| AWWA “Fly-In” agenda: PFAS, source water protection, infrastructure funding
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AWWA “Fly-In” agenda: PFAS, source water protection, infrastructure funding

More than 120 delegates from the American Water Works Association (AWWA) will meet with their U.S. senators and representatives in Washington, D.C., March 22 to discuss water policy and legislation during the 2023 “Water Matters! Fly-In.”

Tom Barger, Allison Spinelli, 2023 Water Matters! Fly-InAWWA’s Water Utility Council (WUC) hosts the annual event to advance the Association’s legislative agenda on Capitol Hill and elevate AWWA and its members as expert sources of information on water issues. Sections coordinate their state’s delegations, which meet in person with their congressional representatives during the event.

This year’s event will include a celebration in which AWWA, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other water partners recognize the 100th loan granted through the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) program that AWWA crafted and championed. The loan is one of two -- totaling $115 million – that were approved to help Santa Clara Valley Water District in California finance water supply and flood control projects.

During the Fly-In, delegates will advocate for the following action items with their Congressional representatives:

  • A liability exemption for water systems under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), known as Superfund, in contamination events involving per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)
  • A co-regulatory model for cybersecurity is the preferred approach and addition to support for capacity development and funding to implement best practices
  • Support for the continuation and expansion of source water protection provisions in the 2023 Farm Bill 
  • Support for water infrastructure finance by:
    • Funding the drinking water and wastewater state revolving loan fund (SRF) programs and the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) program at authorized levels
    • Halting the practice of removing funding for congressional directed spending out of annual SRF appropriations
    • Restoring the tax-exempt benefits of advanced refunding of municipal bonds

WUC members Tom Barger and Allison Spinelli will be among those participating in this year’s Fly-In. Both have attended in past years and encourage AWWA members to get involved. 

“My intent at each Fly-In is to emphasize the importance of drinking water related issues with specific local examples to demonstrate the need, benefit and importance of legislative support,” said Barger, water quality manager with South Central Connecticut Regional Water Authority. “I also try to make a connection with the legislative offices and provide them with a resource that they can then reach out to if issues or questions arise in the future.”

Spinelli is engineering manager with Orange Water and Sewer Authority (OWASA). “Water is such an important part of the environment, but I often feel that it is taken for granted so any opportunity to bring water to the forefront of a discussion is great,” she said.

“There are many important issues that the North Carolina delegation plans to bring to Capitol Hill, and the two of most interest to OWASA are the support for the ‘polluter pays’ principle for PFAS cleanup and more support to invest in the nation’s water infrastructure through state revolving loan fund programs and other opportunities,” she added.

Spinelli noted that participating in the Fly-In, as well as the WUC, are valuable learning opportunities, especially for younger utility members.

“The connections and the ability to have a greater pool of resources from which to ask questions are invaluable,” she said.