EPA Releases Plans to Respond to Sacket II WOTUS Opinion
EPA released a statement on its website this week in response to the SCOTUS Sackett II opinion holding that the CWA extends only to wetlands that have a continuous surface connection with “waters” of the United States — i.e., with a relatively permanent body of water connected to traditional interstate navigable waters, 33 U.S.C. § 1362(7) — making it difficult to determine where the water ends and the wetland begins.
“The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are in receipt of the U.S. Supreme Court’s May 25, 2023, decision in the case of Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency. In light of this decision, the agencies are interpreting the phrase “waters of the United States” consistent with the Supreme Court’s decision in Sackett. The agencies are developing a rule to amend the final “Revised Definition of ‘Waters of the United States'” rule, published in the Federal Register on January 18, 2023, consistent with the U.S. Supreme Court’s May 25, 2023 decision in the case of Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency.” (emphasis added).
ACWA will work with our federal partners to better understand the process. It appears that the agencies will be moving forward with a “direct final rule”. In a direct final rule, the agency states that the rule will go into effect on a certain date, unless it gets substantive adverse comments during the comment period. An agency may finalize this process by publishing in the Federal Register a confirmation that it received no adverse comments.
EPA Announces Framework for Addressing New PFAS and New Uses of PFAS
On June 29, 2023, EPA announced its framework for addressing new and new uses of PFAS. The framework outlines EPA’s planned approach when reviewing new PFAS and new uses of PFAS to ensure that, before these chemicals are allowed to enter into commerce, EPA will undertake an extensive evaluation to ensure they pose no harm to human health and the environment. The framework supports the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to address the impacts of these forever chemicals and advances EPA’s PFAS Strategic Roadmap to confront the human health and environmental risks of PFAS pollution.
Under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) section 5, EPA is required to review new chemicals, including new PFAS and new uses of PFAS, within 90 days, assess the potential risks to human health and the environment of the chemical, and make one of five possible risk determinations. When potential risks are identified, EPA must take action to mitigate those risks before the chemical can enter commerce.
New PFAS present a challenge for EPA to evaluate because there is often insufficient information to quantify the risk they may pose and consequently to make effective decisions about how to regulate them. Many PFAS are known to persist and bioaccumulate (i.e., build up) in the environment and people and pose potential risks not only to those who directly manufacture, process, distribute, use, and dispose of the chemical substance but also to the public, including communities who may be exposed to PFAS pollution or waste and already overburdened communities. This framework will be used to qualitatively assess PFAS that are likely persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic (PBT) chemicals.
The New Framework
Under the framework, EPA expects that some PBT PFAS will not result in worker, general population or consumer exposure and are not expected to result in releases to the environment, such as when PFAS are used in a closed system with occupational protections as is generally the practice in the manufacture of some semiconductors and other electronic components. In such a negligible exposure and environmental release scenario, if EPA can ensure that such PBT PFAS can be disposed of properly and no consumer exposure is expected, EPA generally expects to allow the PFAS or the new use of a PFAS to enter commerce after receiving basic information, such as physical-chemical property data, about the substance. If the initial data cause concern, then EPA will require additional testing and risk mitigation before moving forward.
For PBT PFAS that are expected to have a low – but greater than negligible – potential for release and environmental exposure, EPA generally expects to require test data in addition to physical chemical properties, such as toxicokinetic data, before allowing manufacturing to commence. If initial test results cause concern, then EPA will require additional testing and risk mitigation before moving forward.
For PBT PFAS that are expected to lead to exposure and environmental releases, and absent a critical use or military need for the substance that necessitates limited and restricted manufacture while testing is ongoing, EPA generally expects that the substance would not be allowed to enter commerce before extensive testing is conducted on physical/chemical properties, toxicity and fate. For example, use of PFAS in spray-applied stain guards inherently involves releases to the environment. If the test results cause concern, then EPA could require additional testing and risk mitigation before moving forward, or could prevent the substance from being manufactured at all.
By distinguishing uses that could result in environmental releases and those with expected worker, community, or consumer exposure, from those that won’t, as well as requiring upfront testing for many PFAS, the application of the Framework will help ensure that any new PFAS won’t harm human health and the environment. At the same time, it also will allow certain PFAS to be used when exposures and releases can be mitigated, and where such use is critical for important sectors like semiconductors. These policy changes are aligned with the EPA PFAS Strategic Roadmap and help prevent any unsafe new PFAS from entering the environment or harming human health.
