U.S. pandemic funds available via online portal The U.S. Department of the Treasury on Monday announced it had opened an online portal for eligible entities to apply for funds available in the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund , created under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. Utilities may apply for funds either through their city governments (if those cities are listed as eligible for individual allotments) or through their state governments. Cities and states then apply via the online portal . “Non-entitlement” municipalities, or towns with less than 50,000 people, apply for funding through their state governments. The act provides funding for a host of specific uses, including “to make necessary investments” in water infrastructure and to provide premium pay for “essential workers.” Treasury also released an interim final rule describing those uses more specifically. It said that the types of projects eligible for funding under the drinking water and wastewater state revolving loan fund programs would be eligible under this program. While the interim rule does not specify water utility workers, it does say those who qualify are “workers who have been and continue to be relied on to maintain continuity of operations of essential critical infrastructure sectors, including those who are critical to protecting the health and wellbeing of their communities.” Treasury breaks out the block allocations for cities, states , counties , territories and non-entitlement units of government . New U.S. cybersecurity executive order A ransomware attack led to the shutdown of the 5,500 mile Colonial Pipeline in the United States this past week, creating massive fuel shortages up and down the East Coast. Senior White House officials noted that this was partially attributed to “a laissez-faire attitude towards cybersecurity.” Consequently, the White House issued an executive order intended to bolster cyber defenses by securing federal networks through prevention and mitigation measures. The order also seeks to incentivize the commercial software market to improve security practices and tasked the National Institute of Standards and Technology with creating a program to provide consumers more “visibility into what they are buying.” The actions outlined an approach that will leverage the federal government’s procurement power to require software to meet security standards. Officials stated that “more than ever, cybersecurity is a national security imperative and an economic imperative.” While the Colonial Pipeline has resumed operations , the company noted that “it will take several days for the product delivery supply chain to return to normal. Some markets served by Colonial Pipeline may experience, or continue to experience, intermittent service interruptions during the start-up period.” AWWA wraps up successful virtual Fly-In AWWA wrapped up its 2021 Water Matters! Fly-In last week after a record 240 members from across the United States met with members of Congress and their staffs. This year’s event was held online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. After two preparatory webinars in the spring, Fly-In delegates began meeting online with their congressional offices on April 19. In a May 7 debriefing webinar, delegates reported overwhelmingly favorable reactions from members of Congress to the Association’s requests , and many were pleased with the flexibility of the online format. Sections had the opportunity to include more members, particularly young professionals, in meetings this year than is possible with the typical in-person Fly-In. To take advantage of growing momentum on Capitol Hill, this year’s issue paper focused primarily on water infrastructure investment. AWWA delegates advocated for reauthorization of the Drinking Water and Wastewater State Revolving Fund programs and the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) program, funding for lead service line removal and per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) treatment, and restoration of tax-exempt advantages for advanced refunding of municipal bonds. EPA public engagement for M/DBPs kicking off The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is hosting the first of a series of public meetings on May 20 to inform potential revisions to microbial and disinfectant byproducts (M/DBPs) rules. This first meeting will focus on disinfectant residual levels and opportunistic pathogens. According to the agenda , the meeting will kick off with perspectives on these issues from EPA and other stakeholders and will conclude with concurrent breakout group sessions for more engagement. The agenda includes a series of questions for each topic to provide EPA with relevant examples and/or supporting information. Registration is open until May 18. AWWA is requesting case studies for the following specific questions: What actions have water systems taken to meet numerical disinfectant residual requirements? What actions or tools should be considered as a part of a comprehensive risk management framework for Legionella and other biofilm pathogens? Please send case studies to firstname.lastname@example.org . Opportunities opening for source water protection The Natural Resources Conservation Service ( NRCS ), part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, recently issued a call to its state-level offices to nominate watersheds for the National Water Quality Initiative ( NWQI ). The move could help protect more drinking water sources. NWQI targets HUC-12 watersheds to address specific water quality and quantity issues (including source water protection ), bringing potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars of additional funding to help agricultural producers (farmers, ranchers and private woodlot owners) develop conservation plans and implement conservation practices. Water utilities with a specific source water challenge with some