Bipartisan Vote to Confirm Regan as EPA Administrator
This week, the Senate voted 66-34 to confirm Michael Regan as the head of the Environmental Protection Agency. Regan hails from North Carolina, where he most recently served as the head of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality. During his confirmation hearings before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Regan committed to restoring science and transparency and to tackling the pressing challenges of climate change and environmental justice issues. Regan was sworn into office Thursday, March 11, 2021 by Acting EPA Administrator Jane Nishida.
Biden Signs Latest COVID-19 Relief Legislation
On Thursday, President Biden signed a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package a day earlier than expected. The legislation, which passed both congressional chambers earlier this week after much back-and-forth on provisions such as a $15 minimum wage hike, includes a third round of relief checks, expanded tax credits for family leave and child care, enhanced federal unemployment benefits, and funding for reopening schools, aiding small businesses, and expanding virus testing and vaccine administration. It also provides economic adjustment assistance, funding for pollution and disparate impacts of the pandemic, and earmarked funds for COVID-19 research and prevention on the federal, state, and local levels.
For more information on the relief package and to see the full bill text, click here.
Final Rule for Water Quality Standards; Aquatic Life Criteria for Aluminum in Oregon
On March 10, 2021, EPA signed a final rule to establish federal aquatic life criteria for fresh waters in the State of Oregon under the CWA. This action will help protect aquatic life from exposure to harmful levels of aluminum. Consistent with the terms of a consent decree, the former EPA Administrator signed this final rule on December 30, 2020 and, after a thorough review in accordance with Biden-Harris Administration Executive Orders and other directives, Acting EPA Administrator Jane Nishida re-signed this rule for administrative purposes.
The final criteria for Oregon are based on EPA’s peer-reviewed 2018 national CWA Section 304(a) recommended freshwater aquatic life criteria for aluminum. The criteria reflect the latest scientific knowledge and are consistent with the CWA. EPA communicated regularly with Oregon during the development of the rule and will provide technical assistance to the state to implement the criteria. If the state subsequently adopts aluminum criteria that EPA approves as meeting CWA requirements, EPA would undertake a rulemaking to withdraw its federally promulgated criteria.
For more information, click here.
PFAS Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking: CWA Effluent Limitations Guidelines and Standards for the Organic Chemicals, Plastics and Synthetic Fibers Point Source Category
In February 2019, EPA announced in the PFAS Action Plan that the Agency was taking steps to evaluate if industrial sources warranted regulation to address PFAS discharges. After studying the available data regarding wastewater discharges from facilities that manufacture PFAS, EPA is publishing an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) to solicit information about:
- Manufacturers of PFAS;
- The presence and treatment of PFAS in discharges from this industrial category; and,
- PFAS formulators (facilities that produce a variety of PFAS products and materials from PFAS feedstocks. Both PFAS manufacturers and formulators are currently regulated under the OCPSF category).
EPA will use any data and information obtained via public comment on the ANPRM to inform its decision about whether a proposed rulemaking may be necessary.
Comments will be due 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.
- Prepublication ANPRM Federal Register Notice (Re-signed March 10, 2021)
- Read more about Organic Chemicals, Plastics and Synthetic Fibers Effluent Guidelines
Proceedings of the Midwest and Great Plains HABs Workshop Available
On February 4-5, 2020, EPA Region 7 co-hosted a multi-regional Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) Workshop with the University of Kansas. This workshop focused on discussing common issues and solutions for managing HABs and excess nutrients in the Great Plains and Midwest regions. Over 160 people attended the workshop including water quality professionals from federal, state and local governments, drinking water systems, regional watershed associations, the agricultural community, and academic institutions. Attendance included over 17 participating states. Attendees presented on, discussed and shared their experiences managing HABs and nutrients, including opportunities for source water protection and the prevention of HABs in agricultural landscapes.
The first two days of the workshop included short presentations by experts on approaches to prevent, control and mitigate HABs as well as research and funding efforts currently under way to help strengthen our understanding of HABs and effective approaches for managing them. Workshop participants also broke into small and large group discussion sessions during each day to discuss their experiences with successful prevention and control strategies for nutrients and HABs, funding opportunities, coordination and collaboration strategies and research needs. The third day of the workshop was attended by a sub-set of workshop participants and was organized into small break-out group discussions to identify successes, challenges, and opportunities for addressing HABs in freshwater systems for each of the workshop’s three main themes:
- Best Practices for the Prevention, Control and Mitigation of HABs
- Funding Opportunities, Coordination and Collaboration
- Research on Nutrient Reduction, HABs Mitigation and HABs Management
The proceedings document and workshop presentations are available here.
