NACWA Experiences Top-Notch Utility Service First-Hand
NACWA had its own “infrastructure crisis” last week when the sewer lateral serving the National Office building partially collapsed and caused a basement backup. Luckily for the Association and its staff, the excellent folks from DC Water rode quickly the rescue!
In an example of the incredible work that all NACWA Member Agencies do on behalf of their customers every day, DC Water, had an evaluation team onsite within hours of the initial service call, and a full construction team onsite within 24 hours to dig up the lateral and replace it. All of the utility personnel were professional, courteous, and extremely efficient. Once they learned of NACWA’s interest in sewer issues, they even provided us with a copy of the original 1880 map and street drawing from the installation, along with a piece of the 135-year-old lateral for our “Wall of Fame!” See pictures below of all their hard work.
NACWA sends a special thanks to DC Water General Manager (and Association Board member) George Hawkins and his entire team for such a prompt, efficient, and excellent job! NACWA members are true public servants, providing environmental and public health services, as well as exceptional customer service. Thank you for all that you all do!
Association Files Brief in Key CWA Liability Litigation
On March 28, NACWA joined a coalitionamicus brief before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in a legal case that could have a substantial impact on clean water utility liability under the Clean Water Act (CWA). The appeal in Hawaii Wildlife Fund v. County of Maui involves a federal district court decision holding that a release of pollutants into groundwater that migrates to hydrologically-connected navigable waters violates the CWA.
NACWA’s brief highlights the lower court’s disregard for the threshold “point source” requirement of the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) program. The court erroneously imposed liability based on the migration of pollutants via groundwater, which is neither a Water of the United States nor a point source itself. NACWA joined the National League of Cities, the National Association of Counties and the California Association of Sewerage Agencies, among others, in filing the joint brief.
The case deals with tertiary treated wastewater injected into Underground Injection Wells permitted under the Safe Drinking Water Act that migrates via groundwater to the Pacific Ocean. If upheld by the Ninth Circuit, the district court’s decision and its novel “conduit” theory will effectively rewrite the CWA by eliminating the distinction between point source discharges that require an NPDES permit and nonpoint source discharges that do not require a permit. As a result, NACWA members could be found in violation of the CWA for releases to groundwater as a result of exfiltration from collection systems and treatment facilities; surface water impoundments; and low impact development and other green infrastructure that retain, infiltrate, and percolate stormwater flows into groundwater. The decision could also subject clean water utilities to nebulous regulatory requirements and a new universe of citizen suits, which will likely have a negligible effect on water quality. A decision in the case is not expected until late 2016 at the earliest, and NACWA will report on any developments.
Time to Prep for Policy Forum Congressional Meetings
On March 31, NACWA collaborated with the Water Environment Federation (WEF) and the WateReuse Association on a webcast to help National Water Policy Forum & Fly-In attendees prepare for their Capitol Hill visits. The webcast is posted in the Policy Forum’sCongressional Toolbox for review at your convenience. The webcast slides include helpful information regarding Congressional visits along with the top legislative asks for this year’s event.
NACWA staff a pleased to help Policy Forum attendees plan for visits to Capitol Hill. If you are attending the Policy Forum and would like help in setting up Congressional meetings or have any other questions, contact
Member Spotlight: Grand Rapids CSO Program Touted
A recent media article highlighted the efforts of one of NACWA’s newest Member Agencies, Grand Rapids, Michigan, to completely eliminate its combined sewer overflows (CSOs). The $400 million program, completed in 2015, involved separating the entire sanitary and storm sewer systems, and sealing off overflow points, beginning in 1991.
In 2006, the City also began an extensive green infrastructure program to control stormwater throughout the region and included green infrastructure in most of its CSO control projects in the subsequent years. The City is also a participant in EPA’s Green Infrastructure Portfolio Standard program, and through public and private investment, is now home to a number of rain gardens and other control measures.
The City of around 200,000 people was ranked first in the nation in the number of LEED certified buildings per capita and fifth overall in 2010, and received the moniker of “America’s Greenest City” from Fast Company in 2008. In a 2012 report by the Alliance for the Great Lakes, Grand Rapids was highlighted as a state revolving loan fund success story for its 99% reduction in CSOs.
Although Grand Rapids’ program was the result of a Long-Term Control Plan developed in 1988, before EPA had even issued its 1994 CSO guidance – much less its 2012 Integrated Planning memo – it is nonetheless an example of how NACWA members can achieve significant water quality benefits and lead through innovation and integrated planning. NACWA’s efforts to support integrated planning and new, innovative approaches to addressing wet weather issues have helped paved the way for communities to pursue similarly successful wet weather programs and match Grand Rapids’ achievements.
U.S. Supreme Court Hears Arguments in Clean Water Case
On Wednesday, March 30, the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the question of whether jurisdictional determinations by the Army Corps of Engineers are subject to judicial review in US Army Corps of Engineers v. Hawkes. Don’t miss NACWA Deputy General Counsel Erica Spitzig’s Water Voice blog post sharing her thoughts on the lively discussion.
