House panel focuses on perfluorinated chemicals The U.S. House Subcommittee on the Environment heard strong calls for federal action on perfluorinated chemicals, or PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) in a hearing Thursday . The calls for action included everything from drinking water standards, to cleanup , to interagency approaches. Rep. Frank Pallone , D-N.J., ranking minority member for the full House Energy and Commerce Committee, called for a “binding and enforceable” drinking water standard and for Congress to set a timeline for that to happen. “The more we test, the more we find,” Pallone said. Some of the strongest language came from Erik Olson of the Natural Resources Defense Council: “PFAS are the new PCBs – but they may be more widespread and dangerous…[c]onsidering recent data showing that extremely low levels of these compounds and an array of other PFAS are harmful, it is likely that tens of millions of U.S. residents may have unsafe PFAS levels in their tap water.” He called for states to “immediately step into the vacuum by issuing strong, health-protective drinking water and cleanup standards, because we cannot trust EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) to do its job.” Lisa Daniels of Pennsylvania and president of the Association of State Drinking Water Administrators, called for a national, holistic approach to PFAS. Daniels said ASDWA believes the question is not whether to regulate PFAS, but when and how, using sound science as required under the Safe Drinking Water Act. She also asked that Congress recommend to EPA that the agency expand its “PFAS approach beyond drinking water to encompass PFAS reductions across all programs and media.” Carol Issacs of the Michigan PFAS Action Response Team noted that the Department of Defense bases its PFAS-related actions on EPA’s Lifetime Health Advisory level of 70 parts per trillion. “A national standard would allow uniform understanding of PFAS chemicals by all and would also assist in better understanding the use and disposal of the PFAS chemicals.” Rep. Debbie Dingell , D-Mich., said she and Rep. Fred Upton , R-Mich., and former chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee, would soon be introducing PFAS legislation. EPA requests extension on perchlorate Last week the EPA filed a motion seeking a six-month extension to the 2016 consent decree directing the agency to publish a proposed maximum contaminant level goal and national primary drinking water regulation for perchlorate by Oct. 31, 2018. The six-month window is based on the time it took the agency to address recommendations that were provided during two rounds of peer-review, which concluded in January 2018. These delays impacted the agency’s completion of the statutorily required Health Risk Reduction and Cost Analysis (HRRCA) and the inter-agency review required by Executive Order. The original consent order deadline was issued by the U.S. District Court Southern District of New York in response to the claim by the Natural Resources Defense Council that EPA had failed to promulgate a proposed and final rule in a timely manner. In the request EPA stated that “staff has made considerable progress on the technical work … but they will need until January 2019 to complete work on the HRRCA.” The EPA will be assessing the best available technologies for removing perchlorate, identification of analytical methods for detection, and updating occurrence estimates to reflect current conditions to inform the exposure assessment. At press time the court’s acceptance of the motion was still pending. Public Farm Bill negotiations open The House - Senate conference that is to produce a single Farm Bill held its first public meetings this week, with the expected skirmishes starting over nutritional assistance, crop subsidies and similar topics. Sen. Sherrod Brown , D-Ohio, in his opening statement, did describe his concerns over algal blooms (in Lake Erie, in particular), and his desire to see federal programs provide a higher proportion of cost sharing in conservation projects. Rep. Michael Conaway , R-Texas, chair of the House Agriculture Committee, said he has prepared a compromise package for all 12 titles of the Farm Bill, but did not provide details in public. AWWA and others have been striving to see source water protection strengthened in the Farm Bill’s conservation title. Congress is under pressure to produce a new Farm Bill by Sept. 30, the date at which authorization for current agricultural programs expires. ‘Pre-conference’ talks under way for water resources bill In a somewhat unusual move, House and Senate negotiators have been working on legislative language for a water resources development bill on which they hope both chambers can quickly vote. The House passed a relatively clean Water Resources Development Act, H.R. 8 , in June. Congress typically passes these bills every two years. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee passed a much more complex water resources bill, called America’s Water Infrastructure Act, S. 2800 , in May, but it has not come before the full Senate. A House-Senate conference convenes when the two bodies have produced different versions of the same legislation. The conference is to produce a single bill that goes back to each body for a vote without amendment. Because the full Senate never passed S. 2800, the “pre-conference” participants are trying to negotiate a bill that will get through the House and Senate quickly. The Senate bill has a provision that AWWA, the Water Environment Federation and the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies strongly oppose . The provision would create a separate Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) program just for state revolving loan fund agencies. House leadership has opposed this provision, but it carries strong support in the Senate environment committee. Congress is feeling pressure to get some important bills moving as there are relatively few days on the legislative calendar remaining for this Congress and because this is an election year. We’ll continue following this one closely. Nuts and bolts get AIS waiver The EPA has issued a “third and final” extension of a waiver from American Iron and Steel requirements for certain stainless steel nuts and bolts used in projects receiving assistance from the wastewater and Drinking Water State Revolving Loan Fund programs. The waiver will be in place for 18 months after the Aug. 24 signing. It permits the use of non-domestically produced stainless-steel nuts and bolts in bolting-type pipe couplings, restraints, joints, flanges, and repair saddles in iron and steel products. The agency believes this limited waiver will allow time for domestic production of these parts to increase. It is also retroactive to Feb. 18, when the previous extension expired. This extension of the Short-Term National Product Waiver for Stainless-Steel Nuts and Bolts used in Pipe Couplings, Restraints, Joints, Flanges and Saddles is posted on the agency’s website, along with all other waivers . Questions may be directed to SRF_AIS@epa.gov . EPA releases three SRF-related reports States have signed more than $35 billion in loans since Congress created the Drinking Water State Revolving Loan Fund, according to a new report by the EPA marking the 20 th anniversary of the program’s implementation. Special “set-asides” from DWSRF appropriations have provided more than $3 billion for operator certification, system capacity development, source water protection and other activities. A separate report on the Drinking Water Infrastructure Grants – Tribal Set-Aside program provides an overview of the $325 million the agency has provided for infrastructure upgrades, capital improvement projects, operator training and certification programs. However, the EPA also notes that there are $3.8 billion in needed drinking water infrastructure needs on tribal lands. A third report describes grants derived from the drinking water and wastewater SRF programs that are sent to the District of Columbia, U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa and the Northern Marianas Islands. Congress exempted those jurisdictions from establishing their own SRF programs. Regional compact may divest water quality regulation The Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission (ORSANCO) is currently considering a proposal that would return the setting of water quality standards for the Ohio River to the individual states. The public comment period for the proposal closed on Aug. 20. Nationally, there are a handful of river basin compacts that have been the model for watershed-based decision making, with one of the most significant being the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Compact, which formed ORSANCO and was signed in 1948. Currently, ORSANCO is one of only six inter-state organizations to receive Clean Water Act Section 106 funds for implementation of the water quality standards under the act. ORSANCO serves the states of Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia, providing a forum for coordination of drinking water and wastewater issues. Hypoxia task force to meet in Baton Rouge The Hypoxia Task Force – a federal, state and tribal partnership – will hold a public meeting from 9 a.m. to noon (CDT) on Sept. 18 in Baton Rouge, La. People can also tune into a webcast of the meeting. Registration is required to either attend or listen in on the webcast. The partnership is aimed at reducing excess nutrients in the Mississippi/Atchafalaya River Basin (MARB) and the Gulf of Mexico.