ARCHIVE SITE - Last updated Jan. 19, 2017. Please visit www.NACWA.org for the latest NACWA information.
November 21, 2014
CDC Releases Interim Ebola Guidance for POTW Workers
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released its much-anticipated Interim Guidance for Managers and Workers Handling Untreated Sewage from Individuals with Ebola in the United States this week. While noting that the risk to wastewater treatment plant workers is very low, the interim guidance is meant to help reduce and minimize the workers’ risk of exposure to infectious agents including the Ebola virus when working with untreated sewage. The guidance provides recommendations for workers on the types of personal protective equipment to be used and proper hygiene for safe handling of untreated sewage from hospitals, medical facilities, and other facilities with confirmed individuals with Ebola. NACWA will be reviewing the details of the interim guidance and will provide additional details in future publications.
During the keynote address at NACWA’s Law Seminar this week, Ellen Gilinsky, Senior Policy Advisor at EPA’s Office of Water, announced a 60-day extension to the comment period for the proposed Dental Amalgam Separator Rule. Comments will now be due on February 21, 2015. NACWA and the American Dental Association (ADA) submitted a joint request for this extension, which was followed by requests from other national and regional associations. The proposed rule would require all dental offices to have an amalgam separator installed as a pretreatment requirement, significantly affecting pretreatment programs at wastewater utilities. Detailed information about the proposed rule is contained in NACWA’s Advocacy Alert 14-21.
NACWA will begin a survey next week to collect data from utilities to inform the Association’s comments. The survey will ask for mercury concentrations in influent, effluent, and biosolids, and will request information about dental amalgam separator programs from utilities that already have them. All NACWA Member Agencies are encouraged to complete the survey.
NACWA released its newest member resource Navigating Litigation Floodwaters: Legal Considerations for Funding Municipal Stormwater ProgramsNavigating Litigation Floodwaters: Legal Considerations for Funding Municipal Stormwater Programs during the National Clean Water Law Seminar this week. This white paper provides analysis of the types of legal issues impacting stormwater funding programs.
It is estimated that one fourth of all Phase I municipal separate storm sewer system (MS4) permits and half of all Phase II MS4 permits are expired and due for renewal. The regulatory landscape with regard to MS4s will shift rapidly as these permits are renewed. As permit requirements become increasingly more onerous, local governments will need even more revenue and rate increases to keep pace. A n increase in MS4 fees may also lead to increased legal challenges to municipal stormwater funding programs, and utilities need to be fully aware of these potential issues.
NACWA’s white paper will help equip members with critical knowledge and tools to address these legal challenges, as well as inform and prepare utilities that are creating, implementing or defending a stormwater program, utility or fee. It is available for download and is free for NACWA members.
The Water & Wildlife Subcommittee of the Senate’s Environment & Public Works Committee will hold a hearing on December 2 to explore how clean water utilities are becoming “Utilities of the Future” by undertaking innovative approaches to manage and operate their systems. The hearing will spotlight how utilities are using resource recovery, green infrastructure and watershed-wide partnerships to tackle clean water challenges more efficiently and add value to their customer base. Representatives from a number of NACWA Members Agencies are scheduled to testify, including NEW Water in Green Bay, Wisconsin, San Francisco’s Public Utility Commission, and Washington Suburban Sanitary District. The hearing will be streamed live via webcast at www.epw.senate.gov and NACWA members are urged to watch.
The Third Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral argument this week in American Farm Bureau v. EPA, an appeal by the American Farm Bureau (AFB) of a lower court ruling that rejected all AFB’s challenges to the final total maximum daily load (TMDL) for the Chesapeake Bay, and upheld EPA’s inclusion of nonpoint sources as part of the TMDL. The decision also granted requests by EPA, NACWA and others to uphold the final TMDL and its holistic watershed approach that requires pollution reduction from all sources of impairment to achieve nutrient and sediment reductions.
The three-judge panel was thoroughly prepared and seemed to agree with EPA’s interpretation of the TMDL provision of the Clean Water Act (CWA), i.e., the “holistic watershed approach” with allocations for “all source sectors/all states.”
The panel repeatedly referenced the precedent established by the Ninth Circuit in the Pronsolino v. Nastri decision (2002), which holds that impaired waters should be listed and subject to TMDLs under CWA § 303(d), whether impaired by point sources, nonpoint sources, or a combination of both. NACWA participated in the Pronsolino case at every stage to protect member agencies from nonpoint source efforts to remove themselves from the scope of the TMDL program.
NACWA has partnered with the Virginia Association of Metropolitan Wastewater Agencies (VAMWA) and the Maryland Association of Metropolitan Wastewater Agencies (MAMWA) in the Bay TMDL litigation in order to provide a strong defense of the watershed approach to achieve water quality improvements. The Association and its municipal partners filed a brief earlier this year in the appeal supporting the lower court decision (as did a group of major U.S. cities).