NACWA also hosted one of the attorneys for Hawkes Company on the March 16, 2016 Hot Topics in Clean Water Law Web Seminar. Members can access a recording of the presentation in the Hot Topics in Clean Water Lawarchive.
Recipients of Singapore International Water Week Scholarships Announced
NACWA will be well represented on a utility of the future-focused delegation of U.S. water sector leaders attending Singapore International Water Week (SIWW), July 10 – 14, 2016. Six recipients have been selected to receive scholarships to the biannual event. The scholarship recipients include:
- Hardeep Anand, Deputy Director, Capital Programs & Regulatory Compliance, Miami Dade Water & Sewer Department, FL
- Michael S. Connor, General Manager, East Bay Dischargers Authority, CA
- Cedric S. Grant, Executive Director, Sewerage & Water Board of New Orleans, LA
- Paula Kehoe, Director of Water Resources, San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, CA
- Alberto M. Lazaro, Executive President, Puerto Rico Aqueduct & Sewer Authority, PR
- Enrique C. Zaldivar, General Manager & Director, City of Los Angeles – LA Sanitation, CA
The delegation will be hosted by the Singapore Public Utility Board, and funded collaboratively by NACWA, the Water Environment Federation (WEF) and the Water Environment Research Foundation (WERF). SIWW is a global platform for water professionals to share innovative solutions for integration of sustainable water management strategies with urban planning processes. Scholarship recipients will share the perspectives gained from their experiences upon their return. You can read more about SIWW at http://www.siww.com.sg.
Three Training Sessions Featured at Pretreatment Workshop
The NACWA Pretreatment & Pollution Prevention Workshop will be held May 18-20 in Long Beach, California. Three optional, day-long training sessions will be held prior to the Workshop on May 17:
These training sessions have received excellent reviews and have proven useful for both new and experienced pretreatment professionals. More information about the Workshop and training sessions is available on the conference webpage. Reservations should be made by Monday, April 25, at the Hilton Long Beach to receive the group rate of $179/night. Please contact Cynthia Finley for more information about the Workshop and training sessions.
- Applications are now being accepted for NACWA's Peak Performance Awards program for permit compliance in the 2015 calendar year. The application deadline of April 8 is quickly approaching – submit your application now!
- Register for the National Water Policy Forum, Fly-In & Expo, April 11-13, 2016 in Washington, DC. In light of the drought in the West, the crisis in Flint, Michigan, and public concerns over the operations of the nation's water systems, it is critical for federal policymakers to hear from you about the important work your utility is doing!
- Become a supporting organization of Water Week 2016 ! The week of April 10, 2016 has been designated as a week for the water sector to work together to highlight critical water issues shared by all states, cities, and communities.
- Applications are now being accepted for NACWA's Excellence in Management (EIM) Recognition Program, which honors utilities that have implemented management practices identified by Ten Attributes of Effectively Managed Water Sector Utilities and Resource Efficiency & Protection Activities. Applications are due on April 15, 2016.
- Call to Action: We are asking utilities to complete the Economic Pathways and Partners for Water Reuse Survey launched this week. The NACWA Water Reuse Workgroup assisted WERF's contractor in developing this survey to get a clearer national and regional picture of what makes reuse projects go from ideas to reality. The survey will be open through Monday, April 18 and targets not only utilities that have built or are building reuse projects, but also those that have not. You can read more about the survey here.
- Register for a webinar on the applications of Combined Heat and Power (CHP) at wastewater treatment plants hosted by the Department of Energy (DOE) Southwest CHP Technical Assistance Partnership on April 21 from 2:00 – 3:00 pm Eastern. NACWA worked with the CHP TAP to organize this webinar and will be a great opportunity to learn about the resources provided by the DOE CHP TAPs.
- Registration is now open for NACWA's Pretreatment & Pollution Prevention Workshop, May 17-20 in Long Beach, CA. Optional training courses will be held on May 17, with the Workshop program scheduled for May 18-20 (see related article).
- EPA announced the release of the Integrating Human Health and Well-Being with Ecosystem Services Request for Applications (RFA). This RFA's goal is to fund community-based research that will foster better understanding of how human health and well-being are interconnected with - and dependent on – ecosystem services. Applications will be accepted until April 21.
- The National Association of Flood & Stormwater Management Agencies (NAFSMA) has opened its 2016 Green Infrastructure Awards Program to recognize communities using GI to advance their wet weather management goals and enhance their communities. Applications are due on May 17. Applications are also available for a separate recognition program for communication around "Improving Water Quality".
- Register today for the U.S. Water Alliance's One Water Leadership Summit, June 8-10, 2016, in Atlanta, GA. The Summit is the premier gathering of the country's sharpest minds addressing our nation's most urgent water challenges to build stronger and more prosperous communities.
Supreme Court Wrestles with CWA Jurisdictional Determinations
This week, NACWA staff had the opportunity to attend the Supreme Court’s oral arguments in Hawkes v. US Army Corps of Engineers. The case addresses the question of whether jurisdictional determinations by the Army Corps of Engineers are subject to judicial review. Don’t miss this NACWA Water Voice post on the lively discussion.