The data EPA will obtain on physical/chemical properties for any new PBT PFAS under this Framework and more extensive toxicity and fate data for PFAS with potential exposures or releases will also support EPA’s efforts under the National PFAS Testing Strategy and advance the Agency’s understanding of PFAS more broadly. The Framework will apply to new PFAS or new use notices that are currently under EPA review, as well as any that EPA may receive in the future. This summer, EPA will offer a public webinar about the Framework. The date, time, and registration information will be announced soon. Learn more about the Framework.
EPA Updates Funding Integration Tool for Source Water (FITS)
This week EPA released an updated version of the Funding Integration Tool for Source Water (FITS), a web-based, interactive tool released in 2021. FITS is a one-stop-shop tool that explains how users can integrate various federal funding sources to support activities that protect sources of drinking water. Today’s updates include addition of three existing federal funding programs that can be leveraged to implement source water protection and improvement activities: EPA’s Sewer Overflow and Stormwater Reuse Municipal Grants program, U.S. Forest Service’s Forest Legacy Program, and Natural Resources Conservation Service’s and U.S. Forest Service’s Joint Chiefs’ Landscape Restoration Partnership program.
The tool now provides relevant information on fourteen federal funding sources and outlines how these federal funding sources may be leveraged by states, tribes, and territories to implement different steps of source water protection planning (e.g., delineation of a source water protection area) and implementation (e.g., protective or restorative management activities on the ground). The tool continues to provide tips for long-term cross-program planning and examples from states on how these funding sources have been used in the past. On EPA’s Source Water Protection webpage, you can find a 5-minute video tutorial and more information on the updated tool.
EPA Launches EJSCREEN 2.2, The Community Environmental Justice Mapping Tool
On Monday, EPA announced an update to EJScreen. EJScreen 2.2 makes important improvements to better meet the needs of users, including a redesigned and enhanced report, a new environmental indicator with corresponding indexes, and refreshed demographic and environmental data. Users are encouraged to test the new features of EJScreen 2.2 to see how it can serve your needs and provide EPA with feedback on how to continue to improve this tool.
EJScreen 2.2 provides updated reports which compile various datasets into one document to help users better understand the multiple factors that impact their community. It also includes a new environmental indicator on Toxic Releases to Air, as well as associated EJ and supplemental indexes. This new indicator quantifies the relative potential human health impacts from exposure of Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) chemicals into the air. More information on the new indicator can be found at: https://www.epa.gov/ejscreen/overview-environmental-indicators-ejscreen.
The update uses the 2017-2021 American Community Survey demographic data from the U.S. Census and refreshed EPA data for the environmental indicators. EJScreen 2.2 features new map layers on health disparities including cancer and persons with disabilities; critical service gaps on accessibility to housing, health insurance, transportation; and EPA-regulated facilities that are currently or have been out of compliance with environmental laws and regulations.
Training: EPA is holding multiple trainings and office hours for users on EJScreen 2.2. Each training will feature the same content and will be accessible via Zoom, registration is not required. More information can be found at: https://www.epa.gov/ejscreen/ejscreen-office-hours-training. The upcoming opportunities are listed below:
Training Date/Time/Link: July 5, 2023, at 12pm EST – Click here to join
Training Date/Time/Link: July 26, 2023, at 12pm EST – Click here to join
Office Hours Date/Time/Link: August 16, 2023, at 12pm EST – Click here to join
The Office Hours will be a chance for the public to talk with EPA EJScreen experts about many topics including how to use and apply the tool, technical issues, and any other questions.
EPA Announces Large Investment of Annual Water Infrastructure Funding for Tribes and Alaska Native Villages
This week EPA announced over $278 million in funding to improve access to safe and reliable drinking water and wastewater services for American Indian Tribes and Alaska Native Villages. This year EPA is providing its largest investment ever of annual water infrastructure funding to Tribes. The funding will help Tribes and Alaska Native Villages make significant investments in water infrastructure improvements to advance public health protections by improving compliance with existing water regulations, identifying and replacing lead service lines, and addressing harmful emerging contaminants in drinking water and wastewater, such as per- and polyfluorinated substances (PFAS).
The funding will be administered through the following programs:
- $64 million in FY 2023 Clean Water Indian Set-Aside (CWISA) through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and annual appropriation funds;
- $130.3 million in FY 2023 Drinking Water Infrastructure Grants through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and annual appropriation funds;
- $38.6 million in combined FY 2022 and FY 2023 Emerging Contaminants in Small or Disadvantaged Communities (EC-SDC) Tribal Grant Program through Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funds;
- $5.6 million in combined FY 2022 and FY 2023 Small, Underserved, and Disadvantaged Communities (SUDC) Tribal Grant Program through annual appropriation funds, and
- $39.6 million in FY 2023 Alaska Rural and Native Villages (ANV) Grant Program through annual appropriation funds.
