AWWA to host all-virtual ACE21 in June AWWA on Tuesday announced it is transforming its 2021 Annual Conference and Exposition (ACE21) into an all-virtual event from June 14-17. Registration is open. In a letter to members , AWWA President Melissa Elliott and CEO David LaFrance said ACE21 All Virtual will be a top-tier virtual experience that will be informative, impactful and engaging for everyone involved. AWWA made the decision to move to ACE21 All Virtual following a thorough evaluation of member travel limitations and public health circumstances. The conference was originally scheduled for June 13-16 in San Diego, Calif., but as of mid-March, the San Diego Convention Center remains closed and there is no indication it will be open for an event the size of ACE21 by June. In addition, California public health authorities are asking people to limit non-essential travel to and within the state. EPA proposes to extend compliance for LCR revisions The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published two Federal Register notices related to revisions to the federal Lead and Copper Rule. One is a final rule extending the effective date of the Lead and Copper Rule by three months to June 17. The second, is a proposed rule on extending the effective date an additional six months, to Dec. 16, and to extend the current compliance date by nine months to Sept. 16, 2024. EPA proposes to use the time afforded by these extensions to conduct outreach and analysis required by Executive Order 13990 . Comments on the proposed additional extensions must be received on or before April 12. When the agency completes setting compliance requirements in 34-42 months, water utilities will face considerable new activities. AWWA’s Virtual Summit – Lead in Water Quality on April 7-8 is focused on providing water professions with information they will need to prepare. Looking ahead to fifth UCMR EPA announced its proposal for the next round of Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR5) monitoring last week. Publication followed in the Federal Register this week, and the agency has now opened registration for two virtual stakeholder meetings April 6 and 7. The rule will require water systems to monitor for 29 per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (EPA Methods 533 and 537.1 ) as required by the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 and lithium ( EPA Method 200.7 ). Monitoring is anticipated to begin in 2023, requiring EPA to finalize the rule quickly. Utilities then need to arrange for laboratory services and data submittal. It is possible, if federal funds are available, that all water systems serving between 3,300 and 10,000 persons will be required to participate in UCMR5, when previous monitoring rules have only required a statistically required sample of systems of this size to participate. Comments are due on or before April 12. Pandemic relief bill sends funds to U.S. water sector The U.S. Congress has passed and President Biden has signed a $1.9 trillion pandemic relief bill, H.R. 1319 , that contains a number of measures important to water utilities. Guidance on how to apply for these funds and the criteria involved has yet to emerge. We will publish that information when it becomes available. However, to get the ball rolling, utilities should begin communicating their interest in these funds to city managers, mayors or similar officials if they are part of a municipal government and assist them in reaching out to their governors’ offices. If a utility is independent of a city government, they should contact their governor’s office directly. Those offices will not likely have immediate answers to questions about these funds but establishing contacts and indicating interest in such funds is important. Interest on the part of a state’s governor will be important to getting action. These features in H.R. 1319, or the American Rescue Plan of 2021, relate to the water utility sector: $500 million in grants to states and tribes to reduce arrearages and rates charged to low-income water customers. Money will be distributed through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services . This money is to be dispersed “by providing funds to owners and operators of public water systems or treatment works to reduce arrearages of and rates charged to such households for such services.” $130.2 billion for a Coronavirus Local Fiscal Recovery Fund, available through Dec. 31, 2024. This money can be used for a variety of purposes, including the following to make necessary investments in water, sewer, or broadband infrastructure. $21.6 billion in grants to states and local governments for rental assistance. The money is to be used to pay rent, utility and energy bills and other housing expenses. Localities with populations greater than 200,000 will apply directly to the U.S. Treasury Department for the money. $9.96 billion in grants to states, territories and tribal agencies for a Homeowner Assistance Fund. Grant recipients may use the funds to assist in making mortgage payments, as well as help homeowners pay utility bills, flood insurance premiums or homeowners’ association fees. Second U.S. water infrastructure bill emerges The U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce has introduced a second drinking water infrastructure-related bill, this one more narrowly focused on water, healthcare and broadband infrastructure. The Leading Infrastructure for Tomorrow’s America Act, or LIFT Act, would reauthorize the drinking water state revolving loan fund at a much higher level than it currently gets, and provide significant funding for lead service line removal, PFAS treatment and drinking water resiliency efforts. This bill is very similar to the CLEAN Future Act, H.R. 1512 , introduced March 3. However, the CLEAN Future Act is a very broad bill addressing climate change. The drinking water infrastructure provisions in this bill are authorized until fiscal year 2031. In the LIFT Act, they are authorized through 2026. The committee is deciding on whether to incorporate these provisions into larger infrastructure legislation the House of Representatives is working on. U.S. Senate panel holds hearing on water infrastructure The U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works held its first hearing on water and wastewater infrastructure Thursday, with Democrats focusing more attention on economic justice and climate resilience and Republicans asking questions about regulatory burdens and the role of technical assistance providers. However, there was strong bipartisan consensus among senators on the need to adequately fund state revolving loan funds, lead pipe replacement, workforce training and technical assistance programs. Witnesses representing DC Water and the Rural Community Assistance Partnership for a permanent low-income affordability program and a greater emphasis on grants and forgivable loans to get more funding to disadvantaged communities that may not have the means to repay loans. Witnesses also stressed the importance of technical assistance programs in underserved communities with capacity constraints and testified to their struggles with replacing an aging workforce and to successes with apprenticeship and reentry programs. The hearing was the first public step in the Senate’s path to a water infrastructure package, which we expect to come together over the next few weeks. This package may become part of a more comprehensive infrastructure bill later this year. Webinar to focus on enforcement, compliance issues AWWA’s Legal Community Program will host a conversation at 11 a.m. ET on March 26 about evolving enforcement and compliance issues of critical importance to water utilities and their operations in the wake of COVID-19 and on the changing landscape of EPA’s enforcement priorities and practices. This 45-minute conversation between experts in enforcement and compliance issues from the legal and utility operations communities will discuss key developments and trends in enforcement and compliance activities among the various EPA Regions, and how water utilities can (and are) proactively managing and addressing these issues. Further information and registration for this program is available online. EPA seeking data on PFAS discharges EPA on Wednesday initiated a data collection and analysis effort to support a potential future rulemaking under the Clean Water Act for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). This effort is part of the EPA’s PFAS Action Plan announced in 2019. Under the Clean Water Act, EPA has the authority to establish effluent limitation guidelines (ELGs) based on facility categories and best available technologies and/or establish water quality-based standards. This process may result in PFAS limits for facilities with National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits and/or pretreatment standards. According to the notice, the current effort is focused on PFAS manufacturers and formulators in the Organic Chemical, Plastics and Synthetic Fibers point source category. Comments are due on or before May 17. Agricultural partnership program opens The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service recently announced the availability of $75 million through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program’s Alternative Funding Arrangements program (RCPP AFA). With its increased focus on source water protection, we expect that at least 10% of these funds will be spent to help protect sources of drinking water. RCPP AFA projects combine federal dollars with local matching contributions (cash and in-kind) to help deploy agricultural best practices and conservation plans. As described on the AWWA Source Water Protection page , a number of utilities have joined local partnerships to help protect sources of drinking water through RCPP projects. Any utilities interested in pursuing an RCPP AFA award should review the information on the RCPP website and reach out to their state RCPP coordinator . For more information, contact Adam Carpenter in AWWA’s Washington, D.C., office.