Announcing Major Improvement in Clean Water Act Permit Compliance
ACWA (via this newsletter) and EPA (via press release) are jointly announcing a 50% cut in the rate of significant noncompliance (SNC) associated with NPDES permits. In 2018, EPA and state permitting authorities jointly agreed to work on cutting the national SNC rate. This tremendous improvement in CWA SNC, going from 20.3% in 2018 to 9.0%, is the lowest SNC rate ever recorded in a quarter. For decades prior to this initiative, over 20% of CWA individually permitted facilities had SNC-level violations of their water discharge permit, including violations for exceeding permitted pollutant discharge limits, not meeting enforcement order or permit requirements, and/or failing to report compliance data in a timely manner or sometimes at all. This is an impressive example of what states and EPA can accomplish when partnering and coregulator collaboration are embraced as fundamental requirements of a national initiative of this scope.
Achieving a 50% cut in the rate of facilities with SNC-level CWA violations improves public health and the environment by:
- Reducing the portion of permitted facilities with SNC-level violations from 1 out of 5 to 1 out of 10; this equates to roughly 4,000 fewer facilities with SNC violations.
- Creating lasting, strong, reliable EPA/state partnerships which can be mobilized to achieve additional successes.
- Assuring EPA and states have a complete compliance dataset to aid quick recognition of, and proactive response to, CWA non-compliance.
- Increasing attention on the remaining non-compliant facilities and, in turn, increasing the level of compliance across all CWA permittees.
- Allowing states and EPA to prioritize and focus their future resources on many of the more egregious violations.
To learn more about how this was achieved, please see EPA’s Press Release: https://www.epa.gov/newsreleases/epa-and-state-partners-announce-major-improvement-clean-water-act-permit-compliance
For more information about the National Compliance Initiative for “Reducing Significant Non-Compliance with National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Permits” please visit: https://www.epa.gov/enforcement/national-compliance-initiative-reducing-significant-non-compliance-national-pollutant.
Proposed Water Quality Standards Regulatory Revisions to Protect Tribal Reserved Rights Published
This week, EPA Administrator Regan announced the signing of Proposed Water Quality Standards Regulatory Revisions to Protect Tribal Reserved Rights, which will soon be published for a 90-day public comment period at docket# EPA-HQ-OW-2021-0791.
The proposal clarifies that where tribal reserved rights exist, EPA must initiate tribal consultation with the right holders when reviewing WQS submissions to determine whether applicable reserved rights are protected. The proposal clarifies that states must:
- Account for reserved rights in revising WQS designated uses, criteria, and/or antidegradation provisions;
- Protect unsuppressed use of any reserved resources;
- Ensure that WQS protect the health of tribal members exercising reserved rights to at least the same risk level that the state’s general population would otherwise be protected;
- Document in WQS submissions the state’s efforts to obtain information about the existence of any tribal reserved rights and the level of water quality protective of those rights; and,
- Re-evaluate whether WQS need to be revised to protect any applicable tribal reserved rights at each Triennial Review.
Learn more about the proposed rule here.
Joint Cybersecurity Alert: Hive Ransomware
The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the Department of the Health and Human Services (HHS) released a joint Cybersecurity Advisory (www.cisa.gov/uscert/ncas/alerts/aa22-321a) with technical details associated with Hive ransomware variants identified through FBI investigations as recently as November 2022.
From June 2021 through at least November 2022, threat actors have used Hive ransomware, which follows the Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS) model, to target a wide range of businesses and critical infrastructure sectors. The method of initial intrusion depends upon the Hive RaaS affiliate that targets the network, using compromised credentials in Remote Desktop Protocol, virtual private networks, and other remote network connection protocols in which multifactor authentication is not enabled.
The EPA recommends that all drinking water and wastewater utilities take the following mitigation actions:
- Prioritize remediating known exploited vulnerabilities.
- Enable and enforce multifactor authentication with strong passwords.
- Close unused ports and remove any application not deemed necessary for day-to-day operations.
- Follow the steps outlined in the joint Cybersecurity Advisory to protect your organization from a potential Hive ransomware attack.
Additionally, if you suspect that you organization is the victim of a ransomware attack please report to CISA at https://us-cert.cisa.gov/forms/report and/or FBI at https://www.ic3.gov/.
The U.S. EPA Office of Water requests that the GCC and WSCC review this Joint Cybersecurity Advisory and pass it along to all members. EPA Regions, please review this message for general awareness. Although OW recognizes that there is no direct mention of this threat specifically applying to the Water & Wastewater Sector, we are confident that this information would enhance cyber resilience.
