ARCHIVE SITE - Last updated Jan. 19, 2017. Please visit www.NACWA.org for the latest NACWA information.
The Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative (GLSLI), a coalition of 116 U.S. and Canadian mayors committed to protecting and restoring the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River, weighed in strongly late last week on a key Senate proposal affecting the Great Lakes. The GLSLI letter to Congressional appropriators stated their opposition to a legislative provision sponsored by Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) that would require communities throughout the Great Lakes to eliminate sewer overflows, even those in compliance with the 1994 Combined Sewer Overflow Policy. In its letter, the GLSLI argues that the legislative proposal is counterproductive to efforts underway in the Great Lakes to improve water quality – and that its goals are unrealistic.
NACWA also met with Sen. Kirk’s office staff this week to reinforce the Association’s opposition to the legislation. Association CEO, Adam Krantz, delivered a formal request for a meeting between Sen. Kirk and leaders of NACWA Member Agencies from the Great Lakes region. The letter highlights the significant importance of this issue to NACWA and offers to work with the Senator on other, more appropriate, approaches to address Great Lakes water quality issues.
NACWA met with a Government Accountability Office (GAO) audit team on Thursday to provide input into an upcoming GAO report on water and wastewater financing and affordability. The Subcommittee on Environment & Economy of the House Committee on Energy & Commerce asked GAO to review the challenges that areas of declining population face in financing and maintaining drinking water and wastewater infrastructure. GAO is investigating what these communities look like, what strategies they are using to cope, and what programs at the federal, state and local levels (including community assistance programs like lifeline rates and payment plans) are available to provide support. At this point in their research, GAO is working to increase their awareness and understanding of the issue and NACWA provided an overview of its extensive work on utility financing and affordability. GAO plans to feature a number of community case studies and will interview utility managers as a part of the report. The final report is expected in the next 10 months to a year. The Association will be providing GAO information from its 2014 Financial Survey and offered to meet with the team as their work continues.
NACWA hosted a conference call this week with representatives of 15 state and regional clean water organizations to receive an update from EPA on the status of nutrient controls around the country. Association staff briefed attendees on key national advocacy priorities, including the Great Lakes Water Protection Act and Phase II MS4 municipal separate storm sewer developments. Among the topics discussed, the Association of Ohio Metropolitan Wastewater Agencies (AOMWA) shared concerns about legislative efforts in Ohio to limit pipe preferences for clean water utilities during construction projects and flagged it as an issue that other states might encounter in the future. Senior advisors and directors from EPA’s Office of Water shared the status of their work to address point and nonpoint source nutrient contributions including the status of state nutrient frameworks, criteria development, and stress-response modeling to more accurately calculate total maximum daily load (TMDL) allocations. There was also discussion of voluntary programs to partner with agricultural collaborators to reduce nutrients, such as the work being done by the Conservation Technology Information Center at Purdue University (CTIC) and the Michigan Department of Agriculture.
EPA announced this week that it is proposing regulations for the management and disposal of hazardous waste pharmaceuticals by healthcare facilities and pharmacies. The rule specifically bans “facilities from disposing of hazardous waste pharmaceuticals down the toilet or drain,” which EPA estimates will prevent 6,400 tons of pharmaceuticals from being flushed each year.
For many years, NACWA has advocated for EPA and other federal agencies to remove flushing as a method of pharmaceutical waste disposal, and pharmaceuticals are one of the focuses of NACWA’s Toilets Are Not Trash Cans! campaign. While the proposed rule will only apply to pharmaceuticals that are classified as hazardous wastes, the clear statement from EPA – along with a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) regulation finalized last year – is that flushing is not an acceptable method for making controlled substances “non-retrievable”. This is an important step towards wider recognition that no pharmaceuticals should be flushed and improved disposal methods are needed for the public, as well as for healthcare facilities.
This week, NACWA’s Communications & Public Affairs Committee met via conference call under the leadership of new Committee Chair, Pamela Perez, Marketing Manager for the City of Los Angeles – LA Sanitation, and Vice Chair, Andrew Bliss, Community Outreach Manager for Capital Region Water, Harrisburg, PA. The discussion on the call focused on public education and outreach spending. Constance Haqq, Director of Administration & External Affairs with NACWA member agency, Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District (NEORSD), discussed recent scrutiny that NEORSD has been facing for spending on public education and outreach. Participants shared their stories, challenges and potential solutions to best respond to concerns and effectively characterize these necessary programs and expenditures. A recording of the call, slides, and other materials are available on NACWA Engage™.
NACWA is dedicated to strengthening its strategic communications and outreach initiatives. The Association is expanding efforts to communicate the essential contributions that clean water agencies make to public health, the environment, our economy and way of life. NACWA will work closely with the Communications & Public Affairs Committee to provide a forum to better connect utility communications professionals and facilitate the exchange of information, resources and tools.
NACWA’s Senior Director of Legislative Affairs, Patricia Sinicropi, was interviewed for the Environmental Defense Fund’s blog Growing Returns. The post, Why wastewater treatment plants are investing in farmers, focuses on NACWA’s collaborative approach to working with the agricultural sector to reduce nutrient runoff at the source. Sinicropi explained that clean water agencies can work with farmers to better manage nutrients in a more cost-effective way and receive regulatory credit for these upstream nutrient reductions. NACWA Member Agency the City of Cedar Rapids, Iowa was highlighted as an example of a utility engaging in such collaboration. Cedar Rapids received a USDA grant and is working with other organizations like the Iowa Soybean Association to address nutrient concerns. Although collaborative efforts are important, Sinicropi stressed the importance of a combination of state, federal and local action to make a large-scale impact.
NACWA is extending the deadline for its survey on blending to Friday, September 18. The Association is conducting the survey to gather information that will assist with its advocacy efforts on peak wet weather flow management. The data being collected will be used by NACWA as it continues to advocate in the regulatory, legislative, and legal arenas for a consistent national policy that allows blending as an effective method for managing peak wet weather flows and protecting water quality. Additional information about the survey is available in Advocacy Alert 15-14 , and questions should be sent to Cynthia Finley, NACWA’s Director of Regulatory Affairs.
This week, discussions on NACWA's online network, Engage™ include: