CISA Provides Guidance on Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce
The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) executes the Secretary of Homeland Security’s responsibilities as assigned under the Homeland Security Act of 2002 to provide strategic guidance, promote a national unity of effort, and coordinate the overall federal effort to ensure the security and resilience of the Nation’s critical infrastructure. CISA uses trusted partnerships with both the public and private sectors to deliver infrastructure resilience assistance and guidance to a broad range of partners. CISA recently released guidance on the identification of essential critical infrastructure workers during COVID-19 response.
CISA developed an initial list of “Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers” to help State and local officials as they work to protect their communities, while ensuring continuity of functions critical to public health and safety, as well as economic and national security. The list can also inform critical infrastructure community decision-making to determine the sectors, sub-sectors, segments, or critical functions that should continue normal operations, appropriately modified to account for Centers for Disease Control (CDC) workforce and customer protection guidance.
The attached list identifies workers who conduct a range of operations and services that are essential to continued critical infrastructure viability, including staffing operations centers, maintaining and repairing critical infrastructure, operating call centers, working construction, and performing management functions, among others. The industries they support represent, but are not necessarily limited to, medical and healthcare, telecommunications, information technology systems, defense, food and agriculture, transportation and logistics, energy, water and wastewater, law enforcement, and public works.
Free EPA Training Resources
If working remotely during COVID-19 self-isolation has left you with more down time than usual, you’re not alone. We’re all feeling the effects of social distancing, but that doesn’t mean we can’t continue learning and growing through these difficult times. To help fill your workday with educational, enriching content, check out these free training resources from EPA:
- NPDES Training
- Watershed Academy (topics ranging Agriculture to Wetlands)
- Water Quality Trading Toolkit
- Water Quality Standards Academy
- National Enforcement Training Institute (NETI) eLearning Center
- Water Topics:
ACWA Joins Broad Coalition in COVID-19 Response
ACWA joined with several water and wastewater utility groups in writing to Congress and urging them include provisions to include water and wastewater utilities to receive a payroll tax credit to offset payroll tax costs during the pandemic. H.R. 6201, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, expands paid sick leave and family medical leave benefits for all public sector employees who are affected by the coronavirus crisis. While we support this provision, with appropriate limitations to ensure that certain critical operational water system staff are available at to maintain water service, the enacted legislation includes a glaring flaw that will place a strain on taxpayers across the country.
Unfortunately, the bill treats private companies and public employers very differently. Both are required to provide paid sick and family leave to employees affected by the coronavirus pandemic, but only private sector employers will receive a payroll tax credit to offset the costs. Public sector employers are explicitly prohibited from receiving those same tax credits, even though state and local governments pay payroll taxes to the federal government.
OECA Memo on COVID-19 Implications for EPA’s Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Program
The policy recognizes that states may take a different approach under their own authorities.
On March 26, 2020 Assistant Administrator Susan Bodine sighed a memo announcing a “temporary policy regarding EPA enforcement of environmental legal obligations during this time.” EPA plans to “exercise the enforcement discretion specified below for noncompliance covered by this temporary policy” resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and that make a good faith effort to comply. The policy will apply retroactively back to March 13, 2020 and generally applies to civil actions. It does not apply to criminal violations or Superfund/RCRA Corrective Action enforcement instruments. It does not apply to imports, especially those pesticide products claiming to address COVID-19 impacts. Enforcement discretion will be conditioned on the following:
- Entities should make every effort to comply
- Where compliance is not reasonably practicable, facilities should
a. Act responsibly to minimize the effects and duration of noncompliance
b. Identify the specific nature and dates of the noncompliance
c. Identify how COVID-19 was the cause of the noncompliance, take special note of decisions and actions taken in response of noncompliance
d. Return to compliance as soon as possible
e. Document the information, action, or condition specified in a. through d.
Entities should use existing procedures to report noncompliance where routine compliance activities such as monitoring, testing, sampling, analyzing, training, reporting and certifying in a timely manner did not occur. Where reporting is not possible, entities should maintain documentation internally and make it available to EPA when asked. In general, the EPA does not expect to seek penalties for violations of routine compliance activities does not occur in a timely manner where EPA agrees COVD-19 was the cause. If practicable, sectors mandated to function with certified operators should maintain normal certification and training practices. If not practicable due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the EPA believes that it is more important to keep experienced, trained operators on the job, even if a training or certification is missed.
With respect to EPA Administrative Settlement Agreements, parties to such settlement agreements that anticipate missing enforceable milestones should utilize the notice procedures as applicable. For consent decrees, EPA will coordinate with DOJ to exercise enforcement discretion with regard to stipulated penalties. Courts retain jurisdiction of consent decrees and may exercise their own discretion. The EPA expects all regulated entities to continue to manage and operate their facilities in a manner that is safe and that protects the public and the environment.
Also EPA has indicated that “[P]ublic water systems have a heightened responsibility to protect public health because unsafe drinking water can lead to serious illnesses and access to clean water for drinking and handwashing is critical during the COVID-19 pandemic.” EPA is communicating they have heightened expectations for public water systems. “The EPA expects operators of such systems to continue normal operations, maintenance, and sampling and laboratories to continue providing timely analysis of samples to keep the public safe. “In the event of worker shortages in the water sector, the EPA will consider continued operation of drinking water systems to be the highest priority.” EPA will also consider the circumstances, including the COVID-19 pandemic, when determining whether any enforcement response is appropriate at public water systems acting in accordance with this section of the policy.
