July/August 2019 Regulatory Update

The National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA) is pleased to provide you with the July/August 2019 Regulatory Update

Is Your Dog or Cat’s Flea Treatment Bugging Clean Water?

I remember, many years ago, when the only way to treat your dog or cat for fleas was to use flea collars and flea powder.  These never seemed to work very well, and my cat certainly didn’t appreciate it when we tried to rub powder all over him.  Combing the fleas out and smashing them one by one was certainly not fun, either. 

The newer generation of flea and tick control products – pills or “spot-on” treatments applied to one spot of a pet’s skin – are much more effective and easier to use.  I used a spot-on treatment for years, until I saw the results of a study showing how fipronil, a pesticide used in these treatments, is transferred from the pet to their owners’ hands and clothing, even four weeks after application.  The concern for clean water agencies is that these residual pesticides will be washed into the sewer system and then disrupt the wastewater treatment process or pass through the treatment plant and into the aquatic environments. 

A dog washing study demonstrated how flea treatment pesticides are washed off dogs, even 28 days after application.  Since the pesticides are transferred to pet owners, they can also be discharged into the sewer system when hands and clothes are washed.  A study of eight treatment plants in California showed that fipronil and another pesticide used in flea treatments, imidacloprid, were present in the influent and final treated effluent of all eight treatment plants.  Pet flea control products are likely the primary source of these pesticides, since they have few other indoor uses. 

Although pesticides are not a primary concern for most clean water agencies, many California utilities are already facing impacts.  Pesticide-related Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) have been adopted or are being prepared in California.  Pesticides could also affect the results of whole effluent toxicity (WET) tests.  Trying to treat wastewater for pesticides is extremely difficult, so source control is the best option.  Considering that there are approximately 150 million dogs and cats in the US, there is potential for significant discharge of flea control pesticides – not to mention all the pesticides used indoors for other purposes.

NACWA has been working with the Bay Area Clean Water Agencies (BACWA) in California to ask EPA to consider discharge of pesticides into the sewer system and its associated impacts on wastewater treatment and the environment.  This needs to be done for all the pesticides that EPA approves, not just those used on pets.  BACWA and NACWA have successfully advocated for labeling changes for certain pesticides used in swimming pools, and the associations will continue to push for improvements to EPA’s pesticide review and registration processes. 

For my family, since my children use our couch-potato dogs as pillows every day, our solution was easy – switch from the spot-on treatment to a pill designed to control the same fleas and ticks. 

Contact Cynthia Finley, Director of Regulatory Affairs, for more information or if you have questions.

Top Story

NACWA Meets with EPA Water Chief

NACWA met on July 30 with David Ross, the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Assistant Administrator for Water, and other senior staff from the Office of Water to discuss a number of the Association’s advocacy priorities including affordability and water quality issues.  The meeting was productive and allowed NACWA to communicate important policy positions, with Ross being receptive to NACWA’s perspective. 

On the affordability front, NACWA reiterated the importance of EPA moving away from its 1997 guidance – including its focus on median household income (MHI) – and instead adopting new metrics that better reflect the true impact of EPA's regulations.  The Association highlighted the suggestions made in the recent joint affordability report from NACWA, the American Water Works Association (AWWA) and the Water Environment Federation (WEF). 

NACWA also discussed key water quality challenges facing the public clean water sector, including around combined sewer overflow discharges and nutrients, and outlined ways EPA can help local communities address those concerns. 

Contact: Nathan Gardner-Andrews at 202/833-3692 or ngardner-andrews@nacwa.org.

Biosolids

EPA Inspector General Finalizes Report on Biosolids Program

EPA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) published a final memorandum on July 25 ending a resolution process with EPA’s Office of Water over a November 2018 OIG report criticizing EPA’s biosolids program. According to the OIG report, EPA failed to complete risk assessment work on 352 pollutants found in biosolids and raised questions on how the biosolids program protects public health and the environment. Read the full story in the Clean Water Current.

Contact: Emily Remmel at 202/533-1839 or eremmel@nacwa.org.

Energy & Resource Recovery

Water Sector Request for Renewable Fuel Standards Change Denied

EPA sent an August 6 letter to NACWA, the California Association of Sanitation Agencies (CASA), and two California utilities denying requested changes to the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program that would help utilities to better manage food waste through anaerobic digesters.  The RFS program offers incentives to produce renewable transportation fuels, including fuel produced from biosolids.  However, under the current policy, if food waste is added to anaerobic digesters to increase the production of biogas, the biogas has a lower value.  NACWA and CASA had asked EPA to encourage this beneficial use of food waste by changing how food waste is accounted for when added to utility digesters.  Read the full story in the Clean Water Current.

