and PFOA and PFOS regulatory determinations. Following is more information about EPA’s PFAS effluent guideline actions, CERCLA designations, and fluorinated container contamination, along with links to more information about EPA’s proposals submitted to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) that are awaiting review.

EPA’s recent CWA actions are included in the newly published, “Final Effluent Guidelines Program Plan 14,” with the upcoming advance notice of proposed rulemaking to solicit additional information or data about PFAS manufacturers and formulators.

  • Plan 14 finalizes the preliminary plan published in October 2019 as part of EPA’s biennial planning requirements for new and revised effluent limitations guidelines to control wastewater discharges after public review and comment. While Plan 14 provides additional information about other point source categories, the areas focused on PFAS include initial analyses from the PFAS Multi-Industry Study. This study reviewed information about where industrial sources are most likely to discharge PFAS into the environment and which PFAS compounds are currently in use. The scope of the study covers the following point source categories: organic chemicals, plastics, synthetic fibers, pulp and paper, textiles, metal finishing, and airports.
  • For the upcoming advance notice of proposed rulemaking, EPA will solicit additional information or data about PFAS manufacturers and formulators for the Organic Chemicals, Plastics, and Synthetic Fibers point source category to potentially incorporate national Effluent Limitation Guidelines and Standards (ELGs) for PFAS into National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits or other control mechanisms for dischargers.

For more information, visit EPA’s Effluent Guidelines website

EPA’s designation of PFOA and PFOS as CERCLA hazardous substances was submitted to OMB on January 8. CERCLA allows for regulations of hazardous substances that may present a substantial danger to public health or welfare or the environment. This PFOA and PFOS designation would require reporting of releases to state and local authorities that meet or exceed the reportable quantity of one pound in a 24-hour period. This would enable federal, state, tribal and local authorities to collect information regarding the location and extent of PFOA and PFOS releases and determine discretionary response actions (such as litigation against responsible parties to pay for cleanup costs) based on site-specific circumstances. For more information, visit the OMB web page here.

The recent press release from EPA provides information about PFAS leaching from fluorinated high-density polyethylene (HDPE) containers into a mosquito control pesticide product the containers are used to store and transport. EPA coordinated with Massachusetts and the pesticide manufacturer to determine the problem and is undertaking an investigation and assessment of the potential impacts on public health and the environment. The pesticide manufacturer has voluntarily stopped shipping products in the containers and is conducting additional testing. EPA has also issued a request for information from the company that fluorinates the containers under the Toxics Substance Control Act (TSCA). For more information, visit the EPA web page here.

EPA’s PFAS proposals submitted to OMB are listed on the OMB website here and more information is available as follows:


EPA Releases Annual Environmental Justice Report

January 12, 2021      Drinking Water Headlines     

On Monday (1/11), EPA released its Annual Environmental Justice Report for FY2020. According to the Agency’s press release, this report highlights the Agency’s progress in advancing environmental justice for minority, low-income, tribal, and indigenous communities across the U.S.

Environmental justice is likely to be a major issue for the Biden-Harris Administration’s nominee for EPA Administrator, Michael Regan. In his past work as head of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, he pursued cleanups of industrial toxins and helped the low-income and minority communities hit hardest by pollution. Some of his biggest accomplishments included negotiating settlements for cleanup of the Cape Fear River from contamination by per- and polyfluoroaklyl substances (PFAS) and for cleanup of coal ash sites.


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