Draft National Water Reuse Action Plan

Draft National Water Reuse Action Plan

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a draft National Water Reuse Action Plan that identifies priority actions supporting the reuse of water for human consumption, agriculture, business, industry, recreation and healthy ecosystems. Items proposed in the draft will require the collaboration between governmental and nongovernmental organizations to implement the actions.

What is Water Reuse?

Water reuse is an innovative and dynamic strategy that can dramatically change the future of water availability in the U.S. Water reuse can be used to meet water demands and mitigate the risks posed by droughts. Recycled water can be used for a wide variety of applications, including agriculture, potable water supplies, groundwater replenishment, industrial processes and environmental restoration. The water reuse process can stem from sources such as industrial process water, agricultural return flows, municipal wastewater, oil and gas produced water, and stormwater.

Why Implement a Water Reuse Action Plan?

The draft National Water Reuse Action Plan is the first initiative of its kind to be coordinated across the water sector. According to EPA’s Assistant Administrator for Water, David Ross, forty states anticipate shortages of fresh water within their borders over the next decade. Water reuse has the potential to ensure the viability of our water economy and provide safe and reliable drinking water for years to come.

After extensive research and outreach, it was determined that meaningful advancement of water reuse would best be accomplished by working cooperatively with all water sector stakeholders including federal, state, tribal, and local water perspectives. The EPA hopes to issue a final plan that will include clear commitments and milestones for actions that will increase the sustainability, security and resilience of the nation’s water resources.

What Does the Plan Entail?

The draft National Water Reuse Action Plan identifies 46 proposed actions across ten strategic objectives.

  1. Enable consideration of water reuse with integrated and collaborative action at the watershed scale.
  2. Coordinate and integrate federal, state, tribal, and local water reuse programs and policies.
  3. Compile and refine fit-for-purpose specifications.
  4. Promote technology development, deployment, and validation.
  5. Improve availability of water information.
  6. Facilitate financial support of water reuse.
  7. Integrate and coordinate research on water reuse.
  8. Improve outreach and communication on water reuse.
  9. Support a talented and dynamic workforce.
  10. Develop water reuse metrics that support goals and measure progress.

What Next?

The EPA is soliciting public input through a 90-day public comment period. This period will seek to:

  • Identify the most important actions to be taken in the near term.
  • Identify and describe the specific attributes and characteristics of the actions that will achieve success.
  • Secure specific commitments to lead/partner/collaborate on implementation of actions.

Comments close on December 16, 2019.

For more information, including opportunities to engage with EPA on this effort, visit https://www.epa.gov/waterreuse/water-reuse-action-plan.

For a quick snapshot of how water reuse works, check out this infographic created by World Bank.

Managing Nutrient Pollution in Our Water

Managing Nutrient Pollution in Our Water

Runoff of phosphorus and nitrogen from farming, stormwater, and wastewater treatment plants is an increasing issue for aquatic environments around the world. While phosphate and nitrogen are natural and necessary components of aquatic ecosystems, too much can be dangerous. Excess amounts of these nutrients, also known as nutrient pollution, is detrimental to plants, wildlife, waterways, and our own public health. Although this issue is not new, there’s been an uptick in awareness as water and wastewater utilities aim to improve drinking water quality and meet regulatory requirements.

 

Problems with Excess Nutrients

Nutrient pollution is a widespread problem that affects rivers, streams, lakes, bays, and coastal waters across the country.

 

Algal Blooms

Increased levels of phosphorus and nitrogen can cause harmful algal blooms that ultimately lead to the production of toxins and elevated bacteria levels that are harmful to people and wildlife. In fact, nutrient pollution can cause issues in water quality both near and far from the location where the nutrients enter the water source. A study from the US Water Alliance noted an instance of water pollution where excess nutrients from the Mississippi River Basin caused toxic algal blooms 2,300 miles downstream in the Gulf of Mexico. The algae later decomposed, all while consuming large amounts of oxygen and creating dead zones in which aquatic organisms could not survive.

 

harmful algal blooms covering a body of water

 

Treatment Costs

When it comes to treating wastewater and providing high-quality drinking water to customers, costs will rise for water utilities should the water be saturated with excess nutrients.

 

Recreational Opportunities

The problems that stem from excess nutrients in water bodies negatively impact the livelihood of those who use the water for recreational purposes. According to the EPA, the US tourism industry loses nearly $1 billion each year, while the commercial fishing industry loses tens of millions.

 

Sources of Excess Nutrients

Most excess nutrients in the water originate from agricultural runoff, urban stormwater, and discharge from wastewater treatment plants. There are two types of sources – “point” sources and “nonpoint” sources. Point sources typically refer to industrial and municipal wastewater treatment plants. Nonpoint sources refer to agricultural and stormwater runoff.

 

Point Sources

$1.4 trillion in public funding has been invested in improving municipal wastewater treatment facilities to address nutrient pollution since 1972.

