AWWA members urge Congress to assist water customers and utilities While U.S. congressional and White House negotiators continue to slug it out over the next COVID-19 relief package, AWWA issued a legislative advisory to its members, asking them to urge Congress to provide assistance to water customers and utilities. Although negotiations appeared bogged down, talks continued late in the week over what could be in the next package. The U.S. House passed a $3.5 trillion package – H.R. 6800 – in May that contains some assistance for state and local governments. The U.S. Senate previously resisted adding more aid to those entities but this week made a counteroffer of some assistance in its own $1.1 trillion package. Many members of Congress probably do not realize that assistance to local governments does not guarantee that any aid will find its way to local water utilities. In addition, the aid package enacted this spring -- the CARES Act -- carries a provision specifically prohibiting the use of its funding to compensate for lost utility revenues. The White House has threatened to walk out on talks if there is no agreement by today, but all sides continued talking after each has previously drawn lines in the sand. U.S. EPA finalizes rule codifying lead-free definition The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a final rule July 29 codifying the Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act of 2011 (RLDWA) and the Community Fire Safety Act of 2013 . The RLDWA amended section 1417 of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), which prohibits the use and introduction into commerce of plumbing products that are not “lead free” for providing water for human consumption. RLDWA has been in effect since January 2014. AWWA, in collaboration with the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials, National Sanitation Foundation, Plumbing Manufacturers International and the Association of State Drinking Water Administrators, prepared a factsheet describing how the agency’s final rule incorporates and modifies current practice. New report on how Forest Service, utilities can collaborate on source water protection AWWA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service this week jointly issued a report detailing ways that the Forest Service and water utilities can collaborate on source water protection opportunities. Drinking water for millions of Americans originates on Forest Service lands, providing prime opportunities to protect drinking water sources through collaborations. The report walks through the organization and programs of the Forest Service and includes examples of recent collaborative projects to help protect sources of drinking water, both on Forest Service lands and other forested lands where technical assistance can be provided. Utilities with source waters that originate on forested lands are encouraged to read the report and reach out to Forest Service representatives to discuss local protection opportunities. New York finalizes new PFAS, dioxane standards New York State announced new maximum contaminant levels (MCLs) for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) of 10 ng/L, for perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) of 10 ng/L, and for 1,4-dioxane of 1 µg/L. These levels, announced July 30, are consistent with last year’s proposal . The MCLs will be immediately effective on publication in the New York State Register. Systems must request a deferral of actions triggered by an MCL violation within 90 days of the effective date. Systems may obtain an initial deferral of two years, with the possibility of one additional year’s deferral. Deferral is contingent on progress toward reducing contaminant level in delivered water, interim monitoring and public communications. Two federal drinking water regulations currently in review Two drinking water regulations are currently in review at the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB): the final Lead and Copper Rule (LCR) Revisions and the proposal for the Fifth Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR). The lead rule revisions are now in review under Executive Order 12866, with OMB acknowledging receipt on July 31. Under the executive order, OMB has 90 days to review the final rule. EPA has repeatedly indicated that the rule would be finalized before the end of September. Having reached this step in the process, the agency will need OMB to provide an expedited inter-agency review, but a coordinated effort could accommodate a faster-paced review. The proposal for the fifth UCMR also went to OMB in the closing days of July, setting the stage for its release in October or November, assuming a higher priority is placed on finalizing the LCR revisions. This UCMR will include monitoring for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances. EPA now has two drinking water methods primed for that rulemaking, EPA Method 533 and EPA Method 537.1 . The proposal will also provide insight into whether EPA believes it has adequate funding to support obtaining samples from all water systems serving between 3,300 and 10,000 people, rather than the current statistical sample for that category of system sizes. U.S. House interested in rewriting water regulatory processes At a July 28 hearing , several members of the U.S. House Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change voiced support for changing the way EPA develops drinking water regulations. One way considered by members would be to do away with factoring cost-benefit analysis into the process. Critics say cost-benefit factors are counted twice, once in feasibility studies and again in studies looking solely at costs and benefits. Draft legislation is being developed to eliminate the latter but expect to see a real push for rewriting the regulatory determination processes of the SDWA to come in the next session of Congress. AWWA submitted written testimony for the hearing, stating, “EPA, state drinking water agencies and drinking water utilities do need to know where to focus resources to address the greatest risks to public health. This led to the process developed for the 1996 amendments to the SDWA, in which occurrence and health effects data is gathered before deciding to regulate a particular substance based on the substance’s potential risk to public health. We understand that this process can be frustratingly slow. “However, a scientific, risk-based and data-driven process is indeed going to take a significant amount of time. We caution against by-passing such processes, which may result in ineffective use of limited resources.” U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, D-NJ and chair of the full U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce, said, “The first fundamental problem is that the current water standard setting process, developed in 1996 through changes to the law, simply does not work. Right now, there are 90 drinking water standards in place covering contaminants or groups of contaminants, and all but six of those standards were established before the 1996 changes. “The six standards put in place since then were all established under special statutory procedures. So, in the last 24 years, the EPA has not been able to set a drinking water standard under the general process.” Testifying at the hearing were Shellie Chard of the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality, Diane VanDe Hei of the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies and Mae Wu of the Natural Resources Defense Council.