Volume 16, Issue 3
U.S. EPA Head Cites Safe Drinking Water
as Much Higher Priority than Climate Change
In an interview with CBS News on March 20, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler said that lack of access to safe drinking water is a much pressing and more immediate threat to the environment and world population than climate change. The comments came in Wheeler’s first news interview since his Senate confirmation in February.
“We have 1,000 children die every day worldwide because they don’t have safe drinking water,” Wheeler told CBS. “That’s a crisis that I think we can solve. We know what goes into solving a crisis like that. It takes resources, it takes infrastructure and the United States is working on that. But I really would like to see maybe the United Nations, the World Bank focus more on those problems today to try to save those children. Those thousand children each day, they have names, we know who they are.”
Wheeler suggested that federal programs in the United States (for example, the Clean Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) and Water Infrastructure Financing and Innovation Act (WIFIA)) could serve as models for the United Nations and other international organizations to provide resources to developing countries.
Taking a slightly different tone than some Republicans, Wheeler didn’t deny that human activity contributes to climate change and said that EPA is working on policy changes to reduce carbon emissions. Climate change “is an important change we have to be addressing and we are addressing,” Wheeler said. But he added that lack of access to clean drinking water is an immediate threat to people around the planet, while “most of the threats from climate change are 50 to 75 years out.”
To read the full CBS report and watch Wheeler’s interview, click here.
EPA Announces WIFIA Funding Availability
In other water-related EPA news, the agency announced the availability of its 2019 WIFIA funds. Wheeler said that, “[this] new round of WIFIA funding provides up to $6 billion in credit assistance which, combined with other sources, could support $12 billion in water infrastructure projects and create more than 180,000 jobs.
He indicated that for the current of funding round, EPA is prioritizing construction-ready projects in three areas: water reuse and recycling, reducing exposure to lead and addressing emerging contaminants, and updating aging infrastructure.
Projects eligible WIFIA credit assistance include:
- Drinking water treatment and distribution projects.
- Wastewater conveyance and treatment projects.
- Enhanced energy efficiency projects at drinking water and wastewater facilities.
- Desalination, aquifer recharge, alternative water supply, and water recycling projects.
- Drought prevention, reduction, or mitigation projects.
ACPPA members are encouraged to discuss the WIFIA program with customers and help spread the word about the availability of these federal resources to support water infrastructure investment.
The notice of WIFIA funding availability, letter of interest material and updated program handbook are available at www.epa.gov/wifia.
EPA Issues New Guidance to Help States Tap into Drinking Water SRF
This month EPA also issued new guidance for states to use when applying for DWSRF financing.
The guidance released March 25 is the result of program modifications included in the water infrastructure legislation signed by President Trump last year. America’s Water Infrastructure Act (AWIA) of 2018:
- Increased the amount of additional subsidy available to disadvantaged communities.
- Expanded eligible uses of the DWSRF set-asides to include source water protection activities and source water assessments.
- Extended the American Iron and Steel provision for DWSRF-funded projects through federal fiscal year 2023.
- Increased the maximum-authorized DWSRF loan term up to 30 years for any DWSRF-eligible community or up to 40 years for state-defined disadvantaged community.
The guidance document is available at www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2019-03/documents/awia_dwsrf_implementation_memorandum.pdf.
Canadian Government Unveils Budget 2019,
Draws Mixed Reviews
Prime Minster Justin Trudeau’s government unveiled its 2019-2020 budget plan on March 19. The unifying theme of the document tabled in the House of Commons by Finance Minister William Frances Morneau, P.C., M.P. is strengthening the middle class.
“Across the country, Canadians of all backgrounds want to be assured that the Government is doing all it can to make sure that the promise of progress endures – creating new jobs and more opportunities; and building a country where more housing is affordable, where climate change is taken seriously, where new Canadians are welcomed and supported, and where reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples continues to move forward,” the budget says.
