ARCHIVE SITE - Last updated Jan. 19, 2017. Please visit www.NACWA.org for the latest NACWA information.
August 15, 2014
Path Forward on Flushability Planned; Dr. Oz to Focus on Flushable Wipes
The technical workgroup that is addressing issues related to the flushability of wipes held its third and final in-person meeting this week to begin planning next steps and a path forward to improving guidelines for, and labeling of, wipes. The first meeting focused on information sharing to better define the processes, procedures, and problems faced by both wastewater utilities and the wipes industry. Consensus findings to guide the plan moving forward resulted from the second meeting. The workgroup, comprised of representatives from NACWA, the Water Environment Federation (WEF), the American Public Works Association (APWA), and INDA (the trade association of the nonwoven fabrics industry), receives part of its funding through the Association’s Targeted Action Fund (TAF).
During this week’s meeting, the workgroup defined a preliminary plan focused on collaborative efforts to promote product stewardship, including improved labeling, among companies that produce and sell wipes and other products that are often inappropriately flushed. Improved flushability guidelines for products that are labeled “flushable” were also a focus. The workgroup will finalize its work in the next month through web meetings and conference calls, and a presentation on the outcome will be provided during a session at WEFTEC on the morning of October 1. NACWA will provide more details on this session when they become available.
NACWA’s Toilets Are Not Trash Cans! campaign will receive national attention next month with a segment on The Dr. Oz Show focusing on flushable wipes. Dr. Oz will visit a treatment plant of Association Member Agency the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to learn more about the problems wipes cause for wastewater utilities. Cynthia Finley, NACWA’s Director of Regulatory Affairs, will be an in-studio guest on the show. The Association will let members know when the air date for the segment is announced.
The U.S. Water Quality Trading Alliance (USWQTA) will be meeting with EPA staff next Thursday to discuss recent developments in water quality trading (WQT) and how the Agency can help to advance the watershed-based approach. Ken Kopocis, the new Deputy Assistant Administrator, will be in attendance along with other EPA staff from the Office of Water. The meeting will introduce the USWQTA and its members to EPA, reaffirm the importance of the Agency’s support of trading as a watershed-based approach – and determine action items EPA and the Alliance can work on together over the next year.
The USWQTA was established earlier this year and currently has 18 members including NACWA; The American Farmland Trust; Association of Clean Water Administrators (ACWA); Cardno; Chesapeake Conservancy; Chesapeake Bay Nutrient Land Trust; Ecosystem Insurance Associates, LLC; Ecosystem Services Exchange; Electric Power Research Institute; Environmental Banc & Exchange; Keiser & Associates; Restoration Systems; Timmons Group; The Freshwater Trust; The Louis Berger Group; U.S. Water Alliance; World Resources Institute; and, Willamette Partnership. NACWA staff will be attending Thursday’s meeting and a summary of the discussion will be included in next week’s Clean Water Current.
NACWA provided comments August 13 on EPA’s Updated National Recommended Water Quality Criteria for the Protection of Human Health. The Agency updated its recommended water quality criteria for human health for 94 chemical pollutants to “reflect the latest scientific information” and current EPA policies. The revisions to the criteria values are significant, and NACWA’s comments highlight concerns with a number of policy considerations within the document. EPA's recommended water quality criteria provide technical information for states and authorized tribes to establish water quality standards under the Clean Water Act.
In the Association’s comments, NACWA acknowledges the importance of ensuring that human health criteria reflect the latest scientific information, but requests significant clarification on a number of policies, including how fish consumption rates are established; the combined effect of the proposed changes on non-bioaccumlulative pollutants; implementation challenges; and, consideration of affordability. The human health criteria are being proposed at a time when a number of states are undergoing criteria revisions, and it has become clear that watershed level or state-wide approaches are needed (e.g. variances, compliance schedules and similar implementation tools). NACWA believes that, regardless of any revisions EPA may make as a result of comments received, many of the criteria will continue to be extremely low. That being the case, it will be important that the Agency ensure that states are adequately prepared to deal with implementation challenges. Compliance with these criteria is becoming increasingly problematic and expensive and NACWA, in its comments, urged EPA to proceed with caution.
NACWA organized and hosted a meeting this week between EPA and a number of municipal and local government associations to receive an update on the Agency’s stormwater program, in the wake of the national post-construction stormwater rule deferral this spring. EPA staff briefed the coalition on their recent federal agency green infrastructure (GI) collaboration, website/resource update, and planned support of local stormwater programs. They were also eager to identify collaboration opportunities with the groups present.
