Senate Passes Short Term Funding Bill, Action Moves to the House
The Senate passed a short-term continuing resolution to fund the government through December 16, 2022. The continuing resolution maintains current funding levels and gives Congressional negotiators more time to develop a broader budget deal before the holidays. The CR also includes funding for Ukraine, Jackson, MI, and home heating assistance. Negotiations were slowed by Senator Manchin’s permit streamlining proposal that would have made statutory changes to section 401. Senator Manchin pulled the proposal after he could not secure support for the changes. The House will take up the bill on Friday so the President can sign the CR before government funding expires at midnight on September 30th.
SCOTUS Term Will Start With Sackett Wetlands Case
The Supreme Court will begin its new term on October 3 with a key wetlands case that will define the scope of federal Clean Water Act (CWA) jurisdiction. On Monday, the justices will take up Sackett v. EPA, and again consider what test courts should use to determine whether the CWA applies to the land, which the EPA has deemed a wetland. The answer will have significant implications for several key EPA regulatory actions. The oral arguments will be available on the SCOTUS website.
New EPA Environmental Justice Office
This week EPA announced the creation of a new Office of Environmental Justice & External Civil Rights which an EPA press release says “delivers on President Biden’s commitment to elevate these critical issues to the highest levels of the government and solidifies the agency’s commitment to delivering justice and equity for all.” The new office will include 200 EPA staff across headquarters and the 10 regions and will “engage with communities with environmental justice concerns to understand their needs, as well as Tribal, state, and local partners; manage and disburse historic levels of grants and technical assistance; work with other EPA offices to incorporate environmental justice into the agency’s programs, policies, and processes, as allowed by law; and ensure EPA funding recipients comply with applicable civil rights laws.” Three offices are being merged – the Office of Environmental Justice, External Civil Rights Compliance Office, and Conflict Prevention and Resolution Center to:
- Improve EPA’s ability to integrate equity principles/priorities into all practices, policies, and programs.
- Support the fair treatment of all people related to development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental programs regardless of race, color, national origin, or income.
- Engage communities with EJ concerns and increase support for community-led actions.
- Enforce civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination by recipients of federal financial assistance awards.
- Provide services and expertise for ADR, environmental conflict resolution, consensus-building, and collaborative problem solving.
A copy of the press release can be found here.
EPA Creating Resilient Water Utilities Program Releases Two Map Tools
Case Study Map: In CRWU’s new Adaptation Case Studies Map for Water Utilities, users can explore case studies from water sector utilities across the United States. On this map, users can see over 60 CRWU case studies in one view and can click on each individual utility to access more detailed information about their climate resilience adaptation process. The new map also highlights case studies surrounding certain themes, such as Infrastructure Investment and Environmental Justice.
Snowpack Map: CRWU’s new Snowpack Change in the Western United States Map provides snowpack and precipitation data for water sector utilities in the Western U.S. Climate change plays an important role in changing snowpack trends which many utilities rely upon to provide water services. This map explores the connection between increasing temperatures and future snowpack trends to assist utilities in adapting to changing conditions.
EPA Releases Memo on Continued Actions in FY23 to Increase Equity and Environmental Justice in the Nonpoint Source Program
EPA has signed a new follow-up memo to last year’s efforts towards increasing Equity and EJ in the NPS Program. This memo summarizes the work that has taken place since fall 2021, outlines subsequent program changes that will begin in FY23, and introduces additional efforts and engagement planned for the coming year. The memo may be found here.
Included in the memo are new NPS program flexibilities and expected actions:
- The NPS program will strive to increase CWA §319 investments that benefit DACs to 40 percent nationally. To support this goal, EPA encourages states to build on their success by prioritizing new projects that invest in or benefit DACs as part of grant workplan development in the coming year. Projects can include preliminary assessments, watershed planning and demonstration projects, capacity building, technical support, and innovative finance partnerships to address match. EPA will assess national-level progress toward this goal through project data identified in the CWA §319 Grants Reporting & Tracking System (GRTS).
- The 2013 CWA §319 guidelines require an accepted nine-element watershed-based plan (WBP) or EPA-approved alternative watershed plan to begin implementation work supported by CWA §319 watershed project funds. This requirement was identified as a significant barrier to DACs. To help address this concern, EPA is providing an exception to this requirement to allow states to direct CWA §319 watershed project funds to support watershed plan development and capacity building in DACs. These projects may also include implementation of community demonstration projects to address known sources of NPS impairment.6 EPA encourages grantees to invest in projects that build community capacity for NPS work, for example, by supporting local watershed coordinators and leveraging community resources such as local minority serving institutions, community organizations, and local businesses.
