In the Pipeline
EPA Awards Security Planning Grant for Small Drinking Water Utilities
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Assistant Administrator for Water G. Tracy Mehan III announced an award of nearly $2 million to the National Rural Water Association (NRWA) July 22, 2003, designed to help small community drinking water systems improve their security.
Through the award, NRWA will assist systems serving populations between 3,300 people and 10,000 people with security planning. By June 30, 2004, these systems are required to submit vulnerability assessments to EPA under the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002.
Through a combination of training sessions, on-site technical assistance and Internet-based tools, NRWA will educate system personnel about the act and provide assistance in preparing vulnerability assessments and emergency response plans.
Under the project, NRWA will help approximately 4,400 community water systems in complying with the act.
For more information, visit www.epa.gov/safewater/security or www.nrwa.org.
Proposals Sought for Drinking Water Utility Engineering Study
The American Water Works Association Research Foundation (Awwa RF) is requesting proposals for an engineering research project designed to help drinking water utilities avoid premature failure of service line pipes, connections and fittings.
The project -- "Installation, Condition Assessment and Reliability of Service Lines, Connections and Fittings" Request for Proposal (RFP) 2927 -- is scheduled to be launched later this year. It was first opened for proposals in March, 2003, but due to the high priority of the topic and the lack of suitable proposals received, the project's request for proposal is being re-issued.
Up to $300,000 in funding is available for the study. Information about the RFP is available at the foundation's Web site, at www.awwarf.org. Proposals are due by Oct. 1, 2003.
According to Awwa RF, many drinking water utilities experience premature failure of service line pipes, connections and fittings and need comprehensive information on the useful life of service pipe materials to make informed decisions about long-term replacements of these components. This project would identify parameters and conditions that influence the failure rate of service pipe materials, connections and fittings, resulting in a best-practice manual based on extensive analysis of existing installation techniques and material types. The project would also develop a methodology for assessing the life expectancy of service lines, connections and fittings for different materials using a variety of installation techniques under varying environmental conditions.
Proposals submitted in response to the RFP must include 25 percent of the total project budget as in-kind or cash contribution. In-kind contributions can be in the form of labor, materials or laboratory and other services, and may come from project participants such as water utilities, consulting firms and universities. For the project, an appointed project advisory committee will evaluate proposals based on responsiveness to the RFP, scientific and technical merit and qualifications of the researchers.
The Awwa Research Foundation is a member-supported, international, nonprofit organization that sponsors research to enable water utilities, public health agencies and other professionals to provide safe and affordable drinking water to consumers. The Foundation has funded and managed more than 700 projects valued at more than $250 million.
Guidance Aims to Balance Wetlands Protection, Transportation Goals
Three federal agencies jointly issued new guidance July 11, 2003, that they say will help ensure the effective replacement of wetlands affected by federal-aid highway projects and improve regulatory decision-making in the permit process.
Mary E. Peters, administrator of the Department of Transportation's Federal Highway Administration, said, "This guidance will lead to greater understanding among the agencies and simplify the way we mitigate a project's impact on wetlands."
DOT was joined by EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers in issuing the guidance. EPA Assistant Administrator for Water G. Tracy Mehan III commented, "This guidance further supports market-based approaches to achieving the best environmental results for aquatic resource protection."
The Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century established a preference for "mitigation banking" to compensate for unavoidable losses to wetlands or other natural habitat caused by transportation projects receiving federal assistance.
Mitigation banking is a system for balancing wetland losses against wetland gains. In this process, wetlands are restored, improved or created by cooperative efforts, usually with pooled funds. Wetlands banking projects are eligible for federal funding support. The "bank" holding the funds has an account manager -- often an interagency committee -- that determines wetland "credits" based on the quality or capacity of the newly created or restored wetlands.
The preference relates to the eligibility of federal-aid funds for wetland compensatory mitigation under the National Highway System and the Surface Transportation Program. According to the three agencies, the guidance announced July 11, 2003, will help agency field personnel and the sponsors of federal-aid highway projects by clarifying the factors to be considered in implementing that preference.
The guidance, formally known as "Federal Guidance on the Use of the TEA-21 Preference for Mitigation Banking to fulfill Mitigation Requirements under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act," is available at www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/wetland/wet_guid.htm.
EPA Clarifies When Pesticides Can Be Applied to Water Without a Permit
EPA issued interim guidance July 11, 2003, that should come as good news for those involved in mosquito control. The guidance identifies circumstances under which pesticides can be applied to water without a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit.
According to the agency, the guidance was issued in part to respond to a statement by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Altman v. Town of Amherst that highlighted the need for clarification on the topic. The town was sued for not having obtained an NPDES permit before applying pesticides to wetlands as part of a mosquito control program.
The guidance identifies two sets of circumstances for which EPA believes that the application of a pesticide to U.S. waters, consistent with relevant requirements of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), do not constitute the discharge of a pollutant that requires an NPDES permit:
1. The application of pesticides directly to U.S. waters in order to control pests (for example, mosquito larvae or aquatic weeds that are present in the water).