 

 

Nonpoint Sources

The primary approach to reducing nutrient pollution of agricultural nonpoint sources has been the implementation of ‘Best Management Practices’. Best practices vary on a farm-by-farm basis and have the potential to be cost-effective or expensive, depending on several factors. Because farm practices are unpredictable due to cropping patterns, soil properties, hydrology, and weather, many farmers are hesitant to change their current practice. Compared to point sources, a mere $5 billion has bene spent by the federal government to incentivize farmers to implement strategies for nutrient reduction. Additionally, when it comes to nonpoint sources of excess nutrients including stormwater, a lot more can be done on the ground level. Being mindful of what goes down the drain in our yards, and on the streets, can have a huge impact.

 

Efforts for Reducing Nutrient Pollution

There are many programs in place on both the federal and state level to help reduce nutrient pollution levels. Below are just a few.

 

The Clean Water Act

This Act regulates point source discharge and requires all dischargers to obtain a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit from the state. NPDES permits enforce limits on the concentration of nutrients that can be discharged into surface waters. Under Section 319 of the Clean Water Act, the EPA also supports state efforts to reduce nonpoint sources of nutrient pollution with its $160 million grant program. According to the EPA, activities supported by these programs may include implementation of state nonpoint source management plans, state regulatory and non-regulatory programs, watershed prioritization and planning, and nonpoint source monitoring.

 

Financing

Several loans exist specifically for upgrades and construction of wastewater facilities. The State Revolving Fund program offers low-interest loans for wastewater treatment infrastructure, and the USDA’s Rural Development Water and Environmental Programs provide long-term, low-interest loans and grants for the construction of these facilities in rural communities. The USDA and EPA also support the reduction of nutrient pollution by incentivizing voluntary action by nonpoint sources. There are a handful of programs that provide a mix of funding directly to farmers, or to groups at the community or state level.

 

Partnerships

The EPA and five other federal agencies co-lead the Gulf Hypoxia Task Force. This federal initiative was developed in 2008 (and adopted by 12 states) to reduce nutrient loads by 20 percent by 2025 and by 45 percent by 2035. Other partnerships created to reduce the impacts of nutrient pollution include Source Water Collaborative and the Animal Agriculture Discussion Group.

 

Outreach

The EPA is working with its partners to combat nutrient pollution in water bodies throughout the country. They’ve created a wealth of communication and outreach materials to increase awareness of the causes, effects, and solutions to nutrient pollution.

 

Conclusion

In conclusion, we must continue addressing the problem of nutrient pollution in water bodies across the country. While there are several initiatives in place to combat the harmful effects of nitrogen and phosphorus entering the environment, nutrient pollution is increasing at a quicker rate than what is being done to eliminate it. Federal and state agencies, farmers, and even you can play a tremendous role in reducing nutrient pollution. Learn what you can do within your community here.

Technology Aims to Help States and Tribes Improve Water Quality Standard Public Hearings

Technology Aims to Help States and Tribes Improve Water Quality Standard Public Hearings

States and tribes looking to maximize participation, simplify implementation and cut costs associated with public hearings are in luck. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a new resource that outlines 12 suggestions for how states and tribes can modernize the hearing process by implementing technology.

Under the Clean Water Act, states and authorized tribes are required to hold public hearings for the purposes of reviewing and adopting new or revised water quality standards. Because public participation is an important aspect of decision making on water quality standards, this new resource will be a great asset in increasing engagement within the community.

Modernizing Public Hearings for Water Quality Standard Decisions Consistent with 40 CFR 25.5

EPA’s document titled Modernizing Public Hearings for Water Quality Standard Decisions Consistent with 40 CFR 25.5 outlines ways to incorporate technology into public hearings while also continuing to meet federal requirements. The 12 suggestions in the document can help states and water quality standard-authorized tribes in two ways. For one, implementing technology in the hearing process will maximize opportunities for effective public input when it comes to water quality standard decision making. Secondly, incorporating such technology could facilitate in more efficient usage of spending resources by states and tribes.

Suggestions for Incorporating Technology into the Public Hearing Process

  1. Advertise online to help publicize the public hearing
  2. Use email lists to disseminate information to interested parties
  3. Post relevant public hearing materials online for easy access
  4. Conduct an in-person hearing while simultaneously broadcasting it via a web conferencing platform
  5. Conduct an online only public hearing using a web conferencing platform
  6. Use the internet to schedule witnesses in advance
  7. Encourage speakers to submit relevant materials or visual aids electronically in advance of the public hearing
  8. Allow unscheduled presenters to register to provide oral comments during an online public hearing
  9. Allow comments and questions to be made orally through a web conferencing platform
  10. Use a web conferencing platform’s chat/instant message feature
  11. Record the proceedings of the online public hearing
  12. Post the recorded public hearing online/on website

For a detailed description of each suggestion, please visit the online document file here.

