ARCHIVE SITE - Last updated Jan. 19, 2017. Please visit www.NACWA.org for the latest NACWA information.
September 26, 2014
EPA Proposes Dental Amalgam Separator Rule
After planning to propose a dental amalgam separator rule for several years, EPA released a pre-publication version of its proposal yesterday. The proposal requires all dental offices to install and maintain dental amalgam separators that achieve a 99 percent reduction of total mercury. This pretreatment standard would require that dental offices also follow best management practices and submit annual certification reports to their wastewater utility or other pretreatment control authority. EPA proposes changing the General Pretreatment Regulations to establish a Dental Industrial User (DIU) category, which would require less oversight from utilities as long as the dental office remained in compliance.
NACWA met with both key EPA water office staff and state water regulators Thursday to brief them on the findings and recommendations from a recent report on the development of nutrient permit limits. Developed with Targeted Action Fund (TAF) resources, the report analyzes EPA’s use of its Technical Support Document for Water Quality-Based Toxics Control (TSD) as guidance for nutrient permitting. The Review of USEPA Methods for Setting Water Quality-Based Effluent Limits for Nutrients (Report) finds that due to fundamental differences in how nutrients and toxics affect receiving waters, the use of toxics-based methods is often inappropriate for nutrients. EPA, however, has relied upon concepts in the TSD as it works to train state permit writers on developing nutrient limits.
In its meeting with EPA, NACWA focused its comments on the Agency’s permit writer training course and the need to make changes to the training materials (which NACWA reviewed last year). Barbara Biggs, Government Affairs Officer with the Metro Wastewater Reclamation District in Denver and Chair of NACWA’s Water Quality Committee, and Jim Pletl, Director of Water Quality for the Hampton Roads Sanitation District, and Vice Chair of the Committee, participated in the meeting. EPA first conducted the training in July 2013 as a pilot, one-day session and held a two-day session in Denver this past August. The Agency indicated that it intends to update the training materials as the sessions continue, and welcomed the report. NACWA’s report highlights areas where EPA’s use of the TSD has been found to be appropriate; appropriate with some modification; or inappropriate. At the conclusion of the meeting, EPA offered to meet with NACWA regularly in the coming months to discuss issues raised in the report in more detail to better inform the Agency as it works to refine the training materials.
Following the meeting, the lead author of the report, Clifton Bell with Brown and Caldwell, provided a detailed presentation of the findings and recommendations via webcast to more than 80 state water regulators and permitting officials. The Association of Clean Water Administrators (ACWA) arranged the web-based meeting with its Nutrient Policy Committee. NACWA will maintain a dialogue with the state regulators on the issue and plans to include ACWA in any future meetings with EPA as appropriate.
Last week, the EPA issued initial guidance to States regarding implementation of recently-enacted statutory revisions to the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) Program and related Clean Water Act provisions. Most of the provisions outlined in the document take effect October 1, 2014, the beginning of the new federal fiscal year. While these revisions are new, many address long-standing issues that have been of concern for several years – and that have been raised in other legislative vehicles. For example, the statute now contains an explicitly expanded list of eligible activities that can be funded through the CWSRF though many of these activities, such as security upgrades or measures to increase energy or water efficiency, are items that the SRF has supported for many years. Further, many revisions codify provisions Congress had included in annual appropriations language but that were never actually authorized in the underlying statute, such as Davis-Bacon prevailing wage requirements and Buy American requirements.
One provision of note is guidance language that requires that loan recipients develop Fiscal Sustainability Plans (FSPs). The guidance allows for States to implement this provision as flexibly as possible, urging States to view the plans as “living documents” that can evolve and develop over time. Utilities that do not already have an FSP will be allowed to access SRF funding to help develop one. They can also begin to develop an FSP by starting with the specific portion of the system for which SRF funding is being sought. Also, with respect to the requirement related to the FSP that utilities certify they have evaluated, and will be implementing, water and energy conservation efforts – utilities need only to demonstrate that they have done so “to the maximum extent practicable.”
