» Clean Water Current Archive

December 5, 2014

Regulatory Status of Struvite Discussed with Key Office of Water Officials

NACWA met Wednesday with Andrew Sawyers, Director of the Office of Wastewater Management, Betsy Southerland, Director of the Office of Science & Technology, and key members of their staff to discuss the regulatory status under the Clean Water Act of struvite recovered from the wastewater treatment process.  For the most part recovered struvite has been handled outside of the Part 503 regulations for biosolids, but EPA has expressed concern that it is ‘derived from’ sewage sludge and therefore should be subject to regulation accordingly.  During the meeting NACWA stressed that the Clean Water Act and the Part 503 regulations never envisioned the recovery of resources from the treatment process and that EPA should not attempt to force struvite, and other resources that might be recovered in the future, into its existing regulatory programs.  While EPA seems resistant to any regulatory changes, the Agency does understand the impact that a decision to handle struvite under the biosolids regulations could have on future resource recovery projects.  EPA is interested in collecting additional data on the makeup of struvite products to better evaluate the potential risk to the environment when they are land applied.  NACWA will be working with its members to provide EPA with the information it is requesting.

NACWA, WEF, WERF Meet with EPA on Virus-Based Water Quality Criterion

NACWA, together with representatives from the Water Environment Federation (WEF) and the Water Environment Research Foundation (WERF) met Wednesday with Betsy Southland, Director of the Office of Science & Technology in EPA’s water office to discuss the Agency’s ongoing efforts to develop a water quality criterion for viruses.  EPA has completed a literature review and is now working to develop the criterion, with an initial focus on two different types of bacteriophage as potential indicators for the presence of viruses.  The water sector groups have requested a list of the resources EPA identified in its review to ensure it includes all relevant studies and information.  During the meeting, NACWA continued to stress the major implications such a criterion will have for the clean water community – and underscore that EPA should move cautiously, with a clear plan for how this can be implemented, as it develops the criterion.  NACWA will be coordinating with WEF and WERF to collect any additional data and information needed on the treatability of bacteriophage compared to the existing bacterial indicators, and will meet with EPA regularly to obtain updates and discuss developments.  The Agency plans to release a draft criterion for comment in late 2015 or early 2016.

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 Member Agencies are encouraged to complete the survey.

Senate Holds Hearing on Utility of the Future, NACWA Members Testify

The Senate Environment & Public Works’ Water & Wildlife Subcommittee held a hearing this week featuring the innovative advances being made in the clean water arena – as well as the challenges faced by clean water agencies seeking to embrace the Water Resources Utility of the Future (UOTF). Four public agency leaders, all members of NACWA, testified about their experiences in taking a more holistic approach to clean water compliance as they transition from ‘sewerage agencies’ to ‘resource recovery agencies’.

The Association’s Utility & Resource Management Committee Chair, Tom Sigmund, Executive Director of NEW Water in Green Bay, WI, represented NACWA at the hearing. NACWA Board Members, Harlan L. Kelly Jr., General Manager of San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, CA and Andy Kricun, Executive Director of Camden County Municipal Utilities Authority, NJ, joined Jerry Johnson, General Manager of the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission in Maryland, as witnesses. These sector leaders focused their testimony on innovative projects that are driving new technologies, jobs, and local economic development.

Three Senators participated in the full hearing: Subcommittee Chair Ben Cardin (D-Md.); Ranking Member, John Boozman (R-Ark.); and, Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI). Their comments lauded the work being done at the municipal level; noted the importance of providing the flexibility needed to do their job; and, expressed concern with the rising costs to address smaller pollutant loads. At one point Sen. Boozman, who will assume the Chair of the Subcommittee next year, asked if there was any way they could help legislatively to maximize the needed flexibility to act on a watershed basis — an issue on which NACWA will work closely with him and the Subcommittee going forward.

As Tom Sigmund noted in his testimony, “Clean water agencies are transforming the way they deliver clean water services. At the heart of this transformation is the emergence of new technologies and innovations that can stretch ratepayer dollars, improve the environment, create jobs, and stimulate the economy. The most progressive of today’s clean water agencies are defining what is meant by the Water Resources Utility of the Future (UOTF).” Both the testimony from, and a webcast of, the full hearing are available.

Utility Leaders, Nationwide, Express Concern with Whole Foods Policy

Clean water utility General Managers and Directors from across the country signed onto a letterpdf button this week expressing concern with a new policy of the national grocery chain, Whole Foods Market.  The Whole Foods Responsibly Grown Produce Rating System consists of a number of metrics to evaluate the sustainability of the practices used in growing conventional and organic produce sold at its stores and includes a requirement prohibiting the use of biosolids of any quality within three years of harvest.  NACWA is concerned that such a policy from a nationally recognized business could perpetuate fear-based claims that biosolids are unsafe. The letter expresses concern with the policy and requests further dialogue on the issue.

