Secondary Treatment, Nutrient Removal the Focus of EPA Survey
NACWA, along with a representative from the Water Environment Federation (WEF), met with key EPA staff August 17 to discuss initial comments on a draft ‘screener survey’ intended as the first phase in a multi-year EPA study on the performance of secondary treatment and nutrient removal. The Agency first briefed NACWA on the proposed study during a meeting of the Association’s Water Quality Committee in July – and shortly thereafter shared a draft version of the screener survey with NACWA and WEF. The screener is a brief questionnaire that EPA believes is necessary to define the universe of treatment systems so that it can best design a more detailed survey. NACWA reviewed the screener survey and provided EPA with initial feedback on August 1.
In its comments the Association expressed concern that EPA had not fully evaluated whether a study of this nature could provide enough granularity to allow the Agency to make sound conclusions on what type of nutrient removal is being achieved by secondary treatment plants that have not yet installed nutrient removal technology. NACWA suggested that EPA pilot the more detailed survey before conducting the screener survey to ensure it can get the information it needs. The Association also raised concerns over the Agency’s planned use of its Clean Water Act Section 308 authority to conduct the survey. Section 308 requests usually precede enforcement actions and NACWA believes that conducting the study under this authority could cause confusion and send the wrong message about the intent of the study.
NACWA and WEF committed to work with EPA to further explore whether a survey could adequately capture the level of detail EPA will need – and whether approaches other than a Section 308 request could be used to collect the information. The Agency anticipates publication of the screener survey for public comment in the Federal Register in the next few weeks, with a goal of rolling it out formally by January 2017. NACWA and WEF will provide additional feedback to EPA over the coming weeks.
NACWA Weighs in on Key Energy, Biogas Issues
NACWA recently sent letters to Members of Congress regarding two pieces of legislation being considered by both the House and Senate. NACWA joined with the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA), WateReuse, the Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA) and the California Association of Sanitation Agencies (CASA) on a joint letter to key members of the House requesting an amendment to any final Energy reform legislation. The Energy legislation passed by the House and Senate includes authorization of the WaterSense program. The authorization raised concerns among NACWA members on the issue of whether EPA may grant WaterSense designation to self-regenerating water softeners which can create costly salinity removal challenges for clean water agencies and inhibit water recycling. The requested amendment directs EPA to ensure that products that receive the WaterSense label do not degrade waste streams, recycled water quality or receiving waters. NACWA had previously submitted a letter highlighting the WaterSense issue and encouraging support in conference for several provisions that could benefit clean water agencies and address the energy-water nexus that were included in the Senate bill.
The Association also forwarded a letter to the House and Senate in support of HR5489/S3248, the Agriculture Environmental Stewardship Act. This legislation, which has been introduced on a bipartisan basis in both the House (Reps. Kind, D-WI and Reed, R-NY) and Senate (Sens. Brown, D-OH and Roberts, R-KS), aims to improve water quality by extending the 30% federal energy tax credit to nutrient recovery technologies and biogas property. The bill is being championed by several associations including the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF). NACWA has a Memorandum of Understanding with NMPF in support of advancing watershed-level water quality improvement.
To discuss any of these bills, contact Kristina Surfus, NACWA’s Legislative Affairs Manager.
Association Presents Awards to Member Agency
NACWA was pleased to have the opportunity last week to present six Peak Performance Awards directly to Member Agency the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) at their headquarters in Laurel, Maryland. The Commission’s treatment plants were recognized for their incredible record of compliance with their National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits. WSSC’s General Manager & CEO Carla Reid, its Commissioners, and key treatment plant staff who do the day-to-work that keeps much of Maryland’s water clean and safe were in attendance to accept the award.
The Peak Performance Award Program is truly a jewel in the NACWA crown. This year the Association awarded 451 Member Agency facilities with Peak Performance Awards, recognizing 166 with Platinum Peak Performance Awards signifying their 100% permit compliance for five or more years. Utilities across the country should be proud of their incredible compliance records.
Communications Committee Addresses Crisis Communications, Imagine a Day Without Water Campaign
NACWA Member Agency DC Water kicked off the August 17 web meeting of NACWA’s Communications & Public Affairs Committee with tips for handling crisis communications. The key elements for any utility to understand in crisis communications is be prepared, break the story, turn it to your advantage, keep everyone in the loop, and prepare for an extended crisis.
In addition, the Value of Water Coalition delivered a call to action to join forces for Imagine a Day Without Water on September 15, 2016, to raise awareness and educate Americans about the value of water. The Day will include a series of events, policy resolutions, social media campaigns and more to inform and engage the public and stakeholders about how water is essential, invaluable and worthy of investment.
Information on participation in Imagine a Day Without Water, as well as the presentation slides from the web meeting, are posted on the Committee’s Engage Forum. The Committee will next meet on September 14 from 2:00 – 3:30 pm Eastern. If you are interested in getting involved with NACWA’s Communications & Public Affairs Committee, please contact Amanda Waters.
Narragansett Bay Celebrated in Annual Save the Bay Swim
As American athletes took to the waters of Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro this past week, 5,000 miles to the north another set of athletes waded into the waters of Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island for the 40th annual Save the Bay Swim. In stark contrast to the widely publicized water pollution issues plaguing the Olympic Games, the Narragansett Bay has made great strides in improving its water quality.
Leading the charge on this improvement has been NACWA Member Agency the Narragansett Bay Commission (NBC), which through significant effort and dedication has made the bay cleaner than it has been in 150 years. NBC Executive Director and NACWA President, Ray Marshall, attributes this success to “a combination of infrastructure, policy, and advocacy.” From improvements to the Field’s Point and Bucklin Point treatment facilities to reducing combined sewer overflows, NBC has treated over 7 billion gallons of wastewater since 2008 that would have otherwise gone into Narragansett Bay.
The extent of these water quality improvement projects is readily apparent in the history of the Save the Bay swim. Over the span of 40 years, the waters of Narragansett Bay have gone from being dangerously polluted to supporting recreational opportunities and a burgeoning shellfish industry. These changes highlight the incredible work of NBC and underscore the important role that NACWA members and other clean water utilities play in human health and environmental protection. Although there is still more work to do to improve our nation’s waterways and water infrastructure, the juxtaposition of the Rio Olympics and the Save the Bay Swim highlight just how far we’ve come in our collective goal to provide clean water for all.
The topic of the week on NACWA’s Engage™ online community is debt policy – with utilities from the City & County of Honolulu, Hawaii to Alexandria Renew Enterprises in Virginia, and points in between, weighing in to respond to a question posed by the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District in Wisconsin. Engage™ provides an exceptional platform for Association members to discuss a wide variety of issues. Why not add to the conversation and join our community? Get engaged today!