EPA updates on lead, PFAS Staff from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reported at last week’s annual meeting of the agency’s National Drinking Water Advisory Council (NDWAC) that their focus is on finalizing a Revised Lead and Copper Rule and on regulatory determinations for some per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) compounds. The NDWAC meeting featured a review of ongoing federal rule development and rule implementations. EPA staff aim to issue the lead and copper rule by the end of this year or early next year. There seems to be pushback from some White House offices discouraging promulgation by the current administration. EPA also expects to finalize regulatory determinations, such as perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), the fifth proposed Contaminant Candidate List (CCL) and fifth Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR), in early 2021. We expect that under a new presidential administration there will be a revision of priorities. However, any revisions must still adhere to statutory schedules, such as those for the CCL, regulatory determinations and the UCMR. CDC survey on reopening buildings closes December 18 A survey by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about the needs and concerns of building owners and other stakeholders as they reopen buildings and building water systems closes Dec. 18. The center wants to determine how its Guidance for Reopening Buildings After Prolonged Shutdown or Reduced Operation is being received, plus future needs related to such guidance. Benefit-cost analysis is critical to SDWA AWWA has communicated to EPA’s Office of Water staff in person and by letter about the critical role benefit-cost analysis and opportunities to improve current practices for such analysis. Association staff also discussed related factors, such as statutory directives and executive orders. The current administration, the U.S. Congress and numerous advocates have highlighted and bemoaned the role of benefit-cost analysis in EPA rulemakings. In the closing days of the current administration, EPA is making a point of consolidating benefit-cost analysis expertise within a single specialized group in the Office of Water. U.S. defense bill includes limited PFAS provisions While there was an effort once again this year to include a wide array of provisions addressing PFAS in the annual U.S. National Defense Authorization Act, the bill agreed to by House and Senate negotiators only contains limited PFAS sections. The fiscal year 2021 bill contains the following provisions of interest to the water community: Creation of a federal interagency workgroup to coordinate research on PFAS; A ban on the U.S. Department of Defense procuring certain items containing PFOA and PFOS; Authorization of up to $15 million for health effects research at CDC; A requirement that the Department of Defense notify agricultural operations “within one mile downgradient” of a military facility or U.S. National Guard facility where PFAS have been detected in groundwater hydrologically linked to a local agricultural or drinking water source; and Creation of a cash prize program for the development of firefighting foams that do not contain PFAS. Expect more PFAS-related legislation to be introduced in the next session of Congress beginning in January. The House passed the bill by a veto-proof margin Tuesday and Senate action is expected soon. President Trump has threatened to veto the measure because it does not contain a provision addressing legal protections that social media companies have and because it does contain a measure mandating the renaming of military bases named after Confederate generals. U.S. House approves bare-bones water resources bill Hopes were high earlier this year that Congress would pass significant drinking water and wastewater infrastructure legislation, but the final package the House approved Tuesday was stripped down to only include U.S. Corps of Engineers projects. Senate action is expected soon. Congress usually passes what is called the “water resources development act,” or WRDA, every two years, focusing primarily on Corps projects. However, in recent cycles, Congress has expanded WRDA to include drinking water, wastewater and stormwater infrastructure measures as well. One example was the creation of the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act program in 2014’s WRDA. Last May, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works passed a pair of bills, S. 3590 and S. 3591 , the latter being a typical WRDA and wastewater infrastructure bill and the former focused on drinking water infrastructure. The House passed its own Corps-focused WRDA bill in July. The bill that emerged from the House-Senate conference was a Corps-only bill as well. A key issue was the Senate’s strong rules on budget scores for individual bills. Water organizations and their members had spent considerable time communicating to Congress about these bills. AWWA and the other associations will continue to work on water infrastructure issues during the next Congressional session, which convenes in January. One focus will be on economic recovery legislation. Court decision on Maui spurs new NPDES guidance As reported in the last issue of the Insider, EPA is following up on the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent County of Maui v. Hawaii Wildlife Fund decision with a draft guidance memorandum to address a new set of circumstances when a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit is required. The Supreme Court determined that a permit is required for a discharge of pollutants from a point source that reaches “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) after traveling through groundwater if that discharge is the “functional equivalent of a direct discharge from the point source into navigable waters.” EPA also released a pre-publication Federal Register notice which, as of this writing, has not been published. Once published, there is a 30-day comment period. EPA’s proposed approach is premised on there being an actual or planned discharge to WOTUS rather than the potential for a discharge to WOTUS occurring. Post-fire mitigation funds available through FEMA The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is making more than $50 million in post-fire assistance funding available through its Fire Mitigation Assistance Grants (FMAG) program in 12 states to address erosion control, reforestation and infrastructure retrofit projects. According to FEMA’s implementation guidance , this includes “replacing water systems that have been burned and have caused contamination.” FEMA observes that “Wildfires generate intense heat that can adversely impact water system components both on the surface and underground. If intense heat modifies the chemical properties of water system components, chemicals might leach into the water, causing contamination. Infrastructure retrofits that reduce future risk to existing utility systems, including water systems, are eligible for [Hazard Mitigation Assistance] HMA funding. The mitigation measures that are applied to the utility system can be multi-hazard to address more than just the hazard that caused the damage. Because HMA grants can be used to address undamaged portions of a utility system, they can be used to mitigate system components that have not been damaged but have properties like other systems that have sustained damage as well as undamaged portions of systems that have been partially damaged.” States, federally recognized tribes and territories affected by fires with an FMAG declaration on or after Oct. 5, 2018, are eligible to apply. Water systems in Arizona, California, Florida, Colorado, Hawaii, Montana, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming that may have been impacted by a FMAG-declared fire are encouraged to work with state emergency management to apply for this support. Questions can also be directed to the FEMA Grants Policy Branch at firstname.lastname@example.org . ‘Internet of Things’ cybersecurity act signed into law In a major step forward to secure the Internet of Things (IoT), President Trump signed Public Law No: 116-207 on Dec. 4. The law addresses the supply chain risk posed by insecure IoT devices by establishing minimum security requirements for the procurement of connected devices by the federal government. The “Internet of Things” is a way to describe networks of physical objects embedded with sensors, software and similar technologies in order to exchange data with other devices over the internet. More specifically, the law directs the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to develop and publish within 90 days standards on the appropriate use and management of IoT devices owned or controlled by a federal agency and/or connected to information systems owned or controlled by a federal agency. This includes minimum information security requirements for managing cybersecurity risks associated with such devices. Given the purchasing power of the federal government, this law will lead IoT manufacturers to pay more attention to the hardware and software they embed in devices, build security features into devices and make important information available to the organizations and consumers who utilize IoT devices. Non-federal entities, such as water utilities and other critical infrastructures, will benefit from the development of these NIST standards as they will provide an important baseline for guiding procurement decisions that align with cybersecurity risk management criteria. This is especially important as the water sector considers the application of myriad automation technologies, including the deployment of 5G connectivity. The rush to market IoT devices often results in security being a lower priority, making many IoT devices low-hanging fruit for criminals interested in stealing sensitive data and accessing exposed networks.