USGS Study: Pesticide Transformation Products Nearly Ubiquitous in Small U.S. Streams
Impact statement: This study is the most extensive analysis of pesticide transformation products in surface water, in terms of combined geographic and analyte scope, to date. This also is the first study to compare measured concentrations of transformation products to molecular endpoints to evaluate potential sub-lethal risk to aquatic species. The results of this study will aid in the assessment of the availability of water for ecological needs.
Pesticide transformation products (TPs) may be a critical missing piece of the toxicity puzzle for aquatic life in small U.S. streams, according to a new study by the USGS. The continental-scale study of pesticide TPs, the most geographically extensive to date, reveals the near-ubiquity of these chemicals in small U.S. streams. One or more TPs were detected in nearly 90% of 442 small U.S. streams investigated during 2013–2017. The most frequently detected TPs were degradates of nine herbicides, one insecticide, and two fungicides; the summed concentrations of these transformation products frequently exceeded the concentration of the parent pesticide.
The “disappearance” of a pesticide in the environment often is a result of incomplete degradation (transformation) that creates one or more pesticide TPs—new chemicals related to but different from the parent pesticide. Many TPs are less toxic to aquatic life than the parent, but some are more toxic. However, toxicity information is available for only about one quarter of the 117 TPs analyzed for this study. A toxicity analysis using the assumption that TPs have the same toxicity as their parent pesticide indicates that potential aquatic effects of pesticide-related compounds could be underestimated by an order of magnitude or more.
TPs were commonly detected during baseflow conditions, implicating groundwater as an important source of TPs to streams. The presence of TPs in baseflow indicates chronic and potentially long-term environmental exposures of aquatic life to TPs.
Study Citation: Mahler, B.J., Nowell, L.H., Sandstrom, M.W., Bradley, P.M., Romanok, K.M., Konrad, C.P., and Van Metre, P.C. 2021. Inclusion of pesticide transformation products is key to quantifying pesticide exposures and effects in small U.S. streams, Environmental Science and Technology, https://dx.doi.org/10.1021/acs.est.0c06625
- Concentrations of pesticides in sediment in 82 streams and in biofilms in 54 streams in California in 2017
- Pesticide and transformation product concentrations and risk quotients in U.S. headwater streams
- Non-linear baseflow separation model with parameters and results
Lead and Copper Rule’s Effective Date Delayed
On March 10, 2021, EPA announced that it is extending the effective date of the Revised Lead and Copper Rule (LCR) so that the agency can seek further public input, particularly from communities that are most at-risk of exposure to lead in drinking water. To accomplish this goal, EPA has posted two pre-publication notices regarding the revised LCR.
The first notice, signed on March 9, 2021 and to appear in the Federal Register, is a final rule that announces an extension of the effective date for the revised LCR from March 16, 2021 until June 17, 2021. The additional time is for EPA to take public comment on a second notice (below) that would provide a longer extension of the effective date and for EPA to undertake its review of the rule in a deliberate and thorough manner consistent with the public health purposes of the Safe Drinking Water Act, President Biden’s Executive Order on Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis, the President’s Chief of Staff’s Regulatory Freeze Pending Review Memorandum, and in consultation with affected stakeholders.
The second notice proposes to extend the effective date until December 16, 2021 and also proposes a corresponding extension of the revised LCR’s compliance deadline to September 16, 2024. This action would ensure that drinking water systems and primacy states continue to have the full three years provided by the Safe Drinking Water Act to take actions needed to assure regulatory compliance. EPA is seeking comment on this proposal for 30 days. The full proposal may be found here.
- Prepublication Notice: Delay of Effective Date of National Primary Drinking Water Regulations: Lead and Copper Rule Revisions
- Prepublication Notice: Proposed Delay of Effective and Compliance Dates of National Primary Drinking Water Regulations: Lead and Copper Rule Revisions
- Press Release: EPA to Request Additional Input on the Lead and Copper Rule
EPA Accepting Comment on Revisions to UCMR 5, Announces Public Meetings
On March 11, 2021, EPA published the UCMR 5 proposed rule, which would require all community and non-transient non community water systems serving 3,300 or more people, and a representative sample of smaller water systems, to conduct monitoring of 29 PFAS and lithium. EPA also announced two public meetings (via webinar) to discuss the proposed rule.
