Senate releases slate of spending bills This week, the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee released all 12 of its fiscal year 2021 spending bills. Though the fiscal year began Oct. 1, the federal government has been operating on a temporary extension of FY2020 funding due to delays in the appropriations process. Leaders from both parties in each chamber of Congress hope to complete an omnibus spending bill before the temporary extension expires Dec. 11. That will require reconciling different spending bills coming out of the House and Senate. The Senate’s Interior Appropriations bill , which funds U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) programs, includes $1.126 billion for the Drinking Water State Revolving Loan Fund and $60 million for the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) program. Other highlights include: $6.3 million for priority actions supporting “Addressing PFAS in Drinking Water” under the PFAS Action Plan $21.5 million to continue a grant program to help eligible entities for lead reduction projects $26.5 million to continue a grant program for voluntary testing of drinking water for lead at schools and childcare facilities $4 million to continue a grant program to increase resilience of drinking water infrastructure to natural hazards $1 million to continue a grant program to support workforce development for drinking water and wastewater system workers McConnell, Schumer reelected as Senate party leaders Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York were reelected Republican and Democratic Party leaders, respectively, this week by their caucuses. Whether Republicans or Democrats hold a majority will be determined in January, when two runoffs elections are scheduled in Georgia. Republicans currently have a 50-48 seat advantage, but because incoming Vice President Kamala Harris would serve as a tiebreaker, a 50-50 split benefits the Democrats. Biden picks former EPA staffers for transition Former Vice President Joe Biden has begun preparing for his move to the White House in January, naming key personnel to his transition staff , some of whom are familiar in the water community as former staffers at EPA. Among the members of the EPA Review Team will be Ken Kopocis, former principal deputy administrator for the Office of Water at EPA during the Obama administration. Before joining EPA, Kopocis was a longtime staff member for the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. Another team member will be Cynthia Giles, a former assistant administrator for the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance at EPA, also during the Obama administration. The leader of the EPA Review Team is Patrice Simms, vice president for health communities for Earthjustice . He is also a former attorney for EPA and the Justice Department’s environment and natural resources division. Heading the review team for the Council on Environmental Quality is Dr. Cecilia Martinez, executive director of the Center for Earth, Energy and Democracy . The most talked-about candidates to head EPA in a Biden administration are Mary Nichols, chair of the California Air Resources Board, and Heather McTeer Toney, of Moms Clean Air Force and a former administrator of EPA’s Region 4, based out of Atlanta. Other names are in the mix as well. CDC seeking feedback on building reopening The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is requesting AWWA utility member participation in a survey to learn more about the needs and concerns of building owners and other stakeholders as they reopen buildings and building water systems. The center also wants to determine how its Guidance for Reopening Buildings After Prolonged Shutdown or Reduced Operation is being received, plus future needs in such guidance. The above-mentioned CDC guidance includes a link to related guidance developed by AWWA and the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials: Responding to Water Stagnation in Buildings with Reduced or No Water Use . Wisconsin’s proposed PFAS standards show future challenges Last week, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services recommended groundwater standards for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which included individual standards for 12 PFAS and a combined standard for four additional PFAS. These recommendations represent the wide-ranging levels of toxicity for PFAS (standards ranging 20 to 450,000 nanograms per liter) as well as the lack of data to support assessments for many PFAS (recommendations were not made for 18 PFAS). A request for recommendations for PFAS originated in October 2019 and included 34 individual PFAS beyond perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS). AWWA’s recently-published Summary of Toxicological Research for PFAS highlighted similar challenges. The federal Fifth Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR 5) is still in review with the Office of Management and Budget but is expected to include 29 individual PFAS. Of the 18 PFAS for which Wisconsin did not make recommendations, monitoring will be required for 14 under UCMR 5. Such a lack of research will create risk communication challenges for water systems. As water systems begin to consider their own challenges with PFAS, they should start to build a basis for communicating about PFAS. AWWA has developed several detailed resources to assist water systems, including a Source Water Evaluation Guide , Drinking Water Treatment for PFAS Selection Guide and Trending in an Instant Guide for Members . EPA announces three more WIFIA loans On Nov. 10, EPA announced the closure of almost $500 million in loans for three projects in Northern California under the WIFIA program. The WIFIA program will loan $210 million to the city of San Mateo and $67 million to the Estero Municipal Improvement District to jointly finance upgrades to the San Mateo wastewater treatment plant. The project will 143,000 people and create 1,810 jobs. The City of Sunnydale is receiving a $220 million loan to rehabilitate existing facilities and construction of new facilities throughout the city’s existing wastewater treatment plant. EPA estimates the project will serve 153,000 people and create 1,800 jobs.