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Clean Water Current - October 17


» Clean Water Current Archive

October 17, 2014

CDC Information on Ebola Virus in Wastewater Forthcoming (*New Summary Information Added, 5:00 pm Eastern)

With two nurses from Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas now confirmed to be infected with the Ebola virus, questions continue to be asked by wastewater utilities about proper waste disposal procedures at hospitals and other contaminated sites – and the risks to collection systems and treatment plants workers.  NACWA requested an update from EPA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) this week about guidance that is being prepared for utilities, and was informed that a draft has been prepared and is currently being reviewed by both agencies.  The interim guidance document is expected to be released next week.  The CDC has indicated that the guidance will provide information for utility workers that may handle untreated sewage from hospitals treating Ebola patients, including information about the Ebola virus and proper personal protective equipment and hygiene.  However, the CDC also indicated that they do not have precise information for many of the questions that utilities may have about transmission of the virus in wastewater and the environment. 

NACWA member agency the City of Dallas Water Utilities has informed the Association that Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital handled all Ebola patient body fluid discharges and waste as hazardous medical waste, bagging it for offsite disposal/incineration.  Other NACWA members have recommended to their hospitals that any Ebola patient waste be disinfected before disposal in the sewer system.  Although the Water Research Foundation’s statement last week states that “researchers believe that Ebola survives in water for only a matter of minutes,” utility workers have still expressed concern about the ability of the virus to survive in sewage – rather than pure water – for longer periods.  Some utilities have expressed concern that even if hospitals are using proper disposal procedures, infected people could still introduce the virus to the sewer system before being hospitalized.  NACWA has asked the CDC about this possibility and will provide any information received to members.  In the meantime, the usual precaution of personal protective equipment should be used by all workers that may contact untreated wastewater. 

*Although there is limited data on the fate and transport of Ebola in wastewater collection systems, the development of protective precautions is essential.

During a conference call organized by the Water Environment Federation (Alexandria, VA.) on Oct. 16, a spokesman for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shared that CDC has prepared and is conducting an internal review of an interim guidance. The guidance, Interim Guidance for Workers Handling Untreated Sewage from Ebola Cases in the United States, will address basic hygiene practices and personal protective equipment (PPE) use and disposal actions that should be taken.

Specifically this guidance will provide guidance and protocols for:

  • workers who perform sewer maintenance,
  • construction workers who repair or replace live sewers,
  • plumbers, and
  • workers who clean portable toilets.

CDC stated that this review would be expedited and indicated that guidance could be released as soon as late October. As CDC is the lead federal agency for Ebola containment and prevention, the best ongoing resource for information is

In the meantime, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has some general guidance available on workplace safety and health related to Ebola at

NACWA will communicate any updates as soon as CDC releases the guidance or any new information becomes available.  NACWA will also be working in an effort to further expedite CDC’s timeframe and ensure that CDC protocols call for hospitals and other institutions discharging Ebola-contaminated waste to notify their sewer authority prior to discharge. 

NACWA Appeals Board Brief Addresses Satellite Co-Permittee Issuetafatwork

NACWA filed a brief this week with EPA’s Environmental Appeals Board (EAB) in support of a utility challenge to a federal discharge permit that forcibly included satellite collection systems as co-permittees with a regional wastewater treatment facility.  The brief argues that EPA Region 1’s efforts to include the satellite systems in the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit as co-permittees – against the wishes of both the satellites and the treatment agency – are illegal and contrary to the traditional permitting process.   NACWA points out that satellite collection system co-permittees are not covered by the NPDES program, arguing that the approach pursued by EPA in this case would fundamentally change the structure of NPDES permitting in a way that is not authorized by the Clean Water Act (CWA).   

The brief is part of an appeal filed by NACWA member utility the Upper Blackstone Water Pollution Abatement District and a number of towns in Massachusetts to a permit.  The legal arguments being advanced by EPA Region 1 are not only unsupported, but also represent a dangerous interpretation of EPA’s authority under the CWA that could have negative consequences if used by the Agency for permitting purposes in other parts of the country.  NACWA is participating in the appeal to help challenge the Region’s flawed co-permittee concept and highlight the importance of preserving a flexible, local approach to addressing satellite systems. 

