Build Back Better Act contains more funds for water Now that U.S. President Biden has signed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (H.R. 3684) into law, Congress’ attention is turned to the larger Build Back Better Act (H.R. 5376), which contains additional money for the water sector, but not nearly on the scale of H.R. 3684. The House of Representatives passed the Build Back Better Act by a vote of 220-213 last Friday. In its current form, that act contains $9 billion to address lead contamination in disadvantaged communities. Those funds may be used to remove lead service lines, install filtration or replace water fountains in schools and daycares, perform lead remediation in certain buildings serving disadvantaged communities, and monitor compliance. The bill also contains $225 million to implement a low-income water customer assistance pilot program authorized in H.R. 3684. The Senate is expected to modify certain parts of H.R. 5376 and a House-Senate conference would then have to iron out differences to produce a single bill. It faces some difficult negotiations as it encompasses a far wider range of issues than H.R. 3684, which was more narrowly focused on infrastructure. Feds: Hackers don’t take off for holidays The U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) have issued a reminder that malicious actors in the cyber world are not making the same holiday plans as the rest of us. Recent history shows that this could be a time when cyber actors halfway across the world look for ways—big and small—to disrupt critical networks and systems belonging to organizations, businesses and critical infrastructure, which obviously include the water sector. CISA and the FBI strongly urge all entities – especially those with critical infrastructure – to examine their current cybersecurity posture and implement best practices and mitigations to manage cyber risks. Specifically, CISA and the FBI urge users and organizations to take the following actions to protect themselves: Identify employees responsible for information technology security who would be available to surge during weekends and holidays in the event of a breach or ransomware attack. Implement multi-factor authentication for remote access and administrative accounts. Mandate strong passwords and ensure they are not reused across multiple accounts. If you use remote desktop protocol or any other potentially risky service, ensure it is secure and monitored. Remind employees not to click on suspicious links, and conduct exercises to raise awareness. For a comprehensive overview, see the Joint Cybersecurity Advisory Ransomware Awareness for Holidays and Weekends . CISA also maintains a broader ransomware website . SAB to review basis for PFOA and PFOS MCLGs The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released its draft premises for maximum contaminant level goals (MCLGs) for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctaine sulfonate (PFOS) for review by the agency’s Science Advisory Board (SAB). EPA had committed in October to propose a primary drinking water standard for PFOA and PFOS next fall and to finalize the rule in fall 2023. The draft reference doses (RfDs) (1.5 x 10 -9 mg/kg-day for PFOA and 7.9 x 10 -9 mg/kg-day for PFOS) are substantially lower than the RfDs used to set the current PFOA/PFOS health advisory of 70 ng/L. While EPA did not calculate specific MCLGs, the materials identify PFOA as a likely human carcinogen, and the agency typically sets MCLGs for carcinogens at zero. EPA also seeks feedback on a draft framework for estimated health risks associated with mixtures of per- and polyfluoroaklyl substances. EPA does not name other PFAS to be included in the upcoming proposed rule. However, the framework includes an example using two chemicals with recently finalized toxicity assessments: perfluorobutanesulfonic acid (PFBS) and hexafluoropropylene oxide dimer acid (HFPO-DA or GenX). Importantly, EPA indicates that it will release a health advisory for GenX this coming spring and update the PFOA/PFOS health advisory in a timely manner. The SAB panel deliberations are scheduled for early January 2022. Utilities, cities join efforts in RCRA case The water utility community and municipal leaders have come together to support en banc review in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in the case of California River Watch v. Vacaville (Case No. 20-16605 D.C. No. 2:17-cv-00524- KJM-KJN). This case is important to water systems and municipalities because the district court opinion held that a Safe Drinking Water Act-compliant water system could be reasonably charged as a “transporter” under the Resource Conservation Recovery Act (RCRA) for distributing water containing hexavalent chromium. Last September, a 9th Circuit opinion allowed claims in the case to proceed. The initial opinion had survived an initial appeals court review. Two amicus curiae briefs were filed, one by the Association of California Water Agencies, Western Urban Water Coalition, Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies and AWWA, and the second by the National League of Cities and League of California Cities. EPA tool helps identify source water protection funds EPA recently released its “Funding Integration Tool for Source Water” (FITS). FITS is designed to help utilities and other interested parties identify funding sources to assist with source water protection needs. The tool includes sources such as Section 319 of the Clean Water Act, the Clean Water state revolving loan fund, the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act, U.S. Department of Agriculture conservation program funds and various other programs. It is intended to identify which sources make sense for a proposed project. Additionally, the tool covers several examples and provides suggestions on planning processes. Utilities may also utilize the resources on AWWA’s Source Water Protection page . U.S. Energy Department hosting water workshop series The U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Manufacturing Office (AMO) will host a workshop series in December to help assess the needs of the water sector and inform future research and development needs. The workshops will cover a range of topics including data/digitalization of water, municipal water, wastewater, and water reuse systems at all scales and small-scale systems for rural and underserved communities. The series should be useful to those with research needs for (or interest in) energy in the water sector. AMO also runs the successful Better Plants program , which utilities are encouraged to investigate for assistance with energy auditing and building efficiency. Webinar to cover customer aid, stormwater EPA’s Water Finance Center will offer a webinar on “Affordability and Customer Assistance for Stormwater Services” from 2-3 p.m. ET on Dec. 1. Presenters will discuss approaches for addressing affordability and customers’ ability to pay for stormwater services, using federal, state and local examples. Some of the programs featured will include the new Low Income Household Water Assistance Program administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the State of Washington’s Connecting Housing to Infrastructure Program, and the City of Gastonia’s stormwater utility customer assistance program. Advanced registration is recommended and is available online .