Clean Water Current

NACWA Highlights Utility Successes in Congressional Hearing Celebrating 50 Years of the Clean Water Act

Sep 21, 2022

NACWA Board Member Mike Witt, General Counsel for the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission (PVSC) in Newark, NJ, testified September 20 on behalf of NACWA before the House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee’s Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee to discuss the key role public clean water utilities have had in the success of the Clean Water Act (CWA) over the last 50 years.

During the hearing, entitled “The Clean Water Act at Fifty: Highlights and Lessons Learned from a Half Century of Transformative Legislation”, Witt emphasized how the CWA’s “cooperative federalism” framework provided utilities with the necessary tools and resources to help communities across the U.S. dramatically improve the nation’s water quality and better protect public health and the environment, while also having immense positive social and economic impacts. 

Both the Democrat Majority and Republican Minority members of the Committee highlighted the important role and work by utilities over the past 50 years in achieving water pollution reduction goals, while also noting the need for additional federal investments to further upgrade our nation’s clean water infrastructure. 

Witt had the opportunity during the hearing to answer questions from both Democrats and Republicans about the impact of PFAS on public clean water utilities and the importance of utilizing existing CWA tools and authorities to better control industrial sources of PFAS from entering wastewater treatment systems.  

Witt also touched on EPA’s proposed rule to designate certain PFAS chemicals as hazardous substances under the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), stressing the need to hold PFAS polluters accountable and the unintended consequences the rule will have on public clean water utilities and their ratepayers.  He noted that, absent a Congressional CERCLA exemption, utilities may be held legally and financially liable for the cleanup of PFAS chemicals they did not profit from or produce.  

Near the end of the hearing, when questioned by Subcommittee Vice Chair Bourdeaux (D-GA) about the biggest current hurdle facing the clean water sector, Witt responded that funding was without a doubt the greatest challenge, as well as the need for increased support for educational programs to train the next generation of clean water workers to build and run the nation’s clean water infrastructure.

Witt’s testimony follows several other NACWA members who have testified before Congress over the past two years to help ensure clean water was a key component of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) and, subsequently, to help ensure the BIL's successful implementation going forward. Taken together, these congressional appearances have demonstrated to Congress the vital responsibility public clean water utilities have had in implementing the far-reaching goals of the CWA over the past 50 years and the key role they will play, in partnership with the federal government, in meeting the clean water challenges that lay ahead over the next 50 years.  

NACWA thanks Witt and PVSC for their time and willingness to testify on behalf of the Association to share the incredible success stories of public clean water utilities as we approach the 50th anniversary of the CWA.  NACWA also thanks the T&I committee for the opportunity to provide testimony. A recording of the full hearing and links to all the witness testimony can be found here.

For further information or questions on the hearing, please contact NACWA’s legislative team.

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