EPA releases draft PFAS toxicity assessments The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced draft toxicity assessments on Nov. 14 for GenX chemicals and perfluorobutane sulfonic acid (PFBS). GenX and PFBS are members of the broader per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances group. The draft assessments reflect available data suggesting: • GenX chemicals are carcinogenic. • While there is not sufficient evidence to state that PFBS is carcinogenic, it appears the thyroid and kidney are sensitive to PFBS. EPA’s assessments include proposed reference dose values for subchronic and chronic exposures. Subchronic refers to repeated exposure for more than 30 days, up to approximately 10% of the lifespan in humans, while chronic reflects lifetime exposure. The reference doses provided by EPA reflect an assessment of the hazard posed and dose-response relationship associated with GenX and PFBS but are not a complete characterization of the risk posed. The toxicity values proposed are higher than the RfDs EPA used to calculate the PFOS and PFOA drinking water health advisories. The draft RfD for chronic GenX exposure is 0.00008 mg/kg-day; this compares to 0.0001 mg/kg-day used by North Carolina in setting its Drinking Water Provisional Health Goal at 140 ng/L. This RfD is also somewhat higher than those used to calculate the PFOA and PFOS drinking water health advisories (0.00002 mg/kg-day). The draft RfD for chronic exposure to PFBS is 0.01 mg/kg-day. Following publication in the Federal Register, there will be a 60-day comment period. America's Water Infrastructure Act: Impact on Consumer Confidence Reports America’s Water Infrastructure Act (AWIA) was signed into law by President Trump on Oct. 23. While it focuses on water infrastructure, AWIA also includes significant changes to the Safe Drinking Water Act. We are highlighting a few of these key changes in a series of Insider articles. The most significant change to Consumer Confidence Reports (CCRs) is contained in Section 2008 of the act. To increase transparency about water quality, it requires that community water systems serving more than 10,000 people provide CCRs at least twice a year. Earlier versions of the legislation mandated quarterly CCRs, so biannual reports became the compromise. Also significant was the inclusion of language formally allowing electronic delivery of CCRs. Electronic delivery has been allowed since 2013 based on a regulatory interpretation. AWIA language prevents EPA from restricting distribution to only paper delivery in the future. Section 2008 also specifically requires that CCRs identify contaminant exceedances for which state primacy agencies or EPA issued violations, mandated corrective action, or required corrosion control to protect the public from lead exposure. EPA must propose a new regulatory scheme, take public comment, then issue final CCRs regulation with adequate time for utilities to comply, by October 2020. This includes the requirement that EPA improve the readability, clarity, understandability and accuracy of information included in CCRs. Congress facing appropriations bills during 'lame duck' session Members of Congress returned to Washington this week to face deadlines on a handful of must-pass bills, including seven of 12 unresolved annual appropriations bills to keep the federal government running. The most significant for the water sector is the annual bill funding EPA, which is operating under a continuing resolution that expires Dec. 7. The Senate and House bills both include strong funding levels for EPA’s water infrastructure finance programs, but there is a standstill over several “poison pill” policy riders that the Senate will not accept. The bill funding EPA is packaged with legislation funding agriculture, financial services, transportation and related programs, H.R. 6147. The Farm Bill is another challenge facing Congress in the lame duck session. Federal agriculture programs must be reauthorized every five years through legislation known colloquially as the “Farm Bill”. This year’s bill, H.R. 2, is formally titled the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018. AWWA is seeking stronger conservation programs in federal agricultural policy to protect drinking water sources. The House version of the Farm Bill contains virtually all the Association’s requests, while the Senate bill comes close. House and Senate negotiators are working out those differences in their respective bills, but other programs involve tougher negotiations, such as those providing nutritional aid to low-income families and programs involving certain crops. New House leadership bringing change to Congress When control of the U.S. House of Representatives changes from Republicans to Democrats on Jan. 3, we expect a major shift in focus. House Democrats will choose their top leadership