New EPA Stormwater Permit Guidance Addresses Numeric Limits

EPA's Office of Water issued a revised version of its controversial 2010 stormwater memo on November 26. Intended to provide guidance to states and EPA Regions on permitting approaches for stormwater discharge permits, the revised memo incorporates a number of changes that are largely positive and were made in direct response to concerns raised by NACWA. The memo, Revisions to the November 22, 2002 Memorandum “Establishing Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) Wasteload Allocations (WLA) for Storm Water Sources and NPDES Permit Requirements Based on Those WLAs pdf button, is an update of an earlier version originally released by EPA in November 2010. NACWA was one of the first organizations to express concerns with the November 2010 version of the memo, and submitted written commentspdf button together with the American Public Works Association (APWA) and the National Association of Flood & Stormwater Management Agencies (NAFSMA) in January 2011. Those comments raised concerns about the lack of stakeholder input and persuaded EPA to open the memo to public comment – and ultimately resulted in EPA’s withdrawal of the 2010 memo.

NACWA’s original concerns with the November 2010 memo were clearly considered by EPA and the Association is pleased with the modifications that have been made, as well as the memo’s acknowledgment of integrated planning. There are still stormwater permit policies left to be clarified, especially with regard to numeric permit limits, but overall this memo demonstrates a positive shift in the Agency’s approach. NACWA plans to meet with Office of Water staff in the coming weeks, and will discuss the implications of this guidance, including lingering concerns with the use of numeric effluent limits in MS4 programs. The major changes in the memo are the omission of surrogates such as flow, noticeably toned-down their approach to numeric limits, and a focus on effective waste load allocation translation to permit limits.

NACWA Joins Urban Waters Federal Partnership in National Workshop

During a three-day workshop this week, NACWA joined 27 other non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to sign a statement of support of the Urban Waters Federal Partnership (UWFP). NACWA and the other NGOs will strive to support the federal agencies who compose the UWFP by aligning resources and expertise to restore urban waters and benefit local communities. Under the program, EPA awards small grants for projects improving urban watersheds in areas that align with the 19 designated UWFP locations and provides “ambassadors”. All but two of the UWFP designated locations for action are NACWA member communities.

The UWFP breaks down federal program silos to promote more efficient use of federal resources and dollars and works within local communities to promote community development, public health, and environmental improvement. Overseen by the White Council on Environmental Management UWFP composed of 14 federal agencies including EPA, the Department of Interior, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD).

NPDES e-Reporting Rule Comment Period Re-Opened

EPA’s Office of Enforcement & Compliance Assurance (OECA) released a supplemental notice this week soliciting additional comment on the proposed National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Electronic Reporting Rule. The notice seeks to clarify a number of issues and requests additional comments on several elements of the rule, including the implementation schedule and the State Readiness Criteria. The original timeline proposed in the rule, which will require electronic reporting under the NPDES permit program, was overly aggressive and would have put permittees at risk for non-compliance. This supplemental request for information suggests that the Agency has acknowledged the concerns raised by NACWA and other stakeholders – and gives the permitted community, states, and others a chance to provide more input as the rule is refined. NACWA encourages members to read the 16-page notice, paying special attention to the number of issues on which EPA is specifically requesting comment, and to consider providing input. The entire rule can be considered in any new comments – comments need not be limited to the issues raised in the supplemental notice – but it is not necessary to re-submit comments already submitted to the docket during the previous comment period.

Recognizing that the States will be responsible for administering whatever e-reporting requirements are established, NACWA is consulting with the Association of Clean Water Administrators (ACWA), who in turn is working closely with the Environmental Council of the States (ECOS), to fully understand the states’ positions and perception of the supplemental notice. NACWA welcomes any comments from the membership for incorporation into the Association’s comment letter before the January 30 deadline. NACWA submitted comments pdf button on the original proposed rule in December 2013, as did a number of Member Agencies. EPA has offered to host a web seminar on the supplemental notice for NACWA members. Please contact This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it by December 17 if you are interested in participating.

Dental Amalgam Survey, Tools, and Proposed Rule Fact Sheet Available

NACWA is currently collecting data from utilities to help the Association develop comments on EPA’s proposed Dental Amalgam Separator Rule pdf button.  The rule would establish pretreatment standards for the over 100,000 dental offices that place or remove amalgam fillings.  NACWA is asking all Member Agencies and non-member utilities to complete the Mercury & Dental Amalgam Survey by December 19.  To assist utilities in completing the survey, a spreadsheet is now available for download at  Utilities may use the spreadsheet to collect their data, and then enter it into the survey form. A PDF documentpdf button of the entire survey, without the need to click through the survey form, is also now available.  Utilities completing the survey can reference the survey instructionspdf button and contact Cynthia Finley at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it with questions.  NACWA has also posted a fact sheetpdf button about the proposed rule, with more detailed information contained in Advocacy Alert 14-21.

NACWA, Others Ask for Clean Power Plan to Recognize Utility Contributions

NACWA, along with the American Water Works Association (AWWA) and the National Association of Water Companies (NAWC), submitted joint comments pdf button this week on EPA’s proposed rule, Carbon Pollution Emission Guidelines for Existing Stationary Sources: Electric Utility Generating Units, also known as the ‘Clean Power Plan’ proposal. The goal of the proposal is to achieve a 30 percent reduction in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from existing fossil fuel-fired power plants in the U.S. by 2030. The Clean Power Plan would accomplish this through state-specific rate-based targets for CO2 emissions from the power sector, as well as provide guidance in developing plans to achieve these goals.

