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ASDWA and GWPC Submit Joint Comments to EPA on Source Water Protection Measures Reporting

January 18, 2019      Drinking Water Headlines, Source Water     

On January 8th, ASDWA and the Ground Water Protection Council (GWPC) submitted joint comments to EPA’s docket on the “Agency Information Collection Activities; Proposals, Submissions, and Approvals: EPA Strategic Plan Information on Source Water Protection.” The request for comments was originally posted in the Federal Register Notice on November 9, 2018. This new information collection request (ICR) proposes to change the reporting frequency for the voluntary source water protection (SWP) measures in EPA’s 2018-2022 Strategic Plan from annual to quarterly reporting, which is consistent with the Agency’s efforts to streamline and increase the reporting frequency on all the Strategic Plan measures in EPA’s Draft FY 2020-2021 National Water Program (NWP) Guidance to monthly and quarterly reporting.

The ASDWA and GWPC comments to EPA on the Strategic Plan source water protection measures were developed jointly with input from the associations’ Source Water Protection Committees. The comments highlight that it is essential for EPA to continue including these measures in the Strategic Plan and NWP Guidance to help ensure the importance of SWP for states and EPA, and to track progress on implementation actions. However, the comments recommend that EPA retain the annual reporting requirement rather than changing to quarterly reporting for the two SWP measures. The comments also include information about:  the burden of increased reporting on SWP outweighing the benefits; the difficulty in demonstrating progress and calculating changes for quarterly reporting due to the more than one year time frame for developing local SWP plans; the inability to accurately estimate the burden for all states because of the broad variability in state tracking and reporting processes; the need for state workplans to be renegotiated; and more.


Shutdown Day 28

January 18, 2019      Drinking Water Headlines     

Today (1/18) marks Day 28 of the partial federal government shutdown and while 18 and 28 provide some numerical symmetry, it’s challenging to find anything positive to say about the situation between Congress and the President. The mood “Inside-the-Beltway” is shifting from resigned and frustrated to dark and worried – very worried. The latest kerfluffle between the President and Speaker Pelosi over the State of the Union address and her overseas trip hasn’t accomplished anything other than further entrenching their respective positions.

Congress has canceled the Martin Luther King Jr. recess, but it’s not clear that anything will happen next week. The next shutdown update on Friday, 1/25, may read pretty similar to today’s update.

The impacts are starting to build beyond much lighter traffic in Washington, D.C. The Washington Metro system has estimated a revenue drop of $400,000/day from a smaller number of commuters. And impacts are building beyond D.C. Some airports have seen long security lines and cities such as Ogden, Utah, with a major IRS center, are seeing increasing economic impacts.

Impacts to drinking water are starting to accumulate. Besides nobody at EPA to call with questions, nobody really knows how long the “restart” will take and how long some regulations such as perchlorate and the Long-Term Revisions to the Lead and Copper Rule (LT-LCR) that were scheduled to be proposed in 2019 will be further delayed (noting that perchlorate has a court deadline of April 30, 2019, for the proposal that has already been extended once). Two drinking water meetings in early February, one on the Area Wide Optimization Program (AWOP) in Michigan and another on SDWIS Prime, are in jeopardy of being canceled soon.


New Training Module for Building Water Management Plans

January 18, 2019      Drinking Water Headlines, Regulatory     

Our colleagues in the National Center for Environmental Health just released a new online training: Preventing Legionnaires’ Disease: A Training on Legionella Water Management Programs.  This new training, which takes about three hours to complete:

  • Outlines how to reduce risk for Legionella in facilities through water management programs
  • Helps water management programs align with ASHRAE 188 on reducing risk for Legionella in building water systems (e.g., potable water, cooling towers, hot tubs, decorative water features)
  • Is free and available online, and continuing education units are available from the National Environmental Health Association (NEHA)

The training addresses how to manage building water systems and devices and is for a range of professionals involved in water management programs, including:

  • Public health professionals, including infection preventionists
  • Building managers, maintenance/engineering staff, and safety officers
  • Equipment and water treatment suppliers as well as consultants

It should also help state drinking water programs dealing with Legionella implementation become better informed about the water management plan process.

CDC has developed quite a few tools around preventing and responding to Legionnaires’ disease. Visit their Legionella website to access all these materials.


New Study Published on Nitrate and Environmental Justice

January 18, 2019      Drinking Water Headlines     

Researchers from the Silent Spring Institute recently published a study analyzing socioeconomic impacts from nitrate in U.S. drinking water. The study compiled nitrate data from 39,466 community water systems from 2010-2014 and linked this data with both city- and county-level demographic data from the Census Bureau.

The study found that the percent of Hispanic residents served by each system was significantly associated with nitrate even after accounting for county-level cropland and production data. Using 5 mg/L nitrate as the benchmark (noting that the EPA standard is 10 mg/L), community water systems in the top quartile of Hispanic residents exceeded 5 mg.L nearly three times as often as community water systems serving the lowest quartile.

