U.S. EPA proposes federal PFAS standard The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed the first national primary drinking water standards for six per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) this week. The proposal would establish maximum contaminant level goals (MCLGs) and maximum contaminant levels (MCLs) for six PFAS. The MCLGs would be set at zero, and the individual MCLs would be 4.0 ng/L for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS). The proposed regulation also sets both the MCLG and MCL at a hazard index (HI) value of 1.0 for the sum of HIs for perfluorohexanesulfonic acid (PFHxS), perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA), perfluorobutanesulfonic acid (PFBS), and hexafluoropropylene dimer acid (HFPO-DA). EPA indicates that it intends to finalize the rule late this year and that compliance with monitoring, public notification, and adherence to the PFAS MCLs would begin three years after the rule is finalized. Compliance with all three MCLs would be based on monitoring per the Standard Monitoring Framework used for synthetic organic chemicals (SOCs). As proposed, systems could use either EPA Method 533 or 537.1. Comments on the proposal will be due 60 days following publication in the Federal Register . EPA has scheduled both informational webinars and a public hearing on the proposal. EPA will also host a virtual hearing on May 4, 2023 , for members of the public to comment. AWWA requests interested members to register and to consider providing verbal comments on the proposal. AWWA is reviewing the proposal and plans on submitting comments. For more information, please contact Chris Moody , regulatory technical manager for AWWA. The agency estimates that the national annual cost of rule implementation will be $775 million ($2021). Black & Veatch conducted an analysis for AWWA of the national cost of treatment required for reliably removing PFOA and PFOS to 4 ng/L, resulting in an estimate of $2.7 billion ($2022) [3% discount rate]. See AWWA’s press statement regarding this EPA action. Cybersecurity review embedded in sanitary surveys EPA issued a new rule and guidance directing state officials responsible for implementing the Safe Drinking Water Act to assess cybersecurity resilience using the sanitary survey program. This action applies to all public water systems of all sizes effective immediately. EPA issued this interpretive rule without going through a formal rulemaking process. While state adherence with the rule is mandatory, it is not clear how individual states will respond. The new rule adds cybersecurity into the sanitary survey program conducted by state primacy agencies. States were provided three options by which they can comply with the new rule: Self-assessment or third-party assessment by a state-approved entity; State assessment during a sanitary survey; or An alternative equivalent, state-developed cybersecurity program. States are responsible for determining whether a significant deficiency exists. EPA states that such consideration “should include the absence of a practice or control, or the presence of a vulnerability, that has a high risk of being exploited, either directly or indirectly, to compromise an operational technology used in the treatment or distribution of drinking water.” The new rule instructs states to use their authority to mandate corrective action by the PWS to address a deficiency. AWWA and partner associations have long recognized the importance of cybersecurity and collectively taken actions to support cybersecurity improvements in the water sector. However, sector associations and associations representing local government have consistently opposed the sanitary survey approach. Members should be aware that EPA statements implying that the sanitary survey approach was developed in collaboration with the water sector are misleading, and that state primacy agencies have also opposed this action. AWWA and others are evaluating the legality of this new rule relative to existing regulatory and statutory obligations. In addition, AWWA is working with partners to review the non-mandatory guidance and related materials currently open for public comment. Comments are due May 31. President Biden releases FY2024 budget request President Biden last week released his fiscal year 2024 budget , which proposes to boost EPA’s spending to $12 billion – a 19% increase over fiscal year 2023. The spending plan outlines more than $4 billion for water infrastructure programs, an increase of $1 billion over the previous year. The budget document includes increases for the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) program and two grant programs to replace lead service lines, funded at $80 million and $219 million respectively. EPA would also receive $170 million to implement certain aspects of the PFAS Strategic Roadmap. However, the drinking water SRF would receive $1.126 billion, the same as in FY2023 and well below the $3 billion authorized for the program this year. The president’s budget is simply a recommendation or request to Congress and plays no formal role in the congressional appropriations process. Republicans in Congress are unlikely to support many of the president’s proposals, so any congressional appropriations bills will undoubtedly look much different than this proposal when finalized. Agency shares draft PFAS sludge assessment EPA this week took a significant step toward preparing a PFAS biosolids risk assessment by distributing a draft “ A Standardized Framework for Sewage Sludge Chemical Risk Assessment ” and the associated “ Biosolids Tool (BST)”, a model to facilitate the assessment process. EPA committed to preparing such an assessment as part of the agency’s PFAS Strategic Roadmap . A Science Advisory Board panel will review EPA’s approach and will meet April 5, May 2-3, and May 31. Public comments to the SAB are due two weeks prior to SAB meetings. Proposed rule strengthens source water protection EPA last week issued a proposed rule updating the “ Steam Electric Power Generating Effluent Guidelines ” under the Clean Water Act. This rule sets limits on the wastewater discharge from coal-fired power plants. Notably, EPA is proposing Zero Liquid Discharge for a key waste stream, which should greatly reduce the impacts of bromide on disinfection byproduct formation in downstream drinking water facilities. AWWA has commented repeatedly throughout this regulatory process, including asking for ZLD, and in 2019 sponsored a report on the impacts of bromide to downstream drinking water facilities. This proposed rule, if finalized in its current form, would considerably improve source water protection in the water bodies most impacted by these facilities. NTP fluoride report released The federal National Toxicology Program (NTP) has unsealed its 2022 draft report on fluoride toxicity , finding that epidemiology data supports moderate confidence that fluoride levels above 1.5 mg/L in drinking water are associated with decreased childhood IQ. The National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) had questioned the agency's finding in two prior drafts of the report. The report also states, “The current bodies of experimental animal studies and human mechanistic evidence do not provide clarity on the association between fluoride exposure and cognitive or neurodevelopmental human health effects.” Judge Edward Chen in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California found this report to be key evidence for an upcoming trial in Food & Water Watch, Inc. (FWW), et al. v. EPA , 4:2017cv02162). AWWA, ASDWA comment on compliance initiative EPA received comments from AWWA , the Association of State Drinking Water Administrators (ASDWA), the Environmental Council of the States (ECOS) and Association of Clean Water Administrators (ACWA) emphasizing the need for direct enforcement by the agency’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA) to be coordinated with and support state compliance and capacity development efforts. WateReuse seeking water recycling information The WateReuse Association is collecting information from across the water sector to better understand trends in water recycling. This survey asks respondents whether they intend to begin the planning or construction process for a water recycling project within the next five years. Those who answer yes are asked to briefly describe the project timeline, projected AFY/MGD produced, use application/s and other details. EPA announces wastewater SRF allotments EPA recently announced state-by-state allotments for funds administered by the wastewater state revolving loan fund (SRF) program, which will include funds provided under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021. Announced allotments for the drinking water program are pending. The two programs have different allocation formulas.