EPA sends draft final rule for perchlorate for OMB review Yesterday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) transmitted the draft final rule for perchlorate in drinking water to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review. EPA is under a court ordered deadline to issue the final rule by June 19. As background, EPA in 2011 reversed a 2008 preliminary determination to not regulate perchlorate. Subsequent assessments by the agency’s Science Advisory Board and two review panels led EPA to apply an innovative modeling effort to guide the development and review of a maximum contaminant level goal. As a result of this analysis, EPA issued a proposed rule on June 26, 2019, that was in part the result of a court order associated with a lawsuit filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council. The proposed rule also included an option to withdraw the 2011 regulatory determination. The agency’s analysis concluded that none of the proposed Maximum Contaminants Levels (MCLs)-- 18, 56 or 90 µg/L -- would “maximize health risk reduction benefits at a cost that is justified by the benefits.” U.S. stimulus effort slows as public health crisis drags on AWWA has been vocal in calling for federal assistance to U.S. water utilities suffering financial losses due to the COVID-19 public health crisis. Though Congress acted quickly to pass emergency assistance at the outset of the crisis, subsequent efforts have not benefited from the same sense of urgency. On May 15, the House passed the Heroes Act , a $3 trillion stimulus package which includes $1.5 billion in assistance for low-income water customers. Senate leadership quickly declared the bill dead on arrival, but high-level negotiations are underway to determine a path forward on a smaller, compromise bill. AWWA continues to make the case for including financial assistance to water utilities in any compromise stimulus package and is working with staff on both sides of the aisle to ensure water infrastructure is a key part of upcoming recovery efforts. EPA releases rule adding PFAS to Toxics Release Inventory EPA has released a pre-publication version of the final rulemaking to add certain per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) to the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) in accordance with the National Defense Authorization Act of 2020. This final rule adds 172 PFAS to the TRI. EPA has not provided information on further action for the PFAS compounds that must be considered (e.g. chemicals that are detectable by validated EPA methods). In comments sent in February, AWWA recommended that EPA immediately include active PFAS that would be monitored by the Fifth Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule. Based on the final rule, several PFAS are not covered, including both long-chain and short-chain PFAS. U.S. House members seek PFAS provisions in defense bill A group of 116 members of the U.S. House of Representatives has sent a letter to the House Committee on Armed Services asking that provisions addressing PFAS be added to the annual defense authorization bill for fiscal year 2020. A similar effort was made last year, but in the end, the House and Senate armed services committees only accepted a handful of PFAS amendments to the bill, and most of those were strictly related to defense issues. The letter – sent Tuesday – points out that the House passed H.R. 535 , a comprehensive PFAS bill, in January. It would force EPA to issue a national primary drinking water regulation for PFOA and PFOS within two years of enactment and list them as hazardous substances under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, or Superfund. AWWA and other water organizations have voiced concern about bypassing the science and data-based processes of the Safe Drinking Water Act to force regulations. The water sector has also opposed the Superfund listing unless water utilities are exempted as “potentially responsible parties.” EPA provides a Toxics Release Inventory mapping tool EPA recently released an updated mapping tool for interested stakeholders to better understand releases of chemicals throughout the United States. The new tool allows users to view the releases of covered chemicals from specific facilities, narrow down releases within a specified area and specifically view releases of certain chemicals. Additionally, the tool provides a way to search for releases within 10 specific watersheds throughout the United States, including South Florida, San Francisco Bay and the Great Lakes watersheds. The tool is available on EPA’s Toxics Release Inventory homepage, along with a brief tutorial video . EPA updating ambient water quality criteria recommendations In a May 22 Federal Register notice , EPA announced that it is updating its ambient water quality criteria recommendations for lakes and reservoirs to assist states in developing numeric nutrient criteria. In this action, EPA has analyzed several designated Clean Water Act uses, including protecting aquatic life, recreation and use as drinking water. For drinking water specifically, the analysis looks at microcystins resulting from cyanobacterial blooms as the primary endpoint to assess whether nutrients are a challenge for that lake or reservoir. The action is intended to help states develop numeric nutrient criteria for the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System program to prevent potentially harmful cyanobacterial blooms. EPA noted that states may choose to pursue this with a measurement point either in-lake or in-reservoir or in finished drinking water. AWWA will develop comments on this notice and encourages members to comment prior to the July 22 deadline. Contact Adam Carpenter in the DC office with any questions or concerns. AWWA and Isle Utilities launch workshops to facilitate AWIA compliance, promote resilience AWWA and Isle Utilities have launched a Resilience TAG (Technology Approval Group) workshop series that combines AWWA’s Risk & Resilience Certificate Program with peer-to-peer networking and the presentation of innovative technology solutions to address resilience challenges. Registration is open for this three-part workshop series. The program’s focus is to: Facilitate compliance with provisions of America’s Water Infrastructure Act (AWIA), Share best practices to build utility resilience to ensure continuous operations of critical infrastructure and Introduce utilities to innovative technologies. Participants who complete the three-part series will receive the AWWA Risk & Resilience Certificate. Workshop themes are as follows: Workshop 1: All-Hazards Emergency Response Workshop 2: Cybersecurity Workshop 3: Risk & Resilience Management USGS study of fluoride in U.S. groundwater The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) recently published the results of a nationwide study of fluoride in groundwater. Approximately 5,400 of the samples were drawn from public-supply wells, and the remaining 11,032 were from domestic wells. When evaluated separately, 12.8% of public wells had fluoride greater than the current optimal fluoride level (0.7 mg/L), 2.8% had fluoride above the secondary MCL (>2 mg/L), and 0.9% had fluoride above the MCL (>4 mg/L). Observed levels in domestic wells was similar with 10.9%, 2.6% and 0.6% of samples above the same benchmarks. While fluoride levels above the MCL are rare nationwide, the study draws attention to more frequent elevated levels in Arizona, New Mexico, Montana, Nevada and North Dakota.