Nitrate has been a compliance problem for many community water systems since EPA established the nitrate standard in 1991. It’s a complicated problem to solve due to the multiple parties (community water systems, farmers, state departments of agriculture, etc.) that need to collaborate to find solutions. The 2018 Farm Bill has expanded funds for source water protection, now it remains to be seen how effective this additional funding is in reducing nitrate levels in agricultural areas.


ASTHO Releases New Drinking Water Preparedness Report

January 18, 2019      Drinking Water Headlines     

The Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) recently published a new report on the state of water preparedness. This report is based on the results from a 2018 survey of state and territorial directors of public health preparedness and environmental health. The intent of the survey was to learn more about their protocols, tools, and resources for drinking water preparedness, as well as identifying gaps.

Good news – the survey found that almost three-quarters (73.8%) of the responding jurisdictions include drinking water emergencies in their public health preparedness/all-hazards preparedness plans. Imagine a major metropolitan area with a loss of water service to a major hospital and the disruptions that would ensue. The challenge now is to increase that percentage, as well as increasing the coordination between public health, environmental health, and emergency management agencies, and the drinking water systems. The data in this report shows the complexities of water preparedness and identifies both areas of strength, as well as areas that need improvement in a timely manner.


ABC Innovation in Certification Conference Highlights Water Operator Challenges and Opportunities

January 17, 2019      Drinking Water Headlines, Operator Certification, Small Systems     

The Association of Boards of Certification (ABC) held its 2019 Innovation in Certification conference last week in Savannah, Georgia and ASDWA staff attended. Conference participants included representatives from state and Canadian water boards and drinking water operator certification programs, training and technical assistance organizations, testing service providers, and more. The three day conference included presentations and interactive discussions on a variety of water operator certification topics. Some highlights included:

  • Welcoming remarks by Paul Bishop, ABC President and CEO, who opened the conference with a challenge for the audience to collectively, “…Create the guiding voice to change the future of the water workforce.”
  • A presentation and discussion about operator credential portability that shared challenges with state reciprocity due to legislative requirements and considered minimum standards that could be applicable across state lines, but also highlighted successes with state MOUs and sharing operators and resources during natural resource disasters where state Water and Wastewater Agency Response Networks (WARNs) were brought in from other states to provide mutual aid.
  • A panel discussion on workforce issues that shared a variety of programs around the country aimed at targeting potential water operators for jobs, training, and apprenticeships such as the NRWA WaterPro Apprenticeship Program with the Department of Labor and USDA; the AWWA Veteran’s Workforce Initiative; Florida Gateway College’s efforts to train high schoolers and get prisoners back in the workforce; and WaterTALENT’s efforts to engage experienced operators after retirement.

Other topics at the conference included challenges with getting courses (including online courses) approved for CEU’s in different states that have different requirements; targeted actions for achieving higher test passing rates and for ensuring exam security; considerations for water operator training on water loss; and options for tech tools to track operator certifications, exam scores, and explore training opportunities. Visit the ABC website for more information about ABC and the conference.


Senate Hearing On Andrew Wheeler to be Permanent EPA Administrator

January 16, 2019      Drinking Water Headlines, Legislative     

Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler testified today before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee as the Senate begins considering whether he should be confirmed as the permanent administrator as President Trump has requested.  Once a few protestors were cleared from the room, the Committee got down to business, asking questions of Mr. Wheeler and frequently expressing their own views on matters they felt were significant.  The current government shutdown was often mentioned by Democrats, with some wondering why the nominee for Administrator was before the Committee when most of the Agency’s employees were on furlough, with some even called back to help the Acting Administrator prepare his testimony.   Climate change and related issues like the rollbacks for the Clean Power Plan and CAFE standards were a major point of contention for the Democrats on the Committee.  Wheeler did express more concern about climate change than is normally attributed to the President, but maintained that EPA’s proposals followed the law and in some cases were even better than the previous rules at controlling CO2.  He pointed to EPA’s emphasis on adaption to sea level rise rather than any specific actions on CO2 reduction.  For Republicans, Mr. Wheeler’s qualifications were of prime importance. They cited his 20 years service, first as an EPA career employee, and then as staff director for their Committee.  They also allowed him to state that his often maligned time as a coal company lobbyist was to work on miner health and pension issues.