- Beginning in FY23, states are also granted an exception to the 2013 CWA §319 guidelines and may award CWA §319 watershed project funds to CWA §319-eligible Tribes to implement project(s) consistent with an up-to-date, EPA-approved Tribal NPS management program plan, which EPA will now consider as an acceptable alternative to a nine-element WBP.7
- As a part of the NPS program annual reports due each year to EPA, beginning in FY23 grantees are now expected to include a discussion on efforts, including recently completed, ongoing, and planned activities, and anticipated results, to advance environmental justice in their CWA §319 programs.8 EPA will collect and compile these efforts to facilitate peer-to-peer information exchange.
EPA’s next quarterly national update is scheduled for October 20th at 3:00pm Eastern (register here). You may register and join the call, which will review the new memo, take questions, and discuss next steps. A Zoom conference link, agenda, and additional details will be sent closer to the date.
Reminder: Abstracts Due TODAY for the 2023 National Monitoring Conference
The National Water Quality Monitoring Council (NWQMC) is requesting abstracts for oral presentations and posters covering topics related to monitoring rivers and streams, lakes, wetlands, coastal waters, estuaries and groundwater. Abstracts are due TODAY, September 30, 2022. You can submit abstracts here.
The Conference will occur the week of April 24–28, 2023, in Virginia Beach, Virginia and in a limited virtual setting. This conference provides opportunities for water stakeholders – federal, state, tribal and local water professionals, non-profits, academia, industry and water consultants, and volunteer and community scientists – to network, develop new skills and partnerships, and exchange information.
Due to continued public health uncertainties at this time, submitters should be prepared to be flexible on participation whether that be in person or virtual. The Conference Program Committee is accepting oral and poster abstracts that fit in the following topics, listed below, and associated proposed conference sessions. There are 48 proposed sessions that may fit your abstract. The proposed sessions and a short description of each are available here.
When completing your abstract submission, please choose up to 3 themes (required) that fit your abstract and up to 3 proposed sessions (required). Also, please provide any keywords that may help categorize your abstract. Abstracts do not need to fit in a proposed session to be considered for the conference. Abstracts for oral and poster proposals must be submitted using the Abstract Submission Form. Abstracts should not exceed 350 words. All abstracts MUST be received no later than September 30, 2022. Authors will be notified by early December 2022 if they have been accepted to present.
EPA Releases Construction Stormwater Compliance Tool
EPA has just finalized updates to its CGP compliance tool, the Small Residential Lot SWPPP Template (or “Small Lot Template”), for residential construction industry permittees under EPA’s 2022 CGP. The Small Lot Template helps qualifying permittees develop stormwater pollution prevention plans (SWPPPs) that are fully compliant with the 2022 CGP requirements. The Small Lot Template was originally published in 2014, and has been updated to include new requirements that are part of the 2022 CGP. The Small Lot Template reduces the number of pages for the typical SWPPP by over 60 percent and streamlines the process so that the typical small lot developer can complete the SWPPP easily and tailor it to their specific project. The Small Lot Template is available on EPA’s website here, under the “SWPPP Templates” section. If you have any questions, please contact EPA at CGP@epa.gov.
NPDES Basic Permit Writer’s Course Occurring October 13-November 17
This week, EPA announced the opening of registration for the the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Basic Permit Writers’ Virtual Guided Learning Course starting on October 13, 2022, with an afternoon session running for five weeks.
The objective of this course is to provide the basic regulatory framework and technical considerations that support the development of wastewater discharge permits required under the NPDES program. The course was designed for permit writers with about six months to one year of experience in the NPDES program, but experienced permit writers wanting a refresher course and other water program staff or interested parties wanting to learn more about the NPDES program also are welcome.
The 5-week course will begin on Thursday, October 13, 2022. Participants should anticipate a time commitment of approximately 8-10 hours per week and should seek supervisor approval before signing up. The course is scheduled to conclude on November 17th, however a “rain date” of November 22nd should be reserved by the participants in case of technical issues. Each week, participants will have assigned “homework” consisting of NPDES online modules and permit exercises. These modules and exercises will then be discussed in a live virtual classroom setting on Tuesday and Thursday of each week. Participants will have the opportunity to join live office hour discussions with instructors and other participants each Tuesday as well. Microsoft Teams will be utilized for the virtual classroom and can be accessed through the desktop application or a web browser. Course materials will be provided electronically on the Microsoft Teams classroom site for download by the participants prior to the start date.
Following registration, an email with further instruction will be provided. For any questions related to this announcement, please contact Sean Ramach at email@example.com.
