U.S. EPA holds LCRI public hearing The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) this week held a public hearing on its proposed Lead and Copper Rule Improvements (LCRI), during which water systems, states and advocacy organizations were each provided 90 seconds to communicate their support or concern about the proposal. Advocacy organizations called for water systems to pay for the full cost of lead and galvanized service line replacement. They also asked that all systems be required to complete service line replacements in 10 years, and that the lead action level be lowered to 5 µg/L. Other requests included the provision of pitcher or point-of-use filters pending replacement of service lines, active distribution of filters following multiple lead exceedances, and expanding current requirements for lead sampling (and addition of remediation) in schools. State and utility commenters pointed to the need for the rule to be feasible, noting the complexity of the proposed rule and the burden placed on state oversight. AWWA urged EPA to immediately, through a separate action, extend the current compliance dates for the Lead and Copper Rule Revisions (LCRR) except for the dates that EPA is proposing to leave in place in the LCRI. While systems are currently expending resources to comply with the LCRR, the LCRI will substantially change compliance dates and expectations. Comments, which are due in 11 business days, can be submitted electronically at https://www.regulations.gov/ (Docket Id. EPA-HQ-OW-2022-0801). AWWA requests all members submit comments. As the water professionals and utilities that will implement the final rule, your voice in the technical and practical feasibility of the proposed rule is critical. U.S. Supreme Court revisits Chevron deference As widely reported in major media outlets, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Loper Bright Enterprises, Inc. vs. Raimondo and Relentless Inc. vs. Department of Commerce . Based on prior commentary and questioning during arguments, the court’s majority is expected to modify or eliminate the current doctrine under which courts give great deference to federal agencies in how they interpret their legal authorities (known as “Chevron deference” based on the Supreme Court case Chevron vs National Resources Defense Council ). Presently, agencies like EPA are given wide latitude in how they interpret the laws under which they pass regulations when Congress has not been specific and clear in its requirements, and courts have also given agencies a lot of freedom to fill in the gaps where Congress has not specifically addressed an issue. While we cannot yet predict the outcome of the case, the Supreme Court’s decision could impact EPA’s future ability to create regulations under environmental statutes including the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) and Clean Water Act (CWA), and more specifically whether a court will uphold those regulations if they are challenged in court. Rep. Buddy Carter appointed chair of key subcommittee Rep. Cathy McMorris Rogers, Chair of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, has appointed Rep. Buddy Carter (R-Ga.) to replace outgoing Rep. Bill Johnson (R-Ohio) as Chair of the Subcommittee on Environment, Manufacturing, and Critical Minerals. This subcommittee has direct jurisdiction over the Safe Drinking Water Act. Rep. Johnson resigned his seat to serve as president of Youngstown State University, effective January 21. New Cyber Incident Response Guide for Water and Wastewater Sector The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), in coordination with the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) and EPA, collaborated with water sector stakeholders to release a cybersecurity incident response guide (IRG). “The Water and Wastewater Systems (WWS) sector is under constant threat from malicious cyber actors. This timely and actionable guidance reflects an outstanding partnership between industry, nonprofit and government partners that came together with EPA, FBI and CISA to support this essential sector. We encourage every WWS entity to review this joint guide and implement its recommended actions,” said CISA Executive Assistant Director for Cybersecurity Eric Goldstein. Utilities can use the incident response guide to augment their incident response planning and collaboration with key partners before, during, and following a cyber incident. Familiarity with this guide will better prepare water utilities to respond to—and recover from—a cyber incident. Federal guidance highlights risks from Chinese UAS CISA, in coordination with the FBI Cyber Division, released Cybersecurity Guidance: Chinese-Manufactured Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) . Drones continue to pose a significant risk to critical infrastructure and U.S. national security. The use of Chinese-manufactured UAS requires careful consideration and potential mitigation to reduce risk to networks and sensitive information. CISA and FBI encourage owners and operators of U.S. critical infrastructure to procure UAS that follow secure-by-design principles, including those manufactured by U.S. companies. This includes implementing the cybersecurity recommendations in this guidance by any organization procuring and operating UAS. This guidance is a continuation of CISA’s suite of products related to UAS cybersecurity, including Cybersecurity Best Practices for Operating Commercial Unmanned Aircraft Systems and Secure Your Drone: Privacy and Data Protection Guidance . EPA enforcement strategy raises concerns Water systems of all types should be aware of a new enforcement