ARCHIVE SITE - Last updated Jan. 19, 2017. Please visit www.NACWA.org for the latest NACWA information.
January 16, 2015
White House Announces New EPA Water Finance Center and Set of Financing Proposals
Today, the White House announced the launch of a new Water Infrastructure and Resiliency Finance Center within EPA targeted to maximize public and private investment in water and sewer infrastructure, including a focus on public-private partnerships. As part of this effort, the Administration also announced a new set of tax proposals that would allow local and state governments to more easily work with the private sector to pursue projects that combine public and private investment. NACWA attended an event today at one of DC Water’s Clean Rivers Project sites where Vice President Joe Biden, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), and DC Water’s General Manager George Hawkins were on hand to underscore the importance of infrastructure funding to job creation and economic expansion. Vice President Biden noted that clean water infrastructure projects are vitally important both because they create jobs but also because upgraded infrastructure will help lure overseas businesses back to the U.S. NACWA is reviewing the complete proposal outlining the components of the initiative as it relates to the water sector, and will release a more detailed analysis of it in an Advocacy Alert next week.
This week a federal judge entered the wet weather consent decree negotiated by NACWA member, the city of Lima, Ohio, with EPA and the state of Ohio, marking the first consent decree incorporating a full integrated plan consistent with EPA's 2012 Integrated Municipal Stormwater and Wastewater Planning Approach Framework. The decree integrates wastewater treatment, combined sewer overflow (CSO), sanitary sewer overflow, and other projects that are prioritized based on environmental and human health benefits.
Fredric Andes, a partner with NACWA Legal Affiliate Barnes & Thornburg, who negotiated the consent decree on behalf of Lima, explained that one of the unique aspects of the decree is that it is staggered over time to account for the economics of when the city can bond for projects, as well as what the city can afford at the given time, while prioritizing the most environmentally beneficial projects so those are done first.
The decree contains a 24-year schedule for ultimate compliance, with a CSO goal of no more than 5 overflow events per year and different SSO design storms for different areas, based on potential human health risk factors. It is structured to provide Lima with the ability, upon EPA’s approval, to modify certain control measures or extend a milestone by five years if it experiences “significant adverse changes to its financial circumstances or other financial or budgetary issues.” There is also a reopener for “changed circumstances,” including financial and budgetary considerations, adaptive management, and green infrastructure projects. There is a $49,000 civil penalty, with a Supplemental Environmental Project that involves tree planting along the Ottawa River.
Lima issued a press release summarizing other key elements of the decree. There will also be a presentation on Lima’s Consent Decree at the Facility & Collection Systems Committee meeting on Monday, February 2 (1:30-2:45 pm ET) during NACWA’s Winter Conference, Leaving the Comfort Zone... Collaborating for Clean Water, in Charleston, S.C.
Lima’s Consent Decree will be included in NACWA’s 2015 update of the Wet Weather Consent Decree Handbook, which will be released during the second annual Wet Weather Consent Decree Workshop to be held April 29-30 in Philadelphia. This day-and-a-half event will provide clean water agencies with the most up-to-date consent decree information – including resources to negotiate new decrees or renegotiate existing decrees to best serve their communities and the environment.
This week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced awardees for the first round of funding under the newly established Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). Four projects receiving awards involve NACWA members either as a lead partner or as a participating partner.
NACWA congratulates the City of Cedar Rapids as the leading partner for the Middle Cedar Partnership Project that will focus on working with local conservation partners, farmers and landowners to install best management practices such as cover crops, nutrient management, wetlands and saturated buffers to help improve water quality, water quantity and soil health in the Cedar River Watershed.
NACWA also congratulates the following NACWA members who are playing key partnership roles in the following project awards:
The Madison Metropolitan Sewerage District, a key partner for the Yahara Watershed Pilot project led by the Dane County Land and Water Resources Department, will be the first in the nation to test the Watershed Adaptive Management Program – an innovative regulatory compliance option for addressing phosphorus. In addition, the City of Columbus, OH is a participating partner in a watershed project in the Upper Big Walnut Creek watershed which supplies drinking water to the City; and, the City of Baltimore is a participating partner in the Mason-Dixon Working Lands Partnership focusing on wetlands restoration and the health of the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
The RCPP is a new program established under the 2014 Farm Bill to encourage partnerships between agricultural producers and other entities, including municipalities and wastewater authorities, to tackle water quality challenges and other natural resource problems. NACWA led the Healthy Waters Coalition of municipal water and wastewater organizations, environmental NGOs and state regulators in advocating for strengthening the links between agricultural policy and water quality during last year’s Farm Bill reauthorization debate.