Please note that these suggestions are not required and will not be imposed on any state or tribe. States and tribes have the choice to (or not to) incorporate any of these technologies into their public hearing process. In addition, there are also several factors that the EPA have considered in reference to these suggestions.

Considerations

  • The public’s accessibility to and acceptance of computers and the internet
  • The capacity of a state of water quality standard-authorized tribe to integrate and implement technology
  • The geographic scope of a water quality standard decision
  • The nature of a water quality standard decision
  • Presence of local decision-making or advisory boards
  • The state of water quality standard-authorized tribe’s overall public participation process
  • Public feedback on the integration of technology
  • Number of participants at each public hearing

Given that a large part of these suggestions are focused on online hearings, The EPA’s Modernizing Public Hearings document includes examples and milestones for planning an online hearing.

Here is the EPA’s milestone checklist, a super helpful tool to have handy when planning an online hearing.

Checklist provided by EPA for the implementation of technology in public hearings for water standards

As technology continues to evolve in the water industry, it’s certainly time for modern technological approaches to communicating to be implemented as well. So, what do you think?

For more information, please be sure to reference the EPA’s resource here. In addition, you can also contact the EPA directly with any questions.

PFAS to be Classified as Hazardous Substances Under New Bipartisan Senate Bill

PFAS to be Classified as Hazardous Substances Under New Bipartisan Senate Bill

The PFAS Action Act

A bipartisan senate bill was introduced on March 1 to mandate the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classify Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) as hazardous substances eligible for cleanup under the Superfund toxics law, a massive step in efforts to eliminate widespread contamination by these compounds across the country. Under the PFAS Action Act of 2019, legislation would require responsible parties to report the excess release of PFAS into the environment and allow the government to sue polluters to recover the costs of cleanup.

Scott Faber, Senior Vice President of Government Affairs at the Environmental Working Group (EWG) said that “this proposal could assist potentially hundreds of communities throughout the country struggling with PFAS contamination by securing the resources required to begin the cleanup process and holding polluters accountable.”

What are PFAS?

PFAS are manmade chemicals that have been used in both industry and consumer products since the 1950s.  The most common products that PFAS are used in include:

  • Non-stick cookware
  • Products that resist grease, water and oil
  • Water-repellant clothing
  • Stain resistant fabrics
  • Firefighting foams
  • Some cosmetics


Exposure to PFAS can happen through a variety of ways including:

  • Drinking contaminated municipal water or private well water
  • Eating fish caught from a source that was contaminated with PFAS
  • Swallowing contaminated soil or dust
  • Eating food that was packaged in material containing PFAS
  • Using consumer products including the ones listed above

As PFAS are produced and used, they can migrate into soil and water inducing hugely detrimental effects on the environment, people, and animals. While scientists are still learning about the health effects to exposure of PFAS, some studies show that PFAS exposure may affect:

  • Growth
  • Learning
  • Behavior of infants and children
  • The ability to get pregnant
  • Natural hormones in the body
  • Cholesterol levels
  • Immune system
  • Risk of cancer

 

Why is the PFAS Action Act of 2019 Necessary?

Tests performed by the EPA have detected PFAS pollution of public water supplies for 16 million Americans in 33 states, a statistic that is considered a severe underestimate of the scope of the problem. EWG and researchers at Boston’s Northeastern University have tracked 172 PFAS contamination sites in 40 states – a number that does not include public water systems with PFAS contamination. In May 2018, EWG released a data analysis that estimated more than 1,500 drinking water systems, serving up to 110 million Americans, may be contaminated with similar fluorinated chemicals.

The map below from EWG and SSEHRI at Northeastern University shows contamination sites and EPA tap water detections. Click here to view an interactive version of this map. The blue circles show where PFAS chemicals were detected between 2013 and 2016 in public drinking water systems, and the red circles show sites in Northeastern’s PFAS Contamination Site Tracker.

Should this bill be enacted into law, these 1,500 contaminated drinking water systems across the country would soon be cleaned up as part both short-term and long-term actions included in the Action Plan, potentially resulting in clean water supplies and safe drinking water.

PFAS Action Act – Action Items

The EPA is leading the national effort to understand PFAS and reduce risks to the public through implementation of this Action Plan and through active engagement and partnership with other federal agencies, states, tribes, industry groups, associations, local communities, and the public.

Key actions to PFAS related challenges include:

  • Expanding toxicity information for PFAS
  • Developing new tools to characterize PFAS in the environment
  • Evaluating cleanup approaches
  • Developing guidance to facilitate the cleanup of contaminated groundwater
  • Using enforcement tools to address PFAS exposure in the environment
  • Using legal tools such as those in the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to prevent future PFAS contamination
  • Addressing PFAS in drinking water using regulatory and other tools
  • Developing new tools and materials to communicate about PFAS

(See all priority actions, short-term actions, and long-term actions here.)