If you have questions regarding any of the information contained in this email, please contact Brandon Carter, Water Infrastructure and Cyber Resilience Division, USEPA (firstname.lastname@example.org).
WEF Stormwater MS4 Needs Assessment Survey – Outreach
*Deadline Extension to December 16 – please help us get the word out. *
Dear Water Professional,
We hope this email finds you well and healthy. The Water Environment Federation (WEF) Stormwater Institute has launched its third iteration of the National Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System Needs Assessment Survey (https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/WEFMS4Survey) and is collecting responses.
The primary objectives and impacts of these surveys are:
- Goals: to better understand MS4 program challenges, to identify the information and resource needs of MS4 permittees, and to approximate current funding levels and estimated funding needs in the MS4 sector.
- Impacts: closing the funding gap, which in 2020 was estimated to be $8.5 billion, through the Stormwater Recommendation Document; using the data to elevate the stormwater sector as it was with the efforts of developing a dedicated Stormwater Category as part of the ASCE Infrastructure Report Card – which in 2021 Stormwater had its dedicated category for the first-time ever and scored a D; and, providing pertinent technical resources at a national scale.
Conducting the Survey: The WEF Stormwater Institute survey should be filled out by MS4 program managers.
- If you are with an entity with an MS4 permit (city, county, watershed, DOT, non-traditional, etc.), please have one person from your organization fill out the survey. WEF is looking for your best estimates for answers to the questions.
- If you are a consultant and a city has authorized you to complete the survey, please do so. Otherwise, please pass this information along to your clients with MS4 permits.
- If you are with another type of entity (regulator, researcher, NGO, manufacturer, etc.) but interested in everything related to the MS4 program, please feel free to share this with your network and visit WEF’s Stormwater Institute website, but do not fill out the survey.
- To access the survey, please go to: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/WEFMS4Survey. The survey deadline to submit your data has been extended to December 16th, 2022. Please use this survey sample to review the questions ahead of time and prepare the information needed to completely fill out the survey: https://wefstormwaterinstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/2022-WEF-MS4-Survey-Questions.pdf.
WEF started this survey in 2018 and did another version in 2020. If you are interested, the results from previous years can be found here: https://wefstormwaterinstitute.org/programs/ms4survey/. Additionally, if there is someone else to whom this email should be directed, please feel free to forward this email to the respective person or share their respective email. If you have any questions, please contact email@example.com.
2023 National NPDES Permitting Meeting
February 28 – March 2, 2023
This is a closed meeting 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.
Updated information about this meeting can be found here.
Save the Date! ACWA MidYear Meeting on March 15th & 16th, 2023 in Alexandria, VA
Please see the MidYear Meeting webpage here. Lodging and registration information will be made available soon.
December Briefings for ACWA Members and Committees
ACWA has arranged briefings on December 7th at Noon EST and December 13th at 3pm EST for the ACWA Membership and select committees (Monitoring Standards and Assessment, Watersheds, and Permitting and Compliance). Registration emails were sent on November 16th and 21st, respectively. Please contact ACWA Staff if you need the registration information.
Meetings and Webinars
EPA ECHO Webinar: Drinking Water
December 6 @ 1:30 pm – 2:30 pm EST | Register Here
Join U.S. EPA for its next Enforcement and Compliance History Online (ECHO) webinar on Tuesday, December 6, 2022, 1:30-2:30 PM Eastern Time. This advanced webinar explores how to use ECHO tools to access and understand the drinking water program enforcement and compliance data. EPA will demonstrate examples of how an individual may use the drinking water ECHO tools to identify compliance data related to the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), including how to search for information about Sanitary Surveys and Action Level Exceedances associated with the Lead and Copper Rule.
Register at https://echo.epa.gov/help/training#upcoming to save your spot.
Transforming the Water Workforce: Exploring the Intersections of Environmental Justice and Equitable Development in Infrastructure Investments
December 8 @ 1:00 pm – 2:30 pm EST | Register Here
Because the Justice 40 initiative sets “a goal that 40 percent of the overall benefits of certain Federal investments flow to disadvantaged communities that are marginalized, underserved, and overburdened by pollution,” it is very important to understand how the federal government and states are defining disadvantaged communities (or other similar terms like disproportionately impacted or overburdened).
In addition, communities have an important role to play to help secure investment, design new infrastructure projects, and shape accompanying anti-displacement policies and practices so that community members can remain in place once restoration and other kinds of improvement projects have been completed.
Are you interested in learning more about the process of defining disproportionately impacted communities for federal and state policies? Or, how large investments—like from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law—will tie to equitable development and anti-displacement practices in disproportionately impacted communities that receive the funding because of the Justice 40 Initiative?