2. The application of pesticides to control pests that are present over U.S. waters that result in a portion of the pesticide being deposited to water bodies (for example, when insecticides are aerially applied to a forest canopy where water may be present below the canopy, or when insecticides are applied for control of adult mosquitoes).
EPA plans to formally solicit public comments on this interim statement and guidance with a notice to be published in the Federal Register prior to determining a final agency position. But until a final position is established, the agency says, the application of pesticides in compliance with relevant FIFRA requirements is not subject to NPDES permitting requirements.
EPA's memorandum is available at www.epa.gov/npdes/pubs/pesticide_interim_guidance.pdf.
Proposed Drinking Water Rules Designed to Reduce Illness, Cancer
EPA proposed new rules July 11, 2003, that would require drinking water systems to monitor for and increase protection against Cryptosporidium and also expand the monitoring and control of disinfection byproducts.
The Long Term 2 Enhanced Surface Water Treatment Rule (LT2) and the Stage 2 Disinfection Byproduct Rule are required by the Safe Drinking Water Act and were developed in partnership with a wide range of interests including water systems, environmental groups and state and local health officials, according to the agency.
"These drinking water rules are important steps in protecting Americans' health," said then-EPA Acting Administrator Linda Fisher. "These rules take the right approach toward minimizing and balancing the risks from microbial contamination and disinfection byproducts. They represent the culmination of more than a decade of analysis, research and partnership focused on making the nation's drinking water safer."
Cryptosporidium, which is a protozoan, is a widespread waterborne pathogen that is resistant to common disinfectants such as chlorine. Ingestion of Cryptosporidium causes gastrointestinal illness known as cryptosporidiosis. Health effects in sensitive populations, such as children, the elderly and the immuno-compromised, can be severe, including risk of death.
EPA notes that new data on Cryptosporidium indicate that most public water systems currently provide sufficient treatment. However, some systems may require greater protection because they are more vulnerable to Cryptosporidium.
The proposed LT2 rule targets additional treatment requirements to these "higher-risk" drinking water systems. Specifically, the rule requires additional treatment by filtered systems with higher levels of Cryptosporidium in their water sources as well as by systems that do not filter surface water.
EPA estimates that full implementation of the LT2 rule will reduce cases of cryptosporidiosis by as many as 1,020,000 per year, with an associated reduction of up to 140 premature deaths. The economic benefit ranges up to $1.4 billion annually, the agency claims. The additional treatment required under the LT2 rule may also reduce exposure to other pathogens, according to EPA.
Annual costs of the LT2 rule are estimated to range from approximately $73.5 million to $111 million. The average annual household cost is estimated to be $1.07 to $1.68 per year, with more than 98 percent of households experiencing annual costs of less than $12 per year.
More information on the proposed LT2 rule is available at www.epa.gov/safewater/lt2/index.html.
The Stage 2 Disinfection Byproducts Rule is designed to further protect public health from byproducts formed during chemical disinfection widely used by public water systems as a principal barrier to microbial pathogens in drinking water. The rule contains a risk-targeting approach to better identify monitoring sites where customers are exposed to high levels of disinfection byproducts, which have been linked to bladder, rectal and colon cancer, as well as a potential risk of reproductive and developmental health concerns.
"The Stage 2 Disinfection Byproducts Rule stresses the importance of addressing potential risks of miscarriage and fetal loss," EPA Assistant Administrator for Water G. Tracy Mehan III said. "Although the science is still uncertain, EPA must act on the weight of existing research to protect human life, and our efforts will be focused in this area in the coming years."
EPA estimates the Stage 2 Rule will reduce the incidence of bladder cancer cases by up to 182 cases per year, with an associated reduction of up to 47 premature deaths. The economic benefits from these avoided illnesses and deaths is estimated to be up to $986 million annually. EPA also expects the Stage 2 Rule to reduce fetal losses and other reproductive and developmental health effects.
The annual cost of the Stage 2 Rule is expected to be $54.3 million to $63.9 million. The average annual household cost is estimated to be 51 cents per year, and more than 99 percent of households will experience annual costs of less than $12 per year.
More information on the proposed Stage 2 Rule is available at www.epa.gov/safewater/stage2/index.html.
In other actions, EPA has conducted a Six-Year Review of 69 Drinking Water Regulations and has finalized regulatory determinations for nine contaminants on the Contaminant Candidate List. For both of these decisions, EPA's review included the best available data on health effects, analytical methods, treatment technologies and occurrence, according to the agency.
For the Six-Year Review, EPA has concluded that the monitoring requirements for Total Coliform (an indicator of bacterial contamination of drinking water) should be revised. EPA also finalized determinations on nine contaminants and found that, for now, it is not appropriate to develop regulations for acanthamoeba, aldrin, dieldrin, hexachlorobutadiene, manganese, metribuzin, naphthalene, sodium and sulfate.