1ewg.org
2shaheen.senate.gov
3epa.org
4atsdr.cdc.gov
5michigan.gov

 

6 Facts About Lead In Drinking Water

6 Facts About Lead In Drinking Water

Drinking Water contaminated with lead can be a health hazard.

Whether water comes from a Public Water System or a private well, water contaminated with lead is most likely the result from corrosion of the plumbing materials, lead pipes, or the service lines from the water main in the street to the building.

Here are some facts about lead contamination and tips to avoid lead in drinking water.

6-Facts-About-Lead-in-Drinking-Water

Please feel free to print and share our 6 Lead Facts Infographic with attribution to Tata & Howard, Inc.

PFAS – Emerging Contaminants in Drinking Water

PFAS – Emerging Contaminants in Drinking Water

Health Advisory Guidelines for Per- and polyfluoroalkyl Substances Detected in Public Water Systems

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) announced in early June, and through the Office of Research and Standards (ORS), its recommendations on the Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule 3 (UCMR 3) for emerging contaminants-specifically Perflourinated Alkyl Substances (PFAS).

PFAS or Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances are a group of man-made compounds that include perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), perffluorohexane sulfonate (PFHxS), perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA), perflouroheptanoic acid (PFHpA), and perfluorobutane sulfonate (PFBS).

US map of PFASAccording the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), all these UCMR 3 PFAS compounds have been detected in public water supplies across the US. Since PFAS are considered emerging contaminants, there are currently no established regulatory limits for levels in drinking water. However, in 2016, the EPA set Health Advisory levels (HA) of 0.07 micrograms per liter (µg/L) or 70 parts per trillion (ppt) for the combined concentrations of two PFAS compounds, PFOS and PFOA.

MassDEP’s ORS established drinking water guidelines that follows the EPA’s recommendations for health advisory levels at 70 ppt, which applies to the sum total of five PFAS chemicals – PFOS, PFOA, PFNA, PFHXS, and PFHpA.  And, if the level of contamination poses unacceptable health risks to its customers, Public Water Systems (PWS) must take action to achieve safe levels. They also must provide public notice.

The EPA and MassDEP’s recommended guidelines for PFAS include:

  • Public Water Suppliers take immediate action to reduce levels of the five PFAS to be below 70 ppt for all consumers.
  • Susceptible health-risk groups (pregnant women, infants, and nursing mothers) should stop consuming water when the level is above 70 ppt.
  • Public Water Systems must provide a public Health Advisory notice.

Water testingThe EPA also recommends that treatment be implemented for all five PFAS when one or more of these compounds are present.

Although, PFAS are no longer manufactured in the United States, PFAS are still produced internationally and can be imported in to the country1.  PFAS have been in use since the 1940’s and are persistent chemicals that don’t breakdown, accumulate over time in the environment and in the human body.  Evidence shows that prolonged exposure PFAS can have adverse effects on human health and the ecology.

PFAS can be found in:

  • Agricultural products grown in PFAS-contaminated soil or water, and/or handled with PFAS-containing equipment and materials.
  • Drinking water contaminated from chemical groundwater pollution from stormwater runoff near landfills, wastewater treatment plants, and firefighter training facilities2.
  • Household products, including nonstick products (e.g., Teflon), polishes, waxes, paints, cleaning products, and stain and water-repellent fabrics.
  • Firefighting foams2, which is a major source of groundwater contamination at airports and military bases where firefighting training occurs.
  • Industrial facilities that manufactured chrome plating, electronics, and oil recovery that use PFAS.
  • Environmental contamination where PFAS have built-up and persisted over time – including in fish, animals and humans.

While most states are relying on the EPA’s Health Advisory levels (including Massachusetts), some, such as Connecticut, Minnesota, New Jersey, Arizona, and Colorado have addressed other UCMR 3 PFAS pollutants as well.

Boy drinking waterMost research on the effects of PFAS on human health is based on animal studies. And, although there is no conclusive evidence that PFAS cause cancer, animal studies have shown there are possible links. However, PFAS ill-health effects are associated with changes in thyroid, kidney and liver function, as well as affects to the immune system.  These chemicals have also caused fetal development effects during pregnancy and low birth weights.

PFAS are found at low levels throughout our environment—in foods we consume and in household products we use daily. PFAS in drinking water at levels higher than the EPA’s recommendations does not necessarily mean health risks are likely. Routine showering and bathing are not considered significant sources of exposure. And, while it is nearly impossible to eliminate all exposure to these chemicals, the risk for adverse health effects would likely be of concern if an individual continuously consumed higher levels of PFAS than the guidelines established by the EPA’s Health Advisory.

MassDEP is continuing its research and testing for PFAS in Public Water Systems.  Large Public Drinking Water Systems have already been tested and sampling indicated that approximately 3% had levels of PFAS detected. MassDEP is currently working with smaller Public Water Systems to identify areas where PFAS may have been used or discharged to the environment.

