Member Pipeline - Clean Water Current - April 6, 2007
April 6, 2007
NACWA/WEF Clean Water Policy Forum Hotel Nears Sell-Out, Act Now!
The NACWA conference block of rooms at the Renaissance Washington is nearing capacity, particularly for the night of Tuesday, May 8th. The Renaissance may be able to accommodate additional reservations, but cannot guarantee the conference rate. If you are unable to secure the reservations you desire at the Renaissance Washington, we are making arrangements to accommodate you. Please watch for further information on alternate nearby hotels. If you are currently holding a room at the Renaissance Washington and are no longer planning to attend the 2007 National Clean Water Policy Forum, please contact Nirah Forman at 202/833-8418 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org prior to cancelling your reservation so that your room can be assigned to another attendee. Also contact Nirah if you need assistance securing your hotel accommodations or would like to be placed on a waiting list for a room at the Renaissance Washington. Updated agenda as well as hotel and registration information are available on NACWA’s homepage (www.nacwa.org) by clicking on the Register Now icon.
NACWA Provides Input into Pending Chlorine Gas Legislation
NACWA provided comments this week regarding the pending introduction of legislation being modeled after The Community Water Treatment Hazards Reduction Act (S. 2920), introduced in the previous Congress. The legislation is expected to be introduced soon by Senators Joe Biden (D-Del.) and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Chair of the Environment & Public Works Committee. Several NACWA members provided detailed comments both to NACWA and directly to the Senate staff working on the bill. The Association’s own overarching comments echo its members’ concerns and seek changes to improve the bill before its introduction. As NACWA’s comments state, “first and foremost, the decision about whether to switch from chlorine gas to an alternative treatment technique must remain up to the municipality itself. The factors in making the switch are complex, and include but are not limited to meeting the requirements of the Clean Water Act, ensuring public health, affordability/cost concerns and the availability of alternative treatment options.” Instead of the mandatory approach taken in S.2920, NACWA recommended an incentives-based approach that recognizes the often complex, site-specific considerations that must go into a decision regarding switching from chlorine gas.
NACWA applauded the fact that S.2920 sought to provide $150,000,000 per year for five years in grant funding. The comments, however, questioned whether this funding level would suffice to help make the upgrades that would be required by this legislation at the thousands of drinking water and wastewater treatment facilities potentially covered by it. The Association also sought an explanation as to whether the grants were intended to cover 100% of the capital costs to switch. Finally, the comments urged changes to the many unrealistic (90-day) timeframes contained in S.2920 because they simply would go unmet by both municipalities and the federal government and would open the door to unnecessary enforcement activity. NACWA expects the legislation will be introduced within the next several weeks and additional details will me made available in upcoming Alerts and Updates. The comments are available at http://www.nacwa.org/getfile.cfm?fn=2007-04-05s2920cmts.pdf.
NACWA Meets with EPA on Revised Ammonia Criteria
NACWA met this week with officials from EPA’s Office of Science and Technology to discuss possible revisions to the 1999 water quality criteria for ammonia. Since announcing that it would reevaluate the criteria in July 2004, EPA has worked to conduct several new studies to further document the effects of ammonia on freshwater mussels and address other concerns raised by stakeholders. NACWA’s meeting with EPA was a preliminary step in what will likely be a 2-3 year process to develop and finalize a set of revised criteria. While NACWA’s comments on the July 2004 notice (http://www.nacwa.org/getfile.cfm?fn=2004-09-08OW-2004-0012Cmts.pdf) were critical of the new mussel toxicity studies for their use of unique life stages and an unapproved test protocol, the new information does appear to confirm that freshwater mussels may be more sensitive to ammonia than previously thought. EPA will be making critical decisions about its next steps in the coming months. While EPA is not yet sharing any potential criteria values, NACWA understands that the revised criteria could be significantly more stringent than the 1999 criteria.
EPA’s efforts to revise the criteria are being closely monitored by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, due to ammonia’s potential effects on a number of threatened and endangered mussel species. It is possible that the new information on ammonia’s toxicity to mussels may have implications even before EPA has a chance to revise the criteria because it may be taken into account during EPA review of state water quality standards and review of National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits that use the 1999 criteria. Given the potential impact on the clean water community, NACWA will continue to engage the Agency as it moves forward with the revision of the criteria and will be contacting the membership soon for additional information relating to the implementation of ammonia criteria.
NACWA Voices Concerns of POTWs at Water Sector Security Meeting
NACWA represented the security interests of clean water agencies at a two-day meeting of the Water Sector Coordinating Council (WSCC) this week. The WSCC, which consists of representatives from eight water groups including NACWA, develops policies and strategies for addressing water sector security issues and coordinates activities with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and EPA. Billy Turner, NACWA board member and president of Columbus Water Works, Ga., is chair of the WSCC and NACWA was represented at the meeting by Mike Gritzuk, Director, Pima County Wastewater, Tucson, Ariz.
Several issues discussed could directly impact wastewater utilities, including the DHS initiative to develop its Risk Analysis and Management for Critical Asset Protection (RAMCAP) framework for the water sector. The WSCC has been working hard to ensure that DHS deems NACWA’s Vulnerability Self Assessment Tool (VSAT™) and other existing vulnerability assessment tools as compatible with RAMCAP and supports upgrading these tools to meet both DHS’ and utilities’ needs. The WSCC also focused closely on DHS’ review of its tiered ranking system used to prioritize its grant funds — a review that occurs every year. The WSCC urged DHS to have a more robust system that goes beyond using population thresholds to determine risk. The group was encouraged by the success of water and wastewater utilities in establishing Water and Wastewater Agency Response Networks (WARNs), or mutual aid networks, at the state, interstate, and regional levels, an activity that all WSCC organizations have strongly supported. EPA is also planning to work closely with the WSCC in developing a decontamination strategy for the water sector, focused on addressing cleanup and recovery in the event of a chemical, biological, or radiological attack. NACWA’s Planning for Decontamination Wastewater: A Guide for Utilities was noted by EPA as a key resource for this effort. If you are interested in becoming more involved in the WSCC and its workgroups or in NACWA’s Security & Emergency Preparedness Committee, please contact Cynthia Finley at email@example.com or 202/296-9836.
NACWA Highlights Agency Member Efforts on Wildlife Conservation
NACWA attend a meeting April 3 sponsored by the Environmental Law Institute (ELI) on utility efforts to help conserve endangered wildlife, and was invited to provided a presentation (http://www.nacwa.org/getfile.cfm?fn=2007-04-03ELIPPT.ppt) highlighting the efforts of NACWA’s clean water utility members that are actively engaged in wildlife conservation. The meeting was attended by representatives of clean water, drinking water, and electric utilities, and focused on how utilities can better protect threatened species and habitats as part of their normal operations. Meeting participants specifically discussed how utility efforts can compliment state Wildlife Action Plans. The non-regulatory plans, which have been developed individually by all 50 states as well as the District of Columbia and a number of U.S. territories, provide a comprehensive strategy to prevent wildlife from becoming endangered. NACWA member agencies may find that they are already engaged in activities that complement their state’s action plan. A comprehensive list of state Wildlife Action Plans, along with more information, is available at http://www.wildlifeactionplans.org. We will report on further wildlife conservation developments and opportunities as they occur.