Senate Passes the Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act (S. 914)
The Senate voted to pass S. 914, the Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act (DWWIA) this week. This legislation authorizes significant annual water infrastructure investment to help boost federal water infrastructure funding, including the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) at a level totaling $14.6 billion over five years. The bill authorizes more than $35 billion for water resource development projects and makes significant investments in revolving loan funds that support our nation’s water infrastructure. Provisions in the legislation address a number of priorities related to drinking and wastewater systems, including access to clean, safe drinking water; identification and prevention of water loss; water quality testing; increased resilience; and ensuring skilled professionals continue to be trained and available to operate utility systems. This legislation also authorizes a pilot program at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to assist low-income households in maintaining access to affordable clean water services and directs the Agency to assess low-income water assistance needs around the country.
EPA Announces $6.5 Billion in New Funding for Water Infrastructure Projects
This week, EPA announced $6.5 billion in WIFIA funding availability that EPA says will fund $13 billion in water infrastructure projects. EPA has indicated that 49 WIFIA loans are providing over $9.3 billion in credit assistance to help finance nearly $20 billion for water infrastructure, while creating approximately 49,000 jobs and saving ratepayers over $4 billion. This round of WIFIA funding will prioritizes five areas:
- Supporting economically stressed communities
- Protecting water infrastructure against the impacts of climate change
- Reducing exposure to lead and addressing emerging contaminants
- Updating aging infrastructure
- Implementing new or innovative approaches including cybersecurity and green infrastructure
For more information about WIFIA and this funding announcement, click here.
Regan Addresses EPW on 2022 EPA Budget Request
On April 28, 2021, Michael Regan addressed the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and answered members’ questions regarding the EPA’s budget request. A few of the highlights:
- The budget requests $11.2 billion for the EPA, a $2 billion (21.3%) increase from 2021 enacted levels.
- $3.6 billion (a $625 million increase from 2021) is allocated for restoration of water infrastructure, emphasizing water infrastructure improvement efforts for community water systems, schools, households, and septic systems.
- The EPA has identified $743 billion worth of necessary repairs to America’s water infrastructure. $111 billion has been set aside for this by the American Jobs Plan, and the EPA plans to seek public and private partnerships and investments to close the gap.
- The request sets aside $75 million to address PFAS pollution, specifically to accelerate toxicity studies and to fund research to inform regulatory developments designating PFAS as hazardous substances. Regan emphasized EPA’s commitment to setting enforceable limits for PFAS under the Safe Drinking Water Act, and plans to establish technical assistance grant programs for state and local governments to address PFAS contamination.
- Regan was asked if the EPA would reinstate Obama-era WOTUS verbatim, and he denied this. He assured the committee that the EPA would actively engage the agriculture community and USDA when revisiting the rule, and that stakeholder engagement would be at the center of this process.
- Several members asked questions about water affordability, and were assured that water affordability would be built into all EPA programs going forward. The EPA plans to expand access to grant and loan programs for state and local water systems.
EPA America’s Water Sector Workforce Initiative: Making Water a Career of Choice
EPA recently released the America’s Water Sector Workforce Initiative, where we, other federal agencies, and other water sector partners came together to address the major challenges facing the water workforce sector. Falling under Action Area 3 of the Initiative (Bolster Education and Outreach: Making Water a Career of Choice), EPA, in partnership with Youth Engaged 4 Change, are hosting a social media competition for students ages 13-24. This is a new innovative way to expand public awareness about the importance of water careers. The prompt we are asking for students to respond to will be: Tell us about the ways you rely on water on a daily basis OR why you would consider a career in water. Three winners will receive $100 Amazon gift cards. Those interested should prepare and submit one of the following:
- A video essay, featuring acting, singing, poetry, or other spoken word (no more than 1 minute in length)
- Illustration, such as a graphic design, comic, meme, infographic, animated gif, etc.
- Vision board
- Written essay or poem (no more than 500 words)
EPA Establishes PFAS Council
EPA Administrator Michael Regan issued a memorandum establishing the EPA Council on PFAS (ECP). The memorandum and EPA’s Press Release can be accessed here.
The ECP is to be led by Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator for Water Radhika Fox and Acting Region 1 Administrator Deb Szaro, and composed of senior career EPA staff from around the Agency. The ECP’s duties are:
- Develop a multiyear strategy, “PFAS 2021-2025 – Safeguarding America’s Waters, Air and Land,” by reviewing ongoing EPA actions (via the 2019 EPA PFAS Action Plan or otherwise) and proposing modifications, priorities, and strategies. ECP has 100 days to propose recommendations to the Administrator.
- Interagency coordination on region-specific and cross-media issues to assist states, tribes and local communities with PFAS challenges.
- Work with national program offices and regions to maximize the impact of EPA funding and financing programs to support PFAS cleanup, particularly in underserved communities.
- Expand engagement opportunities with federal, state and tribal partners to ensure consistent communications, exchange information, and identify collaborative solutions.
