EPA Moves Forward on National Nutrient Survey, NACWA to Host Webinar

(September 18, 2019) – US EPA is poised to initiate its multi-phase study of nutrient removal at publicly owned treatment works (POTWs), starting with a survey to be distributed to every POTW in the country in mid-October.

Originally conceived as a mandatory survey of all facilities nationwide, NACWA worked hard to ensure that the questionnaire is voluntary, presents minimal burden to those utilities that choose to complete it, and avoids questions of a sensitive nature. EPA’s goals for the study are to establish a nationwide baseline for nutrient removal at municipal wastewater treatment plants, and to characterize lower cost options, such as repurposing existing equipment or changing operation and management practices, that result in improved nutrient control (i.e., optimization).

The survey was to be distributed last fall, but EPA delayed its release while evaluating concerns over privacy and whether utilities would be exposing their operations to potential enforcement actions and 3rd party lawsuits. To mitigate this concern, EPA is adding additional content to the survey to make it clear that utilities choosing to complete the survey can simply provide responses to the first part of the survey without providing monitoring data.

During mid-October, POTW operators and plant managers should look for letters and emails inviting them to participate in the survey. Additional information, including an unofficial copy of the survey, will be made available on EPA’s website soon. Once the survey is initiated – EPA’s target date is October 22 – utilities will have 30 days to complete the voluntary survey if they wish to provide a response.

NACWA plans to hold a webinar (date to be determined) to provide utilities with additional background and will alert the membership as soon as the day and time are set. Members with any questions can contact Chris Hornback, NACWA’s Deputy CEO.