Chapter 2 of the budget is dedicated to the government’s priority of “Building a Better Canada”. The budget states that, “To keep our economy strong and growing, Budget 2019 invests in the infrastructure Canadians – and Canadian communities – need. Doubling the transfer to municipalities will help get more projects underway, creating more good, well-paying jobs and making our cities and towns better places to live.”
The “Building a Better Canada” chapter is divided into six broad categories of issues:
- Building strong communities.
- Affordable electricity bills and a clean economy.
- Connecting Canadians.
- Building a better future for Canada’s North.
- Building a nation of innovators.
- Building research excellence in Canada.
In the first section, the budget document touts the government’s accomplishments since taking office, including approving more than 33,000 infrastructure projects for communities across Canada supported by federal investments of approximately $19.9 billion.
Although “the majority of the projects are already underway”, the budget acknowledges that “the pace of spending under the Investing in Canada Plan has been slower than originally anticipated, for reasons that include delays between construction activity and receipt by the Government of claims for payment, and by some jurisdictions being slower to prioritize projects than expected.”
To improve the pace of investment, the budget says the government is “currently working with the provinces and territories to accelerate projects under their bilateral agreements and taking steps to streamline the process for the provinces and territories to prioritize projects for funding, and to improve financial reporting so that it is clear when project costs are incurred, and when federal funds will flow to recipients.”
The budget also emphasizes the uptick in construction-related spending since the new government took office: “In 2015-16, the Government spent approximately $8 billion on infrastructure. With the introduction of the Investing in Canada Plan in 2016, the level of investment steadily grew, to $14.3 billion in 2018-19 – an increase of 75 percent in just three years. Over the next nine years, the Plan will invest an average of more than $16 billion per year.”
Among other things, the budget proposes a one-time transfer of $2.2 billion through the federal Gas Tax Fund to address municipality and First Nation community short-term priorities. The move would double the Government’s infrastructure commitment to municipalities in the coming year. Drinking water and waste water projects would be eligible for these municipal “top-up funds.”
The budget also proposes to invest $60 million in a Municipal Asset Management Capacity Fund. The resources would be used to train officials in small communities about how to better inventory, grow and maintain infrastructure assets. This knowledge will help communities develop more-accurate data to support infrastructure planning and investment decisions.
Aside from the direct infrastructure investment, the budget also includes resources to address the skills gap. The centerpiece is a new Canada Training Benefit, described as a “personalized, portable training benefit to help people plan for and get the training they need.” The new program, which would cost more $1.7 billion over the next five years, would allow Canadians to automatically accumulate $250 per year (up to $5000 in a lifetime) to be applied against training fees at colleges, universities and institutions teaching occupational skills. The proposal would also provide income support (at 55 percent of weekly earnings) for up to four weeks of paid leave to acquire new skills and protect workers who take time off to pursue training.
A Mixed Response
Industry response to the budget proposal has been mixed. The Canadian Construction Association said it was “disappointed that the federal government has not taken more concrete actions to restore investor confidence in Canada” and that it “had wished to see a fiscal remedy for the ongoing steel and aluminum tariffs, some relief for our heavy construction sector that is facing new challenges with carbon pricing, and a strong commitment to improving the flow of infrastructure funding.”
However, CAA praised the government for its “continued leadership on and commitment to prompt payment legislation”, for the budget’s commitment to workforce development and for its ongoing commitment to infrastructure and the “top-up” proposal.
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce (CCC) said that the budget, “failed to address the fundamental issues that continue to undermine the ability of Canadian business to create more jobs and generate more prosperity for all Canadians, according to the Canadian Chamber of Commerce’s analysis.” The CCC specifically said that the budget failed to address priorities expressed by Canadian business owners:
- A commitment to a comprehensive review of the taxation system to make it fair and less cumbersome for businesses.
- A broad-based commitment to reduce the regulatory burden on businesses.
- A renewed commitment to eliminating inter-provincial trade barriers.
- Support for SMEs to help them find new export opportunities and expand Canada’s ability to diversify its trade.