on Nov. 28, and formal appointment of committee chairs will take place sometime in early December. Since the U.S. Senate remains in Republican hands, we don’t expect much change there. Based on conversations with Democratic staff, we expect to see more attention given to lead in drinking water, the pace of contaminant regulation at EPA, workforce development in the water sector and preventing contaminants from entering water supplies. The House Committee on Energy and Commerce has primary jurisdiction over drinking water issues and is expected to focus on health care and climate change, but drinking water will be in the mix. House Democrats expect to start work on a major infrastructure package in the new year. They consider much of their near-term work on drinking water infrastructure done after passage of S. 3021. The new package likely will focus on surface transportation, reauthorization of aviation programs and the Clean Water SRF. But with so many new members coming to town, other issues may come up, including proposals for a water trust fund, which AWWA has successfully opposed in the past. These are our educated guesses as to who will lead the House committees most relevant to the water sector, realizing that some members may choose to take leadership positions on different committees: • Energy and Commerce Committee chair: Rep. Frank Pallone, New Jersey o Subcommittee on Environment: Rep. Paul Tonko, New York • Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chair: Rep. Peter DeFazio, Oregon o Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment: Rep. Grace Napolitano, California • Appropriations Committee chair: Rep. Nita Lowey, New York o Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies: Rep. Betty McCollum, Minnesota • Agriculture Committee chair: Rep. Collin Peterson, Minnesota o Subcommittee on Conservation and Forestry: Rep. Marcia Fudge, Ohio We don’t expect to see major changes in committee leadership in the Senate. EPA to review state LCR oversight EPA is planning annual reviews of how state primacy agencies oversee compliance with the Lead and Copper Rule by drinking water utilities. EPA also plans to work with states to produce a “National Compliance Initiative” to improve utility compliance with regulations. Last July, EPA’s Office of Inspector General issued a report on management weaknesses in responding to the lead situation in Flint, Mich. One recommendation was that the Office of Water implement a system to identify management risks in state drinking water programs. Environmentalists have expressed concerns about EPA’s ability to conduct the annual reviews given the desire in the Trump Administration and by some in Congress to reduce EPA’s budget. Comments by EPA presenters this week at AWWA’s Water Quality Technology Conference suggest EPA is likely to miss its February 2019 milestone for proposing revisions to the LCR. Mid-year appears to be more likely timing for the proposal. EPA releases SRF fact sheets EPA has released fact sheets on the drinking water and wastewater state revolving loan fund (SRF) programs. The drinking water SRF sheet describes the program’s structure, water system and project eligibilities, and financial assistance mechanisms available to communities. Another fact sheet describes how utilities can take advantage of the Clean Water Act, or wastewater, SRF program to fund projects that protect or restore surface waters via the purchase of land, leasing, fee-simple purchase and easement. It features successful projects under way in California, Georgia and Ohio. More WIFIA information sessions coming Water leaders can learn about the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) finance program at these upcoming EPA sessions: WIFIA Program Overview Webinar Nov. 28, 2-3:30 p.m. (ET) WIFIA Information Session Dec. 11, EPA Region 1 Office, Boston, Mass. WIFIA Application Process Webinar Dec. 5, 2-3:30 p.m. (ET) WIFIA Financial Benefits Webinar Dec. 12, 2-3:30 p.m. (ET) WIFIA Information Session Jan. 15, EPA Region 4 Office, Atlanta, Ga. WIFIA Information Session Feb. 4, Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, Phoenix, Ariz. AWWA helps launch first forest resilience bond The State of California issued the first forest resilience bond Nov. 1 to mitigate wildfire risk in the Tahoe National Forest. AWWA helped develop the forest resilience bond concept by helping the project team connect with utilities and host meetings. The innovative financing mechanism is designed to bring in private capital to accelerate activities to protect forests, while linking payment to specific environmental outcomes. The first project provides $4.6 million to help restore the source water area to a healthier condition, including reduced wildfire risk. The bond will be paid back through a combination of payors who will benefit from the project.