U.S. EPA reaffirms perchlorate decision On January 20, 2021, President Biden issued Executive Order 13990 , which directed federal agencies to review regulations promulgated within the past four years. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced yesterday that it completed a review under this directive of the July 2020 determination to not regulate perchlorate in drinking water. The agency concluded that the 2020 decision is supported by the best available peer reviewed science. The agency noted that it will continue to consider new information on the health effects and occurrence of perchlorate. This decision does not impact any state standards for perchlorate. EPA will continue to consider if perchlorate should be added to future Contaminant Candidate Lists for possible regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). AWWA has tracked EPA’s efforts and participated throughout the regulatory process. The Association is on record as recommending that EPA not regulate perchlorate under SDWA and reassessed this position repeatedly in response to new information and supported the final decision in 2020. AWWA cites concerns over IIJA implementation AWWA thanked Congress and the Biden Administration for water infrastructure funds provided in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), but also cited some concerns about its implementation in a letter submitted for a hearing record Tuesday. Those concerns were as follows: The volume of money and tasks now placed upon EPA and state agencies. The IIJA distributes lead service line replacement money according to the current formula for distributing state revolving loan funds (SRF) among states – based on the latest needs survey – which does not necessarily match where lead lines are the greatest problem. The new “Build America Buy America” requirements present a learning curve for stakeholders, and the waiver process will need to be transparent and expeditious. Water systems that have never applied for a SRF loan before – particularly smaller systems – will need assistance assessing their needs, building asset management and capital improvement plans, and applying for loans. Medium-sized systems are too big to receive help from small system assistance programs but may not have full-time staff dedicated to navigating financial assistance programs. The House Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change held the hearing to look at the state of the nation’s water infrastructure and to discuss implementation of the IIJA so far. FBI issues warning for local government, public services The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) issued an advisory warning of increased ransomware attacks on local government agencies that have resulted in disrupted operational services, risks to public safety and financial losses. The top three initial points for infection in 2021 were phishing emails, remote desktop protocol exploitation and software vulnerability exploitation. Continued remote work and learning environments likely exacerbated and expanded the attack surface and challenged network defenders. The advisory includes multiple recommended actions entities can take to mitigate cyber threats and address common vulnerabilities. The FBI does not encourage paying ransoms. Regardless of the decision to pay a ransom, the FBI urges entities to report ransomware incidents as soon as possible to a local FBI field office . EPA proposes rule for worst-case discharges EPA has issued a proposed rule to require planning for worst-case discharges of hazardous substances under the Clean Water Act (CWA). The rule would target onshore non-transportation-related facilities that could reasonably be expected to cause substantial harm to the environment by discharging CWA hazardous substances into navigable waters, adjoining shorelines or exclusive economic zone. The action is the result of a consent decree approved by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, mandating that EPA propose a rule by March 12 and produce a final rule within 30 months. Public drinking water is specifically highlighted as an area of risk for substantial harm. Concern for source water protection based on the Freedom Industry spill in Charleston, W. Va., was the key justification for Section 2018 in America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 . This provision requires notification to downstream water systems of a spill and providing those utilities with access to Tier 2 data that could inform source water protection plans and considerations for emergency response options. AWWA will review the proposal and develop comments, due to EPA by May 27. President Biden releases 2023 budget proposal The Biden Administration released its fiscal year 2023 budget proposal this week, requesting $1.126 billion for the drinking water SRF program, $1.64 billion for the wastewater SRF, $80 million for the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act program (WIFIA), $1.2 billion for various grant programs to address infrastructure needs and bolster sustainability and a substantial increase in the number of full-time EPA employees. EPA’s total budget would increase by $2.6 billion over enacted FY2022 levels to $11.9 billion. That request for the SRFs matches enacted levels from the last year – not counting the boost from the IIJA – but the WIFIA request is an increase of $15 million. That figure includes administrative costs and funding for the state-oriented program similar to WIFIA called SWIFIA. The president’s annual budget proposal does not have binding authority but lays out the president’s spending priorities for the coming year and generally serves as a potential guide for Congress during the appropriations process. EPA, states continue actions on PFAS As EPA works toward proposing a national primary drinking water regulation for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), the agency has sought input from various stakeholders for the forthcoming rule. Engagement activities have included collecting input on draft health effects, assessment approaches, impacts on small water systems, perspectives from states and local government, and potential environmental justice considerations. These activities will continue over the next few weeks, including a meeting on April 19 with the National Drinking Water Advisory Council to seek input on potential aspects of the rule and a meeting Tuesday to discuss potential environmental justice considerations . Meanwhile, states have continued their own efforts to address PFAS. On March 17, California recommended a 2 ppt notification level for perfluorohexanesulfonic acid (PFHxS) in drinking water. That state has already set notification levels for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), and perfluorobutanesulfonic acid (PFBS). In Pennsylvania, the state is considering proposed drinking water standards of 14 ppt for PFOA and 18 ppt for PFOS. The state held public meetings for the proposal last week and is accepting comments through April 27. Treasury provides examples of ARPA projects The U.S. Department of the Treasury has issued a document providing examples of projects being funded by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) of 2021, and several are water utility projects. This is a list of project highlights and not a comprehensive study of how the funds are being used. The document lists funding for lead service line replacement projects: Elkhart, Ind., $3 million; Malden, Mass., $1.4 million; Bay City, Mich., $2 million; and Buffalo, N.Y., $10 million. Monroe, La., received $13 million for a water treatment plant; DeKalb, Ill., hired seven water employees; and Jackson, Miss., received $14.4 million for water infrastructure in traditionally underserved areas. The Barona Band of Mission Indians in California is exploring how to connect to a nearby water system using ARPA funds while maintaining its sovereignty. Treasury’s website on the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds program funded under ARPA notes that local governments got the first tranche of funds last May and the second tranche is to be distributed about a year later. Treasury’s online portal for applying for funds remains open. Forest Service overhauls ‘Forests to Faucets’ The U.S. Forest Service has issued the “Forests to Faucets 2.0” data set, a tool utilities can use to assist with source water protection discussions and to enhance outreach and education about their watersheds. An update to a 2011 document, this set of data and tools visualizes information such as the importance of various watersheds to surface water used as drinking water, potential threats to surface water, the amount of forested area and its ownership and other key pieces of information.