Senate debating defense bill that includes PFAS regulation The U.S. Senate is debating an annual bill authorizing defense programs , and this year’s debate includes consideration of more than a dozen amendments dealing with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). The most significant is an amendment that duplicates a bill the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works approved on June 19, S. 1507, the PFAS Release Disclosure Act . Of significance for water providers, it would require that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) set a national primary drinking water regulation for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) within two years of enactment. Other proposed amendments would allow the U.S. Department of Defense to work with local water utilities on PFAS cleanups, expedite PFAS cleanup at Defense sites and mandate a nationwide U.S. Geological Survey study of PFAS contamination. The Armed Services Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives approved its own defense authorization bill, H.R. 2500 , but it will not come to the House floor until after the July 4 recess. It has provisions for health effects studies for PFAS, replacement of PFAS as compounds in firefighting foam and for supplying agricultural concerns with uncontaminated water if they have suffered from PFAS contamination. AWWA testified twice, before the House and Senate , in May on PFAS issues. Staff is meeting with House staff to present the Association’s concerns. Proposed perchlorate rule reaches Federal Register With the June 26 publication of a Federal Register notice on a proposed perchlorate rule for drinking water, the clock starts on the official period for the agency to accept public comments. They are due to www.regulations.gov on Aug. 26, while information pertinent to associated data collection and reporting is due July 26. This rulemaking has had a long and torturous path, beginning in the late 1990s with the observation of perchlorate in drinking water supplies in California associated with industrial contamination. EPA placed perchlorate on the first Contaminant Candidate List in 1998 (and subsequently in 2005 and 2009 CCLs) and required water systems to monitor for perchlorate in the first Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule following the 1996 Safe Drinking Water Act Amendments. In 2008, EPA made a preliminary determination not to regulate perchlorate and in 2009 published an interim health advisory for perchlorate of 15 µg/L. Lisa Jackson, in her confirmation hearing to be EPA administrator, committed the agency to revising the determination. EPA then solicited comments on an alternative health reference level analysis. In 2011, EPA reversed course and issued a positive regulatory determination . Based on a critique of its latest analysis by the EPA Science Advisory Board (2013), EPA began development of a dose-response model for how perchlorate interacts with the human body. Under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), EPA is allotted two years to prepare a proposed rule following a positive regulatory determination. In the closing days of the Obama Administration, the National Resources Defense Council sued EPA for missing that deadline for perchlorate. That organization obtained a consent agreement committing EPA to propose the rule by October 2018 and to issue a final rule by December 2019. Following an extension request and delays caused by the shutdown of many federal agencies earlier this year, EPA has now issued its proposal. EPA’s proposal reflects these paths forward: do not regulate or MCLG (Maximum Contaminant Level Goal)/MCL (Maximum Contaminant Level) combinations of 18, 56 or 90 µg/L. The preferred option is 56 µg/L. These concentrations draw on the dose-response model recommended by the Science Advisory Board and policy choices, namely (1) is the data adequate to judge a 1, 2 or 3 IQ point decrement in mean IQ of affected population as likely from perchlorate and in fact detrimental for purposes of setting policy and (2) the proportion of perchlorate attributable to water vs. food. Realizing the importance of EPA’s dose-response modeling approach, AWWA funded an analysis of the model. The results of that analysis are found in Clewell et al. (2019) . The analysis finds shortcomings in EPA’s approach. AWWA has tracked EPA efforts and participated throughout this long process. The Association is on record as recommending that EPA not regulate perchlorate under SDWA. We have re-assessed this position repeatedly in response to any new information. At present, there are two national assessments of perchlorate ( National Academy of Sciences and the current EPA analysis) illustrating that perchlorate is only harmful at higher concentrations than perchlorate typically occurs in drinking water. Consequently, there is little opportunity for risk reduction through an SDWA standard. While only a few water systems would install treatment at the proposed or even lower concentrations, most of those systems are small and the burden on rate payers would be substantial. Moreover, the basis for drinking water policy matters. Sound science-based determinations are critical to ensuring that the limited resources available to protect and