EPA Releases Proposal to Better Protect Ecosystems from Incidental Discharges of Marine Vessels
EPA is proposing to establish national standards of performance for incidental discharges from commercial vessels as required under the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act (VIDA). The proposed rule includes discharge-specific standards for 20 different types of vessel equipment and treatment systems, as well as general performance standards that would apply more broadly to the full range of incidental discharges.
EPA’s proposed standards would apply to:
- Commercial vessels greater than 79 feet in length
- Other non-recreational, non-Armed Forces vessels, such as research and emergency rescue vessels
- Ballast water only from small vessels (vessels less than 79 feet in length) and fishing vessels of all sizes
The proposed rule also outlines procedures for states working through EPA or the U.S. Coast Guard to seek more stringent requirements, request emergency orders, or apply for no-discharge zones for one or more of the incidental discharges in any or all state waters. EPA will accept comment on the proposal for 30 days, following publication in the Federal Register. To learn more about the proposed standards and the VIDA, click here.
EPA Announces Initiative to Recruit and Retain the 21st Century Water Workforce
EPA announced the next step in its effort to help address workforce challenges that are facing America’s drinking water and wastewater utilities. The new America’s Water Sector Workforce Initiative outlines actions that the public and private sector are committing to that will help recruit and retain the next generation of the water workforce through workforce planning, technology training, and collaboration across the federal government and the water sector. These actions will support workforce resiliency for water utilities and thereby help ensure that Americans can continue relying on safe drinking water and vital wastewater services that protect public health and the environment.
Through working with federal agencies and state, local, and tribal partners, the America’s Water Sector Workforce Initiative will highlight the vital work of the water workforce and will serve as a catalyst to encourage the choice of water careers through education and public outreach. The Initiative reflects the Trump EPA’s commitment to ensure that our water workforce is prepared to help meet 21st century water demands while operating and maintaining our nation’s critical water infrastructure investments. The Initiative includes three goals:
- Provide federal leadership to create national momentum and coordinate efforts
- Partner to build the water workforce of the future
- Bolster education and outreach to make water a career of choice
Currently, water utilities face challenges in recruiting, training, and retaining employees. These challenges are exacerbated with roughly one-third of the water sector workforce eligible to retire in the next ten years. Additionally, as the technologies that are used in the water sector becomes more advanced (e.g., state of the art water reuse technology), there is a growing need to train and employ water protection specialists with specialized technical skills.
EPA is collaborating with several agencies—including the U.S. Department of Labor, the Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs—to coordinate expertise and resources through the Initiative. EPA will also continue to work with other essential partners across the water sector, including states and tribes, utilities and associations, and technical assistance providers.To capture progress made on the Initiative moving forward, EPA will convene existing and new partners biannually and will publish updates to the Initiative annually. To support or join this important effort, click here for more information or contact WaterSectorWorkforce@epa.gov.
Prepublication ANPRM Regarding Inactive Impoundments
On April 17, 2015, EPA promulgated national minimum criteria for coal combustion residuals (CCR) landfills and existing/new CCR surface impoundments. On August 21, 2018, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued an opinion (Utility Solid Waste Activities Group, et al. v. EPA), which vacated and remanded a provision that exempted inactive impoundments at inactive facilities from the CCR regulations. EPA is seeking comments through an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) and is requesting data on inactive surface impoundments at inactive facilities to assist in the development of a future rulemaking. The ANPRM discusses research conducted to date, provides a preliminary analysis of that research, and seeks additional data/public input on issues that may inform a future proposed rule. Specifically, EPA is seeking input on a potential definition of a legacy CCR surface impoundment and is specifically soliciting information on the types of inactive surface impoundments at inactive facilities that might be considered legacy along with information on:
- the number of legacy units
- their current status (i.e., capped, dry, closed according to state requirements, still holding water)
- names and locations of former power plants that may have these units and when the plants closed
The Agency is also taking comment on EPA’s regulatory authority, the appropriate regulatory approach for these units, and the timeframes to come into compliance with those regulations. EPA is soliciting comments and data under a 60-day comment period. A copy of the prepublication copy can be found here.
Notice of Funds Availability: Technical Assistance and Training for Innovative Regional Wastewater Treatment Solutions (TAT/RWTS) Grant Pilot Program
This week, USDA’s Rural Utilities Services (RUS) announced the availability of up to $5 million in competitive grants to eligible entities to fund a Technical Assistance and Training for Innovative Regional Wastewater Treatment Solutions (TAT/RWTS) Grant Pilot Program. The pilot program, authorized by the Further Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2020, will support the study and design of innovative treatment solutions of regional wastewater systems for historically impoverished communities that have had difficulty installing traditional wastewater treatment systems due to soil conditions. Grant applications are due November 4th, 2020.
See the Federal Register Notice here to learn more.