“In situations where a facility is essential critical infrastructure, the EPA may consider a more tailored short-term No Action Assurance, with conditions to protect the public…”. EPA will consider essential the facilities those that employ essential critical infrastructure workers as determined by guidance issued by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.
A copy of the OECA memo policy can be found here.
ACWA COVID-19 Resources
At ACWA, we are identifying key concerns and open questions regarding COVID-19’s impacts to clean water programs, as well as emerging issues inhibiting clean water program implementation. Because operating environments are constantly changing, ACWA is working to support peer-to-peer information sharing as frequently and expeditiously as possible. You can access our list of resources here. If you have any concerns, resources, or updates to contribute, please email Jake Adler.
ACWA Nutrients Policy Committee Webinar – American Farmland Trust Soil Health Case Studies
On Monday, March 23, 2020, the ACWA Nutrients Policy Committee hosted American Farmland Trust’s (AFT) Water Initiative Director Michelle Perez on a webinar. The webinar focused on AFT’s soil heath case studies. To view the slides, go here.
AFT began this study to quantify the costs and benefits of investing in soil health, using a variety of methods to estimate the net economic benefits eight farmers experienced from investing in soil health practices. AFT also quantified the water quality and climate benefits of these practices. The result of the study was eight two-page case studies. To learn more, go here.
Michelle is also interested in hearing from states on how they work with farmers to reduce pollutants to waterbodies. You can reach Michelle at
ACWA Modeling Webinar -Minnesota Project 1007
On Monday, March 23, 2020, ACWA’s Modeling Workgroup featured a webinar on Minnesota’s Project 1007.
This presentation provided an overview of the surface and subsurface investigation into the transport of PFAS compounds across 14 miles of the east metro. As part of the 2018 3M Settlement, this investigation is developing a conceptual site model to assess risks to receptors and ultimately lead to a feasibility study of remedial options in the corridor. Within this corridor of complex glacial and bedrock geology, we are gaining a greater understanding PFAS fate and transport mechanisms. The investigation will include a combined groundwater-surface water model and review of innovative treatment options in the coming year.
Please contact Jasper Hobbs if you would like the presentation slides or for more information on ACWA’s Modeling Workgroup.
National Pretreatment Meeting Postponed
ACWA has officially postponed the National Pretreatment Meeting to 2021. In 2021, the meeting will still be collocated with NACWA at the same hotels in Nashville, Tennessee, the Holiday Inn Nashville Vanderbilt and the Nashville Marriott at Vanderbilt University.
Monday, May 17, 2021 will be a series of training sessions at the Holiday Inn; Tuesday, May 18, 2021 will be a states/federal meeting at the Holiday Inn; and Wednesday, May 19, 2021 will be a crossover meeting with NACWA at the Marriott. NACWA’s pretreatment meeting will then continue on Thursday, May 20 and Friday, May 21.
If you have not cancelled your hotel and airfare, please do so now or change your reservations for next year. We will resume planning and have more information once things return to normal.
ACWA Nutrients Policy Committee Webinar – Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP)
The Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) promotes coordination of NRCS conservation activities with partners that offer value-added contributions to expand our collective ability to address on-farm, watershed, and regional natural resource concerns. The 2018 Farm Bill made many changes to the RCPP program. On February 13, 2020, an interim rule was published in the Federal Register to incorporate the 2018 Farm Bill changes to the RCPP program administration. Comments are being taken until May 12, 2020.
On Thursday, April 16, 2020 from 2:00 to 3:00 pm Eastern, the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) Kari Cohen will present on RCPP, the new rule, and how states can get involved.
ACWA Modeling Webinar – Overview of US EPA Homeland Security Research Program Stormwater Modeling Studies
On April 28th at 2:00pm EPA will be presenting an Overview of US EPA Homeland Security Research Program Stormwater Modeling Studies.
The Center for Environmental Solutions and Emergency Response (CESER) in the Office of Research and Development at the US Environmental Protection Agency conducts research to enhance response capabilities and community resilience to man-made and natural disasters. Following an intentional or accidental release of a chemical, biological, or radiological (CBR) agent, tracking contaminant fate and transport is necessary for effective recovery. This presentation will highlight a number of laboratory, field, and modeling efforts being conducted in CESER to develop capabilities to accurately parametrize stormwater models for CBR agents. This includes rainfall simulator washoff studies of spores, SWMM modeling of radiological deposition across a city, and expansion of PySWMM to access additional water quality and pollutant data in SWMM5.
You can register for the webinar here.
Contact Jasper Hobbs for more information on ACWA’s modeling workgroup.
Water Treatment Modeling Tools for Removing PFAS and Other Contaminants: Webinar
On April 29 at 2:00 pm Eastern, EPA Office of Research and Development’s Dr. Tom Speth will provide an overview of PFAS adsorption models. Even though carbon adsorption can be an effective treatment technology for removing organic compounds, such as PFAS, from water, it can be expensive or may not achieve desired removal objectives if improperly designed. Proper full-scale design of this adsorption process typically results from carefully controlled pilot-scale studies that are used to determine important design variables, such as the type of adsorbent, empty bed contact time, and bed configuration. However, these studies can be time consuming and expensive if they are not properly planned. To meet the need for planning effective studies and to help alleviate expense, EPA and Michigan Technological University are making a series of adsorption models available to the public at no cost. Dr. Speth will discuss these adsorption models along with examples of how they can be used to help design pilot treatment systems and provide a first-cut prediction of full-scale results. The information generated from the models will provide states and utilities with a better understanding of the fundamentals of carbon adsorption and what that means to the operation, performance, and costs associated with this technology.