- A clear strategy to move the Trans Mountain pipeline forward, given the significant investment made by Canadian taxpayers.
However, the CCC did say the budget delivered on some of the organization’s policy proposals, including expanding broadband access and creating new mechanisms to enhance skilled trade apprenticeship programs.
The full text of the budget is available at www.budget.gc.ca/2019/docs/plan/budget-2019-en.pdf.
ACPPA Gears Up for 2019 NACA DC Fly-In
Federal infrastructure investment and workforce development will be the two issues that are front and center when members of the North American Concrete Alliance (NACA) come to Washington, D.C. for the coalition’s annual fly-in on April 9th and 10th. NACA is a coordinating body for a dozen leading cement and concrete industry organizations with common policy objectives. The annual fly-in is an opportunity for members of NACA trade associations to come to America’s capital to collectively engage in the policy process.
ACPPA lobbyist and counsel Christian Klein is helping to coordinate a panel on developing our industry’s next generation of technical talent and will lead a team of industry executives when the conference attendees head to the Hill on April 10. ACPPA’s policy goals include ensuring that water infrastructure dollars are included in any big infrastructure package Congress passes this year and creating opportunities to address workforce development as part of infrastructure legislation.
The two-day meeting includes briefings, receptions and delegation meetings with members of Congress. ACPPA members interested in participating should contact Klein at email@example.com or 703.599.0164.
House Panel Approves Bill to Protect Local Water Quality
The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved legislation March 27 to reauthorize appropriations for the nonpoint source management grants program, administered by the EPA.
The bipartisan bill, named the Local Water Protection Act (H.R. 1331), would authorize $200 million annually for the programs for fiscal years 2020 through 2024. Nonpoint source water pollution, unlike pollution from industrial and sewage treatment plants, comes from many diffuse sources, including runoff from farms, managed forests and urban areas. This runoff can carry pollutants, such as fertilizers and sediment from fields, toxins from abandoned mines, and oils and heavy metals from roads, into lakes, rivers, and other bodies of water.
While the programs have generally enjoyed bipartisan support, it is unclear whether the legislation will move forward through process as a standalone bill or be wrapped into a more comprehensive package in the weeks ahead.
Pressure Pipe Post
ACPPA’s Monthly Source for Industry News
To keep members aware of the activities of government and standards organizations, we regularly sweep public databases and publications for the industry-specific terms indicated below. We then provide our members with links to documents identified in the search. Please note that in some cases the URLs may link to subscription-only databases. The purpose of this service is to identify emerging threats and trends as well as opportunities for collective action by ACPPA.
|Concrete Steps: Inside the Building Pressure to Make Climate-Friendly Cement|
|Both the industry itself and outside parties are working to address the issue. One set of efforts seeks to reduce the carbon footprint of the cement production process, while the other aims to develop alternative materials — some of which help remove carbon. Both are making measured progress, but change may not be coming fast enough.|
|PCA Forecasts Moderate Cement Consumption Growth at 2.3 Percent in 2019|
|The Portland Cement Association (PCA) released its annual Spring Forecast which envisions strong to moderate growth for cement consumption through 2019 and into 2020. PCA Market Intelligence expects cement consumption will grow by 2.3% in 2019; compared to the Fall 2018 forecast this represents a marginal slowing in the pace of growth.|
|Irrigation District Opposes Draft Drought Bill|
|A California irrigation district that has the largest entitlement to Colorado River water says it doesn’t support proposed federal legislation to implement a multi-state drought plan.|
|The West Accepts Its Drought-Ridden Future, Slashes Water Use|