ACWA and Partners ASTSWMO, ASDWA Conduct Cross-Program PFAS Workshop
This week, ACWA, Association of State and Territorial Solid Waste Management Officials, and Association of State Drinking Water Administrators jointly conducted the 2022 Cross-Program PFAS Workshop in Washington, DC. Regulators and directors from state, EPA, and Department of Defense programs convened with state association staff to discuss PFAS in the context of CERLCA, RCRA, CWA, SDWA, and biosolids and solid waste management.
ACWA thanks its membership and partners for attending and presenting during the workshop. Registrants will be notified about follow-up materials. Please contact Jake Adler with any questions about the workshop.
Clean Water Act Success Stories
The Clean Water Act is about to turn 50! In celebration of this milestone, ACWA, the states, and EPA have been gathering stories from members across the United States about how they have used the CWA to protect and restore their water resources. Click here to explore the story map!
Meetings and Webinars
Registration Open – 2022 National Stormwater Roundtable
October 19 – 21, 2022
Purpose: The 2022 National Stormwater Roundtable supports implementation of federal and state municipal, industrial, and construction stormwater programs nationwide by sharing best management practices, showcasing innovative federal and state programs and initiatives, highlighting new technologies, facilitating discussion on national program enhancements and improvements, identifying state resource needs including tools, training and guidance, and proposing solutions to challenges and barriers faced by the regulators and other stakeholders.
Attendees: The Stormwater Roundtable is national face to face meeting specifically organized by state and federal regulators for EPA and state program staff representatives. This is a closed meeting. Attendees include:
- State managers, permit writers, inspectors, and compliance staff involved in regulating stormwater
- EPA Headquarter and Regional staff involved in stormwater regulation
- Partnering state and federal agency staff that provide technical and/or regulatory assistance to the stormwater program
- Invited guests
Registration Open: National Virtual Symposium: Improving Small Municipalities WWTP Compliance
Dates: October 25-27, 2022
Times: Daily 11:00am – 5:00pm eastern
Participants: NPDES Program Authorities and Related Contractors/Grantees
Registration: Meeting Registration – Zoom (zoomgov.com)
Compliance with NPDES permits is imperative for limiting pollution in WWTP discharges, and in turn, for protecting public health and the environment. As part of EPA’s National Compliance Initiative to address NPDES SNC, focus is being given to municipal WWTPs, which are the leading sector contributing to the SNC rate. Small WWTPs (discharging < 1 MGD) can be particularly burdened by aging infrastructure, financial, and workforce challenges. Presenters in this symposium will thus cover eight different topic areas (see below) that detail different tools and approaches regulators can take to help improve compliance with NPDES permitting requirements and reduce SNC at small municipal WWTP facilities. In this context, focus will also be given to environmental justice considerations and solutions.
Symposium Topics to include:
• Technical Assistance and Resources
• WWTP Infrastructure Financial Assistance, Resources and Sustainability
• System Sustainability/Resiliency (including Climate Change)
• The Keys to Sustained Compliance: Workforce and Operation & Maintenance
• Water System Partnerships (including Regionalization)
• WWTP Technology
• Effective Use of Enforcement to Enhance Municipal WWTP Compliance
• Regulatory Support Tools for Achieving Water Quality Standards/Goals
Save the Date – 2023 National NPDES Meeting
February 28 – March 2, 2023
Purpose: This meeting is intended to help support states and EPA to build staff capacity, identify challenges & barriers to NPDES program implementation, highlight opportunities for permitting authority program improvement & enhancement, showcase NPDES program innovations, assist with analysis of training, guidance, tools, and other support material needs, improve administrative efficiencies, clarify roles and responsibilities, build stronger linkages to other programs, modernize permit terms, improve data management, discuss program performance measures, identify program areas where targeted technical assistance would be most beneficial, and attempt to solve some of the most intractable NPDES Program issues.
Attendees: The National NPDES Meeting is a national coregulator event specifically organized by state and federal regulators for EPA and state program staff representatives. Attendees include:
- State and EPA staff involved in managing and overseeing NPDES programs
- State and EPA staff involved with drafting and overseeing NPDES permits
- Partnering state and federal agency staff that provide technical and/or regulatory assistance to the NPDES programs
- Invited guests as appropriate
National Fish Forum, February/March 2023
EPA will be hosting a free National Fish Forum to discuss issues relating to fish tissue monitoring and fish consumption advisories. For information on the Forum, how to register, and how to submit an abstract, please click here. For any questions related to this forum, please send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Likely topics include:
- Latest science on specific contaminants in fish and their impacts on human health, e.g., PFAS, mercury, PCBs, and cyanotoxins
- Emerging science in developing fish consumption advisories
- Risk communication & public engagement strategies for fish consumption advisories
- Issuing/rescinding fish consumption advisories
- Effectiveness of fish consumption advisories
- Environmental Justice: Protection of high frequency fish consumers, such as subsistence fishers and fishers in underserved communities
- Community/participatory science: Roles and practices
- Sampling and analysis: Practices and methods
Powering Water Utilities with Renewable Energy
October 6, 2022, 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM ET
Since 2004, Energy Trust of Oregon has completed about 400 projects at drinking water and wastewater utilities, saving over 61 megawatt hours annually. The projects include energy efficiency projects with paybacks that were often immediate to within a few years as well as renewable energy projects such as a wastewater treatment plant that operates completely on a 60-kilowatt solar electric system. This webinar will include several speakers that will share how these projects developed, including stakeholder support, financing, and implementation. Register here.