manage the nation’s water supply are well spent. Progress slows on congressional appropriations bills The House has approved 10 of 12 annual federal spending bills so far this session, leaving appropriations for the legislative branch and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to finish after the July 4 recess. The Interior and Environment spending bill, which allocates funding to EPA, provides $1.3 billion for the drinking water state revolving loan fund and $50 million for the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act. The bill also includes a sizeable boost for the agency overall. The Senate has not yet begun the appropriations process because the committee chairman is waiting for bipartisan leadership to come to an agreement on spending caps, essentially the overall level of funding for the government. Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) has hinted that without a budget caps deal, he would soon move on “deeming levels,” allowing bills to move through the committee after the July 4 recess at spending levels close to FY2019 bills. The differences could then be negotiated if congressional leaders later come to an agreement on budget caps. It is possible that issues unrelated to the water community could derail the spending process again this year. Highly controversial measures surrounding the border wall, military intervention in Iran and a congressional pay raise have already begun to stall further progress. NRCS considering new source water protection areas The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) recently announced it is considering new source water protection areas for the National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI). This agricultural conservation program spent about $30 million last year providing technical and financial assistance to help agricultural producers improve water quality and assist in meeting both source water protection goals and ambient water quality needs. The NRCS announcement can be found in a recent bulletin . Utilities with source water protection concerns related to agriculture should contact their NRCS state conservationist . NWQI uses a two-phase approach -- a “readiness” phase that details concerns and develops a plan to address them, followed by an “implementation” phase to deploy the practices. Therefore, it is not necessary to have every detail sorted out to get started. Nominations must be made by each state conservationist to NRCS headquarters by Sept. 20. Interested utilities should contact their state conservationist as soon as possible to discuss inclusion in this program. Contact Adam Carpenter in AWWA’s Government Affairs department for more information. Additional resources are on AWWA’s Source Water Protection page . Agreement moving water quality credits to international markets The Electric Power Research Institute ( EPRI ) and First Climate have announced an agreement to move credits from EPRI’s Ohio River Basin Water Quality Trading Project to international credit trading markets. This unique agreement between a water quality project and an environmental asset credit broker will provide access to some of the world’s largest credit buyers, EPRI officials said. The Ohio River project is a market-based approach to improve local and regional water quality through a credit-trading program that reduces nutrient run-off through agricultural conservation practices. The states of Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture and EPA , are among the project’s supporters. The project’s credits are individually registered and tracked on a registry . AWWA seeks input to provide EPA on PFAS in biosolids The issue of PFAS in biosolids first gained attention in April 2018, when Michigan released a pre-treatment survey guideline for PFAS. Interest accelerated in March 2019 when Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection introduced a requirement to test biosolids prior to application for PFAS. North Carolina has followed suit with a more limited monitoring requirement targeting selected wastewater systems, which is also ongoing in several other states. Press reports in Michigan , Wisconsin , Maine , New Mexico and elsewhere link industrial discharges to sewer with PFAS compounds in biosolids that are subsequently land applied or destined for commercial sale as compost. Last Friday, EPA released Method 8327: Per-and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) Using External Standard Calibration and Multiple Reaction Monitoring (MRM) Liquid Chromatography/Tandem Mass Spectrometry (LC/MS/MS) for public comment. This method is appropriate for wastewaters and other nonpotable waters. Comments on the method are due to www.regulations.gov by July 22 (EPA-HQ-OLEM-2018-0846). EPA is accelerating its own investigations of PFAS in wastewater streams and soliciting input from AWWA and others in the sector. If you have experience or data that could help inform the comments that AWWA provides to EPA on this topic, contact Chris Moody in AWWA’s Government Affairs office. We’re interested in information about industrial sectors and commercial applications with demonstrated release of PFAS compounds. Any data on observed PFAS in residual streams from drinking water treatment would also be helpful.