As more information and regulations develop on this emerging contaminant, MassDEP will continue to communicate their findings. Tata & Howard is also available for any questions that may arise, as well as, assist with testing and recommend treatment options for our clients.

 

1 In 2006, the EPA and the PFA industry formed the PFOA Stewardship program to end the production of PFAs.

2 MassDEP in partnership with the Massachusetts Department of Fire Services (MassDFS), announced in May a take-back program to remove hazardous pre-2003 firefighting foam stockpiles and be neutralized. Manufacturers stopped making PFAS foam in 2002 and have since developed fluorine-free and more fluorine stable foams that are safer to the environment.

The End of Plastic Pollution?

The End of Plastic Pollution?

Earth Day 2018 marked its 47th anniversary on April 22 and the organization has declared this year’s theme as ‘Help end plastic pollution’.

It’s unimaginable to think how our lives would be without plastic. Plastics are so ubiquitous that we completely rely on its convenience, comfort, safety, low cost, and the multiple uses in thousands of products in our daily lives.

Flexible, resilient, lightweight, and strong, approximately a third of plastic used today is in packaging. Roughly the same amount is used in building materials such as plumbing, piping, carpeting, and vinyl. Other uses of plastic include automobiles, furniture, toys, and lifesaving medical supplies and devices. The plastics used in bottles and wrappers allow us to take food and drinks with us anywhere.

In a nutshell, plastics are indispensable and are widely used in our homes, offices, and industry every day.

But where does all this plastic eventually end up?

Bottle trash in oceanSome of it can be recycled. Quite a bit ends up in the trash and landfills. And more than you can imagine ends up loose as plastic pollution, eventually making its way into our waterways. There are millions of tons of debris floating around in the water—and most of it is plastic. It is estimated that up to 80% of marine trash and plastic actually originates on land—either swept in from the coastline or carried to rivers from the streets during heavy rain via storm drains and sewer overflows.

Therein lies the Earth Day challenge to help end plastic pollution.

Plastic, because it’s nonbiodegradable, can be around for up to 1,000 years or possibly even indefinitely, as compared to other forms of trash. Different kinds of plastic degrade at different times, but the average time for a plastic bottle to completely biodegrade is at least 450 years.

Consider the lifespan of these typical plastic products before they naturally biodegrade:

  • Plastic water bottle – 450 years
  • Disposable diapers – 500 years
  • Six pack plastic rings – 600 years
  • Styrofoam cups – 50 years
  • Plastic grocery bags – 10 to 20 years
  • Extruded polystyrene foam – over 5,000 years!

Our lives without plastic use is not going away anytime soon.  But there are many small (although important) things we can do right now to protect our waterways and help end plastic pollution. The most obvious is to try to keep as much plastic as possible out of the waste stream in the first place.

These simple behavioral changes can have an impact:

Stop buying bottled water

Glass of waterDrink from reusable containers and fill with tap water. Consider that close to 50 billion plastic bottles are tossed in the trash each year and only 23% are recycled!1   If that isn’t’ enough to convince you to stop buying ‘disposable’ water bottles, a recent study by ORB Media, did testing of 259 plastic water bottles from nine counties that revealed microplastic particles in the water from 242 of the bottles.

Recycle more

Recycling seems obvious, but we can do so much better!  According to The National Geographic, an astounding 91% of plastic is not recycled.3

recycle

The benefits of recycling is equally astounding. Not only does recycling reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills and incinerators, but it prevents (air and water) pollution, saves energy and money, creates jobs, and has a tremendous positive impact on the environment.1

To find our more on the specifics of recycling in your area, check out Earth911.org’s recycling directory.

Stop using disposable plastics

Ninety percent of disposable plastic in our daily lives are used once and then thrown out—grocery bags, food wrappers, plastic wrap, disposable cutlery, straws, coffee-cup lids, etc. In the United States alone, approximately 102.1 billion plastic bags are used every year.2   Start reducing waste by bringing your own bags to the store, silverware to the office, or travel mug to Starbucks.

Buy in bulk

Bulk produce

Single-serving yogurts, travel-size toiletries, packages of snack food—all these items of convenience not only cost more but produce more trash than purchasing larger containers. Consider buying in bulk and in larger packages, then portioning out into smaller reusable containers.

Switch from disposable diapers to cloth

The EPA estimates that 7.6 billion pounds of disposable diapers are discarded in the US each year. 1 Use cloth diapers to reduce your baby’s carbon footprint and save money.

Cook more and pack your lunch

VegatablesNot only healthier for you, cooking at home helps reduce the endless surplus of plastic packaging – take out containers, food wrappers, bottles, and eating utensils. Choose fresh fruits and veggies and bulk items with less packaging…and pack your leftovers or lunch in reusable containers and bags.

People around the world will celebrate Earth Day April 22.  However, the challenge to help end plastic pollution can’t be a one-day event.  Rather, we should strive to create a culture of environmental stewardship and make significant changes in our daily lives to reduce, recycle, and reuse our dependency on plastic.

