Hurricane Ida impacts water systems; sparks concern about hazardous materials Sixteen years to the day after Hurricane Katrina made landfall in Louisiana, the state endured the fury of Hurricane Ida, which made landfall as a Category 4 storm. The electric grid sustained significant damage in some areas, and it may not be restored for three to four weeks. As of Wednesday, there were 119 water systems that had issued boil-water advisories and 191 systems reporting outages, many as a result of power issues. Water systems are making damage assessments with support from state and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) staff and rural circuit riders. Some mutual aid activity is already happening, with Baton Rouge providing support to nearby systems operated by the French Settlement Water Company. Mississippi is reporting that 13 systems have issued boil-water advisories as of Wednesday. Hurricane Ida transitioned into a tropical storm as it moved inland toward the Mid-Atlantic, generating record rainfall in many locations and producing several damaging tornadoes. There was flash flooding as the storm’s remnants tore through southern Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York. Hurricane Ida’s impacts have renewed media attention and advocacy efforts concerning the potential for releases of hazardous materials due to extreme weather events. Earlier this summer, EPA held listening sessions and accepted comments on actions the agency may consider in revising the Risk Management Program (RMP) rule finalized in 2019 . EPA’s current regulatory agenda includes proposing a revision of the current rule in the fall of 2022 and a final rule the following summer. FEMA updates damage assessment guidance The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) released a revised Preliminary Damage Assessment Guide (PDA Guide) and an accompanying Preliminary Damage Assessment Pocket Guide (PDA Pocket Guide). The revised guide will take effect Oct. 1. A Preliminary Damage Assessment (PDA) is the mechanism state, local, tribal and territorial governments and the federal government use to determine the impact and magnitude of damage following a disaster and the resulting unmet needs to individuals, businesses, the public sector and communities. The primary objective of the PDA is to collect information, conduct analysis and provide situation awareness to state, territorial or tribal government leaders to determine whether the impacts of a disaster warrant a disaster declaration request under the Stafford Act (42 U.S.C. 5121 et seq.). The PDA Guide establishes a framework for how emergency management officials, at every level of government, document and validate details of damage following a disaster. The guide includes a concept of operations, defined roles and responsibilities, recommended methodologies, and the documentation and data required to validate damage. House to consider infrastructure bill by Sept. 28 The U.S. House of Representatives is set to take up on the floor infrastructure legislation that includes significant provisions for water by Sept. 28. The House adopted a rule for debate on Aug. 24 for H.R. 3684 that prevents any amendments from being considered and sets Sept. 28 as a deadline for a vote. The water infrastructure components of that bill were copied from S. 914 , a bill the U.S. Senate approved in late April by a vote of 89-2. AWWA supports several provisions in that bill. This final version of H.R. 3684 does not contain the very high dollar amounts for infrastructure seen in earlier legislation, and it also does not contain changes to regulatory processes for drinking water that an earlier version had that AWWA and others opposed. Those proposed changes included elimination of cost-benefit analysis in writing regulations and mandates for regulation of five specific contaminants, bypassing existing data and science-based processes for determining rules. Such changes appear to be off the table for now. The House also is to take up an enormous budget resolution for FY2022 under a process called reconciliation, a special maneuver to ease passage in the Senate. Also known as the Build Back Better Plan , this package instructs 13 House committees on what levels of spending they may consider, with broadly defined goals. Regarding water, the plan seeks “Environmental justice investments in clean water affordability and access, health ports and climate equity.” Defense panel adopts strict PFAS cleanup amendment The House Armed Services Committee this week approved an annual defense authorization bill that includes an amendment aimed at more strictly controlling per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). It also authorized more money for PFAS cleanup in the Department of Defense’s (DoD’s) environmental cleanup budget. The committee passed the bill, H.R. 4350 , the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2022, 57-2 on Thursday. On a mostly party-line 31-26 vote, the committee adopted an amendment by U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Mich. , that