AWWA testifies on PFAS threats, concerns Tracy Mehan, AWWA’s executive director for government affairs, told a U.S. Senate committee Wednesday that regulation of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) should be grounded in science and data, and there are tools for the federal government to better control consumer exposure to the substances. During testimony before the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works , Mehan said AWWA does recognize that PFAS is a growing concern that merits swift and serious attention. One striking aspect of the hearing was the recognition that water utilities are victims of PFAS exposure, not the culprits. Senators and other witnesses pointed out that cleanup and treatment costs for PFAS will be too great a burden for local utilities and their customers to bear. There were calls for a hazardous substance declaration under federal law for PFAS. AWWA has repeatedly said – and did again Wednesday – that if such a declaration is made under Superfund law, then water utilities should be exempt from liability, similar to airports. The committee was not considering a particular piece of legislation but was exploring the issue of PFAS in water. “The Safe Drinking Water Act mandates a consistent, transparent and science-based process for considering new regulations,” said Mehan, a former state and federal regulator. Source water protection is the best way to keep drinking water safe for consumers, Mehan stated. AWWA believes the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should be making better use of the federal Toxic Substances Control Act to better understand and control PFAS exposure. Mehan also said, 'Additional funding for research is needed to properly assess and address the human health effects of exposure to PFAS; identify analytical methods that quantify PFAS levels in source water, drinking water and wastewater; and further develop technologies to cost-effectively remove PFAS compounds to levels that do not pose a human health concern.” EPA unveils proposed PFAS rule EPA on Thursday announced three actions regarding PFAS, including a proposed rule for reporting requirements for the manufacture and import of PFAS compounds, an action AWWA has been seeking. EPA’s press release on the matter echoed AWWA and other sector voices stating, “Collecting data from manufacturers of PFAS is an important first step to better understanding and ultimately reducing potential risks caused by these chemicals.” While acknowledging the importance of the proposal, EPA is fulfilling a statutory requirement under the FY2020 National Defense Authorization Act. The proposed rule, which applies to more than 1,000 PFAS, would require all manufacturers, including importers, of PFAS in any year since 2011 to report chemical identity, categories of use, volumes manufactured and processed, byproducts, environmental and health effects, worker exposure and disposal of PFAS compounds. EPA will accept public comments on the proposed rule for 60 days following publication in the Federal Register via docket EPA-HQ-OPPT-2020-0549 at www.regulations.gov . The other actions are a withdrawal of guidance issued in the waning days of the Trump Administration that limited application of EPA’s July 2020 Significant New Use Rule restricting certain long-chain PFAS with respect to surface coatings. The guidance had reflected a limited view of surface coatings, limiting applicability to coatings that came in direct contact with humans or the environment during normal use. The third action is publishing a final rule that officially incorporates three additional PFAS (perfluorooctyl iodide, potassium perfluorooctanoate, silver(I) perfluorooctanoate) into the Toxics Release Inventory. U.S. House committee passes wastewater infrastructure bill The U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure approved a wastewater infrastructure bill Wednesday that would provide $40 billion over the next five federal fiscal years for the Clean Water Act state revolving loan fund program. The bill, H.R. 1915 , passed by a 42-25 vote, somewhat along party lines, with five Republican votes. The bill, also called the Water Quality Protection and Job Creation Act, would require at least 15 percent of the capitalization funds go to projects addressing green infrastructure, water or energy efficiency. It would require that an additional five percent go to projects that increase the resiliency of wastewater systems to extreme weather, drought, rising sea levels or other climate change impacts. H.R. 1915 would provide $500 million over five years for grants for rural, small and tribal communities, and $1 billion for watershed, wet weather and resiliency projects. Now the bill goes before the full House of Representatives. If that body approves it, the bill will go to a House-Senate conference committee to produce a single bill. However, that process may also hinge upon the House being able to pass a drinking water infrastructure bill. Two such bills have been introduced, but it is not clear which will be the final House vehicle. In addition, the House and Senate differ greatly on funding levels. The Senate passed a combined drinking water/wastewater infrastructure bill – S. 914 – in April on an 89-2 vote. EPA, Army Corps to re-propose ‘Waters of the U.S.’ EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Wednesday announced they will revisit the definition of “waters of the United States” (WOTUS). The announcement was made as they requested a remand in the U.S. District Court of Massachusetts (Conservation Law Foundation et al. v U.S. EPA; Case No. 20-cv-10820) of the 2020 Navigable Waters Protection Rule issued under the Trump Administration. This filing is to be followed by similar filings in the more than one dozen ongoing court cases related to the definition of waters of the United States. EPA and the Corps are seeking to undertake a three-step revision process beginning with a return to the rules used prior to the 2015 Obama Administration’s Clean Water Rule. The plan is to then to propose a “durable definition” of WOTUS and finally promulgate a final revised definition. This announcement has no immediate effect, as existing requirements remain in effect until the processes EPA and the Corps have initiated advance. Expect to see stakeholder outreach on the revisions beginning this summer. The agencies did not estimate how long revisions will take to complete. In describing the findings of the administration’s review under Executive Order 13990 , EPA found that the current definition was causing significant, ongoing and irreparable environmental damage. Under the current rules, there has been a 25% reduction in jurisdictional determinations, with EPA aware of 333 projects that no longer required permits but would have under the previous rule. Water reuse project gets WIFIA loan EPA announced that East County Joint Powers Authority in San Diego County, Calif., will receive a $388 million Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) loan for a water reuse project. The project will treat wastewater and send it to the Lake Jennings Reservoir for surface water augmentation. The facility will treat up to 16 million gallons of water daily and produce purified water to meet up to 30 percent of East County’s demand. The project will create 2,532 jobs and eventually serve 100,000 people, according to EPA. It will reduce the system’s dependence on water brought in from out of state and increase its climate resilience. Total cost of the project will be $791 million. Using WIFIA to help finance the project will save about $140 million, EPA said. White House calls for action on cybersecurity The White House recently issued a memo calling on business executives to “…. immediately convene their leadership teams to discuss the ransomware threat and review corporate security posture and business continuity plans to ensure you have the ability to continue or quickly restore operations.” The memo goes on to recommend best practices as the most impactful in mitigating cyber-threats: “multifactor authentication (because passwords alone are routinely compromised), endpoint detection & response (to hunt for malicious activity on a network and block it), encryption (so if data is stolen, it is unusable) and a skilled, empowered security team (to patch rapidly, and share and incorporate threat information in your defenses).” In a separate memo, the Office of Intelligence and Analysis reported that there is a continued threat to the water sector. “We assess that high profile cyber attacks against water and wastewater systems (WWS) sector networks will increase as criminal, nation-state, and terrorist cyber actors seek to exploit enduring vulnerabilities to achieve financial, geopolitical, or ideological objectives.” Water systems of all sizes and type should be taking proactive steps to integrate cybersecurity best practices into their operations and are encouraged to apply the AWWA Cybersecurity Guidance and assessment tool. In addition, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has developed ransomware guidance. AWWA urges victims of ransomware to report it immediately to CISA , a local FBI Field Office or a Secret Service Field Office . Water infrastructure on “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah” A story about America's water infrastructure (some NSFW language) that aired on a recent episode of 'The Daily Show with Trevor Noah' may increase awareness from consumers and media. The story discusses aging infrastructure leading to main breaks. Despite its joking nature and political lean, the story delivers a serious message on a major platform, which could increase awareness from consumers and media. AWWA members have advocated for increased investment in water infrastructure, including during the Association’s Water Matters! Fly-In in April. In virtual meetings, AWWA delegates asked Congress to reauthorize the drinking water State Revolving Fund (SRF) and WIFIA for an additional five years. They also requested that the SRF authorization double to $2.4 billion or more and that WIFIA funding be increased beyond the current level of $50 million to $60 million.