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Clean Water Current - August 14



 August 14, 2015

Great Lakes Overflow Language Tops Agenda at Meeting with EPA Water Chief

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NACWA briefed Ken Kopocis, Deputy Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Water, this week on provisions related to sewer overflows in the Great Lakes region in the Senate’s FY 2016 spending package for the Agency. While EPA cannot take a formal position on the rule, Kopocis and key staff clearly understand the impact the legislation would have on clean water utilities. As in previous meetings with the Agency and the White House Office of Management & Budget (see August 7 Clean Water Current), NACWA shared its members’ concerns that an outright prohibition on combined sewer overflows (CSOs) and blending would result in catastrophic rate increases for communities already facing billions of dollars in investment to meet current obligations under the CSO Control Policy. NACWA and EPA also briefly discussed issues related to the Water Resources Utility of the Future, including the Association’s upcoming annual report, and EPA’s efforts to revise the municipal separate storm sewer system (MS4) Phase 2 regulations to address a court decision from 2003 concerning the use of general permits.

NACWA Member Utilities Featured in Local Media Series

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This week, NACWA Member Agencies the Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati, SD1 of Northern Kentucky, Louisville & Jefferson County Metropolitan Sewer District and the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District were highlighted in a two-part media series. This is was a result of a local media interview held during last week’s 2015 Five Cities Plus Conference in Cincinnati.

Part one of the series focuses on the costs and challenges associated with wet weather consent decrees, and part two highlights innovative solutions and emerging business models to address these challenges. NACWA CEO Adam Krantz, who keynoted the Five Cities Conference, was pleased to participate in the interview.

NACWA Board Member Dave Rager, Executive Director of SD1, discussed his utility’s challenges with aging infrastructure, sewer capacity issues and a $2 billion price tag for consent decree compliance. NACWA Board Member Tony Parrott of Cincinnati MSD emphasized the major affordability and rate increase concerns associated with its capital program of more than $4.5 billion through 2030.

“In our project selections, we try to look at how we can not only resolve an issue, but how we can make investments that are going to bring value to the communities we are doing work in,” Parrott said. Parrott discussed one such project “that is going to make investments in a community that has seen a lot of blighted properties, foreclosures and disinvestment.”

Rager pointed out the importance of sharing ideas and learning from others: “We are not reinventing the wheel and we learn from each other,” Rager said. “Forty percent of our total cost of utilities is in operations and we have been able to cut that by $5 million in 36 months. A lot of that has come by learning from these guys, some of the tools and techniques that they are using to reduce operating costs.”

Clean water agencies across the country are meeting these daunting challenges head-on. As Krantz emphasized, these “amazing public stewards” are championing innovation “to meet the increasingly stringent requirements of the Clean Water Act.” This forward-thinking approach to utility management is already resulting in reduced operating costs, as well as a wide array of community benefits – it is the ultimate win-win for the utility and the community it serves. “When you connect all of the dots,” Krantz said “you get the Utility of the Future and the future is now.”

Radhika Fox, Director of the Value of Water Coalition and President of the U.S. Water Alliance, summed up the essential role that clean water agencies play in this country: “When we make these investments we are keeping our environment clean and ensuring public health, but we are also promoting economic growth and community vitality.”

NACWA believes that conferences offer excellent opportunities for utility leaders to meet with local media outlets to share our important stories with the broader public. Members interested in NACWA assistance with media interviews should contact Amanda Waters (202/530-2758).

Truly Flushable Wipes Technology Demonstrated

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NACWA members the City of Vancouver and the City of Portland Bureau of Environmental Services were featured in a news story this week on KOIN 6 News. The story featured Frank Dick, Industrial Pretreatment Coordinator for the City of Vancouver Department of Public Works and Vice Chair of NACWA’s Pretreatment & Pollution Prevention Committee, and the work he had done to trace the fate of wipes disposed of in Vancouver’s sewers.

Dick is NACWA’s representative to the workgroup that is developing new flushability guidelines for wipes. The workgroup – which also includes representatives from NACWA, the Water Environment Federation (WEF), the American Public Works Association (APWA), the Canadian Water & Wastewater Association (CWWA), the Water Services Association of Australia, and INDA (the trade association of the nonwoven fabrics industry) – held a web meeting this week to discuss results of new tests conducted on wipes and other products in pumps. The goal of the workgroup is to develop tests for wipes that reflect real-world conditions in sewer systems. This effort is supported by NACWA’s Targeted Action Fund (TAF).

NACWA also met with a wipes manufacturer this week to discuss a new material for wipes that breaks up as quickly in water as toilet paper. While this product is not yet on the market, it demonstrates the potential for wipes that are truly safe for flushing.

Congressional Recess Ideal for Advocacy

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Congress is currently on summer recess, with Members in their home districts until Labor Day. NACWA urges its Member Agencies to take full advantage of this time to schedule meetings and even invite your Members of Congress to visit your facilities. The time back home serves as an ideal opportunity to inform them about the critical services you provide, and brief them on the clean water issues facing their constituents. Facility tours can be a particularly effective way to communicate your local and national clean water challenges. Such in-person meetings are essential to bring clean water issues to the attention of your Congressional delegation and make them a shared priority.

In addition to talking about local issues, NACWA encourages you to discuss the following top priorities with your Member of Congress:

  • Section 428 of the Senate FY16 appropriations package for EPA. If you are a direct or indirect discharger to the Great Lakes, please speak to your Member about this legislation which requires combined sewer systems to eliminate all overflows by 2035 or face up to $100,000 in fines per violation and also prohibit the use of blending (see July 24 Clean Water Current and this resource page for more information).
  • Restore full funding to the Clean Water State Revolving Fund. The House and Senate EPA appropriations bills for Fiscal Year 2016 contain drastic cuts to the Clean Water State Revolving Fund. The House bill cuts funding for the CWSRF by 30% to $1.018 billion. The Senate bill calls for a similar cut of 28% providing $1.047 billion for the CWSRF (see June 26 Clean Water Current). Urge your Members of Congress to restore the CWSRF to current levels of $1.45 billion.
  • Encourage your Member to join the Congressional Clean Water Caucus. The Caucus has been re-established under the leadership of Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL) and Rep. John Duncan (R-IL) to highlight clean water technology and innovation. The Caucus will be an important platform to bring a strong bipartisan focus on clean water issues and create discussion on how to address the nation’s critical water infrastructure needs.

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Following last year’s algal bloom, Toledo is now more prepared than it was to ensure that its ratepayers have safe and clean drinking water. But, the successful strategies municipal water suppliers have put in place continue to mask that we have a real problem facing us. Read on to find out more or better yet, subscribe to The Water Voice and never miss a post!



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