The UCMR 5 proposal identifies three analytical methods to support water system monitoring for 29 PFAS and lithium. The proposal also describes EPA’s evaluation of other candidate contaminants, including Legionella pneumophila; four haloacetonitriles (dichloroacetonitrile, dibromoacetonitrile, trichloroacetonitrile, and bromochloroacetonitrile); 1,2,3-trichloropropane; and “total organic fluorine” (TOF), and invites public comment. The UCMR 5 proposal also identifies the following: Analytical methods to measure the UCMR contaminants; monitoring time frame; sampling locations; data elements (i.e., information required to be collected along with occurrence data); data reporting timeframes; and conforming and editorial changes. Comments are due by April 12, 2021.
Reminder: Nominations for NEJAC Membership Closes March 24, 2021
The U.S. EPA invites nominations from a diverse range of qualified candidates to be considered for appointment to its National Environmental Justice Advisory Council (NEJAC) until March 24, 2021. The Agency is seeking nominations to fill approximately seven (7) new vacancies for terms through September 2022. Vacancies are anticipated to be filled by September 2021. To maintain the representation outlined by the charter, nominees will be selected to represent:
- Community-based organizations (2 vacancies)
- State and Local (2 vacancies)
- Tribal governments/ Indigenous organizations (1 vacancy)
- NGOs (1 vacancy)
- Academia (1 vacancy)
Learn more about how to submit nominations here.
USGS Study Homes in on Sources and Yields of Nitrogen and Phosphorous in the Mississippi/Atchafalaya River Basin
A new USGS study estimates total nitrogen (N) and total phosphorus (P) yields from catchments throughout the Mississippi/Atchafalaya River Basin, which drains about 41% of the conterminous United States. The study describes where within the Mississippi/Atchafalaya River Basin nutrients originate and identifies the relative importance of different nutrient sources—e.g., fertilizers, manure, wastewater treatment plants, or atmospheric deposition—throughout the Basin. Nutrients exported from the Basin contribute to hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico. Results of this study will assist states in the Mississippi River/Gulf of Mexico Hypoxia Task Force—an interagency group working to reduce Gulf hypoxia—to implement their nutrient reduction strategies.
Using the SPARROW (SPAtially Referenced Regression On Watershed attributes) model, the study determined that catchments in the Corn Belt and along the Mississippi River had the highest yields (mass per unit area) of N and P. Agricultural activities were the largest source of N and P, but local inputs from wastewater treatment plants in some cases also were large contributors, and natural sources were sizable contributors of P.
Results of this study are based on catchment activities updated to reflect 2012 (the most recent data available) and a much finer spatial scale than previous studies—the mean catchment size now is ~2 km2 as opposed to ~300 km2 in earlier models. An associated online mapping tool can be used by water-quality mangers to identify where the largest sources of nutrients are throughout the Mississippi/Atchafalaya River Basin and to guide actions to reduce nutrient loading to the Gulf of Mexico. The updated data and finer spatial resolution will better inform these management actions.
Find data used in the study here.
Registration is Still Open for the 2021 ACWA Mid-Year Meeting!
Registration for the 2021 ACWA Mid-Year Meeting is still open! To register, please log into your Member365 Portal and click the Event tab in your navigation menu.
Upon your registration, you will be provided with links to sign up for the first and second days of virtual sessions. Please do not share these links with anyone, as these are closed sessions for states, interstates, and EPA staff only. If you have a colleague who would like to attend, please direct them to contact Rosie Kay who will create their Member365 account (if necessary), or to log in and register through this event.
Please follow this link to view a draft agenda for the meeting.
No Weekly Wrap Week of March 15, 2021
Due to the ACWA Mid-Year Meeting, ACWA will not be sending a Weekly Wrap the week of March 15th. Please check back the following week for updates!
Meetings and Webinars
EPA Webinar: Advanced Level ECHO Tools
Date: March 15, 2021 | 2:00-3:00 PM Eastern Time
Registration: Not required, see below for information on how to join
Join U.S. EPA for its next Enforcement and Compliance History Online (ECHO) webinar on Monday, March 15, 2021, 2:00-3:00 PM Eastern. This is an advanced water webinar that will explore CWA violations on the ECHO Detailed Facility Report (DFR) and the mapping from the source data system, ICIS-NPDES.
The demonstration will focus on the DFR’s Three-Year Compliance History table’s Facility-Level Status, QNCR History, and violation details for the four violation types. We will explain how the four RNC statuses on the NPDES Permits Basic Info screen of ICIS-NPDES roll-up to display a single quarterly status on the DFR. Where applicable, we will walk through examples of non-RNC, RNC, and SNC/Cat. 1 violations displayed and how these map back to the RNC detection and resolution codes in ICIS-NPDES. We will also describe the timing of data refreshes, quarter 13 status and violations, and the timeline to shift quarters after the official QNCR run.