The joint comment letter asked that the rule contain a clear statement that energy efficiency and renewable energy projects undertaken by drinking water and wastewater utilities can be used towards compliance with the Clean Power Plan. The associations also asked that both financial incentive and technical assistance programs be established to encourage water utilities to participate on a voluntary basis. These recommendations recognize the renewable energy potential of wastewater utilities, aligning with NACWA’s Water Resources Utility of the Future efforts. The Association will continue advocating for this energy potential to be fully recognized as a renewable energy source in regulatory and incentive programs.

NACWA Focuses on Integrated Planning, Affordability, and UOTF at Mayors Meeting

The U.S. Conference of Mayors’ Water Council met this week in Washington, DC and NACWA’s Executive Director, Ken Kirk, spoke to the group yesterday. The Mayors were focused on the rising cost of Clean Water Act compliance and the increasing burden that these requirements are having on their ratepayers, especially in poorer cities. Lima, Ohio Mayor, David Berger, discussed his recently finalized consent decree and the vital role that the 2012 Integrated Planning (IP) Framework and the collaborative advocacy effort on affordability, which resulted in the November 24, 2014 Financial Capability Framework, played in ensuring Lima’s successful negotiations. Kirk pointed to Lima as a terrific example of what can be accomplished when groups like NACWA, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the National League of Cities, and the National Association of Counties work together to pool both technical knowledge and advocacy resources to achieve clear objectives. He also pointed out that the types of flexibilities now available through the IP and financial capability frameworks should also help spur innovative work toward the Water Resources Utility of the Future initiative, along the lines discussed at the December 2 Senate hearing (see related story).

It was also made clear throughout the discussion that there was significant concern about EPA’s ability to implement the frameworks fairly and equitably across its regional offices and on a state-by-state basis. Clearly, as costs to garner smaller increments of water quality benefit rise – and with EPA feeling bound by the Clean Water Act’s overall inability to account for such cost – Congress will become an increasingly important audience for the municipal community.

NACWA Endorses House Bill to Provide Funding for Wet Weather Issues

NACWA this week wrote a letter pdf button of support for a draft bill that would authorize $2.5 billion in funding over five years for a sewer overflow control grants program to help clean water utilities manage wet weather flows. The Water Quality Investment Act of 2014 is being sponsored by Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) and is planned to be introduced in early December.

The bill seeks to right a long-standing issue the legislation that, nearly two decades ago, codified the combined sewer overflow rule and saw funds authorized – but unfortunately never appropriated – for its implementation. Additional funding for wet weather control projects is particularly needed in light of EPA’s increased focus on wet weather issues, increasing the financial burden on clean water agencies, as they invest funds to comply with a growing array of Clean Water Act requirements. NACWA will continue to update members as this legislation moves forward.

Register Today!  Web Seminar & Conference Opportunities Abound

In coming weeks NACWA will present several web seminars – as well as its compelling and informative 2015 Winter Conference. Don’t wait, register today.

December 10 - Legal Hot Topics Web Seminar to Address Security, CSO Issues
The next installment in NACWA’s Legal Hot Topics Web Seminar series, scheduled for December 10 from 2:00 – 3:00 pm ET, promises to deliver an exciting and engaging program. The event will feature two separate presentations, one addressing security issues currently facing clean water utilities and another one looking at the concerning new interpretations of EPA’s CSO Policy. The web seminar series offers a great opportunity to keep up with the most important developments in clean water law. This members-only web seminar is complimentary, register today.

December 16 - Revisions to Clean Water State Revolving Fund Program & EPA Guidance to States
Join NACWA and WEF from 2:00 – 3:00 pm ET on December 16 to discuss important changes to the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF). The CWSRF received a make-over this year by Congress and these changes will impact municipal borrowers across the country. Our keynote speaker for the Seminar will be EPA’s Director of the Office of Wastewater and former CWSRF Administrator for the State of Maryland, Andrew Sawyers. He will discuss how states are likely to implement these changes and what they will mean to the clean water community. In addition, EPA’s recently released guidance to the states will be discussed. Registration is complimentary.

February 1-4 – Leaving the Comfort Zone... Collaborating for Clean Water, NACWA’s 2015 Winter Conference
Join us as we shine the spotlight on the importance of engaging non-traditional partners – or even ‘strangers’ – in collaborative work to improve water quality and protect the environment. Hotel information and registration is available. 

NACWA Blog of the Week:
What Does “Flushable” Really Mean?

Utilities across the country are delivering the “3 Ps” message to their customers, asking them to flush only the 3 Ps – pee, poop, and toilet paper.  But since many manufacturers and retailers label wipes and other products “flushable,” NACWA and its utility members are often asked if other products could be safe to flush, and what criteria these products would need to meet to call themselves flushable.  Read on to find out more about what “flushable” really means, or better yet, subscribe to The Water Voice and never miss a post!