EPA Needs Comprehensive Vision for Citizen Science
This week the EPA Office of Inspector General (OIG) released a report that “[a]lthough citizen science is carried out throughout the EPA, the agency has not developed controls necessary to manage citizen science agency-wide, including a clear vision and objectives for using results. Absent this, the EPA cannot undertake a systematic effort to analyze the risks and opportunities that citizen science presents.” The OIG conducted this audit to determine whether EPA has processes and controls to manage the use of citizen science results to meet the agency’s mission. OIG defined citizen science as a “form of open collaboration in which individuals or organizations participate voluntarily in the scientific process in various ways, including collecting and analyzing data.” Citizen science is one mechanism by which the public can participate and support EPA programs. Within the EPA, a team in the Office of Research and Development facilitates citizen science projects implemented throughout the agency’s program and regional offices. As part of OIG’s review EPA staff “identified barriers to effectively using citizen science results—including lack of a comprehensive vision and support/resources from senior management, and lack of understanding and buy-in for citizen science…” and EPA Leadership has not developed a strategy for dealing with citizen science.
The OIG recommends that the EPA Deputy Administrator “establish a strategic vision and objectives for citizen science, and direct completion of an assessment to identify the data management requirements for using citizen science data and an action plan” and that ORD “finalize a draft handbook for citizen science and build the capacity for managing the use of citizen science.” EPA concurred with OIG’s recommendations and plans to convene an agency wide workgroup to “oversee implementation of our recommendations, and it plans to complete corrective actions by December 31, 2020.” A copy of the report can be found here.
EPA’s National Study of Nutrient Removal and Secondary Technologies Questionnaire Coming Soon
In 2016, EPA initiated a multi-phase study to showcase nutrient removal at publicly owned treatment works (POTWs). The goals of the study are to establish a nationwide baseline for nutrient removal at municipal wastewater treatment plants, and to characterize lower cost options, such as re-purposing existing equipment or changing operation and management practices, that result in improved nutrient control. EPA is making final preparations for the first phase of its study, an online interactive screening questionnaire. This form will collect basic information about nutrients from all facilities nationwide, focusing on treatment plant characteristics and technology in place.
The EPA is planning to distribute its electronic questionnaire during the last week of September 2018. POTW operators and plant managers should look for letters and emails in September inviting them to participate in the survey. Additional information, including an unofficial copy of the survey, will be made available at epa.gov/eg/national-study-nutrient-removal-and-secondary-technologies. Once the survey is initiated, EPA will have a helpline available to assist respondents in completing the questionnaire. For further information, contact the EPA project manager Paul Shriner.
HABs Hearing in Senate
Last week, the Senate Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard held a hearing entitled, “Harmful Algal Blooms: The Impact on Our Nation’s Waters”. The hearing focused on the dangers and negative effects of HABs. Witnesses included Dr. Don Anderson, Senior Scientist, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and Director of the Coastal Ocean Institute, Mr. Ivory Engstrom, Director of Special Projects, McLane Research Labs, Inc., Mr. Bryan Stubbs, Executive Director and President of the Board, Cleveland Water Alliance, and Mr. Patrick Neu, Executive Director, National Professional Anglers Association. To view a recording of the hearing, go here.
Kinder Morgan Petitions Supreme Court for Hydrologic Connection Review
This week, pipeline company Kinder Morgan petitioned the United States Supreme Court to review the Fourth Circuit’s ruling in Upstate Forever v. Kinder Morgan. The Fourth Circuit ruled that discharges of pollutants from a leaking pipeline did violate the Clean Water Act. The Court stated, “We do not hold that the CWA covers discharges to groundwater itself. Instead, we hold only that an alleged discharge of pollutants, reaching navigable waters located 1000 feet or less from the point source by means of groundwater with a direct hydrological connection to such navigable waters, falls within the scope of the CWA”. This petition for certiorari follows the County of Maui’s petition to the Supreme Court to review the Ninth Circuit’s decision in Hawaii Wildlife Fund v. City of Maui.