Free Technical Assistance: Climate Change Risk Assessments from EPA’s Creating Resilient Water Utilities Initiative
Climate change poses significant challenges to drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater (water sector) utilities in fulfilling their public and environmental health missions. EPA’s Creating Resilient Water Utilities (CRWU) initiative provides the water sector and its stakeholders with practical tools, training, and technical assistance needed to increase their resilience to climate change. If you are a water utility, you can reach out to Aliza Furneaux on the CRWU team (Furneaux.email@example.com) to request technical assistance for your system. Responses would be appreciated no later than August 15, 2023. Please share this message with anyone else that may be interested in, and benefit from, this process.
To see how CRWU has assisted other water sector utilities across the nation, visit CRWU’s Adaptation Case Studies Map.
This technical assistance opportunity will promote a clear understanding of climate change and help to identify potential long-term adaptation options for decision-making related to implementation and infrastructure financing. Using the Resilient Strategies Guide (RSG) and Climate Resilience Evaluation and Awareness Tool (CREAT), participating utilities can begin the process of assessing their risk from climate change. Recognizing the constraints of utility staff availability, EPA provides a targeted and efficient assistance process with substantial facilitation and technical support throughout. The process will take two to four months, depending on the tools used (RSG or CREAT), frequency of meetings, and availability of utility staff and local partners. Utilities are typically asked to designate a lead staff member to serve as a point-of-contact and spend around 35 to 40 hours participating in webinars and hosting an in-person site visit. EPA provides engineering and scientific support, tailored to the focus of the risk assessment. Depending on your utility’s capacity, the process can benefit from an additional 5 to 15 hours of expert staff time to support collecting data and providing feedback on meeting notes and the final report. Some relevant staff members may include hydrology modelers, engineers, and treatment plant managers.
This week the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) released a report that evaluated US environmental performance and identified future environmental challenges. It was noted that “high consumption levels, intensive agricultural practices, climate change and urban sprawl continue to put pressure on the natural environment.” Likewise, there are still significant disparities in population exposure to air pollution, but national averages of most air pollutants are down. Water quality has improved, but excess phosphorous remains a main threat and comprehensive information to monitor water quality is lacking as compared to other OECD countries.
Following the passage of the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the US is making significant investments in the health, equity and resilience of communities, allocating billions for direct environmental infrastructure efforts. While the US does incorporate .7% of GDP in environmentally related taxes, this is still less than ½ of the OECD average. At the federal level, the focus on environmental justice has been progressively strengthened and mainstreamed across government agencies. Key developments include the “Justice40 initiative to steer 40% of the benefits of relevant federal programs towards disadvantaged communities, as well as the creation of the Office of Environmental Justice and External Civil Rights within EPA.”
Plastic use in the United States has doubled between 1990 and 2019 – with Global plastic production, consumption and waste increasing exponentially since the middle of the 20th century. However, US plastic recycling rates lag behind other OECD countries. Likewise, “US policy response to address marine plastic and litter has several gaps.” National targets to reduce single-use plastics and to use recycled content, among others, could help put the United States on an advantageous path to reduce the impacts of plastic pollution.
More information about this report can be found here.
Effective Partnerships Between EPA and the States in Civil Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (2023)
This week EPA issued a new memo outlining the “Effective Partnerships Between EPA and States in Civil Enforcement and Compliance Assurance.” The first part of the memo articulates best practices for joint work planning and effective communication between EPA and states “to further the goal of shared accountability for the consistent enforcement of environmental laws. The second part discusses the respective roles of EPA and states in implementing authorized programs. The third part section sets out process by which issues that may arise under this policy will be elevated.” It has been noted by several readers that OECA removed reference to being deferential to states on enforcement and compliance actions. Whether this deletion will translate into an increase in unilateral federal actions, or in overfilling where states have already taken an action, is yet to be determined and EPA has not yet clarified their intent.
Notice – No Wrap The Week of July 3rd
In observance of the holiday, ACWA will not publish a Weekly Wrap next week. Look out for our next issue the week of July 10th.
ACWA 2023 Annual Meeting Draft Agenda and Registration Now Available
Register here for the 2023 Annual Meeting.
The hotel room block will close on July 14, 2023. Reserve your room now!