In March, EPA announced it would defer the national post-construction stormwater rule, which had been in development since 2009, in lieu of less regulatory-driven efforts to help municipalities better control stormwater runoff. Based on discussion at the meeting, in the absence of a national rule, the Agency is focusing more on providing staff and technical support to local programs to address MS4 permit backlogs – and encouraging onsite retention standards in individual permits in impaired watersheds. It is also clear from the Federal Green Infrastructure Collaborative that EPA is actively leveraging and incorporating its GI resources within other federal agency programs, including working with the U.S. Forest Service to ensure stormwater management is well-represented in the Urban & Community Forestry grant program – and providing regular training, with the Department of Transportation, on using GI to manage stormwater on federal highway projects. The Agency is identifying partners for a possible incentive program for smaller municipalities not currently under an MS4 permit, matching GI “mentor” communities with more fledgling communities, and developing awards programs. These opportunities align well with the draft 2014 GI Statement of Intent being finalized by NACWA, EPA and other signatories.
Other groups participating in the meeting were the National Association of Counties (NACo); the U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM); the National League of Cities (NLC); the Water Environment Federation (WEF); the Association of Clean Water Administrators (ACWA); and, the National Association of Flood & Stormwater Management Agencies (NAFSMA). NACWA and these organizations have maintained regular communication and coordination over the past year regarding the stormwater rule, and will continue to coordinate even as EPA takes a more localized approach to stormwater control.
NACWA staff and public agency representatives met with the White House Office of Management & Budget (OMB) this week about EPA’s proposal to require amalgam separators in dental offices as a pretreatment standard. Representatives from EPA, the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), and the Small Business Administration (SBA) also attended the meeting. EPA submitted its proposal to OMB on May 29, and the rule may be officially released as early as this fall. NACWA worked with members of its Pretreatment & Pollution Prevention Committee to develop talking points for the meeting, which reiterate many of the points the Association made in comments last year on the EPA Preliminary Effluent Limitation Guidelines (ELG) Plan.
NACWA advised that OMB that the dental amalgam rule is not necessary because existing state and local dental amalgam separator programs have been effective, and new federal requirements are likely to disrupt these programs. In addition, POTWs that do not have elevated influent mercury levels could better use their resources on other environmental concerns, since the costs to POTWs to regulate large numbers of dental offices will be substantial. NACWA also listed a series of strict requirements that would be necessary for the Association to support a national dental amalgam rule. These requirements would substantially reduce the burden on local pretreatment programs.
EPA forwarded NACWA a letter this week reiterating the Agency’s commitment to continued application of the 1994 Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) Policy. The letter contained a number of positive statements, including that EPA and all of its regional offices remain “committed to implementing the 1994 CSO Policy which establishes a uniform, nationally consistent approach to controlling” CSOs. Most importantly, EPA expressly committed to continued use of the “knee of the curve” analysis as the appropriate tool to determine “where the increment of pollution reduction achieved in the receiving water diminishes compared to the increased costs” with regard to CSO control measures. The Agency also reiterated the CSO Policy’s expectation that CSO control plans will be designed to meet existing water quality standards (WQS) unless efforts are underway to reevaluate WQS at the same time CSO long-term control plans are being developed.
The EPA correspondence was sent in response to a NACWA letter and subsequent meeting with Agency staff expressing concern over inconsistent application of the CSO Policy. NACWA is pleased that EPA has issued such a strong recommitment to implementing and applying the CSO Policy, as written. The Association encourages members to use this letter, as necessary, with regard to conflicting messages on the CSO Policy from state regulators or EPA regional offices.
Recently, the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) recognized NACWA with a Power of A Gold Award for its collaboration with the Water Environment Federation (WEF) and the Water Environment Research Foundation (WERF) on the Water Resources Utility of the Future initiative. The program was cited for its transformation of how clean water agencies contribute to local communities and economies. How did this program come about? Continue reading The Water Voice to find out, or better yet subscribe today and never miss a post!
NACWA will be hosting the next quarterly Legal Hot Topics web seminar on September 17, 2014, beginning at 2:00 pm ET. Designed to benefit municipal utility attorneys and managers – both those new to the clean water arena and seasoned professionals – the web seminar is offered at no cost to NACWA members and provides an excellent and convenient opportunity to keep current on the latest clean water issues, developments, trends and case law.
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