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April 17, 2015
Water Week 2015 Brings Hundreds to DC
NACWA, the Water Environment Federation (WEF), the Water Environment Research Foundation (WERF), and WateReuse, along with the U.S. Water Alliance, as well as nearly 50 state and regional water groups, banded together to bring hundreds of clean water professionals from coast-to-coast to Washington, DC to advance shared priorities as part of the second annual Water Week.
Policy Forum & Fly-In Anchors Week of Advocacy, Discussion & Dialogue
The cornerstone of Water Week 2015 was the National Water Policy Forum, Fly-In, & Expo. NACWA, WEF, WERF, and WateReuse collaborated to craft a compelling Forum agenda that included an array of clean water advocacy, technical policies, communications, and research priorities – demonstrating the power of the water sector when it speaks with one voice. The Forum & Fly-In featured Members of Congress and leading policymakers from EPA and other federal agencies. Sector leaders heard from EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy who gave a passionate defense of the Waters of the U.S. rule – now referred to as the Clean Water Rule – reassuring the audience that our concerns on stormwater and other issues would be directly addressed. Administrator McCarthy and an array of other top EPA officials also focused attention on the need for the water sector organizations to work collaboratively with the Agency to address climate and resiliency issues and finance and affordability concerns, while also bringing new innovative technologies to market based on a more flexible approach that can tolerate some increasing risk.
NACWA also heard from an array of Congressional Representatives both as part of the general sessions and at the Congressional Reception. These included Reps. Bob Latta (R-OH) and Tim Walz (D-MN) who sponsored the important Clean Water Affordability Act, as well as Representative Bob Gibbs (R-OH), Chair of the House Water Resources & Environment Subcommittee, and Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY). Rep. David Joyce (R-OH), as a new face to NACWA and a junior member of the House, gave an inspiring speech about the need to ignore the perceived dysfunction of Congress, especially given the bipartisan nature of clean water issues. He, and many of the Congressional speakers, underscored the value that a united water sector can bring by leveraging their respective influence — the ultimate goal of Water Week. In line with this, the collaborating organizations developed a compelling one-pager with infographics , detailing the unparalleled accomplishment of the clean water community and what is at stake if we fail to strengthen the local-state-federal partnership to invest in clean water.
Water Utilities Bring Their Message to ‘The Hill’
Throughout the week representatives from clean water and drinking water utilities across the country carpeted Capitol Hill – putting national priorities in a local context for their Congressional delegations. The Utility of the Future; funding and financing; climate and resiliency; and, affordability and integrated planning were among the issues discussed in detail at Capitol Hill meetings.
As featured in this week’s The Water Voice blog, We Are the Masters of Our Own Fate, Executive Director, Ken Kirk, called on NACWA members – and all voices from within the water sector – to tune out the cynicism regarding Capitol Hill and instead rally together to cut through the noise. Water Week 2015 exemplified this effort and will continue to garner momentum and growing success by bringing more water sector organizations together to ensure that the clean water community's priorities are fully shared by Congress and the federal family.
Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) and Representative Donna Edwards (D-MD) re-introduced legislation on Tuesday, in conjunction with Water Week 2015. The legislation provides critical support to innovative stormwater strategies and increase flexible approaches to effectively manage polluted runoff and sewage overflows – while relieving pressure on aging infrastructure. S. 896/H.R. 1775, The Innovative Stormwater Infrastructure Act of 2015, would 1) promote the use of innovative stormwater infrastructure; 2) provide implementation grants for community-based stormwater control projects; and, 3) establish up to five Centers of Excellence throughout the country to conduct research, develop recommendations, and provide training and technical assistance for implementing management practices. NACWA has been working with other allied organizations, including American Rivers, the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and the Water Environment Federation (WEF) to provide technical assistance to the bill’s sponsors. A joint press release was issued by the groups. The Association will continue efforts with this coalition to garner broad and bipartisan support – and applauds the more than 19 co-sponsors for their commitment to providing resources for communities to address stormwater runoff.
NACWA discussed its comments on EPA’s proposed Dental Amalgam Separator rule with EPA staff this week, including Betsy Southerland, Director of the Office of Water’s Office of Science & Technology. The Association summarized its comments on the rule, and its request that the Agency withdraw the rule because it is unnecessary and its costs are not justified by its environmental benefits. Two representatives from NACWA member agencies – Martie Groome, Laboratory & Industrial Waste Supervisor for the City of Greensboro Water Resources Department, and Tim Potter, Environmental Compliance Supervisor for the Central Contra Costa Sanitary District – described how the rule would create an unreasonable burden for their utilities. EPA has requested additional data from utilities that completed NACWA’s Mercury & Dental Amalgam Survey, which was used to provide the Association with information for its comments on the proposed rule. NACWA will be working with the relevant utilities to gather the data requested.
NACWA provided input to the National Association of Surface Finishers (NASF) this week on the challenges facing the clean water community, EPA’s new effort to conduct a study of the metal finishing industry, and the existing effluent guidelines. Metal finishing has been identified by EPA for additional study based on information suggesting that high metal concentrations (in particular for chromium, nickel, and zinc) are being discharged to POTWs. Based on initial feedback from NACWA’s Pretreatment & Pollution Prevention Committee, Association members see some benefit to exploring whether the categorical standards for metal finishing (433) and electroplating (413) need to be revised and/or combined. Most of the concerns expressed by Member Agencies is focused on the administrative burden of implementing these two categories and confusion over what processes are or are not included – not on environmental compliance issues. In presenting to NASF, NACWA stressed that the Association will look at EPA’s efforts to study the industry with an open mind, but will carefully track the Agency’s work. EPA’s last effort to make changes to these categories – the Metal Products and Machinery (MP&M) rule – was met with wide opposition from NACWA’s members. As a result, the Association worked with NASF and others to convince EPA that the rule was not necessary. NACWA will provide more details, including a timeline for EPA’s study, soon.
NACWA has assisted EPA’s Climate Ready Water Utilities (CRWU) initiative to develop a series of seven training workshops for the water utility sector. The two-day Coastal Resilience Trainings for water sector technical assistance providers and Extreme Events & Climate Adaptation Planning Workshops will focus on how new EPA tools can increase the resilience of drinking water, wastewater and stormwater utilities. Seating for the sessions is limited. Draft agendas will be posted soon. The workshops and training will take place in the following locations:
Coastal Resilience for the Water Sector: Training for Technical Assistance Providers
NACWA’s Wet Weather Consent Decree Workshop, scheduled for April 29 – 30 in Philadelphia is just around the corner. Don’t miss your last chance to register for this invaluable event! Keynoting the Workshop will be a groundbreaking roundtable discussion featuring senior EPA attorneys from both headquarters and regional offices – sharing their perspectives on wet weather enforcement. Moderated by Mark Pollins, the head of EPA’s Water Enforcement Division, this panel will offer a rare opportunity for attendees to interact directly with Agency officials and gather key insights on how federal regulators view these issues.
The Workshop will also feature presentations from some of the nation’s leading experts on a variety of topics including understanding your system and finances to best position your utility in negotiations; using innovative strategies like integrated planning and adaptive management to negotiate the most cost effective wet weather program; ensuring smooth implementation of an enforcement order through effective communication; and, addressing implementation challenges – including the option of modification to your enforcement order. There will also be opportunity to engage in robust discussion with your clean water colleagues about enforcement issues, sharing stories and lessons learned.
More information about the Workshop, including registration and hotel details, are available on NACWA’s website. Time is running out to reserve your spot at this unparalleled learning and networking experience – make your plans now!
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