If yes – then join us! The Urban Waters Learning Network Equitable Development and Anti-Displacement Collaborative is hosting a live session on Thursday, Dec 8 from 1 pm to 2:30 pm eastern time to engage in further conversation on the intersections of environmental justice policy and equitable development / anti-displacement practices.
Submit your questions on the registration form to include in the conversation with our panel of experts:
- Lubna Ahmed (she/her/ella), Environmental Justice Boards Manager, State of Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment
- Sonia Kikeri (they/she), National Director of Policy and Civic Engagement, Emerald Cities Collaborative
- Cheyenne Holiday (she/her), Water Justice Coordinator, Verde
**This session is designed to be conversational and interactive. There will be introductions / presentations from the panelists for context. Please come prepared to ask your questions live and interact with the collaborative and the panelists (in break-out rooms if time permits).
Transforming the Water Workforce ft. AWWA, DC Water
December 15, 2022 1:00 – 2:30 PM Eastern Time | Register Here
In today’s world, water sector utilities need to work with many partners to recruit and retain a motivated and sustainable 21st century workforce—they can’t do it alone! Partners can include employment and training organizations, educational institutions, contractors, and others. There is also a pressing need to help current utility leaders develop the transformative skills they will need to lead the water workforce in the 21st century. Please join us on December 15, 2022, to hear from two leading utility workforce leaders from DC Water and AWWA as they take steps to develop a truly sustainable workforce for their utility and also help leaders across the sector develop the skills to address the myriad of challenges they will face moving forward.
This webinar is part of an ongoing webinar series hosted by EPA, in partnership with leading water sector organizations around the country. More information on this webinar series can be found at https://www.epa.gov/sustainable-water-infrastructure/water-sector-workforce-webinars
Stormwater Quality Specialist (Natural Resource Specialist 3) | Oregon Department of Environmental Quality
Closing Date: 12/07/2022
Location: Eugene, Salem, Medford, or Coos Bay, Oregon (finalist may choose work location)
There are 3 regions (Northwest, Western, and Eastern); this position is in Western Region. You will review permit applications, assign permits, and determine the compliance status of facilities by conducting inspections and analysis of water quality monitoring data.
Learn more and apply here.
Water Quality Compliance Specialist (Natural Resource Specialist 3) | Oregon Department of Environmental Quality
Closing Date: 12/18/2022
Location: Eugene or Salem, Oregon (finalist may choose work location)
There are 3 regions (Northwest, Western, and Eastern); this position is in Western Region. This position will serve as a compliance specialist and permit writer, responsible for reviewing discharge monitoring reports, inspections to determine compliance, responding to complaints, providing technical assistance to permittees and others, and issuing warning letters, pre-enforcement notices, and enforcement referrals. In addition, this position will write permits and assign general permits for sources in Western Region.
Learn more and apply here.
Information Officer – Grants Manager | NEIWPCC
Closing Date: December 16, 2022
Location: Grand Isle, Vermont
We are seeking a full-time Information Officer to join our collaborative team as a grants manager. This position will provide administrative support to the Lake Champlain Basin Program (LCBP) Grand Isle office and will work closely with NEIWPCC staff to streamline the administration of LCBP and Champlain Valley National Heritage Partnership (CVNHP) grants.
Learn more and apply here.
Environmental Engineer 3 (In-Training) | Washington Department of Ecology
Closing Date: Continuous
Location: Thurston County – Lacey, WA
The Environmental Assessment Program (EAP) within the Department of Ecology is looking to fill an Environmental Engineer 3 (In-Training) position. The position is located in our Headquarters office in Lacey, WA. Upon hire, you must live within a commutable distance from the duty station. As a licensed professional engineer, you will independently plan and conduct investigations of, and propose solutions to, environmental engineering problems relating to pollutant loading capacity, mathematical modeling of water quality, and effluent dilution. This position is directly related to Ecology’s mission of protecting, preserving, and restoring Washington’s environment.
Learn more and apply here.
Two Positions: Senior Permit Manager (Environmental Specialist 4)(In-Training) | Washington Department of Ecology
Closing Date: This position will remain open until filled, with an initial screening date of December 8, 2022. In order to be considered for initial screening, please submit an application on or before December 7, 2022. The agency reserves the right to make an appointment any time after the initial screening date.
Location: Spokane, WA (Eastern Regional Office). Upon hire, you must live within a commutable distance from the duty station.
Washington Department of Ecology is seeking to fill two positions in our Eastern Regional Office, Water Quality Permit Management Unit. Both positions will manage and write water quality permits, with one position filling Financial Project Manger responsibilities and another position filling Lead Inspector responsibilities.
Learn more and apply here.