Contact: Cynthia Finley at 202/533-1836 or cfinley@nacwa.org

Enforcement

EPA Reiterates Importance of States Taking Lead on Enforcement Issues

EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance released a memo further empowering states to take the lead on environmental enforcement issues, advancing EPA’s efforts to place states in the lead on enforcement actions. 

The final policy memorandum is divided into three sections. The first section details requirements for joint planning and regular communication between EPA and states to promote enhanced, shared accountability. The second section of the policy provides greater detail on EPA and state roles and responsibilities in implementing authorized programs. The third and last section of the policy provides a process for the elevation and resolution of issues. Read the full story in the Clean Water Current.

Contact: Amanda Waters at 202/530-2758 or awaters@nacwa.org.

Department of Justice Altering Consent Decree Approach, NACWA Responding

NACWA has been informed that the US Department of Justice (DOJ) may be pushing back on the use of Supplemental Environmental Projects (SEPs) in federal wet weather consent decrees currently being negotiated.

The impetus for this change is not entirely clear, although it in part comes from a June 2017 memo released by former Attorney General Jeff Sessions that prohibits DOJ from entering into any agreement on behalf of the United States in settlement of federal claims or charges that directs or provides for a settlement payment to non-governmental, third parties that were not directly harmed by the conduct. It also seems DOJ is hesitant to sign decrees that include actions, like SEPs, that a court would not order.  Read the full story in the Clean Water Current.

Contact: Amanda Waters at 202/530-2758 or awaters@nacwa.org.

Facilities & Collection Systems

Top House Democrat Questions EPA on Blending Rule

The Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee, Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), sent a letter to EPA on July 29 expressing concern over EPA’s current efforts to develop a rule on peak wet weather flow blending at publicly owned treatment works and asking EPA for more information on the practice. 

The letter expresses concern with EPA’s current regulatory work on blending, including the possibility that any new regulations might remove “the current prohibition on bypassing the biological treatment of sewage to remove most pathogens from wastewater.”  The letter goes on to request specific information from EPA, including the number and frequency of POTWs that blend, the typical pathogen level in blended discharges, and the number of POTWs that discharge into coastal recreational waters. Read the full story in the Clean Water Current.

Contact: Cynthia Finley at 202/533-1836 or cfinley@nacwa.org

Pretreatment & Pollution Prevention

NACWA Asks EPA to Clarify Pretreatment Sampling Requirements

NACWA sent a letter to EPA on July 2, requesting assistance in clarifying influent and effluent sampling requirements for pretreatment programs of publicly owned treatment works (POTWs).  The issue of periodic, mandatory scans for priority pollutants was raised by NACWA Member Agency the San Jacinto River Authority (SJRA) and discussed by the Association’s Pretreatment & Pollution Prevention Committee during its meeting at the NACWA Pretreatment Workshop in May. Read the full story in the Clean Water Current.

Contact: Cynthia Finley at 202/533-1836 or cfinley@nacwa.org

NACWA Provides Input on EPA Oil & Gas Wastewater Study

NACWA submitted comments to EPA in July on its Study of Oil and Gas Extraction Wastewater Management, which considered the current management practices for wastewater generated by both conventional and unconventional (“fracking”) oil and gas extraction from onshore facilities.  The Agency is looking at the current regulations of this wastewater and the potential for changing the regulations to allow for expanded reuse of the water. Read the full story in the Clean Water Current.

Contact: Cynthia Finley at 202/533-1836 or cfinley@nacwa.org

Stormwater

NACWA Member Input Requested for Green Infrastructure Survey

The Kresge Foundation and Spring Point Partners are working on a research project examining the use of green infrastructure (GI) to control municipal stormwater runoff, especially in low-income, climate vulnerable communities, and are interested in learning more information from NACWA members about this practice. Complete the survey here and read the full story in the Clean Water Current.

Water Reuse

Water Sector Associations Comment on EPA Water Reuse Action Plan

NACWA joined the WateReuse Association, the American Water Works Association, the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies, the Water Environment Federation and the Water Research Foundation to submit comments to EPA in early July to inform EPA as it develops its Water Reuse Action Plan (WRAP).  Through this joint sector effort, comprehensive input was compiled and prioritized. 

The input was initially gathered from a diverse group of water sector technical reuse experts in workshops held in Los Angeles, CA and Washington, DC. These convenings helped define the challenges of deploying water reuse in the US and produced recommendations on how EPA can take action to close certain gaps and advance water reuse. Read the full story in the Clean Water Current.

Contact: Emily Remmel at 202/533-1839 or eremmel@nacwa.org