HHS Piloting Wastewater Detection of SARS-CoV-2
A pilot project led by Department of Health and Human Services aims to sample wastewater representing ~10% of Americans for SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing COVID-19, in October and November. If successful, HHS intends to expand sampling to represent ~30% of Americans from late November to January. Wastewater detection of the virus as part of wastewater epidemiology efforts provides communities with an “early warning,” as the virus’ RNA can be detected in wastewater if individuals in a community are infected but not yet symptomatic. This data is envisioned to help public health agencies understand aggregate community infection and transmission with more lead time.
Currently, EPA, CDC, and the state of Ohio are piloting testing around Ohio to help improve the practice, while CDC is close to releasing a national database portal for state, tribal, local, and territorial health departments to submit such data for comparison and response. Additionally, EPA is surveying the water sector to understand water sector impacts due to COVID-19 and recently released the Water Utility COVID-19 Financial Impact Tool.
Learn more from EPA here.
EPA Releases “Hypoxia Task Force Success Stories” Storymap
As part of the October 1, 2020 Hypoxia Task Force Meeting, EPA released a storymap of hypoxia efforts in the Mississippi/Atchafalaya River Basin. At the meeting, EPA, USDA, USGS, and a dozen basin states overviewed hypoxia activities and successes. Additionally, federal agencies overviewed their recent actions, including USDA’s prioritization of 379 watersheds to reduce nutrients and improve surface water quality. View the story map here and access the meeting materials here.
Subset of States Request PFAS Provisions in 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA)
The House and Senate versions of the 2021 NDAA are to be reconciled in conference committee, which is expected to occur before the end of 2020. Ahead of conference committee, 20 state and territorial Attorneys General wrote the Senate and House Armed Service Committees to request that PFAS provisions building upon the 2020 NDAA be included in the final 2021 NDAA. Specific requests include:
- DOD requirement to meet state PFAS standards during remediation activities
- Designation of PFOA, PFOS, Gen X as hazardous substances under CERCLA
- Funding for PFAS cleanup and R&D related to disposal and AFFF alternatives (note that EPA’s interim disposal guidance is currently under review at OMB, and EPA launched an innovation challenge related to disposal alternatives in August)
- Publishing results of DOD testing of drinking, surface, and ground water, and providing blood testing for personnel at impacted sites.
Read the letter here.
EPA Delegates a CERCLA Mine Cleanup Operation to USDA-FS
On September 30, 2020, EPA and USDA agreed to delegate EPA’s cleanup response and enforcement at a contaminated mine site in San Miguel County, Colorado to USDA’s US Forest Service. This is the first such delegation as a result of recommendations of the EPA Superfund Task Force and Executive Order 12580, which calls for a single federal “on-scene coordinator” for CERCLA activities to reduce duplication of CERCLA efforts. In this case, EPA identified “mixed ownership” of public and private lands at the site warranting the Forest Service being the lead agency under CERCLA. The mine site in question includes antimony, arsenic, nickel, and selenium contamination in mine tailings and a settling pond. While contaminated and/or CERCLA-listed mine sites are widespread around the United States, the extent of mixed ownership of land at mine sites — and the potential for further re-delegation of mine site response and enforcement administration — is unclear.
Read EPA’s press release here.
New ACWA Compliance Assurance and Data Systems Workgroup
The Compliance Assurance and Data Systems Workgroup (CADSW) is a new workgroup under the Permitting & Compliance Committee that will focus on compliance and enforcement initiatives including the SNC National Compliance Initiative, NPDES eReporting Rule implementation, the new NPDES Noncompliance Report, Compliance Monitoring Strategies, violation tracking/scoring, SNC for Minors, ECHO Reports and Dashboards, and the State Review Framework. This workgroup will also assist EPA with identifying and prioritizing work associated with ICIS-NPDES data system enhancements/updates. If you or someone on your staff would be interested in joining this workgroup or offering up your services as one of two Co-Chairs, please contact Sean Rolland at (email@example.com).
Introduction to Surface Water Quality Modeling – October 19-20
Dates: October 19-20, 2020 | 2:00-5:00 PM Eastern Time
Registration: Click here
Due to the postponement of the 2020 Modeling Workshop, ACWA will be hosting a 2-day event: Introduction to Surface Water Quality Modeling, starting Monday, October 19, 2020. This series is designed as an introductory course for those new to modeling or interested in a refresher. This series will cover a variety of topics, including: modeling principles, model selection, data needs, how to get data, and overviews of the different model types. The agenda may be found here. If you have any questions about this meeting contact Jasper Hobbs directly.
Please note that this series is for State, Tribal, and EPA staff.
