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June 11, 1999

AMSA Secures Superfund Amendment to Protect POTWs
This week, during the House Water Resources &Environment Subcommittee's mark-up of H.R. 1300 — the Recycle America's Land Act of 1999 — Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) introduced an amendment that would protect owners and operators of publicly owned treatment works (POTWs) from unwarranted Superfund liability. AMSA developed the amendment's language and worked extensively with House staff and subcommittee members to ensure that the language would appear in H.R. 1300. Blumenauer recognized the strong support for the Superfund reform bill from AMSA and other groups. In introducing the amendment Blumenauer said that Superfund should be “sensitive to what happens to people dealing with sewage because recent litigation has held sewer operators responsible for the pollution others have dumped into the system.”

The amendment covers “innocent owners and operators of sewage treatment plants” and states that “there shall be no liability . . . for a person who is an owner or operator of a treatment works.” Under the amendment, the liability exemption would cover POTWs that are “principally treating municipal and domestic sewage,” demonstrating compliance with Clean Water Act pretreatment requirements and properly operating and maintaining their systems.

AMSA has long advocated the need for language in Superfund that recognizes the special nature of POTWs. Bipartisan recognition of AMSA's position on POTWs' Superfund liability demonstrates the Association's effectiveness in communicating with Capitol Hill on priority legislative issues. Significantly, ranking member of the subcommittee Rep. Robert Borski (D-Pa.), who does not support H.R. 1300, endorsed the amendment.

Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Water Resources & the Environment Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-N.Y.) expressed optimism for H.R. 1300's chances and noted that Blumenauer's amendment would strengthen the bill. The subcommittee passed the bill with a vote of 22 to 9. Boehlert said that he would continue to work to garner further bipartisan support for the bill in order to increase its chances of making it to the president's desk for signature.

AMSA Urges Improvements to EPA Nutrient Criteria Program
This week, at a national stakeholders meeting, AMSA expressed grave concerns with EPA's efforts to promulgate national nutrient criteria. At the meeting, AMSA's Water Quality Committee Chair Norm LeBlanc faulted the agency for moving forward nutrient standards with little assurance that nonpoint sources, the primary source of nutrient loadings, will be adequately addressed. POTWs could bear the brunt of nutrient reductions while nonpoint sources continue unabated. LeBlanc also urged the agency to ensure that the criteria allow room to distinguish between nutrient enrichment and nutrient impairment. The nutrient ranges that EPA is considering would be more appropriate as guidelines that trigger further study of a water body to determine if an impairment exists. AMSA cautioned EPA that numeric nutrient standards could dramatically expand the number of waters targeted for total maximum daily loads and saddle municipal dischargers with a disproportionate share of loading reductions.

EPA SSO Federal Advisory Committee Municipal and Operator Caucuses will meet June 30 in Washington, DC to discuss four recently released issue papers that detail draft proposed national regulations and policies for sanitary sewer collection systems (see RA 99-10). The joint caucus plans to discuss positions, strategies, and alternative approaches to EPA's framework in preparation for a July 28-29 SSO Federal Advisory Committee meeting.

If you are interested in attending the June 30 caucus meeting, please contact Mark Hoeke at AMSA's National Office, 202/833-9106 or