U.S. Senate approves water infrastructure bill 89-2 The U.S. Senate approved its drinking water and wastewater infrastructure bill, S. 914 , by 89-2 on Thursday. The Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act of 2021 would reauthorize the state revolving loan funds (SRF) for both water sectors and reauthorize the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act program (WIFIA). More specifically, it would double authorized funding for the drinking water SRF and slightly increase SRF funding for wastewater projects, thus providing both with equal amounts of funding. The bill would also mandate that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) conduct a study of water systems with a disproportionate number of low-income customers and issue a report to Congress with recommendations for helping them. Then, within 90 days, the agency would have to set up a pilot grant program involving 40 water utilities to try out customer assistance efforts. The bill now goes to the House of Representatives. However, the House has two bills of its own that deal with drinking water infrastructure and one dealing with wastewater infrastructure. All those bills would provide much more funding for water infrastructure. Therefore, it is likely that a House-Senate conference will need to be convened – after the House passes its bills – to iron out a single water infrastructure bill. Virtual Fly-In connects AWWA delegates with Capitol Hill AWWA’s virtual Fly-In concludes today with Section delegates wrapping up two weeks of online meetings with their members of Congress on issues such as water infrastructure, lead and per- and polyfluorinated substances (PFAS). Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting travel hazards and restrictions, this year’s Fly-In was conducted virtually. However, the Water Utility Council, host of the event, hopes to return to an in-person Fly-In in 2022. This year’s participants prepared for the Fly-In by attending earlier webinars that described how to conduct online congressional meetings and an overview of the Association issues to bring before Congress. The Fly-In meetings were timely, as the U.S. Senate began floor debate this week on a water infrastructure bill, S. 914. The Fly-In is an annual AWWA spring event. Section leaders choose delegates to gather in Washington for briefings and discussions on legislative issues affecting drinking water issues. Then they meet on Capitol Hill with their Congressional representatives and senators, scheduled strategically so as not to set up multiple meetings with the same member of Congress to discuss the same issues. EPA announces FY2021 WIFIA funding; accepting letters of interest EPA is accepting letters of interest through July 23 from water utilities and others interested in applying for a WIFIA loan for fiscal year 2021. Congress provided the agency with seed money for FY2021 to provide $6.5 billion in loans. Because WIFIA provides loans for up to 49% of a project’s costs, the $6.5 billion in loan funding amounts to more than $13 billion being invested in the nation’s water infrastructure. EPA is offering webinars at 2 p.m. EDT May 18 and June 1 for staff from municipal entities, state agencies, tribal governments and others to learn more about the letter of interest and application selection processes. There are no fees associated with a letter of interest. A letter triggers a dialogue with WIFIA staff to determine whether the interested entity should proceed to the formal application phase, for which there are fees. EPA also announced it is accepting letters of interest from state agencies until June 25 for loans under a WIFIA-like program designed just for state water agencies. AWWA, EPA offering finance workshop AWWA and EPA are providing a virtual workshop Aug. 25-26 to discuss ways in which WIFIA, the drinking water and wastewater SRF and other programs can work together to support U.S. utility water infrastructure financing. The workshop will feature interactive sessions with finance experts from within and outside of the water sector. The workshop will be held during two half-day sessions on those dates. Registration is available online . EPA forms PFAS council EPA Administrator Michael Regan on Thursday announced the establishment of a council composed of senior EPA career staff to “identify pragmatic approaches that deliver critical protections to the American public.” Radhika Fox, principal deputy assistant administrator for water, and Deb Szaro, New England acting regional administrator, will co-chair the council. The Senate received Fox’s nomination to be assistant administrator for water this week. In other PFAS-related developments, EPA received a petition from EarthJustice and a coalition of other organizations calling on EPA to discontinue several pre-manufacture notice exemptions under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) when manufacturers submit new PFAS for review. EPA issued a statement indicating that it would halt use of “low-volume exemption.” This step is intended to provide additional time for the TSCA staff to evaluate PFAS chemicals. Registration open for M/DBP virtual engagement Registration is still open for EPA’s May 20 Stakeholder Virtual Engagement on Disinfectant Residual Levels and Opportunistic Pathogens. EPA has also announced the topics for its June 24 virtual engagement, Regulated and Unregulated Disinfection Byproducts and Consecutive Drinking Water Systems. The Association for State Drinking Water Administrators recently highlighted state concerns regarding this rulemaking. Returning to themes that arose in last October’s virtual event, states expressed concerns with consecutive-system compliance with DBP compliance and noted the importance of an improved regulatory paradigm over the current federal “detectable” secondary disinfectant residual standard. AWWA’s Martin named to Women in Standards board Women in Standards recently named Barb Martin to its Board of Directors. Martin is AWWA’s director of engineering and technical services. Women in Standards is a community of standardization contributors, users, participants, professionals and service providers. Established by women working in standardization, the organization promotes inclusion in standardization, participation by all stakeholders, and provides support and education to assist our community in learning about standardization, finding the right standards committee for them, and growing their network. “From volunteer contributors to product end users, all stakeholders benefit from an inclusive standardization process,” said Martin. “As a Board member, I am looking forward to contributing to advance the important mission of Women in Standards to promote diversity in standards development.” Drinking Water Week starts Sunday Drinking Water Week begins Sunday, May 2, beginning seven days of highlighting the different ways tap water is “There When You Need It.” To commemorate the week, water utilities, water organizations, government entities, environmental advocates, schools and others throughout North America and beyond will encourage consumers to learn more about the importance of water and water infrastructure, especially in times of crisis. AWWA is hosting a photo contest with a $100 Amazon gift card prize. Drinking Water Week materials are available for free download here .