These projects were selected from a competitive pool of nearly 600. In this first round of funding, USDA awarded $400 million to 115 projects. A second round of funding will be announced in the spring. The RCPP reflects the growing importance of embracing partnerships to address water quality issues, which NACWA will be focusing on at the 2015 Winter Conference in Charleston, S.C. (see NACWA’s press release for more information).
The New York Court of Appeals this week dismissed an appeal from environmental activist groups this week in a key stormwater case, ensuring that a very positive lower court decision in the matter will stand. A key issue in the litigation was the appropriate application of the Clean Water Act’s “maximum extent practicable” (MEP) standard for municipal stormwater discharges. A lower court had already ruled in the case that the MEP standard does not require strict compliance with water quality standards in stormwater permits, marking an important win for municipal clean water interests. Activist groups challenged that finding, but this week’s dismissal of their appeal means the lower court’s ruling remains in place.
NACWA joined with other groups to file a brief in the case last week supporting the lower court’s decision and presenting a strong defense of the MEP standard, and is very pleased the appeal was dismissed. NACWA has a long history of aggressively defending the MEP standard in past legal cases, and will continue to do so moving forward.
NACWA commented on a tentative permit for member agency the Los Angeles County Sanitation Districts’ (LACSD) San Jose Creek Water Reclamation Plant this week, expressing concern with several requirements related to whole effluent toxicity (WET) included in the permit by the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board. While NACWA rarely comments on matters impacting individual treatment plants, the tentative permit in question includes provisions that could have significant statewide and national impacts. Specifically, the permit requires use of the test of significant toxicity (TST), a WET test result evaluation methodology that has not been approved by EPA and that NACWA has raised significant concerns over in the past. In addition, the permit does limit LACSD’s ability to use existing tools, like multiple concentration/dilution testing and dose response evaluation, that help to improve the reliability of WET tests. The permit would also penalize the permittee for continue WET failures once at toxicity identification evaluation (TIE) process has been initiated. NACWA’s comment letter will preserve its ability to weigh in on the issue should the permit ultimately be challenged.
NACWA submitted comments this week on a draft standard for limits of detection and quantitation for analytical methods developed by The NELAC Institute (TNI). TNI is a nonprofit organization working to foster the generation of environmental data in a known and transparent fashion and several NACWA members have been on TNI’s Board of Directors in the past. The draft standard provides guidelines for establishing method detection and quantitation limits and NACWA provided several comments to help clarify certain provisions and improve the document.
Office of Enforcement & Compliance Assurance (OECA) hosted a webinar for NACWA members on the proposed National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) e-Reporting Rule supplemental notice yesterday (slides ). The supplemental notice seeks to clarify a number of issues. NACWA encourages members to read the 16-page notice and consider providing input either to the Association or directly to EPA, paying special attention to the number of issues on which the Agency is specifically requesting comment – especially on adjusting implementation schedules and the State Readiness Criteria. The entire rule can be considered in any new comments. The Association submitted comments on the original proposed rule in December 2013, as did a number of Member Agencies, and will also comment in response to this notice. Comments are due January 30, 2015.
This week, EPA issued final interpretive guidance to States for implementing revisions to the Clean Water State Revolving Fund program, enacted as part of the Water Resources Reform & Development Act of 2014 (WRRDA) last year. The final guidance document maintains provisions originally included in the draft guidance released in September. It does, however, include additional direction to states on two key outstanding issues 1) a new provision in the statute requiring certain loan recipients to certify that they have completed a cost effectiveness analysis for the proposed investments; and, 2) clarification that States can decide whether a proposed activity would trigger the definition of a treatment works for the purposes of applying prevailing wage and Buy American provisions.