|Amid an unprecedented 19-year drought in the expansive Colorado River Basin — which supplies water to 40 million Americans — seven Western states have acknowledged that the 21st century will only grow drier as temperatures continue to rise. And that means less water in the 1,450-mile Colorado River. On Tuesday, water managers from states including California, Utah, and New Mexico announced a drought plan (formally called a Drought Contingency Plan), which cuts their water use for the next seven years — until an even more austere strategy must be adopted.|
|Arizona Has More Reason Than Most to Celebrate this Drought Plan Milestone|
|The federal Bureau of Reclamation has finally proclaimed the Lower Basin Drought Contingency Plan “done,” now that states have signed a letter asking Congress to quickly give its blessing to the deal.|
|California Drought Officially Over After More Than Seven Years|
|The Golden State has experienced some form of drought for 376 consecutive weeks, the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska, tweeted. It’s the first time the state has been free of drought since Dec. 20, 2011.|
Ductile Iron Pipe
|[Colorado] Upper Thompson Sanitation District to Perform Sanitary Sewer River Crossing Repairs|
|Many of the existing river crossings in the UTSD collection system are original installations from the 1970’s and do not meet current District rules and regulations. “These older crossings often consist of mortar-lined ductile pipe that breaks down in the presence of certain sewer gasses. Our inspection efforts have certainly shown this to be the case within the collection system,” said Bieker.|
|How Toxic Waste from Coal-Burning Power Plants Can Help Limit Climate Change|
|In discussions on climate change, much of the conversation focuses on CO2 emissions from the nation’s coal power plants. However, a recent report from the Environmental Integrity Group on how coal ash is contaminating our water supplies provides a needed reminder that our love of coal is killing us softly not just through air pollution but also water pollution. Yet there may be an easy solution to this right under our feet in the concrete we walk on every day.|
|Nearly All Coal-Fired Power Plants in U.S. Are Contaminating Nearby Groundwater, New Report Finds|
|Nearly all coal-fired plants in operation in the U.S. have leaked chemicals and contaminated the local groundwater supply with toxins, according to a report released Monday by environmental groups Environmental Integrity Project and Earthjustice.|
|Ag Groups Urge Congress to Include Water in Infrastructure Package|
|A large group of agricultural and water organizations representing thousands of Western farmers, ranchers and businesses are calling on Congress to consider water issues in the next infrastructure package.|
|Feds Contribute to Seven Ontario Water Infrastructure Projects|
|The allocations, announced March 26 and 27, are joint federal/municipal initiatives with federal funding coming through its Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation Fund.|
|[Indiana] Water Infrastructure Funding Bill Passes State Senate|
|Legislation to fund water infrastructure improvements in the state is headed to Gov. Eric Holcomb’s desk. The bill passed unanimously in the Senate on Tuesday.|
|Epa Issues Guidance to Help States Improve Drinking Water Infrastructure|
|The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued new guidance for states to use when applying for financing from the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF).|
|Our Crumbling Infrastructure is Failing Small Businesses|
|Daniel Speer had a simple task: Visit three clients of his home remodeling company in and around Washington, D.C.|
|[Michigan] Whitmer Budget Would Direct $180 Million More Toward Drinking Water|
|Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is proposing a $180 million plan to boost the quality of tap water across Michigan, from replacing lead pipes and school drinking fountains to combating chemicals that are contaminating public supplies and private wells.|
|How Small Steps Make a Difference in Accessing Safe Water|
|World Water Day is intended to be a day of action. When we’re reminded that more than 2 billion people don’t have access to safe water, we should be compelled to act. It’s a massive — and deadly — problem, so it can be hard to figure out where to begin. Sometimes, the answer is to start small.|
|Midwest Flooding Hits Hard — Aging Infrastructure Bears the Brunt|
|As floodwaters recede in the first areas hit by flooding in the Midwest, residents are eager to start cleanup. For farmers, the damage comes when livestock is vulnerable and the ag market is soft.|
|[California] Ignoring $30B From Water Bonds and State Surplus, Gov. Gavin Newsom Wants New Water Tax|