This webinar is for governmental employees only, please only share with those in your organization.
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EPA Homeland Security Research Program Webinar: Building Resiliency: Emergency Water Treatment System
Date: March 18, 2021 | 2:00 PM Eastern Time
Registration: Click here
Boil advisories and water contamination issues have become an all too common impact of natural disasters, as seen most recently with the Texas winter storm and 2020 hurricane season. Following an emergency event, communities need access to clean water not only for drinking but also for cooking, cleaning, and medical triage. Most emergency water treatment systems are large and expensive tractor-trailer mounted systems. They can be complicated to operate, requiring specialized knowledge, and may not be able to access hard-to-reach areas devastated by disasters. A common solution for communities struggling with access to clean water during an emergency event is to provide bottled water. However, long-term dependence on bottled water creates a large solid waste disposal problem and only exacerbates debris management following a disaster.
EPA researchers partnered with WaterStep, a nonprofit whose mission is to provide safe water and sanitation to communities, to develop a modular, mobile water treatment system known as Water on Wheels – Emergency Mobile Water Treatment System (also known as the WOW Cart). This partnership was developed through the Federal Technology Transfer Act cooperative research and development agreement (CRADA), which allows the federal government to work directly with private companies. The WOW Cart is an inexpensive and versatile water treatment system about the size of a shopping cart. It is configured with multiple treatment technologies and is equipped with alternative power sources. The system is easy to operate and can be deployed to critical infrastructure ahead of oncoming natural events, such as hospitals, to build resiliency. This presentation will discuss the development of the WOW Cart and how it has been applied in disaster areas, such as 2020 Hurricane Laura in Louisiana and 2017 Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.
EPA Webinar: Get Flexible – Low Cost Compliance Solutions for Small Wastewater Treatment Systems
Date: March 25, 2021 | 1:00-2:30 PM Eastern Time
Registration: Click here
Small treatment systems are difficult to operate. They often suffer from a wide range of influent flows – from few operational controls to a lack of time to perform effective process control. From over 20 years of troubleshooting treatment plant noncompliance, Jon van Dommelen will present generally inexpensive examples of solutions that can make a small mechanical system treat what comes down the pipe and result in better quality effluent.
Topics will include solving some of the following issues: effluent suspended solids, effluent ammonia, poor flow splitting, high influent flow, wasting, disinfection, as well as cheap, easy and effective process control suggestions.
Sponsors: US EPA’s Office of Compliance and the US EPA-Authorized State Reducing SNC with NPDES Permits National Compliance Initiative (NCI) Workgroup.
Contacts: Peter Bahor, firstname.lastname@example.org and Laura Paradise, email@example.com
Global Change Research Needs & Opportunities for 2022-2031: Report Release by National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
Date: March 16, 2021 | 2:00-3:00 PM EDT
Registration: Click here
Join us for a briefing on a National Academies report that advises the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) on how best to meet its mandate in light of climate change impacts happening today and projected into the future. This report identifies critical climate change risks, research needed to support decision making relevant to managing these risks, and opportunities for the USGCRP’s participating agencies and other partners to advance these research priorities over the next decade. Jerry Melillo, distinguished scientist at the Marine Biological Laboratory and chair of the report’s authoring committee, and vice-chair Kristie L. Ebi from the University of Washington will present the report’s findings, followed by a Q&A session.
The report will be available online on March 16, 2021 at 1:00 PM ET followed by the public briefing from 2:00-3:00 PM ET. The briefing will be streamed on the main event page.
WRF Webinar: COVID-19 Wastewater Surveillance Symposium – A Global Update
Date: April 26, 2021 | 3:00-5:00PM Eastern Time
Registration: Click here
In April 2020, The Water Research Foundation (WRF) convened global leaders in an international summit to identify best practices and high-priority research needs around wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE) in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Because WBE approaches have continued to develop over the past 12 months, WRF is convening a follow-up global symposium to share updates on WBE activities from around the world, with a focus on how this information is being used to support health agencies in their COVID-19 response. The symposium will also include a panel discussion and audience Q&A.
- Peter Grevatt, PhD, CEO, The Water Research Foundation
- Amy Kirby, PhD, MPH, Senior Service Fellow, Waterborne Disease Prevention Branch, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, USA
- Gertjan Medema, PhD, Principal Microbiologist, KWR Water Research Institute, The Netherlands
- Christobel Ferguson, PhD, Chief Innovation Officer, The Water Research Foundation