NACWA Attends NRCS Stakeholder Meeting on Farm Bill Implementation

NACWA participated in a stakeholder meeting this week organized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), the agency charged with implementing most of the conservation investment programs administered by the USDA.  NRCS Chief Jason Weller facilitated the discussion and provided updates on key implementation milestones for programs authorized under the 2014 Farm Bill.  Specifically, the Chief reported that full proposals are currently under review for the Regional Conservation Partnership Program with final proposals likely to be selected by mid-November.  He also relayed that he expects the selection process to be very competitive as the agency is evaluating over $1 billion worth of requests for only $400 million of available funding.  Chief Weller also stated that the agency will seek to negotiate with applicants to ensure that worthy proposals are able to be funded at some level, potentially short of the full amount of money requested, so that the agency can spread the limited resources as far as possible. 

NACWA Weighs in with EPA Inspector General on Consent Decree Study

NACWA submitted a letter Oct. 16 to EPA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) requesting a meeting as part of the OIG’s current evaluation into EPA’s consent decree program for municipal sewer systems.  The Association received an immediate positive response from OIG with an offer to meet, and is working on scheduling a meeting. 

As reported in last week’s Clean Water Current, OIG has begun an investigation into the effectiveness of EPA’s municipal wet weather enforcement efforts.  NACWA’s letter highlights the Association’s significant expertise on consent decree issues and outlines the important perspective that NACWA can provide EPA during the investigation.  The letter also encourages OIG to take a more holistic view when evaluating the “success” of EPA’s enforcement program, noting that OIG should evaluate not only environmental benefits but also the economic and social impacts of consent decree programs on local communities.  NACWA will report on additional developments.   

Groups Poised to Reach Agreemetafatworknt with INDA on Flushable Wipes

NACWA, the Water Environment Federation (WEF), and the American Public Works Association (APWA) have reached a preliminary agreement with INDA (the trade association of the nonwoven fabrics industry) on how to move forward with developing new flushability guidelines for wipes and improving consumer awareness of proper wipe disposal.  The agreement is the culmination of a technical workgroup formed by the groups and funded in part by NACWA’s Targeted Action Fund (TAF).  The associations held a conference call this week to refine the goals of the upcoming work in these two areas and the processes that will be used.  Development of the new flushability guidelines will help to ensure that any wipes labeled “flushable” will break up rapidly enough in the sewer system to not cause clogs and other problems with equipment.  Currently, wipes that are not designed to be flushed, such as baby wipes, usually do not have package labeling with a prominent “Do Not Flush” logo or other instructions for disposal.  The associations plan to promote better labeling as a first line of consumer education, with potential for a broader consumer education effort on proper disposal of wipes and other products.  It is anticipated that the formal agreement will be completed next week.  At that time, NACWA will provide more details in a Member Update

NACWA Concerned by Anti-Biosolids Policy at National Grocery Chain

Whole Foods Market, a national, organic and natural foods grocery chain, issued a new rating system Wednesday for produce and flowers sold at its stores.  The Responsibly Grown Produce Rating System consists of a number of metrics to evaluate the sustainability of the practices used in growing the produce, including a requirement prohibiting the use of biosolids of any quality within three years of harvest.  The biosolids community has known for some time that Whole Foods was headed in this direction and made several attempts to establish a meaningful dialogue in person and through a number of letters, but the grocer generally rebuffed these efforts.  Though the practical effect of the prohibition is minor – biosolids are not used in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s organic program and the vast majority of biosolids used in U.S. agriculture are applied to non-vegetable crops such as animal forage and cereal grains – the official statement from a respected, national company could perpetuate the fear-based claims that biosolids are not safe.  NACWA is working to draft a letter expressing concern with the policy and requesting further dialogue on the issue.  The Association will be circulating the letter with its member agencies to collect signatures from the general managers/executive directors of as many members as possible.  The letter will be circulated in the next week or two.  Please contact This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it if you have any questions.

NACWA Continues Hill Advocacy during Recess

Though Congress is on recess and members are back in their districts campaigning, NACWA continues to reach out to their staffs in D.C. to discuss key policy matters of concern to our members.  This week, NACWA met with staff for Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) to discuss wet weather related issues including integrated planning and affordability.  Both Senators represent states in which clean water utilities are facing steep wet weather challenges and pressures on their ratepayers to pay for infrastructure investments.  These offices are interested in NACWA’s legislative proposals to address these challenges, including proposals that provide more tools for wet weather management and for implementing EPA’s integrated planning initiative.

Stormwater Committee Web Meeting Explores Second Generation MS4 Permits

The NACWA Stormwater Management Committee held a web-based committee meeting on Wednesday to update members on EPA activity since its decision to defer the national stormwater rulemaking effort, discuss MS4 second generation permit trends, and share information about a legal white paper NACWA is preparing on stormwater fee issues.  Chris Pomeroy of Aqualaw explored a series of prevailing trends and common permit provisions as EPA turns its focus to strengthening local stormwater programs in the absence of a national rulemaking.  Trends cited included water quality standard compliance litigation, adequate progress provisions, and TMDL [total maximum daily load] Planning.  Pomeroy offered a host of strategies for negotiating permits, especially stressing an MEP (Maximum Extent Practicable) analysis.