|Despite Assembly Constitutional Amendment 3 that would use 2 percent of the annual General Fund to pay for all water improvement projects, and eight water bonds totaling more than $30 billion, Gov. Gavin Newsom wants to charge California water customers up to $10 per month to pay for the clean up of contaminated water in low-income and rural areas.|
|[Illinois] Coalition Seeks $1b for Water Infrastructure Program|
|A coalition of environmental groups, lawmakers and employee unions will seek $1 billion or more in funding from a potential capital bill this year to update the state’s aging water infrastructure.|
|EPA Chief Says Water Issues a Bigger Environmental Crisis than Climate Change|
|The head of the top U.S. environmental agency said on Wednesday that the Trump administration considers drinking water quality around the world a bigger crisis than climate change, despite the recent surge in debate around the proposed Green New Deal.|
|[North Carolina] $127M to Fund Water Quality Projects|
|Several coastal towns and counties have been awarded funding to help improve water infrastructure, Gov. Roy Cooper’s administration announced Tuesday.|
|A sewer line break last month — the second in the last year — discharged 200,000 gallons of partially treated sewage near Fishkill Creek in Beacon, state officials said, but no drinking water supplies were impacted.|
|Move America Act Could Expand Financing for Transportation and Water Infrastructure|
|U.S. Reps. Jackie Walorski (R-IN) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) have introduced the Move America Act of 2019 to the House, opening the possibility of extra financing possibilities for governments looking to fix aging infrastructure.|
|Maloney, Delgado Sign on to Clean Water Infrastructure Legislation|
|House Members Sean Patrick Maloney (D, NY-18) and Antonio Delgado (D, NY-19) have signed on to the Water Affordability, Transparency, Equity and Reliability Act (WATER Act) of 2019, which would make investments in drinking and wastewater infrastructure projects.|
|[New Jersey] Paterson Replaces 400-Foot Underground Pipe to Avert Sewer Collapse|
|The city has replaced a more than 125-year-old pipe underneath Route 20 to avoid a sewer collapse.|
|Fat in a Sink, Wipes in a Loo—How Fatbergs are Born|
|The most disgusting thing you’ve never heard of is haunting sewers around the world. Fatbergs, as they’re called, are deposits of fat and grease mixed with non-dissolvable waste.|
|[Connecticut] Ansonia Sewer Authority Agrees to Pay Cost of Sewer Collapse; Chairman Walks Out|
|A heated dispute over who will pay for the massive sewer pipe collapse on Pershing Drive ended Wednesday night with the chairman of the WPCA apparently resigning after his commissioners authorized paying the bill.|
|Flooding Poses Potential Risk For 1 Million Private Wells|
|More than 1 million private wells that supply drinking water in mostly rural parts of the Midwest could face the risk of contamination from floodwater, posing a health concern that could linger long after the flooding subsides.|
|PWSA Working to Go Digital, Better Document Water Main Replacements|
|The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority is pushing forward in its quest to move into a digital present — and future.|
|Wisconsin’s Water Supply Facing Multiple Contamination Threats|
|Wisconsin’s water supply faces contamination threats ranging from fertilizer to fire-fighting foam, creating a risk of birth defects, cancer and learning disabilities, state regulators told legislators Wednesday at the first meeting of a task force examining water pollution.|
|[Nebraska] Officials: The Water is Safe to Drink, and Please Respect Barricades|
|Experts in Fremont and the city of Omaha say the tap water in both communities is safe to drink. Rumors continued to spread Saturday on social media about the water supply, but there is no truth to any of them.|
|Southern N.H. To Upgrade Water Supply System|
|Towns in Southern New Hampshire are moving ahead with a major construction project to increase water supply to the region.|
|Northwest Pipe Company Contracted for Water Supply Tunnel Project in Canada|
|Northwest Pipe Company, an industry leader for the water transmission market, announced today it will provide over 6,500 tons of 8‑foot and 5‑foot diameter water pipe for the Second Narrows Water Supply Tunnel project in Vancouver, British Columbia.|
|Clean Water Funding Investment Bill Introduced|
|The National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA) has joined other major clean water organizations in supporting the bipartisan introduction of the Water Quality Protection and Jobs Creation Act of 2019.|
