ARCHIVE SITE - Last updated Jan. 19, 2017. Please visit www.NACWA.org for the latest NACWA information.
On February 26, NACWA shared with EPA a report prepared by Dr. Sam Dorevitch, MD, MPH, of the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health, that notes a lack of information and conflicting results in the science behind using coliphage in a Clean Water Act context. EPA is proposing to use coliphage as an indicator of fecal contamination in recreational waters. NACWA, together with the Water Environment Research Foundation (WERF), funded the review by Dorevitch to better understand the scientific information currently available regarding this potential indicator change by EPA. The Association’s participation was support through its Targeted Action Fund (TAF). Dorevitch’s report included three key findings:
EPA convened a group of experts on March 1 to further explore the science behind coliphage and planned to distribute the Dorevitch report to its experts for consideration. NACWA will be meeting with EPA soon to discuss the Agency’s reactions to the report and will participate in their Recreational Waters Conference in April, during which the Agency will brief stakeholders on the discussions from its experts’ workshop. EPA is still targeting the release of draft recreational water quality criteria based on coliphage for late 2016 or early 2017.
On March 4, NACWA sent a letter to Capitol Hill in support of provisions in Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)’s California Drought Relief Act. The bill, introduced last month, includes provisions addressing long-term western water supply needs, including water recycling, and references the study of water recycling potential that NACWA and partner organizations carried out last year. NACWA’s endorsement of the introduced bill follows earlier support for the provisions in a draft bill that Sen. Feinstein circulated in January 2016.
Additional information on the bill is available in Advocacy Alert 16-04 . In addition to this legislation, Sen. Feinstein has continued pressing for Bureau of Reclamation action in response to the drought through her role as the ranking member on the Senate Energy & Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee.
NACWA hosted a conference call March 3 with representatives of over 15 state and regional clean water organizations to discuss a number of important issues with nationwide implications such as human health water quality criteria, citizen lawsuits, and negotiations in Washington, DC around legislative proposals including Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 EPA appropriations and the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA). Association staff briefed attendees on key national advocacy priorities, encouraged state organizations to send in support letters for Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) requests, and encouraged them to support Water Week 2016.
The discussion around funding for the CWSRF took on special importance as the Obama Administration’s recent budget proposal included a significant cut to the Clean Water fund. Such action is ill-advised, especially in light of the ongoing drought in the West and the recent water crisis in Flint, Michigan, both of which have reinforced the importance of adequately funding the nation’s water infrastructure. Participants on the call expressed strong support in favor of the municipal clean water community rallying around a call for increased funding to the Clean Water SRF.
On February 29, Reps. Derek Kilmer and Denny Heck, both Democrats from Washington State and co-founders of the Puget Sound Recovery Caucus, introduced H.R. 4648, The Green Stormwater Infrastructure Investment Act. The Act seeks to reduce water quality impairments across the U.S. by incentivizing green stormwater infrastructure. In introducing the Act, the Congressmen note that EPA has identified nonpoint source pollution as the leading cause of persistent water quality issues nationwide.
The bill defines Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI) as the use of natural and engineered systems to promote the infiltration, evapotranspiration, or filtration of stormwater at its source. The definition includes systems to improve stormwater system resiliency, identifying as GSI techniques like bioretention, permeable pavements, green roofs, and natural vegetation.
Specifically, the Act would:
NACWA staff discussed stormwater issues with Rep. Heck’s office earlier this year and encouraged extended permit terms for utilities pursuing innovative stormwater management practices. The Association is pleased to see this concept gaining traction on Capitol Hill and will continue to work with Congress to advance these ideas.
With the FY 2017 appropriations cycle underway, letters are circulating on Capitol Hill in support of the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) and Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF). A bipartisan Senate letter is asking for SRF levels at no less than the FY 2016 funding level. In the House, the Democratic leadership on the Transportation & Infrastructure and Energy & Commerce Committees are requesting a minimum of $2 billion for each SRF, while a bipartisan letter requests Appropriator’s support for the critical SRFs without including a specific funding level.
These requests are important in light of the drastic $414 million cut to the CWSRF that the Administration has requested in its FY 2017 budget. While the Senate letter has closed, both House bills are accepting signatures from Members of Congress at this time. Please contact your representatives to sign on. The deadline is Thursday, March 10 for the letter requesting $2 billion per SRF and Wednesday, March 16 for the bipartisan request for strong support. See Advocacy Alert 16-05 for more information.
EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy signed the final Federal Implementation Plan (FIP) for the Clean Air Act regulations for sewage sludge incinerators (SSIs) on February 22, more than a year late. NACWA is encouraging its members in the states covered by the FIP (18 states and 9 local air pollution control agencies) to review the final language closely. While the FIP has not been formally published, EPA has made available a pre-publication version . EPA made no substantive changes to the underlying requirements for SSIs, without incorporating most of the issues and concerns raised by NACWA and its members during the comment period. While EPA was somewhat restricted in the changes it could make to the underlying emission guidelines published in 2011, it chose to defer any action until a future rulemaking. EPA did provide clarification in a few key areas that will help with implementation, but on other issues EPA’s clarifications could create more confusion.
The House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee unanimously approved H.R. 223, the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Act of 2015, during a markup on March 2. The Act authorizes the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) for five years (from FY 2016-2020) at $300 million for each fiscal year. The GLRI, initiated in 2009, enjoys bipartisan support and funds projects throughout the Great Lakes Basin including remediating Areas of Concern, controlling invasive species, mitigating nonpoint source pollution, and protecting habitat.
NACWA is a strong advocate of the GLRI, which has supported POTW efforts to address nutrients and partner with upstream landowners. Authorization of the GLRI was part of the negotiated compromise in last year’s federal appropriations debate in which Congress agreed to authorize the GLRI for the first time in FY 2016 in exchange for removing a provision that would have required elimination of combined sewer overflows (CSOs) by municipal dischargers to the Great Lakes. The GLRI was funded at $300 million for FY 2016, but saw a proposed $50 million cut to the program in the Administration’s FY 2017 budget proposal.
Three Senators sent a letter to EPA on March 1 requesting information on EPA’s plans to develop notification requirements for CSO discharges to the Great Lakes. EPA is required to develop the notification requirement language under the terms of the Agency’s FY 2016 appropriations bill passed in December. NACWA has previously met with EPA regarding development of the notification protocol and will be engaged closely with the Agency as it moves forward.
Supreme Court Rejection of Farm Bureau Appeal = Significant Clean Water Victory for NACWA Members
This week, the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it will not review a lower court’s decision in American Farm Bureau v. EPA upholding the final total maximum daily load (TMDL) for the Chesapeake Bay. This decision marks a significant win for NACWA, its members, and its municipal partners by supporting EPA’s ability to pursue a watershed approach under the Clean Water Act (CWA) – including meaningful participation of nonpoint agricultural sources – in crafting TMDLs to achieve improved water quality. Read on to find out how this will impact NACWA members long into the future.