We can start today!

 

1 www.epa.gov

2 www.thebalance

3 www.news.nationalgeographic.com

Funding 101 – Where to Find Money for Critical Water and Wastewater Projects

Funding 101 – Where to Find Money for Critical Water and Wastewater Projects

When communities grow and expand, utilities must do the same while keeping up with quality and regulatory requirements. With aging infrastructure and limited capital dollars, utilities must find alternative ways of funding crucial projects. Fortunately, several state and federal agencies realize this pressing issue and are collectively helping utilities and private organizations procure the resources they need. While making decisions on which projects and issues to be addressed first may be challenging, acquiring the capital to complete these projects is available – if you know where to look.

Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF)

The newly completed 8.0 mgd DAF Long Pond Water Treatment Plant in Falmouth, MA was funded through the DWSRF program.

The EPA’s DWSRF can be used for infrastructure improvements in drinking water systems. The DWSRF emphasizes funding to small and economically disadvantaged communities, allowing them to finance improvements needed to comply with the Safe Drinking Water Act and to address the most serious risks to human health. The DWSRF authorizes the EPA to make grants to states each year to which each state must match 20% of its grant and develop intended use plans indicating how the allotted funds will be used. The six categories of projects that are eligible to receive DWSRF assistance include the following:

  • Treatment: Projects to install or upgrade facilities to improve drinking water quality to comply with SDWA regulations.
  • Transmission and Distribution: Rehabilitation, replacement, or installation of pipes to improve water pressure to safe levels or to prevent contamination caused by leaky or broken pipes.
  • Source: Rehabilitation of wells or development of eligible sources to replace contaminated sources
  • Storage: Installation or upgrade of finished water storage tanks to prevent microbiological contamination from entering the distribution system.
  • Consolidation: Interconnecting two or more water systems.
  • Creation of New Systems: Construction of a new system to serve homes with contaminated individual wells, or consolidation of existing systems into a new regional water system.

Public water systems are eligible to receive DWSRF assistance if they have the capacity to ensure compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act or meet certain conditions to return to compliance. Systems owned by federal agencies are not eligible.

Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF)

The Lyndon, VT wastewater treatment plant upgrade project received over $7.2 million in CWSRF and USDA Rural Development funding.

The CWSRF program is a federal-state partnership with the EPA that provides communities a permanent, independent source of low-cost financing for a wide range of water quality infrastructure projects. The EPA provides grants to all 50 states plus Puerto Rico to capitalize state CWSRF loan programs. These programs function like environmental infrastructure banks by providing low interest loans to eligible recipients for high priority water quality activities. Projects that are eligible for DWSRF funding include the following:

CWSRF funding for public, private, and nonprofit entities:

  • National Estuary Program Projects: Development and implementation of a conservation and management plan
  • Nonpoint Source: Implementation of a state nonpoint source pollution management program
  • Stormwater: Measures to manage, reduce, treat, or recapture stormwater or subsurface drainage water
  • Decentralized Wastewater Treatment Systems: Construction, repair, or replacement of decentralized wastewater treatment systems that treat municipal wastewater or domestic sewage
  • Watershed Pilot Projects: Development and implementation of watershed projects
  • Security Measures at Publicly Owned Treatment Works: Measures to increase the security of publicly owned treatment works
  • Water Reuse: Projects for reusing or recycling wastewater, stormwater, or subsurface drainage water

CWSRF funding for municipalities, inter-municipal, interstate, or state agencies

  • Water Conservation, Efficiency, and Reuse: Measures to reduce the demand for publicly owned treatment works capacity through water conservation, efficiency, or reuse
  • Construction of Publicly Owned Treatment Works: Construction of publicly owned treatment works
  • Energy Efficiency: Measures to reduce the energy consumption needs for publicly owned treatment works

CWSRF funding for qualified nonprofit entities:

  • Technical Assistance: Provide technical assistance to owners and operators of small and medium sized publicly owned treatment works to plan, develop, and obtain financing for CWSRF eligible projects and to assist each treatment works in achieving compliance with the CWA.

Water and Environmental Programs (WEP)

USDA Rural Development provides funding for the construction of water and waste facilities in rural communities and also provides funding to organizations that provide technical assistance and training to rural communities in relation to their water and waste activities. WEP is the only Federal program exclusively focused on water and waste infrastructure needs of rural communities with populations of 10,000 or less. WEP is administered through National Office staff in Washington, DC, and a network of field staff in each State. Types of grants offered by WEP funding include the following.

