Microbial/DBP rulemaking process imminent Staff from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced Tuesday that the agency would soon begin stakeholder engagement in anticipation of proposing a microbial/disinfection byproducts rule in July 2024. If EPA meets that deadline, a final rule could be finalized in 2026 and adherence to any major rule elements would be required in 2029. This spring, EPA announced a proposed settlement in response to a petition filed by Waterkeeper Alliance. Under the settlement, EPA agreed to propose revisions to the current primary standards for chlorite, Cryptosporidium, Giardia lamblia, haloacetic acids (HAA5), heterotrophic bacteria, Legionella , total trihalomethanes (“TTHM”) and viruses. At the time, AWWA comments focused on the need for sound decision-making over meeting arbitrary deadlines. The court accepted the settlement June 15. As noted in the settlement agreement, the rulemaking focuses on issues raised in EPA’s last Six-Year review . Topics highlighted in this week’s announcement included regulation of brominated haloacetic acids, disinfection byproduct standard compliance in consecutive systems and treatment requirements for surface water treatment plants. In separate discussions, EPA staff also emphasized the opportunity for water systems to manage distributions systems to reduce potential microbial risk (e.g., minimum residual disinfectant levels, distribution system operations and maintenance practices). EPA releases steam power rule with limited water protections This week, EPA released the final edition of its Steam Power Effluent Limitations Guidelines (ELG) rule, which covers bromide discharges, an issue of great significance to drinking water utilities. Although AWWA has advocated for greater protections (through either required treatment technologies at power plants or through monitoring and bromide minimization plans), the rule released this week retains essentially the same requirements as the 2015 rule. Utilities concerned about brominated DBPs and that may have coal power plants upstream of them should consult AWWA’s guide, Methods to Assess Anthropogenic Bromide Loads from Coal-fired Power Plants and Their Potential Effects on Downstream Drinking Water Utilities . For several years, AWWA has been monitoring and advocating for provisions to protect source waters from bromide discharges in the ELG rule. Bromide discharges from coal power plants have the potential to significantly impact downstream drinking water facilities as a precursor for brominated disinfection byproducts. The original 2015 rule suggested that state Clean Water Act regulators look into this issue, but with little guidance. EPA to issue survey on COVID response this month EPA plans to issue a survey in mid-September – under an approved Information Collection Request – to assess the economic and operational challenges faced by U.S. drinking water and wastewater utilities due to the COVID-19 national health emergency. The 2020 COVID-19 Water Sector Survey will help identify and evaluate certain impacts to water utilities during this challenging time. It will facilitate the collection of useful information in a uniform format to guide the development of technical and other forms of assistance which could help sustain water utility operations and support planning for the future. The survey will be administered online and consist of questions that address workforce, cybersecurity, supply chain, financial and analytical impacts. Survey activities managed by EPA will include, but not be limited to, drawing samples, sending surveys to systems, responding to requests for technical assistance and processing the data. EPA is currently developing a fact sheet and responses to frequently asked questions. Website highlights coverage of cyanobacterial blooms The Environmental Working Group (EWG) recently launched a new website focused on documenting media reports of cyanobacterial blooms. EWG’s conclusion is that news coverage of cyanobacterial blooms has increased considerably over the past 10 years, although this analysis alone cannot determine whether the blooms themselves have increased or just the media coverage of them. This site has several components, including: A news ticker highlighting recent news about cyanobacteria and cyanotoxins. An interactive map of news reports of cyanobacterial blooms since 2010. Tables of possible human health impacts of microcystins and other cyanotoxins. Pictures of cyanobacterial blooms on various water bodies around the country. Utilities should be prepared to discuss their efforts to monitor for, and if necessary, respond to cyanobacterial blooms should they receive questions from the public or the media. Utilities should also consider proactive communications about their efforts. AWWA’s resources on cyanobacteria and cyanotoxins, including the Water Utility Manager’s Guide to Cyanotoxins and the CyanoTOX® oxidation calculator, can be found on AWWA’s Cyanotoxins resource page . EPA review of asbestos significant to water sector EPA is conducting a review under the revised Toxic Substances Control Act to determine whether asbestos presents “an unreasonable risk to public health or the environment under the conditions of use” ( EPA-HQ-OPPT-2016-0736 ; EPA-HQ-OPPT-2019-0501 ). The significance to the water sector is that EPA’s Science Advisory Committee on Chemicals found EPA’s analysis of risk associated with the use of asbestos in the manufacture of chlorine-based disinfectants inadequate, and highlighted inadequate attention to worker risks associated with installed asbestos pipe. The committee’s review of EPA’s initial evaluation found it wanting in a number of other respects as well. USGS releases new water quality data site The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has unveiled a new website showing water quality data for 110 stream and river sites across the country. This data is updated annually and includes information on nutrients, sediments, pesticides and streamflow. The purpose of this effort is to assess status and trends in water quality at large inland and coastal river sites, as well as in small streams in urban, agricultural and undeveloped basins. USGS is a part of the U.S. Department of Interior. September is National Preparedness Month – Are You Ready? The year 2020 has been a nightmarish saga of a global pandemic, raging wildfires in the west and hurricanes in the south, and it is only September. It also happens to be National Preparedness Month. This year’s theme is “Disasters Don’t Wait. Make Your Plan Today.” The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has resources available to help people prepare for disasters. The weekly themes are: Aug. 31-Sept. 4: “ Make a Plan ” Sept. 7-11: “ Build a Kit ” Sept. 14-18: “ Prepare for Disasters ” Sept. 21-25: “ Teach Youth about Preparedness ” Additional information, including social media content and graphics, is available here . NRDC files challenge to EPA perchlorate decision The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) announced Thursday that it had filed suit against EPA for the agency’s decision in July to not regulate perchlorate in drinking water. NRDC said the suit was filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. The suit was announced in a blog written by Erik Olson of the NRDC staff. EPA had made a decision to regulate perchlorate in 2011, which reversed the 2008 preliminary decision to not regulate. The final action to withdraw the 2011 determination was announced in July. AWWA issued a statement at the time agreeing with EPA’s decision that perchlorate should not be addressed through a national drinking water regulation. AWWA also submitted formal comments on the proposed perchlorate regulation in August 2019.