AWWA witness provides insights into lead control Stephen Estes-Smargiassi of the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority testified on behalf of AWWA before the U.S. House Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change on the need for a revised Lead and Copper Rule that advances lead service line replacement and strengthens protection of consumers in other areas as well. The hearing was the day before public comments were due on a draft rule issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). AWWA had submitted its formal comments the prior week. Estes-Smargiassi, who serves as his system’s director of planning and sustainability, emphasized the following themes in his testimony: the new rule should be implementable in the field, maintain effective corrosion control, promote effective technical solutions and be understandable. Estes-Smargiassi is chair of AWWA’s Lead and Copper Technical Advisory Workgroup, which advises the Water Utility Council. Other witnesses were a Michigan physician active in Flint, and representatives of Clean Water Action of New Jersey, the Association of State Drinking Water Administrators, Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the National Association of Counties. EPA accepting applications for lead remediation EPA announced Wednesday that it is accepting applications for grants to help disadvantaged communities remove sources of lead from drinking water systems and schools. The programs were authorized under the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) of 2016. The agency expects to award one to three grants – totaling $17.1 million – to assist drinking water systems. It expects to award three to 12 grants – totaling $22.8 million – to reduce lead in schools and childcare facilities. The application deadline is April 20. AWWA publishes “Protecting the Water Sector’s Critical Infrastructure Information” AWWA recently published “ Protecting the Water Sector’s Critical Infrastructure Information ” to provide water utilities with a summary of state level protections available to review in preparation to comply with Section 2013 of America’s Water Infrastructure Act . The report provides excerpts of the relevant statutory text addressing the protections provided for information that may be included in a risk and resilience assessment and/or an emergency response plan. Read Feb. 20’s Security Advisory for additional information. USDA releases interim rule for source water program The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently released its interim final rule for the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). RCPP is one of the programs through which utilities can collaborate with other entities to address source water protection needs (such as Beaver Water District, Ark., did, as highlighted in the Feb. 13 edition of AWWA Connections). The rule mentions that source water protection is now a priority of the program as it works to implement the 2018 Farm Bill requirements for prioritizing source water protection. Utilities should consider reaching out to their local NRCS office, conservation district and other partners to plan for the next RCPP application period , which is likely to begin in June. AWWA also has resources available to assist utilities on its source water protection resource page . New communication resources available Today’s digital media environment requires water utilities to build public trust through frequent, proactive communications and to be prepared for media events that can threaten to damage relationships with customers and the broader public. To help utilities better understand and succeed in this new communications culture, AWWA has released a new risk communication guide, Trending in an Instant: A Risk Communication Guide for Water Utilities. The full, 80-page guide (member login required first to view) is available as a benefit of AWWA utility membership. A smaller executive summary version is available to all AWWA members. AWWA also released a new resource, A Safe Drinking Water Information System (SDWIS) Communication Resource , to support water professionals in their efforts to communicate clearly and effectively about SDWIS. EPA issues two more WIFIA loans; releases annual report EPA has announced the issuance of loans of $40 million to the Toho Water Authority in Florida and $59 million to the Coachella Valley Water District for major water infrastructure projects. The agency has also issued its 2019 annual report for the WIFIA program, noting that the program has issued 14 loans totaling more than $3.5 billion, saving borrowers $1.2 billion compared to what they would have incurred by issuing bonds alone. The Toho project will involve repair, rehabilitation and replacement of sewer mains, sewer lines and manholes. It will reduce the number of emergency failures and inflow and infiltration into the water authority’s existing gravity sewer system. The Coachella project will help finance stormwater channel improvements to better manage heavy rains, which will help protect the quality of surface waters and public health. GAO recommends network of advisors for resiliency The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has issued a report recommending that EPA establish a network of technical advisors nationwide to assist drinking water and wastewater utilities in handling extreme weather events related to climate change. The report noted that EPA’s existing program for that is small and cannot provide help across the country. GAO also said Congress should consider requiring that climate resilience be considered in planning for federally funded water infrastructure projects. EPA, USDA reach agreement on rural assistance EPA and the USDA on Thursday announced they had signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) to conduct joint activities to help rural water systems deal with aging infrastructure, workforce shortages, management capacity and declining rate bases. USDA’s actions will be carried out through its Rural Development – Rural Utilities Service division. The activities will include training, education, partnerships with other systems and funding. The MOA notes that more than 97 percent of the nation’s 153,000 public water systems serve fewer than 10,000 people, and that 78 percent of the country’s 15,000 wastewater treatment plants treat less than one million gallons daily.