would require DoD to meet individual state water and land cleanup requirements for seven PFAS compounds. However, that party-line vote is a hint that this provision might face a tougher path when the Senate marks up its version of the bill. H.R. 4350 also provides $549 million more than President Biden requested for environmental cleanups by the military to be used for PFAS. That original environmental cleanup figure was $1.02 billion, divided among the Air Force, Navy, Army and “formerly used defense sites,” or FUDS in DoD lingo. One amendment adopted Thursday would require DoD to publicly publish the results of drinking water and ground water tests for PFAS on or near military facilities or former defense sites. Another provision in the bill would give the armed services two years to complete initial PFAS assessments at military facilities. AWWA declaring Sept. 26-Oct. 2 “Source Water Protection Week” AWWA invites water utilities, Sections and other partners to join the Association in declaring Sept. 26-Oct. 2 the first-ever “ Source Water Protection Week .” Throughout the week, AWWA will be raising awareness about the importance of caring for drinking water sources. A Source Water Protection Week toolkit is now available, and new resources will continue to be added between now and Sept. 26. As part of Source Water Protection Week, AWWA is hosting a #ShowYourSource social media contest. Kicking off Sept. 26, members and others are urged to post photos or short videos on social media using the hashtag #ShowYourSource showcasing source water. EPA issues new nutrient tools and resources EPA has recently issued new tools and resources for managing nutrients, which may be of assistance in helping to protect sources of drinking water. The first is a significant update to its nutrient criteria under the Clean Water Act, with documents supporting the development of criteria in lakes and reservoirs , in rivers and streams and in wetlands . EPA has also developed a set of resources to support states in utilizing these materials. The second resource is the document “ Tracking CyanoHABs ,” which is an ArcGIS storyboard designed to educate the public about cyanobacteria and their impact. This joins a library of resources at the agency on cyanobacterial bloom . AWWA also has several relevant resources available to the utility community. Finally, EPA has issued a new technical support document on recreational criteria for waters containing microcystins and cylindrospermopsin . Although these criteria do not directly impact drinking water, the monitoring, reporting, mitigation and response activities developed around them may also benefit source waters. DOE to offer water utility-focused efficiency training The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) will offer eight “Virtual In-Plant Trainings” for drinking water systems between Sept. 28 and Nov. 16. These trainings, part of the department’s Better Plants program, will focus on efficiency measures that utilities can undertake, including those which require only operational changes, in addition to those that may require capital upgrades. Participants will be expected to collect data from their own water systems, perform an energy assessment and identify energy efficiency opportunities with help from the instructors. Sessions will be held 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. ET for eight Tuesdays. There will be two hours of formal training and an optional 30-minute question-and-answer period. Professional development hour certificates can be prepared for the attendees upon request. DOE is encouraging drinking water systems engineers, managers and operators to attend. Registration and more information is available online . Science board seeks input on chemical risk, biosolids EPA’s Science Advisory Board has been organizing three ad hoc panels relevant to the water sector, and yesterday announced one will look at assessing chemical risk in biosolids. The status of each of these efforts is available at Analyses to support EPA’s National Primary Drinking Water Rulemaking for PFAS , Draft Contaminant Candidate List 5 and Approach to Biosolids Chemical Risk Assessment and Biosolids Screening Tool . The agency is soliciting nominations on the biosolids chemical risk assessment panel and accepting thoughts on nominees for the CCL5 panel. WOTUS odyssey continues The latest development in the continuing legal and policy processes for the Clean Water Act’s definition of “waters of the U.S.” (WOTUS) was a ruling by Judge Rosemary Maruez that amounted to the test for determining WOTUS will revert to the policy that predated the Obama administration’s 2015 rule. The ruling took place in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona, in the case Pascua Yaqui Tribe, et al. v. EPA, et al. ( CV-20-00266-TUC-RM ). Judge Maruez’ ruling is at odds with the Biden administration’s stepwise rulemaking process , though both would move practice back to the same definition, at least until a new future rule changes practice.