Meetings and Webinars
EPA Healthy and Resilient Communities Webinar – Available Tools to Advance Our Understanding of Cumulative Impacts
July 11th, 3-4:30 EST | Register Here | Certificate of Attendance available
EPA is working to improve its publicly available tools and analytical methods that help measure
community assets and vulnerabilities for analyzing changes in cumulative impacts from exposure to multiple chemical stressors in environmental media (air, water, land) and non-chemical stressors, such as social determinants of health and extreme weather events. This webinar will highlight three of these tools that can be used to assist in our understanding of cumulative impacts, particularly in communities already overburdened by disproportionate impacts that can arise from unequal environmental conditions. The presentations will be followed by a Q&A session.
- Marc Russell will highlight EPA’s Eco-Health Relationship Browser, a useful resource for anyone interested in nature’s positive contributions to cumulative impacts.It allows users to search through 1,200+ peer reviewed research articles using a visually dynamic web-based interface, which diagrams linkages between ecosystems, ecosystem services, and human health outcomes. The latest update adds hundreds of articles on air quality, water quality, urban heat islands, and engagement and recreation in green spaces and resulting physical and mental health effects.
- Kristen Rappazzo will highlight EPA’s Environmental Quality Index (EQI,a tool to help researchers better understand how health outcomes relate to cumulative environmental exposures that typically are viewed in isolation. It provides county-by-county snapshots of overall environmental quality data across the entire U.S. within five domains: air, water, land, built, and sociodemographic environments. An overview of the EQI and a summary of the health outcome research that has been conducted to date will be provided.
- Matthew Lee will highlight EPA’s Environmental Justice Screening and Mapping Tool (EJScreen), the Agency’s award-winning environmental justice (EJ) screening and mapping tool. It has recently been updated and enhanced with important improvements to better meet the needs of users and provide expanded insight into potential EJ concerns in overburdened communities. The update features new indicators on environmental burdens, socioeconomic factors, climate change, health, and critical service gaps.
EPA Tools & Resources Webinar: Tracking Nutrient Trends to Emerging HAB Issues via Estuary Data Mapper
Wednesday, July 19, 2023, 3-4 PM ET | Register Here | Certificate of Attendance Available
Over half the US population lives in coastal areas, including estuarine shorelines. EPA’s Estuary Data Mapper (EDM) continues to provide the infrastructure to support nationwide application of EPA data and tools for coastal environmental decision-making, including integration with other federal, regional, state and tribal datasets. EDM provides convenient one-stop data discovery, access to, and visualization of distributed multi-media datasets (e.g., atmospheric, marine/freshwater hydrologic/tidal and water quality, sediment quality, biology) for US coastal systems, with ~80,000 data downloads/month. Ongoing work is focused on four critical issues: prediction of harmful algal blooms (HABs); support for estuarine nutrient thresholds/criteria development; cost-effective watershed management to meet nutrient/sediment loading targets under changing climate; and access to stream/river thermal regime scenarios to meet temperature total maximum daily load (TMDL) requirements and protect cold water refuge areas for threatened/endangered anadromous salmonids for states and tribes.
This webinar will provide an overview of EDM and currently available data in the app to describe trends in estuarine condition, evaluate sensitivity of estuaries to nutrient loading and support applications to cost-effectively reduce nutrient loads to estuaries. Ongoing work to provide comprehensive datasets related to nutrient endpoints in estuaries and to evaluate emerging issues such as HABs in tidal freshwater and estuarine habitats will be described. In addition, methods are being developed to facilitate use of Sentinel 2 satellite imagery to map chlorophyll and predict HABs presence in freshwater tidal and estuarine systems.
HOLD THE DATE: EPA NTC CWA Call – September 7, 2023 (1:00pm – 2:00pm eastern)
Overview: This will be the second EPA-state meeting that focuses on CWA inspection targeting. At the first meeting (November 2, 2022) KY DEP and AZ DEQ gave presentations on “DMR Compliance Automation Efforts and Trend Analysis” and “GIS Targeting Platform, DMR Evaluation, Low SNC Rates,” respectively. We invite others states to share their insights on inspection targeting for the upcoming September 7th meeting. Please send an email to Carey Johnston (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you are interested in speaking at the upcoming meeting.
Administrative/Operations Manager II
Location: Santa Fe, NM
Closing Date: June 13, 2023
Job ID # 134839
Position # 12138
The Surface Water Quality Bureau (SWQB) preserves, protects, and improves New Mexico’s surface water quality for present and future generations. To support the SWQB Mission, this position coordinates New Mexico’s Nonpoint Source Management Program, which works to improve water quality where land use and unregulated activity are harming water quality and works to protect water quality where water quality standards are met. This is done through maintenance of a plan that is required by Section 319 of the Clean Water Act, applying for grant funds to implement the plan, managing budgets for federal grants and non-federal matching funds, carrying out procurement and sub-grant award processes to support watershed planning and implementation, supervising staff responsible for project management and for other tasks under the Nonpoint Source Management Program, conducting interagency coordination to develop projects and encourage water quality protection and improvement, and reporting.