Several key members of New Jersey’s Congressional delegation sent a letter this week urging appropriators to include $2 million for Integrated Planning (IP) in EPA’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 budget package. New Jersey Senators Robert Menendez and Cory Booker, along with Representatives Bill Pascrell and Albio Sires, wrote to both House and Senate Appropriators in support of this request. Twenty-one communities, most of which are located in northern New Jersey, could potentially face nearly $8 billion in costs to reduce or eliminate combined sewer overflows and are considering IP as an approach for meeting this challenge. Earlier this year, the House Appropriations Committee included $2 million to help communities develop integrated plans in its FY15 spending proposal for EPA. While the Senate proposal includes supportive language for the initiative, it does not include money to help communities develop these plans. As Congress prepares a final spending package to fund the government through FY15, NACWA has urged them to include the House’s $2 million funding proposal. Currently, federal agencies, including EPA, are operating under a Continuing Resolution through December 11 and Congressional leaders are discussing whether and how to fund the government beyond this date. NACWA will keep members updated on developments as they occur.
The NACWA Board of Directors approved new Target Action Fund (TAF) projects at its meeting on Tuesday, November 18. The first project will support a series of meetings with EPA on the Agency’s training materials for writing nutrient permit limits. The meetings will build on a previous TAF-funded report reviewing EPA’s methods for setting water quality-based effluent limits for nutrients. The Board approved an amount not to exceed $33,000 for this project, which will seek to influence the content of EPA’s training materials for its course on writing nutrient permit limits through a series of five in-depth meetings with the Agency. These meetings will be important to ensure that decisions concerning water quality improvements are based on valid science, encourage flexible implementation approaches, consider community financial capability, and better allow for innovation by the clean water community.
Also approved was a TAF project for an agriculture-clean water agency joint mapping analysis to identify priority locations for potential collaborations between the wastewater sector and agricultural producers. This is a collaborative effort with funding being shared by NACWA, several Foundations, and the Innovation Center for US Dairy. NACWA’s share of the project costs will not exceed $25,000 – and the project will be led by the World Resources Institute (WRI). The final report will identify and map watersheds uniquely suited for potential collaborations based on the proximity of POTWs with a treatment capacity of 5 MGD or larger to upstream dairy and other agricultural operations located in impaired watersheds that could benefit from collaborations. The project builds on the recently signed Memorandum of Understanding between NACWA and the National Milk Producers Federation.
These TAF projects will be vital to expanding dialogue with the EPA to set achievable water quality standards for clean water agencies in an arena of tightening enforcement and will help provide real gains in innovative and collaborative efforts that advance the concept of the Utility of the Future.
The Board also approved $5,000 in TAF funds to support the Association’s participation as amicus curiae in biosolids land application litigation before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. NACWA will participate jointly with the Pennsylvania Municipal Authorities Association.
Over 100 people attended NACWA’s National Clean Water Law Seminar in St. Pete Beach, FL this week, participating in a conference agenda that examined the most important current topics in clean water law. The Seminar featured top clean water act attorneys and professionals from around the country, providing robust and detailed analysis of current regulatory and legal issues.
Leading off the Seminar was a keynote presentation from Ellen Gilinsky, Senior Policy Advisor in EPA’s Office of Water, who outlined the major legal and regulatory priorities for the Agency. Among the key topics she identified as top issues were the current EPA proposal on Clean Water Act (CWA) jurisdiction; promotion of green infrastructure; revisions to EPA’s water quality standards rule; nutrients; and, water reuse. She also announced a 60-day extension for the public comment on the Agency’s recently proposed Dental Amalgam Rule, endorsing NACWA’s previous request for an extension (see related story). Gilinsky noted the critical role of NACWA members in helping to achieve the goals of the CWA, and thanked the Association for its excellent working relationship with the Agency.
The Seminar also included a panel of veteran clean water attorneys who debated the health of the CWA at middle-age, examining the success and failures of the Act to date. Speakers also looked ahead to what changes may be necessary for the CWA in the future to ensure its relevance – and how these changes might impact utilities. Integrated planning (IP) also received significant attention, including discussion of successes in the permitting realm, as well as the announcement of some very recent advances in enforcement consent decrees.
Other issues addressed included affordability and innovative financing; stormwater; legal considerations for green infrastructure; top CWA legal cases and key federal/state regulatory priorities; and, consent decree developments. The Seminar also featured a retrospective on the growth of NACWA’s legal advocacy program over the last 30 years and the key role of the Association’s retiring Executive Director, Ken Kirk, in promoting the Association’s legal advocacy.
Presentations from the Seminar are available on NACWA’s website. NACWA thanks all of the participants from this year’s conference and looks forward to another great event next year!
On Wednesday, we celebrated World Toilet Day. While it may sound like a humorous occasion, it’s actually serious – deadly serious. It’s a day to recognize that not everyone has access to toilets or good sanitation, which leads to 1,000 children dying each day from diarrheal diseases. While in this time of thanksgiving, we should be grateful for basic sanitation. We are also grateful for the hard-working wastewater utilities that treat wastewater and protect the health of our communities. Read on to find out our additional thoughts on World Toilet Day or subscribe to The Water Voice and never miss a post.
There will be no Clean Water Current next week.
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