Member Pipeline - Clean Water Current - May 11, 2007
May 11, 2007
2007 Policy Forum Draws Top-Flight Speakers, Showcases New Partnerships
The 2007 National Clean Water Policy Forum, sponsored by NACWA and the Water Environment Federation (WEF), May 6-9, was one of the most successful ever, drawing an increasing number of registrants each year to hear from a range of speakers, including EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson, Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and John Mica (R-Fla.), and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), as well as panels of EPA office directors and representatives from the activist and agricultural community. In addition, several members of Congress attended the Capitol Hill reception May 8 to reiterate their strong support for clean water funding.
A major highlight of the Forum was the signing of an agreement by NACWA and Ducks Unlimited (DU) providing the foundation to collaborate on protecting, restoring, enhancing, and constructing wetlands, which play a prominent role both as habitat and as nature’s way of cleansing polluted waters. NACWA President Dick Champion, director of the Independence, Mo., Water Pollution Control Department, said the partnership is an “obvious” one because both organizations care about clean water, and “no two things do more to achieve clean water than wetlands and wastewater treatment plants.” Don Young, DU executive vice president, said the partnership “will allow us to increase the acres of wetlands we can conserve for waterfowl.”
The Forum also featured the first annual Utility Executives Summit, which began with an hour-long visit from Rep. Blumenauer, formerly of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and now a member of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee. Rep. Blumenauer discussed the need to “break down the silos” not just within organizations, but in the reauthorization process for federal programs, including agriculture and transportation so that the impacts of these programs on water quality can be taken into account. He and Norton, a member of the House T&I Committee, both indicated their support for a clean water trust fund. The Summit also featured discussions about the definition of sustainability as well as whether and how the Clean Water Act should be changed and ways to address 21st century challenges. Many addressed the need for clearer language that will make watershed planning easier to accomplish. NACWA President Dick Champion provided a summary of the Summit’s discussion and noted that it laid the foundation for future work on the vital issues raised by utility leaders from coast to coast.
A series of issue forums addressing security, climate change, and wet weather also were held and helped identify areas of common interest where NACWA and WEF can work together.
NACWA and WEF joined with four other organizations and EPA in signing a statement of support to promote and encourage the use of a series of tools and measures that are characteristics of an effectively managed utility. The 10 Attributes of Effectively Managed Water Sector Utilities, including product quality, financial viability, customer service, and water resource adequacy, provide milestones for facilities seeking to improve their performance.
At the conclusion of the Forum several NACWA members and staff went to Capitol Hill to present Rep. James Oberstar (D-Minn.), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, with the Association’s Federal Public Service National Environmental Achievement Award for his lifetime of service on behalf of clean water. In addition to the award presentation, NACWA leaders provided the chairman with their communities’ perspective on key water quality and infrastructure challenges facing the nation.
NACWA Initiates Dialogue on Contaminants from Consumer Products
NACWA, along with its Pretreatment and Pollution Prevention Committee and Emerging Contaminants Workgroup, met with other organizations May 9 to begin a dialogue on the issue of potential contaminants from consumer products. A growing number of consumer products are using new ingredients or additives that are outside of the traditional regulatory framework, but may end up in wastewater or in biosolids. Some of the additives are newer compounds with unknown environmental and human health impacts while others consist of chemicals, pesticides, and heavy metals that are known threats. Examples of consumer products with potential contaminants include soaps containing triclosan, washing machines that discharge silver ions, and fabrics impregnated with copper. Letters and communication from NACWA (http://www.nacwa.org/getfile.cfm?fn=2006-02-14agltr.pdf) and other groups to EPA resulted in a decision to regulate silver ion washing machines (http://www.epa.gov/oppad001/ion.htm). The consumer products dialogue initiative will allow NACWA to coordinate with these other groups on efforts to work with regulatory agencies and the manufacturers and retailers of these products on ways to prevent potential contaminants from entering local waterways. NACWA will keep members informed about progress made with the dialogue and other consumer products issues.
House Subcommittee Holds Hearing on Green Infrastructure
The House Science and Technology Subcommittee on Technology and Innovation held a hearing May 10 on green infrastructure that featured innovative approaches being used by the Portland, Ore., Bureau of Environmental Services (BES), a NACWA member agency. Portland City Commissioner Sam Adams, who oversees the BES, testified before the subcommittee about how the city has incorporated a variety of green infrastructure techniques to reduce the amount of stormwater entering its combined sewer system and improve water quality. He also discussed the barriers that Portland has faced while implementing its green infrastructure plans, including a lack of acceptance from regulatory and enforcement agencies towards green infrastructure approaches. Adams emphasized the need for regulatory policies that recognize the benefits of green infrastructure, as well as uniform federal standards that can help cities and municipalities better achieve success with green infrastructure projects. Members of the subcommittee were very receptive to the commissioner’s testimony and were appreciative of his insights and suggestions.
In a related development, NACWA worked this week to encourage all members of the House to sign a letter (http://www.nacwa.org/getfile.cfm?fn=2007-05-11gilapp.pdf) written by Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D-Penn.) requesting that the House Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior provide funding for an EPA initiative on green infrastructure, including $10 million for pilot project grants.