U.S. Congress recesses; two huge issues looming The U.S. Congress has recessed for the Thanksgiving holiday with critical issues awaiting members when they return to Washington, D.C., next week: Funding the federal government beyond Dec. 11 (when the current continuing resolution expires); and How or whether to proceed on COVID-19 relief. Lawmakers are believed to be close to an agreement on an omnibus bill for the remainder of the federal fiscal year. As for pandemic relief, Democrats had been holding out for a large, sweeping bill, but may be ready to settle for something more modest and targeted – as Republicans seem to favor – to provide more immediate help for people in economic distress. Congress could possibly consider relief again when the Biden Administration and the new session of Congress are in place in 2021. EPA publishes draft TSCA supplemental analysis for 1,4-dioxane The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a draft supplemental analysis of 1,4-dioxane describing the risks from exposure from surface water and recreational waters, but not from drinking water. AWWA is preparing comments to the Agency to add to the Association’s comments from last year recommending consideration of drinking water risks. The Agency issued the analysis after reviewing comments taken last year as part of an evaluation under the Toxics Substances Control Act (TSCA). Through TSCA, EPA can control which chemicals are allowed into commerce and place restrictions on their use. Record WIFIA funds sought Recent letters of interest for loans from the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) program came from prospective borrowers in 24 states, seeking a record $9.2 billion in loans, according to EPA’s announcement , with a majority of those seeking funding for drinking water projects . The WIFIA program will have $5 billion to loan in this cycle, meaning about $10 billion in water infrastructure will be built as WIFIA funds up to 49 percent of a project’s costs. The next step is for EPA staff to evaluate the letters for project eligibility, credit worthiness, engineering feasibility and alignment with WIFIA’s statutory and regulatory selection criteria. Then EPA will identify projects it intends to finance and invite those selected entities to submit formal applications. Prospective projects include those that address lead exposure, emerging contaminants and other drinking water quality issues; and wastewater management, desalination, stormwater management and combinations of such projects. EPA presenting workforce, technology webinar EPA is presenting a webinar on “Technology Adoption: It’s All About the People” at 11 a.m. ET on Dec. 9. Webinar presenters will discuss the motivations, challenges and benefits they are experiencing as they work to ensure their staffs get the best support possible to meet the technology and water quality challenges of the 21st century. Registration is available online . The webinar is part of an ongoing series offered by EPA called “Creating the Water Workforce of the Future.” EPA explained that as utilities adopt new technologies, they also need to invest in their most important resource – staff – and that it is critically important that employees receive training and support to ensure the water workforce remains efficient and resilient. Webinar to explore hazard mitigation funding EPA’s Water Infrastructure and Resiliency Finance Center is presenting a free webinar 1-2:30 p.m. ET on Dec. 10 to describe hazard mitigation funding opportunities for the water sector that mitigate damage from natural disasters. Topics include development of mitigation projects, new funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and an example of how a utility worked with its state government to get funding for emergency backup generators. Registration is available online . Continuing education units are available for participation in this webinar. OMB reviewing groundwater guidance The U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is reviewing EPA guidance that would create a case-by-case test for when contaminants carried by groundwater need a Clean Water Act permit. However, it is unclear whether OMB received the guidance in time to become final before President Trump leaves office. Executive branch review of such documents typically takes about 90 days. In addition, new EPA regulations require significant guidance documents to be subject to a 30-day public comment period. The guidance stems from the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on County of Maui vs Hawaii Wildlife Fund . The Supreme Court provided seven factors it said were relevant in permit determinations: transit time, distance traveled, the nature of the material through which the pollutant travels, the extent to which the pollutant is diluted or chemically changed as it travels, the amount of pollutant entering the navigable waters relative to the amount of the pollutant that leaves the point source, the area or manner by which the pollutant enters the navigable waters, and the degree to which the pollution at that point has maintained its specific identity. EPA reiterates commitment to water quality trading programs Earlier this month, EPA issued “ Water Quality Trading on a Watershed Scale ,” a document that reiterates EPA’s commitment to supporting water quality trading programs. This document, which is primarily aimed at EPA regions, lays out three key factors for those managing or interested in developing water quality trading programs: Water quality goals, connectivity and pollutant processing. Relevant statutory, regulatory and policy information. Availability of data and modeling (the document includes information where to find or develop data).