NACWA, the Water Environment Federation (WEF), and the American Public Works Association (APWA) are nearing an agreement with INDA (the trade association of the nonwoven fabrics industry) that will define a path forward to reduce the burden on wastewater utilities from both wipes that are labeled “flushable” and wipes that are not designed to be flushed. The pending agreement is the result of the efforts of a technical workgroup comprised of representatives from each of the four associations. The workgroup was funded in part by NACWA’s Targeted Action Fund (TAF). The technical workgroup held a series of in-person meetings and conference calls to address issues related to the flushability of wipes – including flushability guidelines and product labeling. Moving forward, the associations hope to work collaboratively to improve flushability guidelines and promote product stewardship, including better labeling, among companies that produce and sell wipes. A presentation on the outcome of the technical workgroup will be provided at WEFTEC during Session #500, It’s a Toilet Not a Trashcan! on Wednesday, October 1, from 8:30 am to 12:00 pm in Room 236 of the New Orleans Morial Convention Center.
NACWA joined with a number of other water sector and municipal organizations on September 22 to file an amicus curiae brief in litigation over EPA’s Water Transfers Rule . The brief supports EPA’s appeal of a lower court decision that vacated key portions of the rule.
The joint amicus brief filed by NACWA and other groups highlights the significant operational and regulatory challenges that permitting of transfers of natural, untreated water would present to municipal water supply and flood management programs. It argues that the Clean Water Act (CWA) never envisioned – nor did Congress intend – permitting of these types of transfers since they do not result in the addition of unnatural pollutants to receiving water bodies. The brief also argues that the NPDES program is the wrong tool to regulate such transfers, suggesting that other approaches – like federal drinking water requirements, the total maximum daily load (TMDL) program, and state regulations – are better suited to address concerns over water transfers. Other organizations joining on the brief include the American Water Works Association (AWWA), the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA), that National Association of Water Companies (NAWC), the Water Environment Federation (WEF), and the U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM).
NACWA has long supported the exemption of water transfers from NPDES permitting and was pleased to support filing of an amicus brief from a broad coalition in this case.
The Water Sector Cybersecurity Workgroup met in person for a second time this week to finalize recommendations to assess gaps in available cybersecurity guidance, tools, and resources for utilities – and to provide outreach and training to utilities. Two representatives from NACWA Member Agencies are members of the Workgroup: Patty Cleveland, Assistant Regional Manager with the Trinity River Authority, Texas, who is Vice Chair of the Water Sector Coordinating Council (WSCC) and serves as Co-Chair of the Workgroup, and Nelson Sims from DC Water.
The Workgroup was convened by the Water Sector Coordinating Council (WSCC) and the Government Coordinating Council (GCC), with the goal of improving the resiliency of water and wastewater utilities by developing a strategy to promote and facilitate the use of the National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST) Framework for Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity. The Framework was developed in response to the February 2013 Executive Order 13636, Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity. A final Workgroup report will be available by the end of the year.
NACWA has been invited to participate in the White House Council on Environmental Quality’s (CEQ) and the EPA’s joint upcoming kick-off event for their Green Infrastructure Collaborative on October 8 in Washington, DC.
EPA and CEQ are expected to announce significant commitments to green infrastructure (GI) during this event, and call for federal, non-profit, and private sector partners to sign on with additional commitments to continue promotion of GI projects. NACWA will seek to ensure that its commitment is based on the appropriate balance between gray and green infrastructure in a manner that best advances a utility’s sustainable infrastructure goals. The event includes a roundtable discussion of the Collaborative’s goals and objectives, which are intended to assist in improving infrastructure and addressing the need to mitigate and prepare for the impacts of climate change raised in the President’s Climate Action Plan.
On Monday, NACWA participated in EPA’s second listening session for implementation of a new lending program called the Water Infrastructure Financing Innovations Act or WIFIA, which was enacted as part of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act. WIFIA is intended as a new financing tool to provide loans and loan guarantees for drinking water, wastewater and flood control projects. The Army Corps of Engineers will administer the program for flood control projects, while EPA will fill that role for support of drinking water and wastewater projects.
