States Urged to Designate Drinking Water and Waste Water “Essential” during COVID-19
Last Friday, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler sent a letter to state Governors urging them to ensure drinking water and wastewater employees are deemed “essential workers” by state authorities when enacting restrictions to help curb the spread of COVID-19. “Having fully operational drinking water and wastewater services is critical to containing COVID-19 and protecting Americans from other public health risks,” Wheeler wrote. EPA also posted new information and resources that states, municipalities, utilities, etc. can use to support operations during the pandemic. EPA also supports states/cities taking proactive measures to ensure continued access to clean water during the COVID-19 pandemic, including discontinuing service cut-offs, restoring service to customers whose service was previously cut-off, and refraining from imposing penalties for nonpayment. For the latest information from EPA about COVID-19, click here. A copy of the letter can be found here.
EPA Announces Extended Comment Period on Supplement to Science Transparency Proposed Rule
EPA has announced a 1 month extension to the comment period for the Supplement to the Science Transparency Proposed Rule. The new comment deadline is May 18, 2020.
EPA is soliciting comments on the clarifications the supplemental notice made to the 2018 proposed rule. The Supplemental:
- proposes that the scope of the rulemaking applies to influential scientific information as well as significant regulatory decisions;
- defines and clarifies that the proposed rule applies to data and models underlying both pivotal science and pivotal regulatory science;
- proposes a modified approach to the availability provisions for data and models that would underlie influential scientific information and significant regulatory decisions, as well as an alternate approach; and,
- clarifies the ability of the Administrator to grant exemptions.
EPA IG Releases Report Indicating Enforcement Results Have Declined
This week EPA’s Office of Inspector General (IG) released a report that identifies trends in EPA-led enforcement actions for fiscal years 2006 through 2018. In particular, the IG found that EPA’s annual level of compliance monitoring activities, enforcement actions, and enforcement results generally declined.
- Inspections decreased by 33 percent when comparing FY2007 and FY2018.
- Enforcement actions initiated and concluded by the EPA decreased by 50+ percent when comparing FY2007 and FY2018.
- EPA concluded 58 percent fewer enforcement actions with injunctive relief when comparing FY2007 and FY2018.
- During the 12-year period, lowest value of injunctive relief was in FY2018 ($3.9 billion) and highest injunctive relief was in FY2011 ($21 billion).
- The EPA concluded 53 percent fewer enforcement actions with penalties in FY2018 than in FY2007.
- During 12-year period, the lowest assessed penalty total was in FY2018 ($69 million) and assessed the highest penalty total in FY2016 ($6.1 billion).
- The total number of supplemental environmental projects (SEP) decreased by 48 percent.
- FY2017 had the lowest total estimated value of SEPs ($18 million) and the highest was found in FY2009 ($53 million).
- The value of environmental benefit commitments to reduce, treat, or eliminate pollutants varied from FY2012 through 2018 but decreased by 64 percent when comparing FY2012 and 2018.
- Funding for the EPA’s enforcement program decreased from FY2009 to FY2018 by 18% and total number of enforcement staff decreased by 21%.
No recommendations were provided by the IG in this report. For a copy of the report, please click here.
ACWA Joins Broad Coalition to Support USGS Streamgage Network
ACWA joined a broad coalition of groups writing to Congressional appropriators in support of the USGS streamgage network and in support of modernization efforts. The groups requested $27.5 M for FY21 to begin to address the critical funding shortfall for the federal priority streamgage network.
NASA, University of Nebraska Release U.S. and Global Drought Forecasting and Soil Moisture, Groundwater Mapping Tool
New maps are available online via the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) to support U.S. and global drought monitoring. The weekly global maps draw from datasets also used in the U.S. Drought Monitor to visualize soil moisture and groundwater wetness conditions and one to three-month U.S. forecasts. The satellite-based observations of changes in water distribution are integrated with other data within a computer model that simulates the water and energy cycles. The model then produces, among other outputs, time-varying maps of the distribution of water at three depths: surface soil moisture, root zone soil moisture (roughly the top three feet of soil), and shallow groundwater. The maps have a resolution of 1/8th degree of latitude, or about 8.5 miles, providing continuous data on moisture and groundwater conditions across the landscape. Learn more here and access the mapping tool here.
Study: Water Quality of Rivers has Changed Dramatically in Human-dominated Landscapes of the United States
“Human activities have markedly changed the water quality of rivers in the past few decades according to a new study by the U.S. Geological Survey—concentrations of some water-quality constituents have increased while others have decreased. The study identified trends between 1992 and 2012 in concentrations of nutrients, sulfate, and salinity at 633 river and stream sites in the conterminous U.S. and related them to land use in the context of water-treatment practices and regulatory actions.