While these issues dominated the conversation, some issues related to drinking water were raised. Wheeler, in his opening remarks, checked off many EPA accomplishments, including work on PFAS with the National Leadership Summitt and listening sessions, as well as the pending action plan (coming “soon”). He also mentioned EPA’s lead activities such as the Lead Action Plan, the upcoming revisions to the Lead and Copper Rule, and SRF use for lead service line replacement.  Under questioning about PFAS activities, Mr. Wheeler revealed that the action plan for PFAS was originally expected to be released next week but will be delayed by the shutdown.  Because it is still being reviewed, he declined to share specifics or commit to establishing an MCL for PFAS within 2 years.  The Acting Administrator did say the plan would take a multimedia approach and address PFAS under a number of statutes.  Some of the questioning related to EPA’s enforcement record.  Mr. Wheeler proposed that enforcement case numbers were not the best measure of success and that compliance assurance was often a better approach – one that EPA is stressing.  In a response to Senator Cardin (D-MD), Mr. Wheeler agreed to stand up the new grant program for lead service line replacement as soon as possible.  Both the Senator and the Acting Administrator commented on the need for more funding to fully implement all the new requirements in America’s Water Infrastructure Act (AWIA).

No vote was taken today.  Written questions from the Committee members can still be submitted until the end of the week with a response expected by January 25.  In early February, it is expected that the committee, and eventually the full Senate, will confirm Mr. Wheeler, with voting mostly along party lines.  With the shutdown currently blocking almost everything on the Hill, the final confirmation timeline is uncertain.

A recording of the hearing and Wheeler’s opening statement are available here.


Shutdown Day 21

January 11, 2019      Drinking Water Headlines     

Friday, January 11, marks Day 21 of the partial federal government shutdown. This ties the record set in December 1995 for the longest funding gap in the modern era of federal budgets. Today (1/11) also marks the day that some 800,000 federal workers will miss their first paycheck. Assuming a deal isn’t reached today (which isn’t very likely), Saturday, January 12 will set a new record. Every day the shutdown continues beyond January 12 will continue to set a new record.

News from “Inside-the-Beltway” is coming out fast and furiously, and the latest reports predict that the President will declare a national emergency soon to get the funding that he wants to build the border wall. Such a declaration will likely set off a flurry of legal actions that will unfold soon after that.

The shutdown is starting to impact EPA and drinking water. A meeting of the Local Government Advisory Committee that had been scheduled for January 10-11 didn’t happen, and it’s unclear whether additional drinking water meetings scheduled for early February will go forward as planned. It’s hard to predict when the federal government will return to normal operations, as it will take a few weeks for EPA and other agencies to transition back once funding is restored – and nobody knows when the funding restoration will occur.


House Creates New Climate Panel

January 10, 2019      Drinking Water Headlines     

During the Democrats first day as the majority party in the House of Representatives, they passed a rules package that creates a new Select Committee on the Climate Crisis.  As a select Committee, members will not have the authority to create legislation but may explore and research potential solutions to global warming and climate change.  They will serve as a resource and make recommendations to both the Energy & Commerce and Natural Resources Committees that have jurisdiction over climate-related issues.  House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has named Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL) to serve as chair.  Other members have not been named as yet.


Register for Two Webinars on Lead Service Line Replacement

January 9, 2019      Drinking Water Headlines     

The Lead Service Line Replacement Collaborative has just announced two new webinars in their series on issues surrounding lead service line replacement.  The first will be about flushing programs on February 6 and the second covers communication on lead service lines and mapping on March 13.  Details about the webinars, including registration links, are shown below.

 

REGISTER NOW FOR:

Lead Service Line Replacement Collaborative: Lead Service Lines Get Flushed

Register: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/lead-service-line-replacement-collaborative-lead-service-lines-get-flushed-registration-54419141116

When: Wednesday, February 6, 2019 | 3:00 – 4:00 PM ET

What: Lead enters drinking water when water is stagnant in contact with lead.  Flushing, to cleanse or wash out with a rush of water, plays a role in reducing lead exposure, before, as part of, and following lead service line replacement.  The webinar speakers will describe the roles of flushing, strategies for flushing for specific purposes, and example community-specific communication efforts to encourage effective flushing.  Research is ongoing to improve our understanding of flushing practices.  This webinar will capture the latest information from these research efforts.

Speakers:

  • Amanda Reddy, Executive Director, National Center for Healthy Housing (moderator)
  • Lynn Thorp, Campaigns Director, Clean Water Action
  • David Cornwell, President, Cornwell Engineering Group

Mapping LSLs: Charting a Path to Engage a Community

Register: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/mapping-lead-service-lines-charting-a-path-to-engage-a-community-registration-54599432372

When: Wednesday, March 13, 2019 | 3:00 – 4:00 PM ET

What: Communities and states are increasingly turning to interactive maps to complement their lead service line communications by showing what is known about specific addresses or about specific community water systems. This webinar will explore how they are developing these maps, wrestling with the uncertainties, and striving to ensure they are effective communication tools. We will have presentations from states and mid-sized communities who have recently posted online maps to share their experience and provide an overview of options and the latest research.

Moderator:   

  • Stephanie Schlea, Manager, Regulatory and Scientific Affairs, Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies

You can find recordings of past webinars and explore the Collaborative’s extensive online tools through this link: http://www.lslr-collaborative.org/.


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