This week’s listening session was held in New York City and was attended by representatives of State Revolving Fund programs, investment houses, and trade associations. EPA intends to hold four additional sessions in Los Angeles, Atlanta, Dallas and San Francisco. The sessions are intended to provide feedback to EPA from financial experts and potential loan recipients on how to best design the program rules so that WIFIA can be effectively used for project funding. It is unclear whether Congress will appropriate funding for the program for Fiscal Year 2015, without which EPA may not be able to develop program rules. At this point, neither the House nor Senate proposed EPA spending packages include WIFIA funds, however during final negotiations for an end-of-year omnibus appropriations package, WIFIA funds may be agreed to.
NACWA’s upcoming National Clean Water Law Seminar will include some new offerings along with a number of old favorites. Making its debut at the Seminar will be a new legal primer focused on the Clean Air Act and how it applies to clean water utilities, along with a primer on biosolids regulations and what every municipal wastewater utility should know. There will also be a new “regulatory hot topics” roundtable discussion featuring a panel of top EPA and state regulators examining the most important legal and regulatory issues facing the clean water community. These new sessions will share the program with updated versions of many of the Seminar’s top presentations from past years, including the ever-popular Top Clean Water Act Cases panel and the introductory Clean Water Act Primer.
Registration for the Seminar, scheduled for Nov. 19 - 21 in St. Pete Beach, Florida, is now open. A conference agenda and additional information on registration, hotel accommodations, and Continuing Legal Education (CLE) opportunities are available on NACWA’s website. Make your plans today!
Applications are currently being accepted for the 2015 Water & Wastewater Leadership Center, March 8-19, 2015 at the Kenan-Flagler Business School, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Sponsored collaboratively by NACWA, the Water Environment Federation (WEF), the Association of Municipal Water Agencies (AMWA), the American Water Works Association (AWWA), the American Public Works Association (APWA) and the National Association of Water Companies (NAWC), this intensive 11-day program provides exceptional management and leadership education geared specifically to water and wastewater professionals.
The program is designed to provide current, as well as up-and-coming, utility leaders with the enhanced management skills and knowledge required to develop strategic goals that deliver measurable results. Featuring curriculum that includes a 360 degree management assessment, change management simulation, and effective executive communications, the Leadership Center provides a unique educational opportunity in an intimate, state-of-the-art learning environment. The deadline to submit applications is Friday, October 31, 2014 and interested individuals are encouraged to apply early as the class size is limited.
The EPA Office of Wetlands, Oceans & Watersheds is offering a web seminar for NACWA members to learn more about their Water Quality Portal (Portal) which brings together chemical, physical, and microbiological data from the U.S. Geological Survey’s (USGS) National Water Information System (NWIS) and EPA's Storage & Retrieval Data Warehouse (STORET) – and provides it to scientists, policymakers, and the public in a single, user-friendly web interface. The Portal was developed through a collaborative effort by the USGS, EPA and the National Water Quality Monitoring Council (NWQMC) to improve water data accessibility.
Have you ever been cleaning out your bathroom or kitchen cupboard and come across old prescription medications that you no longer need? Visit The Water Voice to find out how to properly dispose of these medications and how the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is working collaboratively with municipalities to make a Take-Back Day possible.
Innovative finance – from the perspectives of stretching ratepayer dollars and bringing in new revenues – was the focus of the final of three Charting a Path to the Utility of the Future web seminars. Representatives from EPA, Table Rock Capital, Inc., the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, and DC Water explored a fascinating array of topics that included: the need for public clean water agencies to explore public-private partnerships (PPPs); the role that the new WIFIA program and recent CWSRF revisions could play going forward (see related articles); the increasing role of resource recovery activities in generating new revenue streams; and the potential for using green century bonds in the public utility arena. NACWA thanks all of the speakers and the participants for their support in making this series a success. The presentations and materials from the web seminar series are available on NACWA’s website.
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