Upgrades to wastewater treatment systems are likely responsible for the significant decrease in concentrations of the nutrients nitrogen and phosphorus in urban streams. Reductions in these nutrients are promising because nutrients contribute to algal blooms and impair drinking-water quality. In contrast, changes in nitrogen concentrations in agricultural areas were small and inconsistent, and in agricultural areas more sites had increases in phosphorus concentration than decreases. These results suggest that efforts to reduce nutrients in agricultural areas have not been as successful as in urban areas. The nitrogen species ammonium, however, decreased broadly across all land uses. Ammonium can be highly toxic to aquatic organisms and is associated with wastewater, manure, and atmospheric deposition. The broad reduction in ammonium concentrations indicate that efforts to reduce these sources of ammonium have largely been successful.
Efforts to reduce sulfur emissions through the 1990 Clean Air Act also appear to have had some success. Concentrations of sulfate, a by-product of atmospheric sulfur emissions that can make stream water more acidic, decreased at many of the stream and river sites included in the study.
A striking trend in the dataset was the substantial increase in salinity—measured as specific conductance—in streams in urban and agricultural areas, and areas with a mix of the two. ‘The issue of increasing salinity in rivers is gaining attention as a worldwide problem because it is linked to loss of stream biodiversity,’ commented Edward Stets, lead author of the study. Elevated salinity also is of concern because it can cause metals to be released from streambed sediments and other environmental sources, and from water-distribution facilities and plumbing, which can impair drinking-water quality and cause lead and copper contamination of tap water.”
The study was published in Environmental Science and Technology and can be accessed here.
ACWA and ASDWA Request an Extension for Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science Notice
ACWA and ASDWA have co-signed on a request for a minimum of a 60 day extension to the comment period for EPA’s supplemental notice on the Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science proposed rulemaking. You may view the ACWA and ASDWA joint letter here.
ACWA’s initial comment letter on the original 2018 proposed rule may be found here.
Update: EPA has extended the comment period by 30 days. The new deadline is May 18.
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.
Nutrients Permitting Workshop Postponed
ACWA has officially postponed the June Nutrients Permitting Workshop. Thank you for your patience as we worked through options for the June 2020 Nutrients Permitting Workshop due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
If you have not cancelled your hotel and airfare, please do so now. We will have more information on rescheduling once things return to normal.
CWSRF WEBINAR SERIES: Asset Management Plans and the Clean Water State Revolving Fund
May 5, 2020 from 1:30-2:30 p.m. Eastern
Asset management is a foundation for understanding near-and-long term operational and capital needs. It provides a clear picture of infrastructure-related expenses and future investment needs, which inform financial planning processes. EPA’s Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) is a source of financing for wastewater utilities’ asset management planning efforts and capital investments.
Join the EPA CWSRF and representatives from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Florida Rural Water Association, and New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services as we discuss the components of asset management plans, how State CWSRF programs are implementing them, and various incentives that borrowers receive for funding projects that include asset management plans.
Helping Users Capture Nature’s Benefits, Map a Sustainable Future
April 28, 2020 from 2:00 to 3:30 PM Eastern
How do environmental managers and public health officials identify the benefits that local forests, parks, wetlands and other natural areas provide to their local communities? One way is through EnviroAtlas. EPA’s EnviroAtlas provides users with a host of interactive tools, geospatial data and resources for exploring the benefits people derive from nature and potential stressors that might impede their provision.
EnviroAtlas is a rich, web-based and accessible resource that includes: a GIS-based mapping application built on a robust platform of more than 400 layers of environmental and public health data; an easy-to-use Eco-Health Relationship Browser illuminating the links between ecosystems, the services they provide, and their impact on human health and well-being; teaching resources and educational modules; and built-in analysis tools. EnviroAtlas includes 400+ data layers for the U.S., with additional fine-scale data for more than 1400 cities and towns centered on 30 U.S. urbanized community areas.
EnviroAtlas is designed to inform decision-making, education and research. It provides a one-stop-shop for exploring ecosystem services and the benefits they provide in the context of planning and management. The goal is to help EPA partners in states and local communities enhance public health, environmental resiliency, and economic prosperity.
As follow up to the January EPA Tools and Resources Webinar highlighting EnviroAtlas, this webinar will provide in-depth training on using the Interactive Map and Eco-Health Browser, accessing and downloading data, and using built-in-analysis tools. The webinar will also provide a brief overview of EnviroAtlas resources in general, including educational modules and real-world examples of data use.
Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org with registration questions.
Washington State Seeking Ocean Acidification Scientist (Natural Resource Scientist 2)
The Environmental Assessment Program (EAP) program within the Department of Ecology is looking to fill a permanent, Ocean Acidification Scientist (Natural Resource Scientist 2) position. This position is located in our Headquarters Building (HQ) in Lacey, WA.
The Ocean Acidification Scientist position serves as a natural resource scientist with specialized experience in marine science and marine chemistry. Under administrative supervision, this position performs specialized natural resource research on parameters that influence ocean acidification in order to assess status and trends in Puget Sound water quality.
Read more and apply here.
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, 2020 at 2:00pm Eastern, 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.