  • Emergency Community Water Assistance Grants: Helps eligible communities prepare for, or recover from, an emergency that threatens the availability of safe, reliable drinking water for households and businesses. Emergencies include drought or flood; earthquake; tornado; hurricane; disease outbreak; chemical spill, leak, or seepage; or other disasters.
  • Water & Waste Disposal Loan & Grant Program: Provides funding for clean and reliable drinking water systems, sanitary sewage disposal, sanitary solid waste disposal, and stormwater drainage to households and businesses in eligible rural areas. This program assists qualified applicants that are not otherwise able to obtain commercial credit on reasonable terms.
  • Water & Waste Disposal Predevelopment Planning Grants: Assists low income communities with initial planning and development of an application for USDA Rural Development Water and Waste Disposal direct loan/grant and loan guarantee programs.

Community Development Block Grant (CBDG)

The Town of Palmer, MA benefited from a CBDG for a recent water main project.

CDBG funds are generally used for long-term community needs, including mitigation. Beginning in 1974, the CDBG program is one of the longest continuously run programs at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The CDBG program provides annual grants on a formula basis to 1209 general units of local government and States. Utilities can use these grants to buy, construct, or fix public facilities such as water and sewer systems. They can also match FEMA grants. Grantees may fund activities that meet urgent community development needs. CDBG funds may be allocated for many different activities including the following:

  • Construction or reconstruction of water and sewer facilities, streets, and other public works
  • Relocation and demolition
  • Rehabilitation of public and private buildings
  • Planning activities
  • Activities relating to energy conservation and renewable energy resources

Public Works Program

 The U.S. Economic Development Administration’s (EDA) Public Works Program helps distressed communities revitalize, expand, and upgrade their physical infrastructure. This program enables communities to attract new industry, encourage business expansion, diversify local economies, and generate or retain long-term, private-sector jobs and investment through the acquisition or development of land and infrastructure improvements needed for the successful establishment or expansion of industrial or commercial enterprises. EDA invests in public works projects, including water and sewer systems improvements, that meet the following criteria:

  • The project’s demonstrated alignment with at least one of EDA’s current investment priorities
  • The project’s potential to promote job creation and private investment in the regional economy
  • The likelihood that the project will achieve its projected outcomes
  • Ability of the applicant to successfully implement the proposed project, including financial and management

OF NOTE: Funding Programs Targeted by Trump’s FY18 Budget

Trump’s proposed FY18 budget includes deep cuts to the nation’s major infrastructure programs. Both the DWSRF and CWSRF, funded by the EPA, are slated for drastic reduction under Trump’s budget, while the CBDG program is marked for elimination. In fact, Trump’s budget proposes to completely eliminate 66 federal programs including not only CBDG but also the United States Department of Agriculture’s Rural Water and Waste Disposal Program, and the Northern Border Regional Commission, which is a Federal-State partnership for economic and community development within the most distressed counties of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York. Without these funding programs, some communities may not be able to implement needed system improvements.

In Conclusion

Utilities face an uphill battle when it comes to keeping their distribution systems up to date and running efficiently. Both public and private entities are seeing the increase in demand outpacing capital, threatening crucial projects. Fortunately, state and federal funding is available to help alleviate the financial burden facing many communities, while capital efficiency planning helps communities prioritize projects. Sufficient funding and planning today can assure efficiency and deliverability for future generations.

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PPCPs and EDCs in Drinking Water – Is There a Solution?

PPCPs-drinking-waterModern-day, developed nations use an exorbitant amount of chemicals for a variety of reasons. Some of these chemicals are used to prevent and treat illness, to reduce pain from injury or surgery, to treat mental health issues, and for hygiene, grooming, and cosmetic reasons. Commonly referred to as Pharmaceutical and Personal Care Products, or PPCPs, these products include prescription and over-the-counter medications, cosmetics, fragrances, face and body washes, sunscreens, insect repellants, and lotions.

In addition to PPCPs are endocrine disrupting compounds (EDCs). The endocrine system is an intricate network of glands including the thyroid, pituitary, adrenal, pancreas, thymus, and reproductive organs that release precise amounts of hormones into the bloodstream in order to regulate essential biological functions in humans and animals such as growth, development, reproduction, and metabolism. EDCs are any external natural or synthetic compounds capable of interfering with the body’s endocrine system by disrupting the synthesis, secretion, transport, bonding, or elimination of natural bodily hormones.

Effects of PPCPs and EDCs in Water

prescription-drugs-waterPPCPs and EDCs enter our waterways through sewage, leachate from landfills and septic systems, flushing of unused medications, and agricultural runoff, and they have the potential to cause a myriad of problems. While there has not yet been a truly significant amount of research completed on all of these products and chemicals, some facts are known. For example, excessive antibiotic use has led to the development of “superbugs,” or bacteria such as MRSA that are resistant to most antibiotics. Methadone reacts with chloramine, a chemical used to treat drinking water, to form N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA), a known carcinogen. EDCs interfere with the endocrine system, potentially causing reproductive, developmental, neurological, and immunologic problems in both humans and wildlife.

