NACWA Shares Expert Review of Coliphage Science with EPA
On February 26, NACWA shared with EPA a report prepared by Dr. Sam Dorevitch, MD, MPH, of the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health, that notes a lack of information and conflicting results in the science behind using coliphage in a Clean Water Act context. EPA is proposing to use coliphage as an indicator of fecal contamination in recreational waters. NACWA, together with the Water Environment Research Foundation (WERF), funded the review by Dorevitch to better understand the scientific information currently available regarding this potential indicator change by EPA. The Association’s participation was support through its Targeted Action Fund (TAF). Dorevitch’s report included three key findings:
- The available scientific literature regarding coliphages and health risks of water recreation – eight published studies – is quite limited.
- The epidemiologic studies that evaluated coliphages arrived at conflicting conclusions about the predictive value of these viruses as predictors of health risk following surface water recreation.
- Relatively few swimmers have been enrolled in studies of coliphages as predictors of health risk compared to the number of swimmers enrolled into EPA’s epidemiologic studies that have been used to develop water quality criteria and/or beach action values.
EPA convened a group of experts on March 1 to further explore the science behind coliphage and planned to distribute the Dorevitch report to its experts for consideration. NACWA will be meeting with EPA soon to discuss the Agency’s reactions to the report and will participate in their Recreational Waters Conference in April, during which the Agency will brief stakeholders on the discussions from its experts’ workshop. EPA is still targeting the release of draft recreational water quality criteria based on coliphage for late 2016 or early 2017.
Association Endorses Water Reuse, Recycling Provisions in Drought Bill
On March 4, NACWA sent a letter to Capitol Hill in support of provisions in Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)’s California Drought Relief Act. The bill, introduced last month, includes provisions addressing long-term western water supply needs, including water recycling, and references the study of water recycling potential that NACWA and partner organizations carried out last year. NACWA’s endorsement of the introduced bill follows earlier support for the provisions in a draft bill that Sen. Feinstein circulated in January 2016.
Additional information on the bill is available in Advocacy Alert 16-04 . In addition to this legislation, Sen. Feinstein has continued pressing for Bureau of Reclamation action in response to the drought through her role as the ranking member on the Senate Energy & Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee.
NACWA Solicits Support from State & Regional Organizations on 2017 Appropriations
NACWA hosted a conference call March 3 with representatives of over 15 state and regional clean water organizations to discuss a number of important issues with nationwide implications such as human health water quality criteria, citizen lawsuits, and negotiations in Washington, DC around legislative proposals including Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 EPA appropriations and the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA). Association staff briefed attendees on key national advocacy priorities, encouraged state organizations to send in support letters for Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) requests, and encouraged them to support Water Week 2016.
The discussion around funding for the CWSRF took on special importance as the Obama Administration’s recent budget proposal included a significant cut to the Clean Water fund. Such action is ill-advised, especially in light of the ongoing drought in the West and the recent water crisis in Flint, Michigan, both of which have reinforced the importance of adequately funding the nation’s water infrastructure. Participants on the call expressed strong support in favor of the municipal clean water community rallying around a call for increased funding to the Clean Water SRF.
NACWA regularly convenes a robust state and regional network of clean water and stormwater organizations, providing an opportunity for their perspectives to inform NACWA’s efforts while also boosting the Association’s national advocacy agenda through grassroots engagement. If you are involved with a state or regional group that would be interested in joining this coalition, please contact
Legislation Introduced to Authorize 10-Year Permits for Green Stormwater Infrastructure
On February 29, Reps. Derek Kilmer and Denny Heck, both Democrats from Washington State and co-founders of the Puget Sound Recovery Caucus, introduced H.R. 4648, The Green Stormwater Infrastructure Investment Act. The Act seeks to reduce water quality impairments across the U.S. by incentivizing green stormwater infrastructure. In introducing the Act, the Congressmen note that EPA has identified nonpoint source pollution as the leading cause of persistent water quality issues nationwide.
The bill defines Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI) as the use of natural and engineered systems to promote the infiltration, evapotranspiration, or filtration of stormwater at its source. The definition includes systems to improve stormwater system resiliency, identifying as GSI techniques like bioretention, permeable pavements, green roofs, and natural vegetation.
Specifically, the Act would:
- Authorize EPA to extend the maximum duration of National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits from 5 to 10 years for GSI systems. The extension of permit terms to provide greater certainty and opportunity for innovation is a key NACWA priority.
- Codify a permanent 20% GSI reserve within the EPA’s Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF), subject to sufficient applications being submitted to a given state. The GSI reserve funds of the CWSRF could be used for GSI Operations & Maintenance costs.
- Require the Secretary of the Department of Transportation (DOT) prioritize transportation projects that incorporate GSI in reviewing applications for DOT competitive grant programs.
NACWA staff discussed stormwater issues with Rep. Heck’s office earlier this year and encouraged extended permit terms for utilities pursuing innovative stormwater management practices. The Association is pleased to see this concept gaining traction on Capitol Hill and will continue to work with Congress to advance these ideas.