|[Massachusetts] Toxic Chemicals Threaten Water Supply in Seven Municipalities|
|Three years ago, after federal authorities began sounding alarms about a host of human-made chemicals found in drinking water near military bases, town wells near Fort Devens tested positive for the toxic substances, some significantly in excess of what public health officials consider safe.|
|Federal Lawmakers Push EPA to Take Action on PFAS: What it Means for Dayton|
|A proposed federal law could direct the Environmental Protection Agency to declare dangerous chemicals found in the water supplies in Dayton and at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base hazardous substances under the EPA Superfund law.|
|A Massive Aquifer Lies Beneath the Mojave Desert. Could it Help Solve California’s Water Problem?|
|The landscape here is more Martian than Earthly, rust and tan plains that rise in the distance to form the Old Woman Mountains to the east and the Bristols and Marbles to the north and west.|
|Don’t Try This at Home!|
|Years ago, a Neighborhood Extra editor suggested I should write about unusual plumbing experiences (thanks Dennis!). Time passed and my list grew as others added to it. Some of these experiences will make you shake your head. Some were near disasters. Some are funny … now.|
|Environmental Protection Agency | Notice | New Risk Assessment and Emergency Response Plan Requirements for Community Water Systems|
|This notice describes the requirements for community water systems serving more than 3,300 persons to complete risk and resilience assessments and emergency response plans under the America’s Water Infrastructure Act (AWIA) of 2018. It also outlines how community water systems can certify the completion of these documents to the EPA. Additionally, today’s notice informs community water systems of how to request the return of vulnerability assessments submitted in accordance with the Bioterrorism Act of 2002.|
|Department of Energy | Notice | Notice of Workshop: America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018|
|The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC or Commission) staff will hold a workshop on April 4, 2019, from 1:00 p.m. (EDT) to 4:45 p.m. (EDT) in the Commission Meeting Room at 888 First Street NE, Washington, DC 20426. The workshop will be open to the public, and all interested parties are invited to attend and participate. The workshop will be led by Commission staff, and may be attended by one or more Commissioners. The workshop will involve roundtable discussions by a number of panelists and moderated by Commission staff.|
|Environmental Protection Agency | Notice | Information Collection Request Submitted to OMB for Review and Approval; Comment Request; EPA’s WaterSense Program (Renewal)|
|The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has submitted an information collection request (ICR), EPA’s WaterSense Program (EPA ICR No. 2233.07, OMB Control No. 2040–0272), to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review and approval in accordance with the Paperwork Reduction Act.|
|H.R. 1417 | Introduced by Lawrence, Brenda (D-Mich.) | Water Affordability, Transparency, Equity, and Reliability Act of 2019|
|To establish a trust fund to provide for adequate funding for water and sewer infrastructure, and for other purposes.|
|H.R. 1331 | Introduced by Craig, Angie (D-Minn.) | Local Water Protection Act|
|To amend the Federal Water Pollution Control Act to reauthorize certain programs relating to nonpoint source management, and for other purposes.|
|H.R. 1621 | Introduced by Rep. McClintock, Tom (R-Calif.) | Water Supply Permitting Coordination Act|
|To authorize the Secretary of the Interior to coordinate Federal and State permitting processes related to the construction of new surface water storage projects on lands under the jurisdiction of the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Agriculture and to designate the Bureau of Reclamation as the lead agency for permit processing, and for other purposes.|
|H.R. 1497 | Introduced by Rep. DeFazio, Peter (D-Ore.) | Water Quality Protection and Job Creation Act of 2019|
|To amend the Federal Water Pollution Control Act to reauthorize certain water pollution control programs, and for other purposes.|
|H.R. 1508 | Introduced by Rep. Blumenauer, Earl (D-Ore.) | Move America Act of 2019|
|To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide for Move America bonds and Move America credits.|