LCRI Rulemaking comments timeline The 60-day timeline for comments during the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (UMRA) / Federalism consultation for the Lead and Copper Rules Improvements (LCRI) started yesterday. Comments from water systems should be submitted to Docket EPA-HQ-OW-2022-0813 . The purpose of this step of rule development is to identify challenges and implications for local government regarding potential LCRI requirements. It would be particularly helpful if systems could inform EPA about their experience and data regarding impacts/impediments to (1) setting a specific number of years for all systems to complete full replacement of all lead and galvanized requiring replacement service lines, (2) requiring evaluation of optimized corrosion control treatment and tier one public notice at 90th percentile values lower than 15 µg/L, and (3) eliminating the LCR Revisions’ small system flexibility provisions . The agency is also seeking additional input on environmental justice (EJ) considerations in LCRI. EPA will hold two public meetings on EJ in the agency’s development of the proposed Lead and Copper Rule Revisions. The online meetings are 1-4 p.m. ET, Oct. 25 and 5-8 p.m. Nov. 1. Registration is required. Comments should be submitted to Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OW-2022-0801 at Regulations.gov on or before Nov. 15. EPA indicates the LCRI will emphasize proactive and equitable lead service line replacement (LSLR), strengthening compliance tap sampling to better identify communities most at risk of lead in drinking water and to compel lead reduction actions, and reducing the complexity of the regulation through improvement of the action and trigger level construct. In a separate but related activity, EPA is requesting recommendations from the Science Advisory Board (SAB). The questions posed to the SAB and three community-specific example environmental justice analyses are available . Neither the EJ public meetings nor the request for SAB comments present clear questions for consideration, but if you are developing your system’s lead service line replacement plans and evaluating equity considerations, you may want to review the examples provided and submit comments. Comments to the SAB received by Oct. 25 will inform the SAB discussion. EPA to explain SDWA process for PFAS rulemaking At 2:30-4 p.m. ET on Nov. 2, EPA will hold an introduction to the regulatory process for a per- and polyfluoroalkyl substance (PFAS) primary drinking water standard. EPA anticipates proposing a rule before the end of the year. The agency expects to give its take on PFAS in drinking water. But do not get your hopes up -- EPA will not be discussing the specific requirements of the proposed rule. Registration is required. EPA will post a recording and presentation material on the EPA PFAS NPDWR website . Release of survey about 'Perceptions of Tap Water' AWWA released results from its third annual U.S. consumer poll on 'Perceptions of Tap Water.' The poll was conducted by Morning Consult on behalf of AWWA in June. A written and visual summary of the survey results are available on AWWA’s Value of Water page . The survey results indicate: Nearly 75% of respondents perceive their home’s tap water as safe. Approximately 80% of survey respondents trust their water utility. About 70% of respondents rate the quality of water at their faucet as excellent or good, a level nearly equal to a similar survey conducted in June 2021. However, fewer Black consumers rated their water as “safe” (6% decline) and more rated their water “unsafe” (7% increase) compared to June 2021. At the same time, Black adults (26%) and Hispanic adults (22%) were more likely than White adults (16%) to report that the safety of their water supply has improved over the past five years. Seventy-seven percent of respondents indicated they have “a lot” or “some” trust in their water utility. Respondents who are aware of the frequent water quality tests at their utility indicated a much higher level of trust than those who are unaware. Three-fourths of respondents (73%) say they are generally satisfied with the water. However, that figure rose to 88% among those who said they are aware of frequent testing. Among the survey’s other findings: One-third of respondents were struggling to pay their water bill on time, an 8% increase from June 2021. Three-fourths of respondents strongly or somewhat support continuing Congressional assistance to help with paying water bills for those who may not be able to afford it. Respondents across key demographics show support for this policy, with the most support expressed by Black respondents. The struggle to pay a water bill is most strongly expressed by lower-income, Black and Hispanic respondents. Seventy-seven percent of respondents indicated they have “a lot” or “some” trust in their water utility. Respondents who are aware of the frequent water quality tests at their utility indicated a much higher level of trust than those who are unaware. Three-fourths of respondents (73%) say they are generally satisfied with the water. However, that figure rose to 88% among those who said they are aware of frequent testing. Three more WIFIA loans close EPA’s Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) program announced it closed on three additional loans in September