SRF Funding Letters Circulating in Congress
With the FY 2017 appropriations cycle underway, letters are circulating on Capitol Hill in support of the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) and Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF). A bipartisan Senate letter is asking for SRF levels at no less than the FY 2016 funding level. In the House, the Democratic leadership on the Transportation & Infrastructure and Energy & Commerce Committees are requesting a minimum of $2 billion for each SRF, while a bipartisan letter requests Appropriator’s support for the critical SRFs without including a specific funding level.
These requests are important in light of the drastic $414 million cut to the CWSRF that the Administration has requested in its FY 2017 budget. While the Senate letter has closed, both House bills are accepting signatures from Members of Congress at this time. Please contact your representatives to sign on. The deadline is Thursday, March 10 for the letter requesting $2 billion per SRF and Wednesday, March 16 for the bipartisan request for strong support. See Advocacy Alert 16-05 for more information.
SSI FIP Provides No Relief, But Some Helpful Clarification
EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy signed the final Federal Implementation Plan (FIP) for the Clean Air Act regulations for sewage sludge incinerators (SSIs) on February 22, more than a year late. NACWA is encouraging its members in the states covered by the FIP (18 states and 9 local air pollution control agencies) to review the final language closely. While the FIP has not been formally published, EPA has made available a pre-publication version . EPA made no substantive changes to the underlying requirements for SSIs, without incorporating most of the issues and concerns raised by NACWA and its members during the comment period. While EPA was somewhat restricted in the changes it could make to the underlying emission guidelines published in 2011, it chose to defer any action until a future rulemaking. EPA did provide clarification in a few key areas that will help with implementation, but on other issues EPA’s clarifications could create more confusion.
While the FIP will not be effective until 30 days after it is published – after the March 21 deadline for meeting the new SSI air emission standards – the final compliance deadline remains unchanged. EPA’s delay in issuing the FIP caused significant confusion when language in the draft document suggested that the compliance deadline could extend beyond March 21, 2016. In the final FIP EPA states that the confusion was ‘unintended’ and that it would be contrary to the Clean Air Act to extend or change the deadline. EPA also made it clear that it will not be addressing the portions of the rule remanded back to the Agency as a result of NACWA’s legal challenge prior to the March 2016 compliance date, but that it will address those provisions in a future rulemaking. Please contact
with any questions or feedback on the FIP.
House Committee Passes Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Act
The House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee unanimously approved H.R. 223, the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Act of 2015, during a markup on March 2. The Act authorizes the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) for five years (from FY 2016-2020) at $300 million for each fiscal year. The GLRI, initiated in 2009, enjoys bipartisan support and funds projects throughout the Great Lakes Basin including remediating Areas of Concern, controlling invasive species, mitigating nonpoint source pollution, and protecting habitat.
NACWA is a strong advocate of the GLRI, which has supported POTW efforts to address nutrients and partner with upstream landowners. Authorization of the GLRI was part of the negotiated compromise in last year’s federal appropriations debate in which Congress agreed to authorize the GLRI for the first time in FY 2016 in exchange for removing a provision that would have required elimination of combined sewer overflows (CSOs) by municipal dischargers to the Great Lakes. The GLRI was funded at $300 million for FY 2016, but saw a proposed $50 million cut to the program in the Administration’s FY 2017 budget proposal.
Senate Queries EPA on Great Lakes CSO Reporting Requirement, NACWA to Host Call
Three Senators sent a letter to EPA on March 1 requesting information on EPA’s plans to develop notification requirements for CSO discharges to the Great Lakes. EPA is required to develop the notification requirement language under the terms of the Agency’s FY 2016 appropriations bill passed in December. NACWA has previously met with EPA regarding development of the notification protocol and will be engaged closely with the Agency as it moves forward.
NACWA was successful in defeating the most onerous parts of the proposed CSO language in the FY 2016 appropriations legislation, including a potential ban on all CSOs to the Great Lakes. The Association will be hosting a call on March 17 to further discuss developments in the aftermath of the legislation and the path forward for developing the notification requirement – any members interested in participating on the call should contact
- Applications are now being accepted for NACWA's Peak Performance Awards program for NPDES compliance in the 2015 calendar year. The application deadline is April 8.
- Register for the March 16 Hot Topics in Clean Water Law Web Seminar , scheduled for 2:00 PM - 3:30 pm Eastern. The complimentary Seminar will cover the impact of Justice Scalia's passing on upcoming Clean Water Act cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, as well as the ongoing Mississippi River nutrients litigation over numeric nutrient criteria and EPA necessity determinations.
- 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!
for the March 10 NACWA Communication & Public Affairs Committee Call, scheduled from 12:00 PM - 1:30 pm Eastern. The Committee will be discussing NACWA's Communication's Audit results as well as the preliminary results from the Committee's Survey on Communications Programs and Budgets.
- 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.
Supreme Court Rejection of Farm Bureau Appeal = Significant Clean Water Victory for NACWA Members
This week, the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it will not review a lower court’s decision in American Farm Bureau v. EPA upholding the final total maximum daily load (TMDL) for the Chesapeake Bay. This decision marks a significant win for NACWA, its members, and its municipal partners by supporting EPA’s ability to pursue a watershed approach under the Clean Water Act (CWA) – including meaningful participation of nonpoint agricultural sources – in crafting TMDLs to achieve improved water quality. Read on to find out how this will impact NACWA members long into the future.