The National Infrastructure Advisory Council (NIAC) voted June 24 to approve five recommended actions by the Federal Government to improve resilience in the water sector. The NIAC provides the President with advice on the security and resilience of the critical infrastructure sectors, including the water sector. The final report on Water Sector Resilience will go directly to the President for his review.
As part of development of the report, the NIAC Working Group enlisted a number of experts in a Study Group, chaired by NACWA President Adel Hagekhalil, to undertake extensive subject matter expert interviews and literature reviews to inform the NIAC findings and recommendations. The Study Group determined, and the NIAC agreed, that the water sector is in major need of renewal and increased investment, much like many of the other critical national infrastructure across the United States. The report acknowledges that while it is not the Federal Government’s responsibility alone to strengthen the water sector’s resilience to uncertain risks, policy makers have failed to make reinvestment in water infrastructure a top national priority.
The specific recommendations for federal action suggested by the Study Group and approved by the NIAC are as follows:
- Analyze and map the complex risks of major water disruptions and develop mitigation strategies;
- Fortify Water Sector response and recovery capabilities;
- Increase Federal funding, investment, and incentives to improve water infrastructure resilience;
- Increase technical and financial resources and expertise available to the Water Sector; and
- Strengthen Federal leadership, coordination, and support for Water Sector resilience.
The NIAC’s five recommendations underscore the need for more support from the Federal Government as public water and clean water systems struggle with maintaining a highly specialized workforce, cyber dependency, more severe weather and climate, and affordability concerns – all while also facing the need to address deteriorating infrastructure in a limited-resource environment. NACWA’s Climate and Resilience Committee will be reviewing the five recommendations from the report at the committee’s meeting as part of the upcoming Utility Leadership Conference in Denver and discussing how to ensure they are seriously considered by the Administration.
A final version of the report will be available the week of July 11. NACWA will continued to stay closely engaged as the final report’s recommendations are considered by the White House and will keep the membership updated on developments.
Momentum Builds for Senate Consideration of WRDA Prior to July Recess
Momentum is building for the Senate to take up consideration of S. 2848, the Water Resources Development Act of 2016 , as 30 Republican Senators signed a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) urging consideration of the bill before the Senate leaves for its summer recess on July 15.
The letter comes after a targeted outreach campaign by NACWA and other stakeholders, including the Water Infrastructure Network, to key Republican Senators urging them to support action by the Senate as quickly as possible so that final enactment of the legislation could potentially occur this Fall. NACWA members led successful letter-writing campaigns in key states, including Ohio , Iowa , Kansas , Texas, Kentucky , Florida , Georgia, and New Hampshire that saw communities from across those states weighing in with their senate delegation.
The Senate WRDA package contains several provisions that address long-standing Clean Water Act-related concerns for wastewater utilities including inadequate federal funding, ratepayer affordability challenges, and incentives for innovation. The Senate package enjoys broad, bipartisan support and was reported out of committee on a near- unanimous vote of 19-1.
The House WRDA package (HR 5303) is also awaiting action by the full House but deals more narrowly with flood control projects authorized for the Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE). NACWA successfully negotiated a provision for inclusion in the House package to increase coordination between the ACOE and municipal stormwater agencies. Action by both the House and Senate chamber prior to the July recess would enable a House and Senate conference committee to potentially reconcile the package and prepare for a final vote on enactment when Congress returns in September.
NACWA, EPA Discuss Path Forward on Recovered Resources
David St. Pierre, NACWA Secretary and Executive Director for the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, joined NACWA staff on June 27 for a discussion with senior officials from EPA’s Office of Water to discuss a potential path forward on resources recovered from the wastewater treatment process. At issue is whether resources extracted from the wastewater treatment process, for example gold or struvite, could at some point exit out of the Clean Water Act’s biosolids regulations.
NACWA has been working on this issue for over two years and discussions at the meeting signaled that EPA may now be comfortable with an approach that ensures full compliance with existing regulations, but that could also evaluate recovered resources on a case by case basis to determine whether they can be deemed products and no longer regulated by the Clean Water Act. NACWA is optimistic that the Agency will take action to formalize this process before the end of the year. The Association will continue to work closely with EPA on this issue and report on developments as they unfold.
