AWWA, partners question proposed asbestos ban The American Water Works Association (AWWA), Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA), and National Rural Water Association (NWRA) filed comments with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) expressing concern over a proposed rule that would prohibit the use of asbestos diaphragms in chlor-alkali facilities within two years of a final rule. The production facilities are an essential link in the United States’ chemical supply chain to produce chlorine, sodium hypochlorite and caustic soda. EPA’s own economic analysis found that this action will impact nearly 30% of domestic chlorine production of these treatment chemicals, which are critical to the water sector. The joint comments said the rulemaking would disrupt an already volatile supply of chlor-alkali products used by the water sector and risk adverse impacts on the continuity of operations at public water systems and wastewater treatment facilities across the nation. The economic impact analysis prepared by EPA does not capture these impacts on the water sector, and as proposed, this action would generate a shocking cost burden that is 119,000 to 287,000 times greater than the expected health benefits. The joint comments encouraged EPA to use the national security provisions under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to provide a more reasonable transition period to alternative production methods. Ideally, a five- to eight-year transition period would mitigate disruptions on critical chemical supplies that have seen massive price increases over the last six quarters. In addition, AWWA, AMWA and NRWA reminded EPA of the agency’s statutory obligations under SDWA §1441 to ensure a reasonable supply of essential chemicals. The agencies said the proposed asbestos rule is in direct conflict with that statutory obligation and, if not modified, will have significant economic and operational impacts on water utilities across the nation. Associations seek adequate analysis of PFAS listing AWWA, together with nine other associations, urged EPA and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to ensure that the agency prepares a robust economic analysis and consults with local government as it prepares its Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) hazardous substance designation proposal for certain per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances. The proposal to list perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) as hazardous substances is an element of EPA’s PFAS Strategic Roadmap . The proposal has languished at OMB for much of 2022 although EPA had targeted issuing the proposal for last month. EPA announces latest WIFIA funding availability On Monday, June 13, EPA announced Notices of Funding Availability for 2022 for both the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) program and the State infrastructure financing authority WIFIA (SWIFIA) program. This year’s WIFIA program funding includes $58.5 million to support approximately $5.5 billion in credit assistance and possibly $11 billion in water infrastructure investment. The SWIFIA program includes $5 million to support another $1 billion in credit assistance and up to $2 billion in infrastructure investment. Prospective borrowers should submit a completed letter of interest form for their project to the WIFIA program. Visit EPA’s WIFIA website for more information on how to apply and the process. Summary of state disadvantaged community definitions available The Association of State Drinking Water Administrators (ASDWA) has released a summary of state definitions for “disadvantaged communities.” With the passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), these definitions will be used to make determinations and help prioritize how Drinking Water State Revolving Fund programs distribute funds to communities for drinking water infrastructure. ASDWA plans to provide frequent updates as necessary to reflect changes, making this a useful resource for utilities interested in receiving funding from BIL, which targets improvements for such communities. EPA proposing more Build America, Buy America waivers The EPA is seeking public comment by Wednesday on a proposed six-month waiver of Build America, Buy America (BABA) requirements for certain types of projects receiving funding under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). This is in addition to proposed waivers the agency announced earlier this year for certain projects receiving funding under the state revolving loan fund (SRF) and WIFIA programs. EPA has posted the proposed waiver online . Comments must be sent to BABA-OW@epa.gov . The projects in question include some addressing lead in drinking water, lead in schools, stormwater overflow, sewer reuse and resilience and sustainability in small and disadvantaged communities. In June, EPA sought comments on a proposed waiver for projects receiving funds through the SRFs under the IIJA if engineering plans and specifications had been submitted by May 14, the day BABA took effect. In May, the agency sought comments on a proposed waiver for projects receiving funding from WIFIA under IIJA if design plans were initiated by May 14. AWWA supported the WIFIA proposal and said the SRF proposal should match it because many projects were co-funded by an SRF and WIFIA. Applications due soon for Bureau of Reclamation grants Applications for grants from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s WATERSmart program are due Thursday. The projects must “result in quantifiable and sustained water savings, implement renewable energy components, and support broader sustainability benefits.” Applicants may request up to $5 million and the projects must be completed within three years. Interested parties may apply online .