ACWA Participates in National Water Sector Workforce Convening
This week, ACWA participated in the National Water Sector Workforce Convening at AlexRenew in Alexandria, Virginia, hosted by EPA along with AWWA, WEF, AMWA, NACWA, and WRF. The purpose of the convening was to set the stage for water sector partners to develop a strategy in response to gaps and opportunities regarding workforce issues in the water sector, deepen understanding of current workforce initiatives, and establish a framework for effectively communicating workforce efforts. Topics included the Baywork initiative in the San Francisco Bay Area, strategic planning at facilities, workforce recruitment and retention, and building community partnerships. Moving forward, the group hopes to create an action agenda to begin to move forward on solving issues identified. For more information, contact Mark Patrick McGuire.
Draft Toxicity Values for Gen-x and PFBS released
EPA released draft toxicity values for two polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) compounds: GenX and perfluorobutane sulfonic acid (PFBS). EPA will accept comments on the two draft toxicity assessments for the 60 days after publishing. For more information, please see the press release and other supporting material available here.
Vessel Incidental Discharge Bill Passes the Senate
The Vessel Incidental Discharge Act (VIDA) passed the senate as a part of the Coast Guard Reauthorization Act. Under VIDA, the EPA and Coast Guard must work together to develop and implement ballast water and incidental discharge standards. The goal of this act is to have a more consistent national regulatory system for ballast water and incidental discharge. This version of VIDA is seen as an improvement on past acts. It includes regional programs for states that allow for more state involvement in standard setting and enforcement. However, the bill preempts states from adopting standards stricter than those set at the federal level. ACWA weighed in on VIDA last week with this letter. This act must now pass The House before heading to The President.
Lead and Copper
In July 2018 EPA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) issued a report titled “Management Weaknesses Delayed Response to Flint Water Crisis” (Report # 18-P-0221). In this report OIG provided nine recommendations including that EPA “revise the Lead and Copper Rule to improve effectiveness of monitoring and treatment protocols” and “establish controls to annually verify that states are monitoring compliance with all Lead and Copper Rule requirements.” OECA and OW concurred with both recommendations and agreed on the value of national oversight for compliance monitoring and enforcement of the Drinking Water Program, but indicated belief that the agency must develop a response in a collaborative manner with their state partners. In particular, EPA indicated they plan to “work with the states to develop an approach for implementing a national compliance monitoring and enforcement oversight program for the Drinking Water Program by June 2019.” The OIG did not accept this response as meeting the intent of the recommendation for annual review and designated the OIG recommendations as “unresolved.” A copy of the full report can be found here. In a recent letter to the Environmental Integrity Project and several other environmental groups, Assistant Administrator for the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, Susan Bodine, indicated that OECA and OW have “now reached agreement with OIG on the firm commitment to annual controls to ensure compliance with the Lead and Coper Rule…”. The letter further states that EPA will implement changes to its Public Water System annual programs reviews “to ensure verification that states are implementing the Lead and Copper Rule requirements.”
Office of Attorney General Memorandum
Last week the Attorney General released a memo titled Principles and Procedures for Civil Consent Decrees and Settlement Agreements with State and Local Government Entities. The goal of the memo is to provide process guidance on how to deal with states and locals. In particular, the memo requires DOJ to provide states and locals adequate time to respond to violations, prescribes caution and analysis of limited circumstances when using settlement agreements/consent decrees, limits the term for their use, amends the process for approval when permissible. The memo notes Constitutional and Policy considerations including “depriving elected representatives of the people of the affected jurisdiction control of their government”, detrimentally impacting “state or local budget priorities”, ”deprive future officials of designated legislative and executive powers”, reducing “long-term flexibility in how the defendant remedies the violation”, subjecting “defendants to ongoing judicial supervision long after it is no longer necessary to ensure compliance”, and significantly “increasing litigation costs for all parties, including taxpayers who fund the Department, the federal courts, and state and local governments.” Specific factors are identified for when a consent decree with a state or local can be appropriate and include a history of recalcitrance, unlawfully attempting to obstruct an investigation, a pattern of violations where other remedies have proven ineffective, and necessary to secure statutory protection or relief for the defendant. There are also details regarding substantive requirements for a consent decree or settlement agreement and the use of Monitors. For a copy of this memo, please click here.
Low Flow Statistics
The EPA’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) has just released Low Flow Statistics Tools, A How-To handbook for NPDES Permit Writers. The purpose of the handbook is to help permit writers estimate low flow statistic values in a variety of situations using free, publicly available tools. The guidebook includes an overview of three U.S. Geological Survey software tools (SWToolbox, StreamStats and WREG), a decision tree flowchart, step-by-step instructions, and a series of FAQs designed to address specific situations encountered by permit writers. It was developed in collaboration with USGS, and with input from EPA and state permit writers.
November 2018 Nutrients Permitting Workshop Presentation Slides Available
Last week, ACWA held the final Nutrients Permitting Workshop of 2018 in Gulfport, Mississippi. The workshop focused on the relationship between permitting for nutrients and TMDLs. Representatives from 27 states attended along with representatives from EPA Headquarters and 5 Regions. Topics included breaking down barriers between TMDL and permitting programs, CAFOs and MS4s, reassessing and reevaluating TMDLs, politics and public perceptions of TMDLs and permits, small systems, variances and compliance schedules, and water quality trading. Thanks to all those who participated in person or via live web stream.
ACWA’s next Nutrients Permitting Workshop will be held November 5-7, 2019 in Alexandria, Virginia and will focus on the relationship between permitting for nutrients and water quality standards. Stay tuned for more information.
319/Nonpoint Source Workgroup Call
Thursday, November 29, 3-4:30 pm EST
Contact Julian Gonzalez for more information
Legal Affairs Committee Quarterly Call
Wednesday, December 19, 2-3:00 pm EST
Contact Mark Patrick McGuire for more information