EPA Releases Proposed Revised Enforcement Initiatives, Moves Away from Sewer Overflows

five(February 6, 2019) - EPA released a pre-publication version of its proposed Fiscal Year 2020 – 2023 National Compliance Initiatives this week, and the proposal includes some important positive developments for the public clean water utility sector.  Most notably, the proposal moves away from a focus on addressing sewer overflows via enforcement and encourages them to be addressed via the Clean Water Act permitting process. 

Previously referred to as National Compliance Priorities, EPA has changed the name to National Compliance Initiatives (NCIs).  The document outlines the key areas EPA will focus on from an enforcement perspective. 

NACWA has long advocated that sewer overflows are better addressed through core EPA program offices rather than through enforcement mechanisms.  The proposed FY 2020 – 2023 NCI acknowledges this, noting

“97 percent of large combined sewer systems, 92 percent of large sanitary sewer systems and 79 percent of Phase 1 municipal separate stormwater systems are now either Page 9 of 12 in compliance or are on an agreed-upon schedule to come into compliance. Accordingly, the Agency believes that this NCI no longer presents a significant opportunity to correct water quality impairment nationwide. The EPA proposes to return work in this area to the core program in FY 2020. EPA and states will continue to monitor implementation of these long-term agreements, and to adapt them to changing circumstances and new information, such as the increasing commitment of cities to implement green infrastructure, changes in financial capability, or technological advances.”

NACWA is pleased its advocacy has helped reorient EPA to address sewer overflows in the most environmental protective and cost-effective manner.  The Association will provide comments on the proposed new NCIs to support this shift in EPA emphasis.  Any members with questions on this change, or input for NACWA’s comments, can contact NACWA’s General Counsel Amanda Waters