Information on the Six-Year Review is available at www.epa.gov/safewater/review.html, and information on the Contaminant Candidate List Regulatory Determinations is available on EPA's Web site at www.epa.gov/safewater/ccl/cclregdetermine.html.
Free Security Training Available for Medium-Sized Water Systems
The Water Environment Federation (WEF) and The International City/County Management Association (ICMA) are teaming up to offer free vulnerability assessment (VA) and emergency response planning (ERP) training to medium-sized drinking water systems.
The program is designed to help community water systems (CWS) serving between 50,000 people and 99,999 people meet a statutory requirement to conduct a VA of their facility and develop or update their emergency response plan. To accomplish these goals, the partnership will conduct a series of hands-on workshops and Web casts and will offer technical support.
WEF will be conducting 10 two-day workshops from August 2003 through October 2003 featuring the Vulnerability Self-Assessment Tool (VSAT). VSAT water was developed by the Association of Metropolitan Sewerage Agencies specifically for medium- and small-sized water utilities. It's available free of charge to public entities via www.vsatusers.net.
ICMA's 15 three-day workshops will feature the Risk Assessment Methodology for Water Systems (RAM-W) methodology. RAM-W, developed by Sandia National Labs, has recently been updated with a focus on small and medium systems through the efforts of the American Water Works Association and their associated research foundation (AwwaRF).
Utilities may send two representatives to a workshop, and partial travel scholarships are available for utilities located more than 100 miles from a workshop site. Each participating CWS is entitled to receive up to eight hours of free follow up technical assistance on conducting a VA or updating an ERP.
For more information, go to www.lgean.org/watersecurity.
House Committee Approves Bill Authorizing Army Corps Studies
The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved a bill July 23, 2003, that authorizes a number of Army Corps of Engineers projects and establishes a peer review process for Corps studies.
The Corps has received negative publicity in recent years for past projects labeled as "pork barrel" payoffs by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and other outspoken critics.
The Water Resources Development Act of 2003 (H.R. 2557) was unanimously approved by voice vote. The legislation was introduced in the House by Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), chair of the Transportation Committee, and Rep. John J. Duncan Jr. (R-Tenn.), chair of the Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee.
"We have worked for the last two years on this legislation that will provide the Corps of Engineers with authority to continue the important work that they do protecting the nation from floods and keeping our waterways open to navigation," said Young. "It is important to note that the Corps fulfills these important missions while also providing both protections and improvements to our environment."
"Maritime commerce in the U.S. accounts for more than 13 million jobs, and an estimated $706 billion in damages have been prevented through Corps flood damage reduction projects," he added. "The work of the Corps of Engineers is essential to the economy, safety and well being of this country."
Duncan commented, "I am pleased that we have offered a bill that establishes a peer review process for Corps of Engineers studies that will help improve projects, not derail them."
Among the environmental restoration and protection projects authorized by the bill are the development of comprehensive plans for protecting, preserving and restoring the coastal Louisiana ecosystem as well as the Kaskaskia River Basin.
The bill also authorizes 25 watershed planning assistance studies and projects.
An amendment offered by Duncan and Subcommittee Ranking Member Jerry Costello (D-Ill.) would establish a peer review process for Corps projects. According to a press statement, the amendment specifies that the peer review panel would review only scientific and technical matters, not policy or compliance with law. The Chief of Engineers would be required to respond in writing to peer review, but recommendations would be considered "only advisory."
For more information, go to www.house.gov/transportation or look up H.R. 2557 at thomas.loc.gov.
EPA Adds Stormwater-Related Documents to its Web Site
EPA has added a reissued construction permit, as well as electronic copies of permits and fact sheets for major facilities in all industries, to the section of its Web site on the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System.
The agency's Construction General Permit was published in the Federal Register July 1. The new permit implements Phase II of the NPDES Stormwater Regulations, which contains new requirements for construction sites between one and five acres. The permit now covers construction activity on sites one acre or larger in states, territories and Indian country where EPA is the permitting authority.
Under this permit, construction site operators will need to develop and implement stormwater pollution prevention plans and file a Notice of Intent form at least seven days prior to initiation of land-disturbing activities. For more information, go to www.epa.gov/npdes/stormwater/cgp.
EPA also has begun making electronic copies of NPDES permits and fact sheets for major facilities available online. Permit documents are now available through Envirofacts for about 450 facilities that have had their NPDES permits issued or reissued since Nov. 1, 2002. EPA will continue to post copies of permits and fact sheets for major industrial and municipal facilities as existing permits are reissued and new permits are issued. For more information on this project and detailed instructions on how to access the documents, go to www.epa.gov/npdes/permitdocuments.
This news section originally appeared in the September/October 2003 issue of Water & Wastewater, Volume 3, Number 5.
This article originally appeared in the 09/01/2003 issue of Environmental Protection.