The memorandum also charges the ECP with collaborating on cross-cutting strategies; advancing new science; developing coordinated policies, regulations and communications; and engaging with affected states, tribes, communities and stakeholders.
EPA Moving 390 Confidential Chemicals to Public TSCA Inventory
This week, EPA released a list of 390 chemicals expected to lose their confidential status and move to the public portion of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Inventory, furthering the agency’s commitment to data transparency. The specific identities of these chemicals were reported as non-confidential during Chemical Data Reporting (CDR) cycles from the 2012, 2016, and/or 2020 reporting periods. In accordance with the CDR rule and with TSCA sections 8 and 14, EPA intends to update the TSCA Inventory listings for these chemicals to list the specific chemical identities on the public portion of the Inventory.
Stakeholders with interest, questions, or concerns about this change in confidential status may contact the EPA staff listed on EPA’s webpage no later than May 14, 2021. The specific chemical identities of these 390 chemicals are expected to be included in the next routine publication of the public TSCA Inventory, anticipated in late summer 2021.
View the list of 390 chemicals by accession number that EPA expects to disclose on the public TSCA Inventory here.
EPA Announces Changes to TSCA Low-Volume Exemptions Applicable to PFAS
This week, EPA announced policy shifts in its review of new PFAS before they can enter the market.
Historically, some new PFAS have been allowed to enter the market through low volume exemptions (LVEs). EPA’s New Chemicals Program is implementing a new strategy for reviewing and managing LVE requests for PFAS to protect all Americans and the environment from the potentially harmful effects of these chemicals.
Due to the scientific complexities associated with assessing PFAS, and the hazard potential associated with various sub-classes of PFAS, it is challenging to conduct an appropriately robust review of LVE requests for PFAS in the 30 days the regulations allow. The regulations provide for the denial of LVE requests when EPA finds the chemical in question may cause serious human health effects or significant environmental effects, or when issues concerning toxicity or exposure require review that can’t be completed in 30 days.
Given the complexity of PFAS chemistry, potential health effects, and their longevity and persistence in the environment, an LVE submission for a PFAS is unlikely to be eligible for this kind of exemption under the regulations. While EPA will consider each LVE application individually, the agency generally expects that pending and new LVE submissions for PFAS would be denied. Doing this will allow the agency additional time to conduct a more thorough review through the pre-manufacture notice review process and, as appropriate, put measures in place to mitigate the potential risk of these chemicals as the agency determines whether to allow them to enter commerce.
Additionally, EPA is exploring ways to work cooperatively with companies to voluntarily withdraw previously granted LVEs. This would build upon a 2016 outreach effort that resulted in companies withdrawing more than half of the 82 long-chain PFAS LVEs that existed at the time.
Last month, EPA also announced important changes in the way the agency reviews and make determinations on new chemicals submissions to better align with TSCA, including using consent orders, when appropriate, to address any unreasonable risks. These policy shifts apply to all pending and new PMNs and significant new use notices, including those that involve PFAS.
These policy changes will ensure that if new PFAS are allowed to enter commerce, EPA will have reviewed all intended, known, and reasonably foreseen conditions of use and that these chemicals will not enter commerce absent appropriate and enforceable protections for human health, including that of workers, and the environment.
Meetings and Webinars
2021 National Pretreatment Virtual Event
Dates: May 17-24, 2021
Registration: See below links
This year, ACWA is partnering with the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA) to bring you the latest developments in and analysis of the national, state, and local issues affecting pretreatment programs from the perspective of both utilities and regulators. The 2021 National Pretreatment Virtual Event will bring together federal, state, and local permitting and pretreatment program staff to engage on current, unique, and sometimes challenging pretreatment program issues. The agenda is designed to spur thoughtful discussions and foster closer coordination and collaboration between federal, state, and local practitioners.
Join your peers virtually for the popular roundtable sessions and discussions regarding the latest EPA region priorities and pretreatment issues. Then, hear from featured experts who will examine the following hot topics:
- PFAS Developments
- Marijuana Industry and the Potential Impact on Pretreatment
- FOG: Strategies for Investigations and Lessons Learned
- CROMERR Compliance: Bringing Pretreatment into the Digital Age
- Breaking Down Barriers: EPA, States, and POTWs as Co-Regulators
Please be sure to use the following appropriate registration link:
State/Interstate/Territorial Program Staff Registration: 2021 National Pretreatment Virtual Event (acwa-us.org)
Federal/Municipal/Local Program Staff Registration: 2021 National Pretreatment Virtual Event (nacwa.org)
EPA Webinar: Community-enabled Lifecycle Analysis of Stormwater Infrastructure Costs
Date: May 29, 2021 | 2:00 – 3:00 PM Eastern Time
Registration: Click here
Registration is now open for EPA’s Water Research Webinar on Community-enabled Lifecycle Analysis of Stormwater Infrastructure Costs (CLASIC): Tool Functionality and Case Studies. After registering for the webinar, you should receive an automatic reply with a link to test your computer’s compatibility with the webinar software. Please note that for this webinar, attendees can only listen with computer audio and will not be able to call into the webinar using a phone line.