totaling $559 million in credit assistance to water utilities. The loans were as follows: $315 million for Metro Water Services in Nashville to modernize two water treatment plants to address emerging contaminants, including PFAS, pharmaceuticals and personal care products. $225 million for the stormwater capital improvement program in the City of San Diego . $19 million for the Helix Water District in San Diego County, Calif., to increase the region's drinking water source resiliency by expanding water reuse opportunities and reducing reliance on imported water. Since its inception, the WIFIA program has closed 92 loans totaling $16 billion in credit assistance, helping to finance more than $34 billion for water infrastructure projects and create 103,000 jobs. AWWA led efforts to get WIFIA enacted in 2014. Finance advisory board to meet in Denver EPA’s Environmental Financial Advisory Board will hold a hybrid in-person/on-line meeting from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. MT at the Hyatt Regency Denver Tech Center. The board is to provide workgroup updates and work products, consider possible future advisory topics, and receive updates on EPA activities. Advanced registration is required to attend. Water sector cyber threats roundtable series planned Five roundtables are being planned and hosted by the Cyberspace Solarium Commission 2.0 and Microsoft to examine cybersecurity issues in the water sector. The first virtual event is scheduled for Oct. 27 and will include Cyberspace Solarium Commission 2.0, Microsoft, and U.S. national security officials. The intent is to convene experts from across the U.S. government, academia, and the technology and water industries to highlight cyber risk and threats, and to explore solutions to better secure national water and wastewater infrastructure. Individual roundtables will not be recorded, but a final compendium report with recommendations for legislators, regulators and system operators is expected to be published early spring 2023. Register if you’re interested in participating prior to the first roundtable. Update on cyber grants for state & local governments As noted in the Sept. 30 Insider , a new State and Local Cybersecurity Grant Program was recently announced by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). This program is funded through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and provides a total of $1 billion in cybersecurity-related funding over the next four years, with $185 million available in FY22, specifically targeted to state, local and territorial governments across the nation. The funding is only available to state governments. Local governments cannot apply directly for the FY22 funds but should be aware that each state is required to allocate 80% of the funds to local governments. Additionally, 25% of the funds are required to be allocated to rural areas. Local governments should reach out to their State Administrative Agency (SAA) to get involved in the state’s plan to apply for funding and encourage their SAA to apply for the funding available. Actions supporting the implementation of best practices are required in the state level plan according CISAs guidance . Any utility proposal to a state should address how implementation of best practices will be supported. This would include cyber mitigations identified under AWIA §2013, which requires the utility to have “strategies and resources to improve the resilience of the system, including the physical security and cybersecurity of the system.” AWWA has developed best practices guidance and an assessment tool that aids utilities in determining what priority controls may need to be implemented. These resources can be accessed for free, including the Small Systems Guidance . Resilience funding application period open The application period is open for two grant programs administered by the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA), Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) and Flood Mitigation Assistance (FMA) Fiscal Year 2022 grant programs. A total of approximately $2.3 billion is available through the BRIC program and another $800 million through FMA to help communities enhance their resilience to natural hazards. These programs are administrated by states/tribes/territories, which then provide sub-grants to local governments. Interested applicants are encouraged to contact their State Hazard Mitigation Officer . Drinking water systems are encouraged to review the risk and resilience assessment completed under AWIA §2013 that required consideration of natural hazards that threaten “the functioning of a community water system, including an earthquake, tornado, flood, hurricane, wildfire, and hydrologic changes.” The statute’s emergency response plan provision required the utility to include “actions, procedures, and equipment which can obviate or significantly lessen the impact of a malevolent act or natural hazard on the public health and the safety and supply of drinking water provided to communities and individuals, including the development of alternative source water options, relocation of water intakes, and construction of flood protection barriers.” This statutory requirement in AWIA supports the intent of both grant programs and should be emphasized in any application submitted by a drinking water utility.