House passes water infrastructure, SDWA bill In a Sept. 13 voice vote, The U.S. House of Representatives passed a broad water resources development bill reauthorizing the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) program and incorporating updates to portions of the Safe Drinking Water Act. The ball is now in the Senate’s court. This legislation, S. 3021 , contains a number of provisions that AWWA and other water organizations have sought. Reauthorization of the SRF program and WIFIA were key wins for AWWA and the water sector overall. The WIFIA reauthorization is for two years, but water resource bills are typically enacted in two-year cycles. The SRF reauthorization is for three years; authorization for the drinking water SRF had expired in 2003. AWWA had a strong hand in the drafting of the security and resiliency provisions, which align closely with AWWA’s J100-10 (R13) Risk and Resilience Management of Water and Wastewater Systems . Another key win was the new requirements that downstream utilities be notified when a contaminant spill occurs. S. 3021 codifies that Consumer Confidence Reports can be provided electronically. Previously, this was allowed via regulation. The bill also requires that CCRs be provided twice a year instead of once a year. This was considered a compromise in the House since there was a push to require them quarterly in the wake of news on lead contamination, PFAS and perchlorate. Utilities helping utilities confront Florence Utilities all along the Atlantic seaboard were bracing for the impacts of Hurricane Florence last week prior to it making landfall near Jacksonville, N.C. Historic rain, exceeding 30 inches in some areas, coupled with a storm surge of more than 10 feet in coastal areas pushed many systems to their limits. Given that possibility, the Water/ Wastewater Agency Response Network (WARN) , in EPA regions 2, 3 and 4 were actively engaged in helping utilities prepare for how to request and/or provide assistance if impacted. A team representing NCWaterWARN was present in the state emergency operations center prior to Florence making landfall and subsequently fielded multiple requests for assistance over the past week for bypass pumps, generators and jet vac truck crews. The Onslow Water & Sewer Authority, which deployed during Irma just a year ago to support Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority, took a direct hit from Florence. Crews from the cities of Raleigh and Wilson and from Tyrrell County have been activated to help with main breaks and related resource needs. In South Carolina, impacts were not as widespread, but several systems were impacted by flooding and SCWARN was providing support. Many rivers are not expected to crest until today, impacting safe access to some facilities. As flood waters recede, additional assistance may become necessary, but at this time, there is no anticipated need for out-of-state support. In the lead-up to landfall, utilities were encouraged to develop mission-ready packages (MRPs) based on AWWA’s Resource Typing Manual . It was impressive to see so many systems work diligently so they could be in a position to deploy quickly if called upon. AWWA has initiated a project based on recommendations from the Hurricanes Harvey and Irma After-Action Report to update the guidance on resource typing that is expected to be completed in later this year. AWWA CEO on Wednesday issued a statement expressing support for communities impacted by Florence, saying “ AWWA stands in solidarity with the committed water professionals who work to restore and maintain critical water and wastewater services. ” PFAS a hot topic on the Hill The issue of PFAS continues to be a hot topic on Capitol Hill. Four members of Congress on Monday introduced H.R. 6835 , the PFAS Federal Facility Accountability Act. The bipartisan bill would require that upon request by the governor of a state, a federal agency would have to enter into a cooperative agreement to test for, monitor and remove PFAS at a current or former federal facility that is contaminating water or soil. The bill would also require that within one year of the bill’s enactment, EPA would have to decide whether to designate perfluorinated compounds as hazardous substances under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act of 1980. The lead sponsor is U.S. Rep. Fred Upton , R-Mich., who carries some gravitas on this as a former chair of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. The focus is likely to be on the Department of Defense facilities. Some states are not waiting for formal federal decisions on PFAS. About eight have issued regulatory measures on PFAS cleanup or PFAS in water. Another dozen or so are contemplating such actions. In Washington next Wednesday afte rnoo n, the Senate Subcommittee on Federal Spending Oversight and Emergency Management will hold a hearing titled, “ The Federal Role in the Toxic PFAS Chemical Crisis .” Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ken., chairs that panel. The House Subcommittee on the Environment held a hearing Sept. 6 on perfluorinated chemicals in the environment. EPA to release school lead grant info soon We expect to see EPA release information soon on grant funds authorized through the Water Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2016 and subsequently appropriated for the federal Fiscal Year 2019 ($20 million). This federal funding will likely be distributed to states that apply for funding for subsequent use in communities. It is possible that EPA will also take this opportunity to revise its existing 3T’s Guide for Reducing Lead in Schools . USDA investing $392 million in water infrastructure USDA announced on Monday that it is investing $392 million in rural water and wastewater infrastructure projects in 42 states via the Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant program. In many cases, states, other federal entities or non-profit organizations are partnering with USDA on these projects. The program serves communities with 10,000 or fewer residents. These communities and water districts can apply online for funding to maintain, modernize or build water and wastewater systems using an interactive RD Apply tool, or they can apply through one of USDA Rural Development’s state or field offices . WIFIA info session coming to Seattle EPA will host an information session on the WIFIA program at its Region 10 headquarters in Seattle Oct. 11, 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. PDT. Registration is available online. Participants will learn about the program’s status, requirements and benefits. The target audience is p rospective borrowers including municipal entities, corporations, partnerships and staff from state revolving fund programs, plus private and non-governmental organizations that support prospective borrowers. They will also hear about King County’s experience in working with the WIFIA program. The county recently closed on a $134.5 million loan to help build its Georgetown Wet Weather Treatment Station. Funding negotiations for EPA and USDA stall Despite initial progress, the House and Senate have been unable to come to an agreement on funding for the EPA and USDA for Fiscal Year 2019. Talks broke down after House Republicans insisted on inserting more than 20 policy riders into the Interior-Environment appropriations bill, which funds the EPA. We do not know the details of these specific riders, but they generally cover controversial rules like “Waters of the United States” and major EPA programs, making it difficult for the two parties to find consensus. Negotiations over the agriculture appropriations bill are currently at a standstill over language giving the USDA jurisdiction over “cell-based meat” or “meat-like” food development, among other, different priorities such as the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program. The appropriations process is one of the few opportunities individual members of Congress have to give instructions to individual federal agencies by specifying how they can or cannot use their funding. Less controversial policy riders may slip under the radar due to the must-pass nature of these bills, but others may spill over and hold up the entire process. This is partly why funding the government has become so difficult in recent years. The partisan disagreements are less about dollars and cents and more about the strings attached. House and Senate leadership has already begun to ready stopgap measures to fund these agencies through at least Dec. 7 if the conference committee is unable to find agreement by the time current funding expires on Oct. 1.