2020 Virtual Nutrients Permitting Workshop – October 26-29
Dates: October 26-29, 2020 | 1:00-5:00 PM Eastern Time
Registration: Click here
ACWA’s next Nutrients Permitting Workshop, the fifth in a series of seven, will be held virtually beginning October 26, 2020. This workshop will focus on nutrients permitting flexibilities such as water quality trading and other market-based methods, integrated planning, and more. Sessions will take place through GoToWebinar, and a draft agenda with registration links may be found on the workshop event page. If you have any questions about this meeting visit ACWA’s website or contact Jasper Hobbs directly.
US EPA: Wetlands Biologist Region 5
EPA is hiring a Wetlands Biologist in Chicago, Illinois to serve Region 5. For more information on the job duties and application process, please click here.
Introducing EPA’s Integrated Planning Element Four – Analyzing and Prioritizing Projects
Date: Thursday, October 22, 2020 | 3:00-4:30 PM Eastern Time
Registration: Click here
Learn how to evaluate both stormwater and wastewater projects when developing your integrated plan. Element 4 of EPA’s integrated planning process is key to assessing and prioritizing which suite of projects to implement to meet water quality goals. Evan Kirk from the UNC Environmental Finance Center will discuss what cost and benefit information to use and how to compare scenarios to schedule project implementation. Erin Keys, Engineering and Operations Manager for the City of Columbia, MO will talk about her integrated planning experience developing a plan and making it a part of their NPDES permit. Trent Stober, Director of Utility Management Services at HDR will elaborate on Columbia MO’s costs/benefit analysis and how they found an optimized and affordable approach to meet clean water goals and requirements.
- Robyn DeYoung, US Environmental Protection Agency
- Evan Kirk, Environmental Finance Center at UNC
- Erin Keys, Engineering & Operations Manager for the City of Columbia, MO’s Sanitary Sewer and Storm Water Utilities
- Trent Stober, Director of Utility Management Services at HDR
EPA Webinar: PFAS Analytic Tool
Date: October 15, 2020 | 3:30-5:00 PM Eastern Time
Registration: Click here
U.S. EPA’s Office of Enforcement & Compliance Assurance is offering training on its national PFAS Analytic Tools, an online application housed in EPA’s ECHO Data Visualization Gallery for analyzing spatial and temporal PFAS data. This is the same product on which some states previously have been briefed, but there have been updates since the January launch. The training is open to EPA, state, or local government employees only.
EPA Webinar: Biosolids PFAS Research at EPA
Date: Thursday, October 29, 2020 | 3:00 PM Eastern Time
Registration: Click here
Join Dr. Marc Mills and Mr. Ronald Herrmann of EPA’s Office of Research and Development for a webinar on PFAS Research at the EPA. The presentation will cover the current state of the science related to PFAS in biosolids, discuss research needs and discuss a biosolids land application field study.
EPA Webinar: Lead Action Plan Update
Date: October 21, 3:00 PM Eastern Time
Registration: Click here
Lead is a potent developmental and adult toxicant that affects multiple human organ systems. It is present in air, water, soil, consumer products and food and is regulated in all these media. Regulation of lead since the 1970s has resulted in steep drops in population blood lead levels (BLLs), but lead exposure remains a problem in many of America’s communities, where an estimated 3.6 million American homes with at least one child have significant lead paint hazards and many as 500,000 US children under 6 years have BLLs ≥5 µg/dL. EPA is working with state and community partners to support actions to reduce lead exposures and related health risks as part of the Federal Action Plan to Reduce Childhood Lead Exposures and Associated Health Impacts.
This presentation will highlight EPA research that is improving:
- Blood lead models to strengthen the scientific basis of the Agency’s lead-related actions
- Approaches using national, state and local data for identifying locations of high exposures and blood lead levels to target remaining lead sources for mitigation
- Drinking water quality with research and consultation on corrosion control and identification of lead service lines
- Methods for cleaning up Superfund and other contaminated sites
- Evaluation of the impacts of lead mitigation efforts
ASTSWMO Webinar: GenX and PFAS in North Carolina
ASTSWMO RCRA Subtitle C Corrective Action 2020 and The Road Ahead Webinar Series: GenX and related PFAS in North Carolina
Date: November 5, 2020 | 1:00 – 2:30 PM Eastern Time
Registration: Click here
The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality has been working to assess and mitigate PFAS emissions from the Chemours facility in Fayetteville, NC, for several years. PFAS compounds were first discovered in the Cape Fear River by EPA researchers. Various PFAS compounds, including HFPO Dimer Acid, or GenX, have since been discovered in surface water, rain, soil, sediment, fish, foam on surface water, and in private drinking water wells more than 12 miles from the facility. Join staff from the NC DEQ to learn more about the PFAS investigation in the area and how impacted resources are being addressed to protect human health and the environment.
NC DEQ Speakers:
- Julie Grzyb, Deputy Director, Division of Water Resources
- Julie Woosley, Hazardous Waste Section Chief, Division of Waste Management
- Michael Pjetraj, Deputy Director, Division of Air Quality