New online lead toolkit for schools available from EPA The effort to address lead contamination continued this week with an announcement from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that it has released a new online document titled 3Ts for Reducing Lead in Drinking Water . The document provides tools to help schools, child care facilities, state agencies and water utilities implement voluntary lead testing systems. It features an interactive web-format and includes modules, customizable templates, and tools that can help schools when implementing their lead testing programs. The “Ts” represent training, testing and taking action. The agency will hold a webinar on the toolkit at 2 p.m. EDT on Oct. 25. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is offering another webinar at 3 p.m. EDT on Oct. 10 on a grant program to help schools and child care facilities test for lead. This is one of three related grant programs authorized in the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act of 2016. Water infrastructure/resources bill faces another delay The full U.S. Senate was supposed to vote this week on a water resources/water infrastructure bill, S. 3021 , but it was delayed due to a bill reauthorizing a Federal Aviation Administration and consideration of a new Supreme Court justice. S. 3021 is a combination of water resources development legislation that typically occurs every two years and legislation that modifies the Safe Drinking Water Act. The bill reauthorizes the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act program for two more years. It also reauthorizes the Drinking Water State Revolving Loan Fund program for three years, updates security and resiliency requirements for drinking water utilities, requires that consumer confidence reports be provided twice a year, and makes other changes to federal drinking water programs. The vote on the Supreme Court justice may happen Saturday or Sunday, meaning a vote on S. 3021 would happen next week. The House approved the bill Sept. 13, meaning it will go to the president for his signature should the Senate pass the bill. Appropriations, agriculture bills also on hold Late last month, before an Oct. 1 deadline, President Trump signed into law three appropriations packages that will fund 75 percent of the federal government through the end of the fiscal year. However, the other 25 percent of federal appropriations needs, which includes funding for the EPA and U.S. Department of Agriculture, will be funded with a continuing resolution through Dec. 7. This sets up another funding battle in the middle of a lame-duck Congress, between mid-term elections and the beginning of a new session of Congress. The White House has suggested that Congress must provide funding for construction of a border wall in order to avoid a partial shutdown on that date. Speaking of delays, it also looks like completion of the 2018 Farm Bill will take place during the lame-duck session of Congress after the November elections. The House of Representatives went into recess on Sept. 28 and will not reconvene until Nov. 13, letting federal agricultural policy expire at midnight Sept. 30. Many farm program operations will continue, however, as they are permanently authorized or have funds from the previous year with which to operate. The four “principals,” or chairs and ranking members from the House and Senate agriculture committees are continuing to talk and expect to complete action on the Farm Bill in November despite some strong disagreements on policy and funding remaining. AWWA and other water organizations have been seeking a strengthening of portions of the conservation title which protect sources of drinking water. Most of AWWA’s requests appear likely to survive the House-Senate conference. Court orders compliance with 2017 RMP Rule The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit Court has vacated a delay the implementation of the amendments the EPA disseminated in January 2017 to the Risk Management Program rule under the Clean Air Act Section 112(r). In simple terms, the court determined that EPA’s actions were not justified and that the 2017 rule should go into effect immediately. The amendments modified accident prevention program elements, emergency preparedness requirements and provisions related to information sharing to the public and local emergency planners/responders. During the delay, EPA had issued and received comment on a proposed rule that would revise or rescind many of the 2017 amendments. Final action on the reconsideration rule is not expected until early 2019. Most of compliance deadlines for the 2017 amendments begin in 2021. In the interim, those with RMPs are advised to ensure they have coordinated response needs with local emergency planning and response organizations and document these coordination activities per Section 68.93 (if they have not already done so as part of routine planning activities). The EPA has provided more information regarding RMP compliance on its website . EPA schedules additional WIFIA info sessions The EPA has announced three additional information sessions for those interested in the WIFIA program. In addition to the Oct. 11 session in Seattle , the agency will hold sessions Nov. 13 in Chicago , Dec. 11 in Boston and Jan. 15 in Atlanta . The sessions are aimed at prospective borrowers, including municipal entities, tribes, corporations, partnerships, and state revolving fund programs, plus private and non-governmental organizations that support prospective borrowers. Participants will learn about the program’s status, eligibility and statutory requirements, the application process and financial benefits and flexibilities of WIFIA. At the last three information sessions, WIFIA staff will be available for 30-minute individual meetings to learn more about projects and answer specific questions. Participants will receive a link to sign up for those after registering. USGS releases data update for web tool The U.S. Geological Survey National Water Quality Program this week announced it had updated its interactive web tool that tracks water quality of more than 100 rivers and streams across the United States. The tool now includes data from 2017. With the web tool, Tracking Water Quality of the Nation's Rivers and Streams , users can compare recent water-quality conditions to average long-term conditions (1993–2017), see which pesticides occurred at concentrations that exceed human-health or aquatic-life benchmarks, and download data for streamflow and contaminant concentrations and loads. The web tool also features interactive maps for viewing nutrient (nitrate, total nitrogen, and total phosphorus) loading throughout the Mississippi River basin, and maps for viewing nitrate loads for the nation’s coastal rivers. FEMA is accepting grant applications for Hazard Mitigation Assistance The application period for more than $395 million in hazard mitigation grants is now open. Eligible applicants -- state, local, tribal and territorial governments -- may apply for the Flood Mitigation Assistance and Pre-Disaster Mitigation grants through Jan. 31, 2019. Flood Mitigation Assistance grants are available to implement measures to reduce or eliminate risk of flood damage to structures insured by the National Flood Insurance Program. For Fiscal Year 2018, $160 million is available, including $70 million for community flood mitigation activities that address flooding on a neighborhood level, such as floodwater diversion and localized flood-control measures. Pre-Disaster Mitigation grants help state, local, tribal and territorial governments build resiliency through measures that reduce risk to lives and property. For Fiscal Year 2018, $235.2 million is available. States, tribes, territories and the District of Columbia may apply for the statutory allocation of up to $575,000 federal share. In addition, $15 million is set aside for federally-recognized tribes. PDM grants are limited to a statutory allocation of up to $575,000 federal share. City, utility, state named in lead suit A lawsuit currently before the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey seeks to require that Newark, N.J., provide weekly door-to-door delivery of bottled water or a point-of-use filter, if requested, to homes with pregnant or nursing women, children aged six or younger, where water samples have tested above 10 ppb, or homes that are served by a lead service line or have lead plumbing or copper plumbing with lead solder. The plaintiffs – the Newark Education Workers Caucus and the Natural Resources Defense Council – based their argument that this relief is necessary because there is of a lack of documentation showing that the system is adhering to optimized corrosion control per the Lead and Copper Rule, and because two rounds of compliance monitoring showed lead action level exceedances. Named as defendants are the City of Newark, Newark Department of Water and Sewer Utilities and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. The city has replied to the court that the plaintiffs’ concerns are misplaced and that the city is in full compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act, and the injunctive relief sought is not appropriate “legally or equitably.” The city’s website illustrates the steps it is taking to comply with the LCR. The city has developed a program to assist customers with full-lead service line replacement. S&P updates Great Lakes utilities’ credit outlook S&P Global released a report in late September with updated analysis of water and wastewater utilities’ credit ratings in the Great Lakes region. Overall, S&P found that ratings in the region are stable but slightly below the national average, primarily due to a combination of slow economic growth, a smaller customer base caused by population decline, and a lower than average percentage of infrastructure deemed “strong.” S&P notes, however, that the region’s affordable water rates give utilities flexibility to raise additional revenue if necessary to meet potential regulatory requirements or implement asset management practices. For state-specific information, read the report online.