Infrastructure hopes rise and fall like the tides Hopes for comprehensive infrastructure legislation rise and fall like the tides in Washington. This week saw a moderate rise as leading congressional Democrats and Republicans met with President Trump to discuss moving an infrastructure package. The tide began to ebb a bit when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, the top Democrats, said just before the meeting that a proposal being floated to raise the gasoline tax would hurt low- to moderate-income people the most, and instead called for a slight hike in corporate income taxes to pay for infrastructure renewal. Lowering the corporate income tax was a big part of the comprehensive tax legislation Trump and congressional Republicans pushed to enact with great enthusiasm last year. They are unlikely to budge on modifying that. The tide rose again slightly when the parties emerged from a White House meeting Tuesday saying they had agreed to a $2 trillion plan to improve the nation’s infrastructure. A slack tide hit when they said they would meet again in three weeks to talk about how to pay for it. In addition, for the water sector, Congress already enacted America’s Water Infrastructure Act (AWIA) last fall and staffers on the Hill tell us they consider their work done on drinking water for the time being. AWIA reauthorized the state revolving loan fund (SRF) program and the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) for three years and two years, respectively. Staff are inclined to take up WIFIA again next year, when reauthorization is up for discussion. In talking about another infrastructure package, Hill staff like to refer more to highways and other surface transportation modes. Even at that, the price tag is causing some major heartburn on the Hill. We have kept in contact with Capitol Hill during these recent events, and obtaining fully authorized funding for the SRF and WIFIA was the key issue at the 2019 AWWA Water Matters! Fly-In . AWWA, partners put forth new affordability metric AWWA, the National Association of Clean Water Agencies and Water Environment Federation together produced a report that suggests a new approach for assessing community and household affordability for water services. “Developing a New Framework for Household Affordability and Financial Capability Assessment in the Water Sector” builds on the October 2017 National Academy of Public Administration report on community water affordability. The associations are hopeful the new analysis will assist EPA as it evaluates the definition of community affordability for water services. The proposed framework is an alternative to current reliance on median household income as the primary measure of affordability in regulatory decision-making. It suggests the following two-part metric to capture both economic burdens of water service on low-income households and the level of economic stress on households in a community. • Household Burden Indicator (HBI): The combined cost of water service (e.g., drinking water, wastewater and stormwater) as a percent of the 20th percentile of community household income (the lowest quintile income), plus • Poverty Prevalence Indicator (PPI): The percentage of households in the community that are at or below 200% of federal poverty level. House introduces bill mandating PFAS levels U.S. Rep. Brandon Boyle, D-Penn., and four other key House members this week introduced a bill that would force EPA to issue a maximum contaminant level (MCL) for total per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) within two years of enactment. Enactment of H.R. 2377, the Protect Drinking Water from PFAS Act , would mandate EPA to develop a standard addressing more than 3,000 chemicals in the PFAS family. Such a broad approach raises a host of technical questions regarding monitoring and treatment. Scuttlebutt from the Senate side of Capitol Hill is that senators are more inclined to pass a bill mandating that EPA come up with an MCL for just the two legacy PFAS compounds no longer in production but causing lots of public health concerns: PFOS and PFOA. This latest bill is one of about 14 bills introduced in the current session of Congress addressing PFAS compounds. The congressional messages are intense: “President Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency is entrusted with keeping our drinking water safe but has delayed protecting our families from toxic PFAS chemicals in drinking water. This is unacceptable. We know that PFAS chemicals are harmful to human health and families deserve safe water from their taps,” said U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Mich. “PFAS contamination is one of the greatest public health crises of our time. This bill directs EPA to at long last take that crisis seriously, and set a strong, binding nationwide drinking water standard,” said U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr., D-N.J., and chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. “PFAS chemical contamination is a public health crisis and the EPA must act with an urgency that matches the scale of the problem,” said U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Penn. “If the EPA won’t act, then Congress must take action to protect American communities from these dangerous chemicals. EPA issues interim PFAS groundwater recommendations EPA has issued interim groundwater cleanup recommendations for PFOA and PFOS. The recommendations are open for public comment through June 10 and provide guidance to federal cleanup projects under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA, also known as Superfund) and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). Under this guidance, groundwaters in cleanup areas that test with PFOA and/or PFOS of at least 40 ng/L should undergo additional evaluation. The preliminary remediation goal would be 70 ng/L for groundwaters that are current or potential sources of drinking water (unless a local state or tribe has a more stringent requirement). Responsible parties would be expected to remediate down to below 70 ng/L for sources of drinking water. WIFIA staff presenting at upcoming conferences Staff with the WIFIA program will be making presentations and answering questions at upcoming conferences: • May 6-10 – New Jersey Water Environment Association annual conference, Atlantic City, N.J. • May 14-16 – Central States Water Environment Federation annual meeting, Madison, Wis. • May 19-23 – National Association of Environmental Professionals conference, Baltimore, Md. EPA announces $87 million in WIIN grant funding EPA this week announced the availability of nearly $87 million in grant funding to address lead and disadvantaged communities, as authorized by the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act ( WIIN ) of 2016: • Under EPA’s new Voluntary Lead Testing in Schools and Child Care grant program, EPA will award $43.7 million in grants to fund testing for lead in drinking water at schools and child care programs. Testing results carried out using grant funds must be made publicly available. • Under EPA’s new Assistance for Small and Disadvantaged Communities grant program, EPA will award $42.8 million in grants to support underserved communities by bringing public drinking water systems into compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act. Funding can also be used for conducting household water quality testing, including testing for unregulated contaminants. State, tribal and territorial allotments for the two grant programs are available on EPA’s website. The agency plans to announce funding details this summer for WIIN’s third newly-created grant program dedicated to reducing lead in drinking water systems.