Acting Administrator Wheeler Announces Regional Alignment Plan
On September 6, 2018 Acting Administrator Wheeler announced the plan to maintain the 10 Regional Offices but also reorganize and standardize the EPA Regional Offices to more closely mirror EPA HQ. The goal of the realignment is to (1) increase EPA HQ and Regional coordination, (2) improve the consistency in implementing regulations and policies, (3) improve resource allocation to more effectively carry out the agency’s mission, (4) facilitate operational excellence, and (5) provide greater transparency for EPA’s customers. The new Regional Organizational structure will include a Regional Administrator, a Deputy Regional Administrator, and the following eight divisions:
- Air and Radiation Division
- Administration and Resource Management Division
- Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Division
- Land and Redevelopment Division
- Superfund and Emergency Management Division
- Water Division
- Laboratory Services and Applied Science Division
- Regional Counsel Division
In response to Executive Order 13781 Comprehensive Plan for Reorganizing the Executive Branch and after reviewing information presented by the Field Presence workgroup, “Chief of Operations Henry Darwin and the Regional Administrators, in consultation with the Assistant Administrators, concluded that greater consistency in EPA’s regional organizational structure is needed to increase visibility into regional office operations. When the regional offices are organizationally aligned with headquarters, we will be better able to streamline decision-making for accountability and performance, allowing us to better carry out our mission.”
House Energy and Commerce Committee Holds Hearing on Perflourinated Chemicals
The House Energy and Commerce Committee held a three hour hearing on perflourinated chemicals with testimonies from The EPA office of Ground Water and Drinking Water, DoD, ASTSWMO, ASDWA, State of Michigan, Clean Cape Fear, and the NRDC. This was the first hearing on the matter in either the House or the Senate. During the hearing the EPA affirmed their commitment to the four-step action plan from the PFAS Leadership Summit held in May. Peter Grevatt, Director of the EPA Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water, mentioned that the EPA is aiming to release a national PFAS management plan by the end of 2018 (originally due out in the Fall of 2018). Additionally, the EPA is planning on releasing a draft GenX toxicity value soon. To watch the hearing in full and to read the testimonies, please see the committee website.
ACWA and ASWM send letter to Senate re: proposed Section 401 Certification Legislation
Today, ACWA and ASWM jointly sent a letter to the offices of Senator Barrasso and Senator Carper, as Chair and Ranking Member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee respectively, regarding Senator Barrasso’s recently proposed legislation on 401 Certification procedure. The letter briefly explains how the legislation would weaken state authority to issue certifications under section 401 of the CWA, and why that authority is important both for water quality protection and for maintaining a relationship of cooperative federalism between states and federal government. If you have questions, contact Julian Gonzalez or Julia Anastasio.
November Nutrients Permitting Workshop
The next 2018 Nutrients Permitting Workshop will be held Tuesday, November 6 to Thursday, November 8, 2018 in Gulfport, Mississippi at the Courtyard Marriott Gulfport Beachfront, 1600 East Beach Blvd., Gulfport, Mississippi. Secure your lodging now using this link, or you can call the hotel direct at 228-864-4310. To register and for more information, go here.
The draft agenda is available here. It is subject to change.
For more information on the meeting, please contact Mark Patrick McGuire.
The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services is undertaking a search for candidates for the position of Water Division (WD) Director. This largest division of the NHDES advocates for public policy and regulatory objectives that reflect stewardship of resources, the needs of the citizens and economic interests of the State, and the achievement and maintenance of water quality standards based upon sound
science. For more information, see the job posting here.
And be sure to check out other opportunities on ACWA’s jobs page.
ACWA Microcystin and Cylindrospermopsin Criteria/Advisory Update Call
*States and EPA only*
Monday, September 10th, 1:00-2:15 pm EST
For call-in information, contact Frances Bothfeld
Legal Affairs Committee Quarterly Call
Thursday, September 13 from 2-3:00 pm EST
For agenda and call-in information, contact Mark Patrick McGuire.