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Clean Water Current - February 27



» Clean Water Current Archive

February 27, 2015

NACWA Comments on Utility Rating Methodology, Focuses on Finance Issues

NACWA submitted comments pdf button Thursday on changes being proposed to Standard & Poor’s (S&P’s) methodology for rating the credit-worthiness of public water and wastewater utilities. The proposed changes are intended to increase the transparency and comparability of the rating process, but NACWA cautioned that too much reliance on a mechanical methodology can overlook the unique aspects of utilities. The revised methodology is expected out later this year. This comment effort marks NACWA’s increasingly active role in the arena of clean water finance, which is being spearheaded by a new Finance Workgroup under the leadership of DC Water’s CFO, Mark Kim. Public agency members interested in joining this new Workgroup should contact This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . NACWA’s upcoming Summer Conference in Providence, Rhode Island, July 12-15, Financing, Funding & Rates for the Future of Clean Water — will also offer an array of perspectives on critical finance issues.

EPA OIG Inquires about SRF Green Project Benefits

NACWA had a conference call this week with EPA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) to discuss their investigation into the economic and environmental success of projects funded through the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) Green Project Reserve (GPR). The GPR requires all CWSRF programs to direct a portion of their capitalization grant toward projects addressing green infrastructure, water efficiency/reuse, energy efficiency, or other environmentally innovative activities. NACWA members have leveraged the GPR to fund green infrastructure projects and programs, and OIG is seeking to determine how to measure the benefits from these projects as the program comes under criticism from some groups who oppose the GPR. NACWA has supported the GPR as an important element of advancing key Utility of the Future priorities. OIG is interested in any nationwide information on measured environmental or water quality benefit achieved by GPR-funded projects, with a focus on green infrastructure, as well as cost savings realized from implementing those projects. Please notify Brenna Mannion at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it if you have this type of information.

Associations Meet with CDC on Pretreatment of Ebola Waste

NACWA, the Water Environment Federation (WEF), the Water Environment Research Foundation (WERF), and the California Association of Sanitation Agencies (CASA) met with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) this week to discuss risks to wastewater utility workers from Ebola patient waste and other pathogens. Although there are currently no active Ebola virus cases in the U.S., the associations would still like to see better communication from CDC on how workers can best be protected from Ebola and other risks. While the CDC’s Interim Guidance for Managers and Workers Handling Untreated Sewage from Individuals with Ebola in the United States does not recommend pretreatment of Ebola patient waste prior to sewer discharge, utilities remain concerned about the potential risks presented by this waste. The CDC stated that it is willing to work with the wastewater associations to develop improved text for documents that will acknowledge pretreatment as a local option.

Citing the long delay in releasing the CDC’s Interim Guidance last fall, associations and CDC talked about how government agencies can better communicate with utilities in the future. The ongoing research into the fate of the Ebola virus in wastewater was also discussed, including a project sponsored by WERF. NACWA will notify members when the results of the research are released, and the Association will continue to work with the CDC and the other associations to improve the information available to utilities about the Ebola virus and other threats.

NACWA Discusses Asset Management with GAO

NACWA met Wednesday with staff from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to discuss a new study on the use of asset management by water and wastewater utilities. The GAO study was requested by congressional appropriators and is just getting underway. Continued scrutiny of the federal contribution to the State Revolving Funds (SRFs) is likely one of the drivers for the report. The focus of the study is smaller utilities, but GAO plans to meet with a range of water sector groups as it outlines its research needs for the report over the next few weeks. NACWA provided some background on adoption of asset management by the water sector, but underscored that asset management will not reduce the overall funding need and reliance on the SRFs. The Association suggested that, in fact, the opposite may be true because the more information the utilities have regarding their assets, the greater the cost-estimates for repairing and replacing them can become. The reliance on the SRF is particularly true for smaller utilities. The GAO expects to issue a final report by the end of 2015.

Water Sector Coordinating Council Discusses Security Priorities

The Water Sector Coordinating Council (WSCC) held its first quarterly meeting of 2015 this week. NACWA’s two representatives to the WSCC participated: Patty Cleveland, Assistant Regional Manager with the Trinity River Authority, Texas, and Chair of the WSCC, and Jim Davidson, Manager of Safety & Security for the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District. The WSCC discussed recent threats to drinking water and wastewater utilities, including the cybersecurity incidents and metal thefts that have caused problems at multiple utilities in the past year. While the WSCC has focused recently on working with EPA and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on developing a plan to improve the cybersecurity of utilities, the Council will be taking a close look at the 2013 Roadmap to a Secure & Resilient Water Sector pdf button, which outlines the priorities for security and emergency preparedness at utilities for the federal agencies and water associations to work on in the 2014-2016 time period. The WSCC will discuss the progress made and remaining needs to address the priorities in the Roadmap during its next meeting on May 18. NACWA will be asking its Security & Emergency Preparedness Committee to provide input for this discussion.