Amanda Waters, NACWA’s Deputy General Counsel, announced that work has begun on a NACWA white paper exploring the topic of Legal Trends in Managing and Funding Municipal Stormwater Programs.  The paper will provide a high-level overview of the types and nature of these challenges and what drives them, which often involves state-specific nuances.  In addition, the paper will provide an overview of several recent cases, outcomes and lessons to be learned. NACWA intends to release the electronic white paper during the National Clean Water Law Seminar to be held November 19-21 in St. Pete Beach, Florida. Based on initial positive feedback, committee chair Kyle Dreyfuss-Wells and vice chair Jill Piatt-Kemper, hope to hold web-based committee meetings more frequently. Please contact This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it if you would like to join the committee or have questions.

10 Days to Law Seminar Hotel Deadline – Don’t Delay!

The October 27 deadline to reserve a hotel room at the discounted rate for NACWA’s National Clean Water Law Seminar is just around the corner – make you plans to attend today!  This year’s program, scheduled for November 19 – 21 at the Loews Don CeSar in sunny St. Pete, Florida, promises a timely and informative examination of the hottest legal and regulatory topics impacting clean water utilities.  Highlights of the Seminar will include a keynote address from Ellen Gilinksy, the senior policy advisor in EPA’s Office of Water; a panel of senior federal and state water regulators discussing the most important current regulatory issues; and, a group of veteran clean water practitioners examining the successes, failures, and future challenges of the Clean Water Act as it reaches middle age.  Other topics to be addressed include integrated planning, stormwater, green infrastructure, and wet weather enforcement developments.

Designed for both clean water attorneys and utility managers, this conference is a “can’t miss” event!  Continuing Legal Education (CLE) credit will be available, with a number of approvals already received from specific states.  A complete CLE list, along with a program agenda, hotel information, and conference registration, is available on NACWA’s website.  Be sure to join your clean water colleagues – both lawyers and non-lawyers alike – for some fun, sun, and a great learning experience in Florida!

Like Sand through the Hourglass … These Are Your Final Days to Submit for NEAA

The deadline to submit nominations for the National Environmental Achievement Awards (NEAA) is Monday, October 20.  Applications can be e-mailed to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or post marked by Monday.  There is no fee to apply and NACWA Public Agency Members are encouraged to participate.  The NEAA program is arranged into two comprehensive categories: Individual Achievement Awards and Member Agency Achievement Awards.  Individual Awards contain three subcategories, including Public Service Awards for federal, state or local elected or appointed officials; Distinguished Service Awards for member agency leaders’ dedication to NACWA; and the Environment Award, recognizing service and commitment to the environment.  The Member Agency Awards are open for the following categories: Water Resources Utility of the Future; Research & Technology; Operations & Environmental Performance; Public Service; and Public Information & Education (which includes subcategories for video, printed publication, educational program, and e-media). 

Don’t miss this opportunity to earn national recognition for your innovative utility initiatives or for the appointed and elected individuals who support them.  Applications are available on the website. Contact This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it with questions.

Invest in Your Staff – Register for the Water & Wastewater Leadership Center

Celebrating its 15th year, you’re invited to attend the 2015 Water & Wastewater Leadership Center and experience what over 300 alumni of the program consider exceptional executive education.  The Water & Wastewater Leadership Center is being held March 8-19, 2015 at the Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  Designed to enhance the leadership and management skills of current and up-and-coming utility executives, the Leadership Center prepares students to meet their customers’ demands with the highest level of service, quality, and efficiency.  Boasting top-notch, experienced faculty, state of the art classroom facilities, relevant curriculum, and an intimate learning environment; this program will not disappoint.  The deadline to apply is Friday, October 31, 2014.  Application materials are currently available and questions should be directed to Program Manager, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

NACWA Blog of the Week:
Sailing New Waters with Strangers

How do you feel about strangers?  Not the kind that you were taught about in grade school – but people with different perspectives that we might learn from, connect to, and collaborate with.  Collaboration has been a key tenet of NACWA for years, and reaching out to “strangers” is an opportunity we embrace. Read on to find out some recent success we’ve had with strangers or better yet, subscribe to The Water Voice and never miss a post!


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