ARCHIVE SITE - Last updated Jan. 19, 2017. Please visit www.NACWA.org for the latest NACWA information.
October 10, 2014
Ebola Virus Likely Not a Hazard in Wastewater
Wastewater and drinking water utilities have raised many questions recently about the risks of the Ebola virus in wastewater and in the environment. NACWA has communicated with both EPA and the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) about these questions, and both agencies have stated that they intend to release additional information soon. The CDC has released a FAQ that states that sewers may safely be used for disposal of Ebola patient waste, because “sewage handling processes (e.g., anaerobic digestion, composting, and disinfection) in the United States are designed to inactivate infectious agents.” The Water Research Foundation posted a statement this week, “Ebola: Not a Waterborne Illness,” with information about the inability of the virus to survive in water. Since “researchers believe that Ebola survives in water for only a matter of minutes,” the Ebola virus is also unlikely to be a risk in the collection system or treatment plant, before disinfection occurs. Utilities should remind workers to always use proper personal protective equipment and procedures when working around untreated wastewater. Additional information will be made available by CDC soon. In the meantime, all precautions should be taken as more information is gathered.
NACWA learned this week that EPA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) has begun to interview municipal utilities currently under a wet weather consent decree as part of a larger examination into EPA’s enforcement program. The OIG first announced in August that it would be reviewing and evaluating the effectiveness of EPA’s enforcement efforts related to wet weather sewer overflows. That effort now appears to be fully underway, with NACWA receiving reports from member utilities that they have been contacted by OIG as part of the investigation.
The stated objective of the OIG review is to determine what results consent decrees have had on compliance and environmental quality by addressing these two questions:
NACWA believes any investigation into EPA’s enforcement program must also examine the more important question of whether the Agency’s enforcement efforts actually make sense from a community affordability and environmental improvement standpoint. Any metrics of success must be broader than just volumetric overflow reduction and include overall net environmental benefit and financial impacts on the local community. NACWA will be sending a letter to OIG soon expressing these concerns and seeking to participate in the overall evaluation process.
NACWA joined representatives of over 25 partner organizations, the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), and eight federal agencies at the Eisenhower Executive Building on October 8 to support the launch of The Green Infrastructure Collaborative. The Collaborative aims to leverage efforts from the federal family, non-governmental organizations, the private sector and academia to advance green infrastructure as a means of supporting water quality and community development goals.
NACWA’s listed commitments reiterate the Association’s continued promotion of green infrastructure and watershed-based approaches under the Water Resources Utility of the Future (UOTF) initiative and through its advocacy, outreach, and educational efforts. This will include: identifying collaborative partners for integrated planning and green infrastructure program implementation; ensuring key decision makers in the federal government are aware of the benefits of hybrid sustainable (gray and green) infrastructure; and, supporting funding and legislation for innovative approaches to wet weather management.
The Collaborative is part of the federal government’s broader obligation to the President’s Climate Action Plan. The Collaborative event coincided with the release of the Administration’s Climate and Natural Resources Priority Agenda that represents a comprehensive commitment across the Federal Government to support improved climate resilience.
NACWA President and CEO of Alexandria Renew Enterprises, Karen Pallansch, spoke this week at the National Association of Water Companies (NAWC) 2014 Water Summit on a panel, Public-Private Partnerships & Private Investment in Public Infrastructure: Lots of Talk - What Leads to Action? Pallansch emphasized the importance of developing trust between the public and private interests in the water sector and underscored the opportunities that Utility of the Future-related projects provide for such partnerships. Projects such as biosolids management, nutrient recycling, water reuse, energy production, and stormwater control/green infrastructure can provide a unique opportunity for private sector expertise and investment, especially given the new revenue streams that could be derived from these types of projects. The bullet points from Pallansch’s presentation are available here .
Today, EPA announced that two NACWA Member Agencies, the City of Springfield, MO and the Onondaga County Department of Water Environment Protection, NY, were selected to receive awards of technical assistance to help them develop plans under EPA’s Integrated Planning Initiative. They were among five communities selected for the awards. The other communities are the City of Burlington, VT, the City of Durham, NH and the City of Santa Maria, CA. With encouragement from NACWA and Members of Congress, EPA announced the availability of $335,000 in technical assistance to help up to five communities develop plans under its Integrated Planning Initiative. Today’s announcement comes after nearly two years of NACWA advocacy urging Congress and EPA make available funding to support development of these plans. Currently, the House of Representatives has proposed an additional $2 million in FY15 for another round of awards and NACWA is working to ensure the Senate accepts the House recommendation in final negotiations over EPA’s FY15 budget. Congress is scheduled to conclude negotiations for a FY15 omnibus appropriations package in December.
Several NACWA members and staff participated in the Johnson Foundation’s Washington, D.C. event for the release of its capstone report, Navigating to New Shores: Seizing the Future for Sustainable and Resilient U.S. Freshwater Resources, which culminated a six year policy effort examining challenges related to freshwater resources in the U.S. and developing recommendations for addressing them. The policy effort was led by the Johnson Foundation and known as Charting New Waters. Several NACWA Member Agencies and staff participated in the effort. Attending Wednesday’s event were NACWA Board Members Ted Henifin, of Hampton Roads Sanitation District, VA and Andy Kricun ,of Camden County Municipal Utilities Authority, NJ, as well as NACWA Member DCWater represented by George Hawkins. NACWA’s Executive Director Ken Kirk and Senior Director for Legislative Affairs, Patricia Sinicropi also participated. The six year effort produced a total of eight reports and involved over six hundred water policy experts. The policy recommendations outlined in the capstone report are the recommendations of the Johnson Foundation and do not necessarily reflect the views of the participating organizations and experts.
EPA announced the location and dates of the remaining five listening sessions on the Water Infrastructure Financing & Innovations Act (WIFIA), a federal loan guaranty pilot program primarily aimed at funding drinking water and wastewater projects of regional/national importance. The new program was included in the recently passed Water Resources Reform & Development Act (WRRDA), along with significant improvements to the Clean Water State Revolving Fund program. The goal of these listening sessions is to clarify the eligibilities and criteria for pilot project applications. Interested parties may register for the following listening sessions here.
The deadline for applications to the Water & Wastewater Leadership Center is October 31, 2014. Specifically designed for utility professionals, the Leadership Center is a two-week, intensive residential executive education program focused on leadership development, strategic thinking, and effective management practices. Held in conjunction with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Kenan-Flagler Business School, the Leadership Center prepares utility executives with the management and leadership skills they need to meet today’s and tomorrow’s complex challenges. Key course elements include unlimited peer networking; a 360 degree personal leadership assessment; preparation of an individual action plan; and experiential learning through change management simulations.
New rules for the disposal of unwanted medications went into effect this week – to help address the problems caused by the growing abundance of unwanted medications. The new rule allows pharmacies (and other registered distributors) to take back unwanted controlled substances from final users, thereby ending the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) twice yearly practice of having “Drug Take Back Day” programs. This will leave a gap in disposal options, for those served by the DEA collections, until the newly allowed options are implemented. Continue reading this guest blog by Ed Gottlieb, Chair of the Tompkins County Coalition for Safe Medication Disposal and Industrial Pretreatment Coordinator for NACWA Member, the Ithaca Area Wastewater Treatment Facility, N.Y., or better yet, subscribe to The Water Voice and never miss a post.
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