AWWA’s Water Utility Council and Government Affairs Office monitor and engage Congressional and Executive Branch partners on numerous legislative and regulatory policy matters. Every quarter a summary of those actions is prepared to provide in-depth overview of those key activities that most directly impact the water community.
AWWA’s Latest Government Affairs Update
High priority elements of the current federal Safe Drinking Water Act regulatory agenda are
Implementing the Revised Lead and Copper Rule and finalizing additional revisions by October 2024
Establishing primary drinking water standards for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS)
Crafting revisions to existing rules for microbial and disinfection byproduct risks
Identifying additional risk management needs through developing contaminant candidate lists, evaluating existing standards, and collecting data on unregulated contaminant occurrence.
Preparing health advisories for PFOA, PFOS, GenX, and perfluorobutanesulfonic acid (PFBS)
In March 2021 EPA made positive regulatory determinations for PFOA and PFOS. A positive regulatory determination initiates a statutory timeframe for a proposal (March 2023) and final rule. In October 2021 EPA released its PFAS Strategic Roadmap and in doing so the agency committed to an accelerated schedule with release of a proposed rule in the fall of 2022 and to finalize the rule in fall 2023. EPA has released its draft premises for maximum contaminant level goals (MCLGs) for PFOA and PFOS for review by the agency’s Science Advisory Board (SAB).
Importantly, EPA indicates that it will release health advisories for GenX and PFBS in spring 2022 and update the PFOA/PFOS health advisory in a timely manner.
EPA set the stage for revising most of the federal standards guiding disinfection and disinfection byproduct control in its 2017 Six-Year Review notice. A consent order in Waterkeeper Alliance v. EPA signed in 2020 set a firm schedule for decisions regarding additional risk reduction measures. Because EPA has elected to organize a National Drinking Water Advisory Council Working Group, which will meet in 2022 and 2023, the agency may take additional time to draft its proposal. EPA has identified a lengthy list of topics for evaluation in its current process, including:
Disinfectant residual levels and opportunistic pathogens, particularly Legionella
Regulated and unregulated disinfection byproducts and consecutive drinking water systems
Distribution system management and finished drinking water storage
Source water protection
Disinfection byproduct precursor removal
Sanitary surveys and water safety plans
The consent order in Waterkeeper Alliance v. EPA also committed EPA to finalizing its fifth Contaminant Candidate List by July 18, 2022, and then to finalize the sixth CCL by November 17, 2026. So, the final CCL5 is bit late and CCL6 somewhat early when evaluated against the statutory spacing of every 5 years.
EPA published the final rule for the fifth Unregulated Contaminants Monitoring Rule (UCMR) cycle December 27, 2021. Water systems subject to the rule will sample finished water at entry points to the distribution system (EPTDS). Samples will be analyzed for 29 PFAS, using EPA Methods 533 and 537.1, and lithium, using one of four available methods. Importantly, EPA is anticipating that UCMR5 will include all public water systems serving 3,300 persons or more and a statistically-derived sample of smaller systems. Analysis costs for systems serving 10,000 or fewer persons are borne by EPA. Administrative and logistical arrangements must be undertaken in 2022 to support sampling during 2023 – 2025 monitoring window.
As noted above EPA’s fourth Regulatory Determination (March 3, 2021) included positive determinations for PFOA and PFOS. Completion of EPA’s next regulatory determination cycle will be due in five years (2027); EPA typically publishes its preliminary determinations roughly a year prior.
While EPA is currently following through on rule revisions initially highlighted in the third Six-Year Review cycle, the fourth review is in preparation. EPA anticipates completing its fourth Six-Year review on schedule in early 2023.
Health advisories are not subject to the decision-making criteria established in SDWA for drinking water standards and are not regulatory requirements. Current practice at EPA is to calculate the basis for health advisories in much the same way as MCLGs. Health advisories for microcystin, cylindrospermopsin, PFOA, and PFOS in 2015 and 2016 led to “do-not-drink” orders and rapid-unanticipated capital investments at water systems across the United States. This raised the question of what role drinking water health advisories play under SDWA. Given the potential implications, attention has also been placed on the standard of care EPA should meet when developing advisories and associated recommendations.
In presentations to NDWAC in 2021 EPA indicated that it would be releasing health advisories in 2023 for GenX, and PFBS (Spring 2022), as well as revising the PFOA and PFOS advisories. The agency described updating its existing health advisory table and continuing to refresh its Human Health Benchmarks for Pesticides (HHBPs). HHBPs are similar to health advisories but are not a part of SDWA. They reflect data and analysis conducted in the registration and re-registration of pesticides under the Federal Insecticide Fungicide and Rodenticide Act. Several pieces of draft legislation would have required EPA to publish drinking water health advisories shortly after completing toxicity assessments for PFAS. EPA is currently preparing toxicity assessments for perfluorodecanoic acid (PFDA), perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA), perfluorohexanoic acid (PFHxA,), perfluorohexanesulfonic acid (PFHxS), and perfluorobutanoic acid (PFBA).
Stakeholders including AWWA continue to call on EPA to hold to established principles of good governance in the development of these advisory values:
Actively engage stakeholders as it develops health advisories and accompanying recommendations.
Facilitate effective and consistent state action in response to health advisories.
Evaluate the appropriateness of the current health advisory development process and calculation used to set health advisory levels.
Work with AWWA, states, and other stakeholders to develop an ongoing dialogue around drinking water, contaminants of concern and effective risk communication.
Consumer Confidence Reports (CCRs) are one of several consumer involvement and right-to-know provisions in SDWA. As required by the America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018, EPA is required to (1) consider how to improve transparency and understandability of the CCR, (2) issue a regulation that requires delivery of the CCR to customers twice each year, and (3) codify the use of electronic CCR delivery. EPA missed its statutory deadline and is now in a consent order that requires EPA to complete a proposed rule by March 2023 and a final rule by March 2024.
EPA has solicited recommendations from the National Drinking Water Advisory Council. A working group report was finalized in November 2021. EPA is not required to use NDWAC’s recommendations but usually gives the Council’s recommendation serious consideration.
PFAS Resource Page
Water Quality Resource Page
Waterborne Pathogens Resource Page
Public Communications Toolkit
Congressional Research Service Report on the Safe Drinking Water Act: A Summary of the Act and Its Major Requirements
Congressional Research Service Report, Regulating Contaminants Under the Safe Drinking Water Act