strategy issued by EPA’s Office of Enforcement & Compliance Assurance (OECA). The memorandum directs staff to prioritize climate mitigation and adaptation elements as part of all criminal and civil enforcement matters. The way a community water system assessed the risks from natural hazards as part of risk and resilience assessments and emergency response plans under America's Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 (AWIA) §2013 may be subject to additional scrutiny. OECA highlights investigations that may focus on wastewater treatment systems, among other entities, for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The memo states that “[e]nforcement staff should consider clean renewable energy solutions, green infrastructure cleanup responses, and other climate mitigation remedies throughout all case resolution efforts, including through Supplemental Environmental Projects (SEPs).” In a letter to the EPA Administrator, the House Energy & Commerce Committee stated, “We are concerned about far-reaching effects of the aggressive enforcement set forth in this memorandum.” AWWA would like to inform the Administration and Congress of EPA’s enforcement initiatives if there are reasons to be concerned. Please contact us if your utility becomes subject to such an enforcement action by OECA that may include compliance obligations related to this strategy. New Jersey considers standard setting for PFAS as a class New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy has signed Senate Bill No. 3176 into law. The bill sets a two-year deadline for the New Jersey Department of the Environment to conduct a study that “ shall include an assessment of the feasibility of establishing a maximum contaminant level or other standard for the entire class, or for certain subclasses or mixtures, of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances in drinking water, rather than for each individual substance. The study shall also include an assessment of treatment technologies that may be effective in removing perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances from drinking water or wastewater. ” Water regulators in the U.S., including at EPA, have been evaluating how to categorize PFAS as both a practical regulatory oversight measure and perhaps more importantly in response to considerable political pressure from environmental advocates. This proposed legislation sets a schedule that will bring the issue to a head in one of the states that has led PFAS drinking water regulatory policy and is very engaged in national PFAS policy discussions. Updated Residential Soil Lead Guidance EPA’s newly released “ Updated Residential Soil Lead Guidance for CERCLA Sites and RCRA Corrective Action Facilities ” is a guide for correction action under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) and Resource Conservation Recovery Act (RCRA). EPA Regions will be revisiting closed clean-up sites based on this guidance. The guidance reduces the current residential screening level from 400 ppm to 200 ppm. In cases where there are other known sources of lead, the screening level is reduced to 100 ppm. The presence of lead service lines and exposure via drinking water is specifically mentioned. EPA is soliciting comments for 60 days, but those comments will not inform this revised guidance as it was effective immediately upon release. PFAS MDL Settlement News The Settlement Administrator in City of Camden et al vs. E. Dupont de Nemours and Company et al . (MDL No. 2:18-mn-2873-RMG; Case No: 2:23-cv-03230-RMG) filed a summary of objections to the settlement with the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina. That summary shows that 717 class members filed timely notices requesting to opt-out of the settlement. Of those filings, 427 did not comply with the settlement agreement because they asked for exclusion on behalf of another class member. Another 120 entities’ filings did not comply with other facets of the settlement agreement, and 291 submissions were not timely. The Settlement Administrator set up a hotline number for inquiries regarding the status of specific filings. The fairness hearing is approaching on Feb 2 for City of Camden et al. vs. 3M Company (MDL No. 2:18-mn-2873-RMG; Case No: 2:23-cv-03147-RMG). Filings in anticipation debate several issues including whether the 3M Allocation Procedures, provide appropriate compensation to class members based on the bellwether system. The estimate that Stuart is entitled to $17.4 million, approximately 25% of the system’s estimated actual compensatory damages. U.S. CDC updates PFAS guide for physicians The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) updated their 2019 information for clinicians (e.g., doctors, nurses, etc.) who speak with patients about per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) exposure or possible health effects. Information for Clinicians includes information related to PFAS blood testing and addresses issues specific to special populations such as children and those who are pregnant or breastfeeding. The webpage summarizes the state of health effects research. AWWA updates quarterly Government Affairs Overview AWWA’s most recent Government Affairs Overview provides an update on current federal activities impacting the water community and includes insights on upcoming policy changes. This latest update highlights legislative developments and provides information on the background and status of regulatory activities under the Toxic Substances Control Act, Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act, including the recently proposed drinking water regulatory determinations.