NACWA’s Security & Emergency Preparedness Committee met via webinar yesterday to discuss “Lessons Sustained” – what utilities have learned from previous disasters and incorporated into their emergency planning and resiliency improvements. Presentations were provided by three guest speakers. Bob Steidel, Director of the City of Richmond Department of Public Utilities, presented the lessons learned from unusual and unexpected events, and emphasized the interdependencies that can affect the utility during emergencies. Andy Kricun, NACWA Board Member and Executive Director/Chief Engineer of the Camden County Municipal Utilities Authority, discussed the vulnerabilities that Superstorm Sandy revealed in the utility's infrastructure, with climate change expected to increase vulnerability, and the wide range of projects being undertaken to improve resiliency. Finally, Andy Fairey, Chief Operating Officer of Charleston Water System, discussed Charleston’s comprehensive hurricane planning and the efforts that are taken each year to review, revise, and practice the plan.
Although there are currently no active Ebola virus cases in the U.S., utilities should be prepared if any new cases are diagnosed. The California Association of Sanitation Agencies (CASA) released a memo this week, Revised Consensus Recommendations for Dialogue between the Wastewater Sector and Hospitals on the Management of Wastewater Generated by Patients Infected with the Ebola Virus , which NACWA supports as a reasonable and practical way to reduce any risk to wastewater utility workers. The recommendations were developed with the assistance of several microbiologists and are consistent with the U.S. Army Institute of Public Health’s Standard Operating Procedure (SOP), Ebola Virus Disease Waste Management in the Medical Treatment Facility. Although the Interim Guidance for Managers and Workers Handling Untreated Sewage from Individuals with Ebola in the United States released by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) last November does not recommend pretreatment of Ebola virus patient waste prior to sewer discharge, both the Army SOP and the CASA recommendations call for pretreatment of patient waste, including graywater from showers, with a disinfectant before discharge to the sewer system. Research is ongoing to determine the risks posed by the Ebola virus in wastewater.
NACWA, the Water Environment Federation (WEF), and the American Public Works Association (APWA) have finalized an agreement with INDA (the trade association of the nonwoven fabrics industry) on how the associations will work together to reduce the problems caused by wipes flushed into sewer systems. The agreement is the culmination of a technical workgroup funded in part by NACWA’s Targeted Action Fund (TAF). The agreement includes development of new flushability guidelines for wipes that will be protective of collection systems and wastewater treatment plants, as well as a product stewardship initiative that will focus on package labeling and consumer education. The associations are finalizing the timeline for the product stewardship initiative, with the first meeting expected this spring – and the documents associated with the agreement. A joint press release will be distributed by the associations later this month. NACWA will provide further details to its members in an Advocacy Alert.
Today is the deadline for completing NACWA’s 2014 Cost of Clean Water – Service Charge Index Survey. NACWA has published the Index annually since 1992 to track average annual single-family residential service charge increases as measured against the rate of inflation. The Index has become an important resource for clean water agencies – as well as a wide variety of policymakers and subject matter experts. Responses from as many members as possible are crucial to keep the Index a reliable and informative resource.
The Peak Performance Award application packet is now available. NACWA is pleased to announce that the Peak Performance Awards program has been enhanced to include facilities that operate under a federal or state equivalent NPDES permit, an underground injection control permit, or a state control mechanism that regulates effluent quality and reuse of reclaimed flows. We are excited to now be in the position to recognize both NPDES permit compliance and this new category of high performing facilities. Apply today and get recognized for your Agency's hard work and dedication to environmental protection! See Member Update 15-01 for more information.
Don't miss out on NACWA's Winter Conference, Leaving the Comfort Zone... Collaborating for Clean Water, February 1-4 in Charleston, SC. This engaging program will focus on the importance of new partners and key collaborations to improve water quality and protect the environment. If you plan to join us in Charleston you only have a few days left before the Belmond Charleston Place's NACWA attendee rate, is no longer available. To ensure a hotel room, at a rate of $190 per night (single/double) plus applicable taxes, contact the Belmond Charleston Place Hotel at 888.635.2350. Be sure to identify yourself as a NACWA attendee. After January 19, the rate may no longer be available, so make your plans today!
Have you check out NACWA’s online networking site Engage ™? The site provides an easy-to-use platform to share and exchange information with colleagues at utilities and firms nationwide. Trending this week on Engage™:
This week EPA’s Office of Research & Development released its final assessment of the science on how streams and wetlands are connected and affect downstream waterways. Referred to as the connectivity report, it is a review of more than 1,200 pieces of independent, peer-reviewed, and published scientific literature.” http://blog.epa.gov/epaconnect/2015/01/final-clean-water-rule/
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