EPA’s Web-ICE Toxicity Extrapolation Tool
Thursday, October 13, 2022 | 3-4 pm ET
Protecting the diversity of species from the adverse effects of chemicals is a significant environmental challenge. Information on the effects of chemicals on species is either very limited or lacking entirely, making management and mitigation of environmental contaminants difficult. EPA developed the Web-based Interspecies Correlation Estimation (Web-ICE) tool to allow toxicity extrapolation from standard test organisms to diverse taxa, including endangered species. This publicly-accessible application allows risk assessors and environmental managers from all sectors to estimate chemical toxicity to a diversity of fresh and saltwater invertebrates and fish, birds and mammals, and aquatic plants (algae) that may have limited toxicity data. This training webinar will provide an overview of Web-ICE, including a brief overview of ICE models, demonstration of its application with example case studies, and a tutorial on using the internet application.
EPA Wastewater Emergency Response Planning Webinar
October 19, 2022, 1:00 – 3:00 PM ET
The EPA is sponsoring a free webinar on emergency response planning for wastewater systems. This webinar will include an overview of EPA’s recently published Emergency Response Plan Template for Wastewater Utilities, along with wastewater system preparedness and response case studies presented by the Greater New Haven (CT) Water Pollution Control Authority and the City of Henderson (NV) Department of Utility Services. This will be a great opportunity to learn from subject matter experts and peers, and we encourage participants to bring their questions and comments. Register here.
UCMR 5 Public Webinar
October 26, 2022 & repeated October 27, 2022
EPA will hold separate virtual meetings by webinar for small PWSs and large PWSs on October 26, 2022, and repeat both meetings on October 27, 2022. The purpose of the meetings is to help PWSs learn about the Fifth Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR 5) requirements and the actions they must take to prepare for monitoring. The presentations provide an overview of the UCMR 5 program and information on monitoring schedules and locations, the Safe Drinking Water Accession and Review System (SDWARS), sample collection, and reporting requirements. For more details on the meetings and to REGISTER, please click here.
Background: On December 27, 2021, EPA published UCMR 5 to establish nationwide monitoring for 29 per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and lithium in drinking water served by public water systems (PWSs). The rule requires participating PWSs to collect drinking water samples from 2023-2025 and report final results through 2026.
EPA uses UCMR to collect occurrence data for priority unregulated contaminants in drinking water served by PWSs every five years. The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), as amended by America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018, now requires all small PWSs serving between 3,300 and 10,000 people to participate in UCMR (subject to the availability of appropriations and laboratory capacity) and specifies that a representative sample of small PWSs serving fewer than 3,300 people participate. SDWA continues to require all large PWSs serving greater than 10,000 people to participate in UCMR. As planned, UCMR 5 will significantly expand the number of participating small PWSs (those serving 10,000 or fewer people) compared to earlier UCMR cycles, which will provide more Americans with a better understanding of potential contaminants in their drinking water.
Registrants will receive confirmations and further webinar information via email. Questions regarding webinar registration should be emailed to UCMRWebinar@cadmusgroup.com.
National Partnership for Environmental Technology Education (PETE) Environmental Cybersecurity
October 28, 12:00-2:00 EST | Registration Open
WICRD Cybersecurity Branch will be providing an Overview of Cybersecurity in the Water Sector to include common cyber vulnerabilities, countermeasures, challenges utilities face in building a cybersecurity program, and current/upcoming steps the Federal Government will be taking to improve cybersecurity across Critical Infrastructure. The audience will be community college environmental staff/instructors and the goal is for these staff members to take the information learned in the event and incorporate this information into their instruction for the future environmental workforce. Registration details are forthcoming.
Space Weather: What Your Water Utility Should Know
November 2, 2022, 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM ET
Space weather refers to the variable conditions on the sun and in space that can influence performance and reliability of space and ground-based technological systems and endanger life or health. Bill Murtagh from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Prediction Center will provide an overview of space weather and how it can impact the electric grid and critical infrastructure. Speakers will also share potential telecommunications impacts and what utilities can do to prepare for space weather events. Register here.