» Clean Water Current Archive
July 26, 2013
NACWA Seeks Member Input on EPA’s Proposed Electronic Reporting Rule
EPA’s long-awaited proposed rule to require electronic reporting under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit program was signed by Bob Perciasepe, then acting administrator of EPA, on July 15. A pre-publication version of the rule has been released, but it has not yet appeared in the Federal Register. The rule, if finalized, would apply to all NPDES permit holders. Under the proposal, clean water agencies would be required to electronically submit discharge monitoring reports, pretreatment and biosolids reports, and combined and sanitary sewer overflow event reports. All of this information is already required by existing regulation, but EPA’s proposal would add greater specificity to the type and format of the information to ensure a consistent national dataset. The Agency proposal would also require states to submit much of the NPDES-related information they provide through electronic means. EPA anticipates that this increase in electronic reporting will make all information easily accessible and publicly available (with limited exceptions for some sensitive data like confidential business information) through a national database.
The Agency’s enforcement office has had the lead role in developing this proposal. EPA’s hope is that in addition to decreasing the burden on permit holders and the states, electronic reporting will lead to increased compliance with the Clean Water Act. The proposal outlines the types of information that will be required to be submitted electronically and discusses EPA’s preferred alternative to pursue an open-source approach to develop the software necessary to make the reporting possible. The Agency hopes that this will encourage third-party software companies to develop programs that meet discharger needs and are compliant with requirements, much like the approach used by the Internal Revenue Service for income taxes.
EPA estimates that, over the first three years of implementation, the cost to all permit holders will be approximately $18.5 million, but that in future years the change will result in no additional costs – and perhaps even some minor savings in reduced burden. States stand to save the most from this new rule, with estimated annual savings approaching $30 million. The Agency will accept comments on the rule for 90 days from the date of its publication in the Federal Register. NACWA will advise Member Agencies of the comment deadline when available, but welcomes comments now on all aspects of the proposal. Please send any comments to Chris Hornback at
House Subcommittee Seeks Cut to Clean Water Loan Fund; EPA Budget
The House Appropriations Subcommittee that oversees EPA’s budget passed its Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 Interior and EPA appropriations package this week, proposing to reduce EPA funding by 34% and slash the CWSRF from $1.2 billion to just $250 million. The package also proposes a similarly drastic cut to the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) of $559 million, providing only $350 million for that program. The full House Appropriations Committee is expected to take up the measure next week, with the House of Representatives set to consider it in September.
The House Appropriations package is the first step in Congress’ path to establish an FY14 federal government budget; however, it likely will not prevail in its current form if the Senate offers a higher number – or Congress ultimately moves in the direction of a Continuing Resolution. In that event, funding would be maintained at closer to current spending levels. Nevertheless, the House’s proposed cuts to the SRF are very concerning as they indicate that many in Congress are willing to step away from a long-standing federal-state-local partnership that has been critical in helping communities finance their clean water and drinking water needs.
NACWA sent an Advocacy Alert to its members asking them to write their Congressional delegation urging them to restore these cuts. The Association is also working with other national associations in Washington to respond to the House proposal and voice its concern that these cuts go too far. Members should contact Hannah Mellman with questions, or for additional information on contacting Congressional delegations.
EPA to Release Proposed Revisions to Water Quality Standards Regulations
EPA’s proposed rule to amend portions of its Water Quality Standards (WQS) Regulations has cleared one of its final hurdles. The proposal had been stuck at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) since November 2011, but was finally released on July 23. NACWA expects the Agency to move quickly to sign the proposal and release it for public comment. Although that process could still take several weeks, NACWA hopes to obtain a pre-publication version of the rule to begin its review.