Congress Considers FY16 Funding for SRF

This week, the House Appropriations Committee began hearings on the Administration’s FY16 Budget request, including a hearing on Thursday to review EPA’s budget, with testimony from Administrator Gina McCarthy. In her testimony pdf button, McCarthy spoke of the importance of protecting the nation’s waters and discussed the Agency’s initiative to help communities adopt more innovative, collaborative, and cost-effective ways to meet Clean Water Act (CWA) requirements. The initiative includes a new $50 million proposal to establish a Water Infrastructure & Resiliency Finance Center to provide technical assistance to communities with respect to financing issues. McCarthy took questions from Representatives that focused on a wide variety of issues including the proposed rule on Waters of the United States and various regional water concerns such as the Puget Sound and the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. The Administration requested a $270 million increase for the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) and a $333 million decrease for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) and McCarthy acknowledged the Administration’s increased focus on the need to ensure safe drinking water, despite continued regulatory pressures on communities to meet CWA requirements. When questioned about the insufficiency of the SRFs to address the nation’s massive water infrastructure gap, McCarthy stated that the SRFs are only part of the solution and pointed to efforts to leverage more private investment through Public-Private Partnerships and efforts like the new Water Finance Center that will attempt to encourage these innovative efforts. NACWA is preparing a letter to Congress urging it to reject the Administration’s budget request for the CWSRF and to continue funding the clean water program at current levels. The Association is also organizing a joint letter among municipal and state associations on the Administration’s overall budget request.

USDA Accepting Comments on Agricultural Conservation Easement Program

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is accepting public comments on its interim final rule for the new Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP). The ACEP, administered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), was created under the 2014 Farm Bill to consolidate three conservation easement programs and make it easier for diverse agricultural landowners to benefit from conservation initiatives. The Environmental Assessment (EA) and Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) for the program have been prepared and are now available for review and comment. Information pdf button is now available regarding access to the EA and FONSI and on how to submit comments.

NACWA Nominates Board Member for Local Government Advisory Committee

NACWA has nominated Board Member Andy Kricun, Director/Chief Engineer of the Camden County (NJ) Municipal Utilities Authority (CCMUA) to serve on the EPA’s Local Government Advisory Committee (LGAC). The LGAC advises the EPA Administrator on a range of environmental issues. Kevin Shafer, NACWA Board Member and Executive Director for the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District, was recently re-appointed to the LGAC. The Association hopes that the addition of a second clean water community representative will elevate the importance of water issues on the LGAC and with the Administrator.

The Fun Doesn’t End on St. Patrick’s Day – Join NACWA’s Next Legal Hot Topics Webinar

Sign up today for the next Legal Hot Topics Web Seminar on March 18 from 2:00 – 3:15 pm Eastern. The complimentary webinar is designed to benefit municipal utility attorneys and managers, those new to the clean water arena, and seasoned professionals. It is offered at no cost to NACWA members and provides an excellent and convenient way to keep current on the latest clean water issues, developments, trends and case law.

Topics and speakers for the next webinar include:

  • Environmental Compliance for Wastewater Utilities: Understanding the Mundane But Essentials of Effective Compliance
             Brent Fewell and Brooks Smith, Troutman Sanders 
  • Legal Issues Associated with Contaminated Sediment
             Linda E. Benfield and Mark Thimke, Foley & Lardner LLP

Reserve your space for you and your colleagues today!

Peak Performing Treatment Facilities Wanted

NACWA is currently accepting applications for the 2014 Peak Performance Awards. All eligible Member Agencies are encouraged to submit their nomination(s) by April 3. The Peak Performance Awards is a nationally-recognized program that acknowledges Member Agency facilities for excellence in wastewater treatment as measured by their compliance with their National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit requirements. This year, NACWA has expanded eligibility 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. Visit NACWA’s website for more information on the Peak Performance Awards program and apply today!

Unique Opportunity to Learn From Award-Winning Agencies Offered

The award-winning agency applications from this year’s National Environmental Achievement Award are now available. These outstanding projects and initiatives received recognition in the categories of Water Resources Utility of the Future; Research & Technology; Operations & Environmental Compliance; and Public Information & Education. Application narratives are available for review as means to share the innovative, creative and ground-breaking initiatives being done by your colleagues. Contact information is available should you wish to learn more about any of the award-winning projects.

NACWA Blog of the Week:
EPA’s Dental Amalgam Separator Rule: It’s Not Filling a Hole

Last year, EPA proposed a rule pdf button that would require dental amalgam separators in all dental offices that place or remove amalgam fillings, which are about half mercury. While requiring dental offices to use dental amalgam separators sounds like a good idea, is this proposed rule the best way to accomplish this? Read on to find out more.





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