If you are interested in applying, please visit NM’s Careers site to review the job posting and complete your application!
Senior Nonpoint Source Pollution and TMDL Implementation
Location: Lacey, WA
Closing Date: July 4th, 2023
For more information visit the State of Washington’s website.
Environmental Analyst – Lead Testing in Schools
Location: Providence, RI
Closing Date: July 9, 2023
As a NEIWPCC Environmental Analyst, you will manage and oversee the day-to-day objectives of the
Lead Testing in School and Child Care Program. You will develop, produce, and implement policies and
guidance for Rhode Island’s WIIN Act grant activities; develop needed contracts to fulfill the objectives
of the grant; manage contract deliverables and respond to inquiries from grant partners; develop a
sampling protocol with grant partners; develop communication plans in accordance with policies; track
outputs; and determine effectiveness of training, outreach and communication tools.
Submit a cover letter, resume, and writing sample by email to email@example.com. Please
reference #23-RIDOH-001 in the email subject line.
Water Quality Senior Environmental Engineer (Environmental Engineer 3)
Location: Coos Bay, Eugene, Medford, or Salem, Oregon (finalist may choose work location)
Closing Date: 7/23/2023
You will apply advanced environmental engineering knowledge of industrial and domestic wastewater treatment in the review of proposed wastewater planning documents, engineering reports, and engineering plans and specifications to ensure compliance with state and federal regulations, which include requirements for the protection of groundwater and waterways (surface water), and if applicable, Clean Water State Revolving Fund loan requirements. You will review technical reports, studies, and proposals for upgrades, modifications, and expansions for complex or innovative wastewater treatment systems for technical merit to decide on subsequent approval or disapproval. You will be responsible for monitoring complex industrial and domestic wastewater permittees to determine compliance with their federal National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) or state Water Pollution Control Facility (WPCF) permits, including conducting routine inspections, reviewing discharge monitoring reports, and conducting investigations. In addition, you will issue warning letters and pre-enforcement notices for permit violations and refer serious violations for formal enforcement.
For more information and to apply, visit Oregon Job Opportunities.
NPDES Permit Writer (Natural Resource Specialist 3)
Locations: Portland, Oregon and Eugene, Salem, or Medford, Oregon
Closing Date: 7/9/2023
You will develop and issue individual National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits regulating pollutant discharges to Oregon’s surface water from point source activities, including domestic and industrial wastewater as well as stormwater. You will deliver fact based, scientifically robust permits consistent with state and federal regulations intended to maintain or improve Oregon’s water quality. In addition, you will solve difficult NPDES permit-related problems, such as developing strategies for compliance with water quality standards or discharges to water quality limited water bodies.
For more information and to apply, visit Oregon Job Opportunities.
Permitting Compliance Specialist & Agronomist (Natural Resource Specialist 4)
Location: Bend, Pendleton, The Dalles, or Klamath Falls, Oregon (finalist may choose work location)
Closing Date: 7/9/2023
You will serve as the regional agronomy expert for land application activities providing technical assistance for both the water quality and solid waste programs and be responsible as the Subject Matter Expert for both NPDES and WPCF permitting staff. You will independently investigate major sites or complex facilities determining the approvability of treatment wastewater disposal or beneficial use applications and whether the systems are adequate to protect public health and waters of the state. You will make decisions on the type(s) of remedial action required for violations of the regulations. You will be responsible for drafting and issuing complex individual wastewater permits, performing compliance inspections, and ensuring enforcement for assigned, permitted sources. You will serve on State task forces, serve on advisory committees, and represent the agency in litigation, negotiation, and settlement of conflicts for crop, soil, fertilizer, and irrigation management in association with land application activities. In addition, you will serve as a consultant to co-workers, counties, cities, and wastewater treatment facilities on agronomy, biosolids, recycled water, industrial reuse, and wastewater treatment processes; provide technical assistance, compliance assurance, and enforcement for both industrial and domestic sewage sources and respond to complaints concerning water pollution; and consult with and advise managers, administrators, director, commissioners, legislators, and the public on existing or proposed laws, regulations, standards, and policies associated with agronomy and land application.
For more information and to apply, visit Oregon Job Opportunities.