EPA issued a notice in 2010 that outlined several revisions the Agency was considering with this rulemaking. NACWA submitted comments on September 22, 2010, raising several concerns with the six areas EPA intended to target. While NACWA agrees with some of the changes EPA is expected to address, the Association’s 2010 comments noted that the changes do not warrant significant revisions to the WQS regulations at this time, and that “for most of the areas the Agency is targeting, additional guidance to the states, instead of new regulatory provisions, would suffice.” The rule is expected to address the following:
- Antidegradation: Requiring implementation methods to be adopted in rule and specify minimum requirements;
- Administrator’s determination: Clarifying what constitutes an Administrator’s determination under 303(c)(4)(B);
- Uses: Clarifying EPA’s minimum expectations for designated uses;
- Variances: Establishing a regulatory structure and transparency for use of variances;
- Triennial Reviews: Strengthening the triennial review requirements; and,
- Recent Court Decisions: Defining a WQS, addressing compliance schedule authorizing provisions, and revising WQS submittal requirements.
While the rule revisions will have the most impact on Clean Water Act authorized states, several of the changes could eventually impact clean water agencies. NACWA will alert the membership and solicit comments as soon as the proposed rule becomes available.
NACWA Meets with INDA to Determine Path Forward on Wipes
NACWA convened a meeting this week with representatives of INDA (the association representing the Nonwoven Fabrics Industry), key manufacturers, wastewater utilities, and other groups to discuss how to reduce the problems that utilities experience with wipes that are flushed into the sewer system. Following the Association’s June 18 letter recommending changes to the draft third edition of their Guidelines for Assessing the Flushability of Disposable Nonwoven Products, INDA requested a meeting with NACWA, the Water Environment Federation (WEF), and the American Public Works Association (APWA) -- who have been working collaboratively on this issue. INDA members in attendance represented the majority of wipes manufacturers in the US. Representatives from NACWA member agencies were Nick Arhontes, Orange County Sanitation District, Calif.; Frank Dick, City of Vancouver, Wash.; and Kenny Waldroup, City of Raleigh, NC.
During the meeting, the associations and their representatives focused on areas of agreement and developed a plan to address several remaining areas of disagreement. INDA, NACWA, WEF, and APWA will be working together on a statement that expresses their interest in cooperating to reduce products inappropriately disposed of via flushing. The associations will evaluate their degree of agreement on issues – including INDA’s flushability guidelines and its Code of Practice for using a standard “Do Not Flush” symbol on products that are non-flushable. INDA, in turn, will provide the associations with additional information on how the Code of Practice will be implemented. A joint workgroup will be established to examine the flushability guidelines, which are considered by INDA to be a living document that can be revised as needed. The associations acknowledged that, after this initial work is completed, third-party research may be needed to resolve some areas of disagreement on technical and consumer education.
The associations will report on this effort, and the significant progress being made, during a session on non-dispersible products at WEFTEC13 on October 9. NACWA will provide additional information, and seek key data and information from Members Agencies to advance this effort, in an Advocacy Alert next week.
Website Features New Integrated Planning Webpage
NACWA’s website now features an Integrated Planning (IP) resource page. The Association created the IP issue page in response to Member Agency feedback noting a lack of readily available IP information and guidance. The webpage houses valuable resources, model integrated plans, and guidance documents to assist clean water agencies. It also allows utilities exploring IP options to see how other communities have engaged local regulators and EPA in their processes. Timely information on NACWA’s continued IP advocacy is also included.
NACWA Partners with ACWA, NEIWPCC on Region 1 Workshop
The Association will partner with the Association of Clean Water Administrators (ACWA), and the New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission (NEIWPCC), in collaboration with EPA, to offer a Region 1 Integrated Planning Workshop on September 9 in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The workshop will bring together key stakeholders – including regulators from each state in the Region, EPA Headquarters and Regional staff, and the utility community – for a candid discussion of Integrated Planning Framework implementation. Prior regional workshops have garnered impressive attendance, and Region 1 is primed to be a popular event with a dynamic discussion of permit/enforcement issues, barriers, and lessons learned. Registration information will be distributed in early August.
If you have useful reports or information about your utility’s IP process for inclusion on the issue page – or if you want any further information about the upcoming Region 1 IP Workshop – please contact Brenna Mannion at