U.S. Congress facing complex infrastructure, spending talks The U.S. House of Representatives faces complex negotiations over infrastructure and spending proposals when it returns to Washington, D.C., Monday after its August recess. The U.S. Senate on Aug. 10 passed its version of H.R. 3684 , a carefully negotiated, bipartisan infrastructure bill with significant features for the water sector (see Aug. 6 Insider ), and the legislation will now be taken up by the House. At the same time, congressional Democrats are working to advance a wider-ranging budget reconciliation bill focused on human infrastructure and combatting climate change. The budget reconciliation process allows Senate Democrats to avoid a filibuster and approve up to $3.5 trillion in spending, per the most recent budget resolution, with a simple majority vote. House sources tell us there is significant pressure from leadership to pass H.R. 3684 as is, although various groups seek changes such as increasing funding levels or eliminating the bill’s streamlining of the environmental permitting process. The version of H.R. 3684 that the House passed earlier this summer contained several changes to drinking water law, and some House Democrats are unhappy that those policy items are no longer in the bill. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has said she will not hold a floor vote on H.R. 3684 until the Senate passes the larger reconciliation package. However, a group of nine moderate Democrats representing swing districts have said they will not vote for the reconciliation package until H.R. 3684 has passed the House and been signed into law. As a possible compromise, Pelosi has asked the House Rules Committee to explore approving a rule that would advance H.R. 3684 and the reconciliation package to the full House simultaneously. Drinking water projects top WIFIA requests The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced this week that it received 50 letters of interest from entities seeking $8.2 billion in fiscal year 2021 funding for loans from the Water Infrastructure Finance and innovation Act (WIFIA) program. AWWA was the prime mover in getting WIFIA enacted in 2014. The letters of interest for this round mostly came on behalf of drinking water projects. EPA has $6.5 billion to loan from FY2021 funding. A letter of interest is an early step in seeking a loan and triggers a dialogue with EPA staff. Entities virtually certain to receive a loan will be invited to proceed to the formal application phase. The proposed projects are in 25 states, with 22 being drinking water projects, 16 wastewater, two stormwater, one water reuse and nine instances in which a combination of projects would be rolled into one loan. Since its inception, the WIFIA program has closed on 52 loans that are providing $10.5 billion in credit assistance, creating more than 54,000 jobs and saving ratepayers more than $4 billion. WIFIA closes two more loans In other WIFIA news, EPA announced this week that it closed on two loans totaling $143 million to the Silicon Valley Clean Water Commission and a $25 million loan to the Oro Loma Sanitary District, both in California. The projects are expected to create 2,500 jobs. Silicon Valley Water will use a $69 million loan to help finance a sewer conveyance upgrade and a $74 million loan to support upgrades to a wastewater treatment plant. Together, these projects will enable the utility to supply all its energy needs. It will also save the utility about $133 million in financing costs. The loan to Oro Loma will help finance a pipeline rehabilitation and replacement project, providing customers with more reliable wastewater service and protecting the community and nearby waterways from sewer overflows. The utility expects to see 1,000 fewer maintenance hours every year and a $100,000 reduction in annual operating costs. Financing through WIFIA is expected to save the utility $6 million. Colorado River hits new management threshold The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation announced 2022 operating conditions for Lake Powell and Lake Mead. In doing so, it accounted for continued lower flows in this multi-state water supply and triggered a previously unutilized restriction on withdrawals. Arizona will lose 18% of its share from the river next year. Nevada will lose about 7% of its allocation, but conservation efforts are expected to blunt the impact. Mexico will see a reduction of roughly 5%. EPA releases draft PFBA risk assessment EPA’s Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) Program announced the release of a draft IRIS Toxicological Review of Perfluorobutanoic Acid (PFBA) and Related Compound Ammonium Perfluorobutanoic Acid . EPA’s IRIS assessments are used to support its decision-making, including drinking water regulatory determinations. Reference doses (RfDs) are developed for both chronic exposure, based on term liver and thyroid effects, and subchronic exposure, developmental effects. An oral RfD of 0.001 mg/kg/day was selected based on these exposures. Carcinogenicity and genotoxicity were evaluated as part of the assessment but only one study was found, which did not observe any genotoxicity effects. In comparison with the , the PFBA RfD is 50 times higher. There will be a 60-day public comment period (Docket # EPA-HQ-ORD-2020-0675 on Regulations.gov ). The docket will open with publication of a Federal Register notice . EPA will also issue a parallel notice to solicit nominations of experts to participate in the peer review for PFBA and four other per- and polyfluoroalkyl substance (PFAS) risk assessments that are currently underway -- perfluorodecanoic acid (PFDA), perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA), perfluorohexanoic acid (PFHxA), and perfluorohexanesulfonic acid (PFHxS). New climate report includes stronger warnings The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations-sponsored group of climate scientists and related practitioners, recently issued a report with stronger and more certain warnings about increasingly rapid and widespread changes in the earth’s climate. The “ Assessment Report 5 Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis ” compiles and analyzes climate science from hundreds of reports, models and data sets to document the best current knowledge of the physical basis for climate change and general future scenarios. In this issuance by the organization’s Working Group 1 , the warnings about existing change and likely future change have become stronger and more certain. This report does not specifically analyze the impacts to sectors such as drinking water, wastewater, storm water and reuse. However, “Working Group 2” is tasked with assessing the impacts, adaptation and vulnerability, and is expected to issue its report later in the year. That report will likely contain considerably more sector-specific information. Utilities are encouraged to keep apprised on locally relevant climate projections to assist with long term planning and resilience activities. AWWA also has a compendium of Climate Change resources available. EPA creates panel on consumer confidence reports EPA recently launched creation of a workgroup under the National Drinking Water Advisory Council (NDWAC) to provide recommendations for the revision of the consumer confidence report rule (CCR) as required by Section 2008 of America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 . This workgroup will discuss four key issues over the upcoming months with the intention of delivering recommendations to the full NDWAC for their December meeting. Utilities interested can view the workgroup page to view meetings as observers and review agendas and other materials. This workgroup is one step in the process toward revising the CCR rule. There will be additional opportunities for public comment, a proposal, a final rule and subsequently a compliance schedule. While this process is under way, the current CCR rule remains in effect. EPA releases 4th edition of HHBP list EPA has published its 2021 update of the Human Health Benchmarks for Pesticides (HHBPs) in water. EPA prepares HHBPs using toxicity information available through pesticide registration and registration review. There are 430 benchmarks. The 2021 HHBP benchmarks were calculated with updated exposure assumptions. There are 104 pesticides with updated toxicity values and 43 newly included pesticides. HHBPs are not legally enforceable federal standards. HHBPs are intended to serve as an informational resource for states, tribes, water systems and the public. HHBPs are calculated using methodologies similar to the calculation of a maximum contaminant level goal. USGS has published several studies utilizing HHBPs or similarly calculated benchmark values as a point of reference. EWG review period open for upcoming public report The Environmental Working Group (EWG), an advocacy organization, is updating its “National Drinking Water Database” in preparation for a public report later this year. As in years past, EWG invites utilities to review local water quality information for accuracy. The review period closes Aug. 31. The EWG database, first released in 2005, is a compilation of water quality information from U.S. drinking water systems. Updates are typically released through an advocacy report that draws attention from local and national media. When accessing the report , the username is “water” and the password is “utility.” Instructions on how to provide corrections to data to EWG are available there. AWWA is not a partner on this project, and many utilities have expressed concern about the presentation and accuracy of data in previous EWG reports.