US-drug-useSome of the most common EDCs in drinking water include estrogen and progesterone from birth control pills, as well as anabolic steroids. These compounds interfere with the reproductive capabilities of aquatic wildlife. Examples include eggshell thinning and subsequent reproductive failure of waterfowl; reduced populations of Baltic seals due to lower fertility and increased miscarriage; development of male reproductive organs in female marine animals, such as snails; feminization and subsequent decreased populations of certain types of fish, including bass; and reduced or malformed frog populations.

Regulating PPCPs and EDCs in Drinking Water

feminization-fishCurrently, most PPCPs and EDCs are not regulated at either the state or federal level; however, they are being investigated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as Contaminants of Emerging Concern. Because PPCPs and EDCs appear to hinder reproduction in marine life, many state environmental organizations strongly support additional research and potential regulation on these compounds. In 2006, Massachusetts became the first state in the nation to set drinking water and cleanup standards for the known EDC perchlorate after it had been detected in the state’s drinking water, and many states have implemented public education campaigns on these compounds, their effects, and their proper disposal.

Treating PPCPs and EDCs in Drinking Water

Currently, there are no treatment processes specifically designed to remove PPCPs or EDCs from drinking water; however, research is currently underway at the national level to determine the effectiveness of existing drinking water treatment technologies, such as chlorination, carbon filtration, and ozonation, on the removal of PPCPs and EDCs. In addition, several new, innovative technologies that specifically target PPCPs and EDCs for removal have shown promise. One example utilizes a catalyst called TAML(r), which is iron plus tetra-amido macrocyclic ligand, to remove PPCPs and EDCs from wastewater, while another utilizes zeolite adsorption to remove PPCPs and EDCs from water.

How We All Can Help Reduce PPCPs and EDCs in the Environment

drug-take-back-stateOn an individual level, taking small, simple steps can have a large impact on the amount of PPCPs and EDCs in our water supply:

  • Ask your health care provider to prescribe no more than the sufficient, effective quantity of medication, or consider a trial prescription before filling the full 30- to 90-day supply;
  • Buy OTC medications in small enough quantities that can be used before the expiration date;
  • Return all unused medications to pharmaceutical take-back programs that allow the public to bring unused drugs to a central location for proper disposal;
  • If a community take-back location is unavailable, remove unused or expired prescription medications from their original containers and throw them in the trash – never flush! To discourage abuse of certain types of dangerous medications such as narcotics, crush the pills and mix them with old bacon grease or other food waste.

In Conclusion

The problem of PPCPs and EDCs in drinking water does not appear to be going away any time soon. In order to mitigate damage caused to both humanity and the environment, additional research and focus must be placed on these compounds. It is imperative that we implement additional regulations, engineer innovative and cost-effective treatment technologies, increase funding to upgrade infrastructure, and reduce our personal contributions of PPCPs and EDCs to the environment.

EPA Issues Revised General Permit for MS4s in Massachusetts

The concrete circular run-off pipe discharging water

On April 13, 2016, EPA issued a news release for the much-anticipated revised General Permit for Small Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems (MS4s) in Massachusetts, which was signed into effect April 4, 2016.

What you need to know:

  • Permit becomes effective July 1, 2018
  • A Notice of Intent (NOI) to apply for coverage under the permit will be due September 29, 2018
  • 5-Year permit term
  • Covers 260 municipalities in Massachusetts plus state and federal facilities
  • Permit has the same six minimum control measures as the 2003 MA MS4 permit

The permit allows the following:

  • Permittee may prioritize catch basin inspection and cleaning based on their knowledge of the system
  • Credit for past work
  • Up to ten years to complete illicit discharge requirements
  • One year to update from 2003 Stormwater Management Plan

Other key facts:

  • Permit contains no end-of-pipe limits
  • No retrofits required during the permit term
  • Routine road maintenance and paving are exempt from post-construction requirements

For more information from EPA, please click here.

Informational Public Meetings are being held throughout the state where requirements will be explained and questions can be asked:

Western MA:
Monday May 9, 2016 at 9:30am
Pioneer Valley Planning Commission
60 Congress Street, Springfield

Southeastern MA & Cape Cod:
Wednesday, May 18, 2016 at 12:30pm
Lecture Hall A, Science Building
Cape Cod Community College
2240 Route 132, West Barnstable

Northeastern MA:
Thursday May 19, 2016 at 8:00am
Haverhill Campus
Northern Essex Community College
100 Elliot Street, Haverhill

Central MA:
Tuesday, May 24, 2016 at 8:30am
495/MetroWest Partnership
200 Friberg Parkway, Westborough

Boston Area:
Monday, June 6, 2016 at 9:00am
EPA Region 1
5 Post Office Square, Boston

Tata & Howard has extensive experience assisting municipalities in meeting MS4 permit requirements. Please contact our Stormwater Project Manager Jon Gregory, P.E. directly at 508-219-4016 or jgregory@tataandhoward.com for assistance or if you have additional questions.