U.S. House passes defense bill with PFAS mandates The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a National Defense Authorization Act, H.R. 4350 , that contains significant provisions regarding per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) for the water sector, both desirable and undesirable. The bill, which passed on a 316-113 vote, is the annual legislation for authorizing the nation’s defense programs. It contains two provisions that AWWA and other members of the water sector had been seeking – tighter reporting requirements for discharges of PFAS and clarification of the scope of data reporting required for PFAS. However, it also contains a provision mandating that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) set drinking water regulations for two PFAS compounds. AWWA has long opposed bypassing the existing science and data-based processes in the Safe Drinking Water Act to regulate specific contaminants. AWWA urged the House Committee on Rules not to consider the amendment in order, but the committee did rule it in order for consideration by the full House. The PFAS provisions in the bill were all contained in an amendment offered from the House floor. AWWA urged the House Committee on Rules not to consider the amendment in order, but the committee did accept it in order for consideration by the full House. AWWA then wrote every House office urging a vote against the amendment. However, it was adopted 236-186. The Senate Armed Services Committee approved its defense authorization bill, S. 2792 , on Sept. 22. We expect to see the full Senate consider it in October. That bill contains a PFAS section viewed as more favorable in the water community. One provision would mandate that the Defense Department disclose the results of PFAS testing on or near its facilities and that it notify nearby water systems that such tests were going to take place. AWWA will communicate with House-Senate conferees working to produce a single defense bill. AWWA sends PFAS comments to agency AWWA submitted comments to EPA earlier this month on two proposals to address PFAS. One set of comments addressed monitoring contaminants for possible regulation; the other addressed reporting of PFAS sources. On Sept. 17, AWWA submitted recommendations regarding the agency’s Draft Fifth Contaminant Candidate List (CCL 5), which identifies priority contaminants of concern for drinking water. The draft CCL 5 comprises 66 individual contaminants, disinfection byproducts, cyanotoxins and PFAS as a group. Comments emphasized the need for more effective communication about the contaminants on the list and for a tiered listing approach to better demonstrate higher priority contaminants of each group. The comments also recommended a revision of the structural definition of PFAS, which was not inclusive of PFAS known to exist and occur in drinking water sources. On Sept. 24, AWWA, the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies and the National Association of Clean Water Agencies submitted joint recommendations to improve the agency’s proposed PFAS Reporting and Recordkeeping Rule under the Toxic Substances Control Act. This rule is required by the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 and is expected to provide useful data toward identifying uses and sources of PFAS to the environment. Comments emphasized the need for the data reporting timeline and public access to the data to be implemented in a manner that supports water systems responding to the Fifth Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR 5). EPA council to discuss CCR recommendations EPA’s National Drinking Water Advisory Council (NDWAC) will discuss draft recommendations issued by its Consumer Confidence Report Rule Revision (CCR3) Working Group during an Oct. 12 virtual meeting open to the public. The recommendations, which have not yet been publicly released, will be based on questions the NDWAC charged the working group to answer. These draft recommendations will be an important interim step toward implementation of the changes to the CCR rule as required by Section 2008 of America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 . NDWAC is unlikely to make a final decision on the report during this meeting, but it will discuss many of the issues and possibly ask for revisions to the recommendations. Assuming NDWAC approves the report (during this or a future meeting), its recommendations will be considered by EPA during the rulemaking process. EPA has not yet set a schedule for a proposed and final rule. The current CCR rule remains in effect until a new final rule has been issued. Those interested in the meeting can read the details (including how to comment if interested) in the notice , and register to participate . Inspector General: EPA needs agency-wide action for harmful algal blooms EPA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) this week issued a report calling for an agency-wide strategic action plan to address harmful algal blooms, which produce cyanotoxins that impact drinking water supplies. Although EPA has taken various actions on this issue via the Clean Water Act (e.g., support documents for numeric nutrient water quality criteria for nitrogen and phosphorus ) and the Safe Drinking Water Act (e.g., health advisories for microcystins and cylindrospermopsin ), the OIG found that certain components of the agency, including EPA’s research/scientific branches, are not sufficiently coordinated to assure the greatest effectiveness of the various research and regulatory actions within the agency. As part of the report’s recommendations, EPA committed to reviewing all available information about human health risks “to determine whether actions under the Safe Drinking Water Act are warranted” by Dec. 31, 2022 (see page 19 of the report). EPA publishes Clean Water Act Program Plan 15 EPA has published its Preliminary Effluent Guidelines Program Plan 15 , which summarizes ongoing studies and efforts to establish Effluent Limitations and Guidelines (ELGs). The document also contains the initiation of a new regulatory effort to establish PFAS ELGs for metal finishers, an action which AWWA previously recommended to EPA . As part of the Program Plan 15, EPA announced a continued effort to establish ELGs for PFAS discharges for facilities from the Organic Chemicals, Plastics, and Synthetic Fibers point source category. The plan was drawn up under the authority of the Clean Water Act. FEMA announces open application period for $1.16 billion hazard mitigation grants The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) on Sept. 30 announced the application period opened for the Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities and Flood Mitigation Assistance grant programs. States, local communities, tribes and territories can submit applications to combat climate change and protect underserved communities against disaster hazards. For fiscal year 2021, $1 billion is available for the Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities grant and $160 million is available for Flood Mitigation Assistance. The application period closes on Jan. 28, 2022. Springfield, Mass., closes on $250 million WIFIA loan EPA announced it has closed on a $250 million loan under the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) program to the Springfield Water and Sewer Commission in Massachusetts to help fund 30 drinking water and wastewater projects . The commission will also use loan funds to promote renewable energy use by rehabilitating the system’s hydropower facility. Springfield is investing a total of about $550 million in its system, which serves 250,000 people. EPA estimates the program will create 1,761 jobs. Utilizing the WIFIA loan will save the system about $60 million and accelerate system updates by 15 years. AWWA led efforts to enact WIFIA in 2014. With closure of the Springfield loan, EPA has closed on 59 WIFIA loans that are providing more than $11 billion in credit assistance, creating about 69,000 jobs and saving ratepayers more than $4 billion. Fact sheet addresses VOCs from wildfires EPA’s Water Security Division, along with staff from several regional offices, has prepared a fact sheet on volatile organic compound (VOC) contamination after wildfires because of the threat such fires can pose to drinking water supplies. Communities impacted by wildfires have found elevated levels of VOCs, such as benzene, in distribution system water mains, service connections and building fixtures. Addressing Contamination of Drinking Water Distribution Systems from Volatile Organic Compounds after Wildfires is a valuable resource for water utilities that describes contamination sampling strategies, mitigation techniques and potential mutual aid and funding alternatives.