connection to agriculture or wanting to further protect a high-quality watershed should connect with their NRCS State Conservationist as soon as possible to discuss NWQI. The NRCS state offices will propose watersheds to headquarters by July 9 but will have an earlier internal deadline. AWWA has several background resources available, and utilities can also reach out to Adam Carpenter in AWWA Government Affairs with questions or for additional details. ATSDR finalizes risk levels The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) announced finalized minimum risk levels (MRL) for perfluorohexane sulfonic acid (PFHxS) (20 ng/kg/day), perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA) (3 ng/kg/day), perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) (2 ng/kg/day), and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) (3 ng/kg/day). These MRLs were developed based on intermediate exposure durations (15–364 days). MRLs are daily human exposure to a hazardous substance that is likely to be without appreciable risk of adverse, non-cancer health effects. The PFOA and PFOS values are substantially lower than those that underpin the current EPA health advisory level of 70 ng/L as a lifetime exposure risk level. They initially and are once again being juxtaposed with EPA assessment for PFOA and PFOS by policy makers. ATSDR also evaluated perfluorodecanoic acid (PFDA), perfluoroundecanoic acid (PFUnA), perfluoroheptanoic acid (PFHpA), perfluorobutane sulfonic acid (PFBS), perfluorobutanoic acid (PFBA), perfluorododecanoic acid (PFDoDA), perfluorohexanoic acid (PFHxA), perfluorooctane sulfonamide (FOSA), but found there was inadequate information to make a MRL determination. EPA is currently preparing risk assessments for PFNA, PFBA, PFHxA, PFHxS and PFDA. Biden Administration issues ambitious climate, conservation goals In separate announcements, the Biden Administration recently set two ambitious environmental goals which have potential to impact the water utility community in significant ways. The first goal is to reduce U.S. emissions of greenhouse gases by 50-52% by 2030, compared to a 2005 baseline. This goal emerged as part of an international climate summit and the administration subsequently entered it as the United States’ “ Nationally Defined Contribution ” under the Paris Agreement within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Overall U.S. emissions have been steadily dropping since 2005, although reaching this goal will require them to drop much faster. The mechanisms for reaching this goal are not yet clear and could include considerable changes to the energy and transportation sectors, among others. This could subsequently impact energy pricing and other aspects of utility operations. The second goal, the “ America the Beautiful ” conservation plan, is aimed at conserving 30 percent of America’s land and water by 2030. The program is intended to be collaborative, locally led, and done in a way that honors property rights and uses and builds upon existing tools and strategies. However, at this stage it is not clear what qualifies as “conserved” or what approaches will be used to reach the goal. Therefore the impacts, if implemented, are difficult to predict. Greater environmental conservation in general should help protect source waters and address some quantity issues, although much will depend on yet-to-be-announced specifics. Implementation of either goal would likely involve considerable action in both the public and private sector and may require the enactment of legislation. Revised Lead and Copper Rule review proceeding On April 28 and May 5, EPA held a series of listening sessions for those interested in speaking on the merits of the Revised Lead and Copper Rule (LCR) as finalized by the previous administration. These brief statements are available via YouTube . Some comments focused on additional steps to address lead in schools and childcare facilities. There were calls for all lead service lines to be replaced in 10 years, federal funding to support lead service line replacement, and revision of the lead action level to 5 or 10 µg/L from the current 15 µg/L, retained from the original LCR. EPA received requests from a significant pool of communities for community round tables. EPA is in the process of selecting applications that meet the outreach effort’s objectives. The agency will then reach out to individual applicants to schedule meetings. AWWA comments on drinking water monitoring rule On May 10, EPA’s public comment period on the Fifth Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR 5) closed. The proposed UCMR 5, which was published on March 11, and proposed requirements for more than 10,000 water systems to monitor 29 PFAS and lithium from 2023 to 2025. The proposal also requested input on the inclusion of Legionella, haloacetonitriles, and total organofluorine. Through the assistance of member input and technical expert discussions, AWWA prepared and submitted comments on the proposal, emphasizing various opportunities to improve the proposal in a way that provides valuable data and balances UCMR objectives with the challenges. WIFIA closes on 50th loan Administrators for EPA’s WIFIA program announced that with the closure of a loan to the city of Roseville, Calif. , of $33 million, the program had closed on its 50th loan. The loan will support projects to diversify the city’s drinking water supply and address the impacts of climate change. AWWA led efforts to get WIFIA enacted in 2014. The first few years of the program were dedicated to setting up the structure and it began making loans in 2017. The Roseville loan will help the city expand its aquifer storage and recovery program, evaluate advanced treatment technologies for recycled water and construct a 12-million-gallon-per-day tertiary filtration system at a wastewater treatment plant. The project is expected to benefit more than 141,000 people and create 218 jobs.