NACWA Members Participate in Workshop on Protecting Wastewater Workers
NACWA and six of its Member Agencies participated in a June 29-30 workshop on protecting wastewater workers from infectious disease risks. The workshop was sponsored by EPA, the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the Water Environment & Reuse Foundation (WE&RF) and focused on potential improvements in personal protective equipment (PPE) and procedures used in the work environment that could reduce risk to workers from pathogens in wastewater. The workshop and follow-up activities will result in recommendations for regular PPE use to mitigate the risk of infectious disease for wastewater utility workers, as well as recommendations for additional research about these risks.
The NACWA Member Agencies participating in the workshop included the Orange County Sanitation District, CA; DC Water, DC; the Narragansett Bay Commission, RI; the Denver Metro Wastewater Reclamation District, CO; the Littleton/Englewood Wastewater Treatment Plant, CO; and the Sacramento Regional County Sanitation District, CA. For more information on the workshop, contact Cynthia Finley.
EPA Publishes Effluent Guidelines Plan; NACWA Requests Member Input
EPA announced its Preliminary 2016 Effluent Limitation Guidelines (ELG) Program Plan on June 27. The Plan and a fact sheet are posted on EPA's website. In the Plan, EPA indicates that it will conduct further reviews of the Battery Manufacturing Category and the Electrical and Electronic Components Category. The Agency will also continue its detailed studies of the Metal Finishing and Centralized Waste Treatment (CWT) Categories.
NACWA’s Pretreatment & Pollution Prevention Committee has provided EPA with input on the Metal Finishing study during a March 8 conference call and at the NACWA Pretreatment & Pollution Prevention Workshop in May. The Committee also provided input on the CWT study during the Workshop.Although the CWT detailed study is currently focused on oil and gas extraction wastewater, EPA could consider making this study broader. The Committee supported expanding the study due to the problems utilities have experienced with discharges from CWTs.
NACWA will plan to send comments on the Preliminary Plan by the July 27 due date. Members are requested to provide input for the Association’s comments to Cynthia Finley by July 20.
State & Regional Organizations React to NPDES Updates Rule
NACWA hosted a conference call June 28 with the Association’s State & Regional Exchange network where representatives from 15 state and regional clean water organizations discussed EPA’s recently-proposed Draft NPDES Updates Rule. Participants on the call received a briefing from Association staff on the key components of the proposal, and discussed the potential ramifications of the proposal.
Many organizations on the call, including those from Oregon, Missouri, and Texas, expressed concern with EPA’s inclusion of an “Objection to Administratively Continued Permits” provision in the proposal. EPA proposes to revise section 40 CFR 123.44 to allow its regional administrators to designate certain expired National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits that are deemed “environmentally significant” as “proposed permits.” These changes would allow EPA to take over the permit and issue the permit as a federal EPA permit should the state be unwilling or unable to act adequately. Participants on the call noted that this provision could impact existing state delegation Memoranda of Agreement (MOAs), would not account for permits that have been continued for State Revolving Fund (SRF) purposes or pending TMDL development, and would create potential legal vulnerabilities. NACWA encouraged participants to submit comments to the Agency with their state perspectives before the August 2 deadline, and the Association will also work to incorporate feedback from the call into NACWA’s comments.
Participants on the call also heard a presentation from the Texas Association of Clean Water Agencies about recent success around a state SSO reporting law .
NACWA regularly convenes this state and regional network of clean water and stormwater organizations, providing an opportunity for their perspectives to inform NACWA’s efforts while also boosting the Association’s national advocacy agenda through more local engagement. If you are involved with a state or regional group that would be interested in joining this coalition, please contact Brenna Mannion.
NEW Water’s Video Communicates the Essence of Adaptive Watershed Management… in 43 Seconds
NACWA Member Agency NEW Water in Green Bay, WI is a leader in harnessing Adaptive Management as a community-wide approach to nutrient discharges and has fostered partnerships with government, business, industry, and academia to address this challenging problem. To comply with new rules regarding phosphorus discharge limits, NEW Water would need to build a facility estimated to cost more than $220 million if the utility were to use more traditional approach. However, through community collaboration in the watershed, NEW Water will achieve greater environmental benefit at a much lower cost.
Community support for such innovative and collaborative solutions is essential. To raise awareness and gain support for a pilot project currently underway, NEW Water is using a video to tell its story and demonstrate the effectiveness of adaptive watershed management. This week’s The Water Voice is written by Tricia Garrison, Communications & Education Coordinator for NEW Water, and is a testament to the old adage “a picture is worth a thousand words.”