U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced a meeting of the National Drinking Water Advisory Council (NDWAC) on December 6 & 7. The NDWAC was established under the Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974. Congress created the NDWAC to provide advice, information, and recommendations on matters related to activities, functions, policies, and regulations of the EPA under the Safe Drinking Water Act, including:
- Providing practical and independent advice on matters and policies related to drinking water quality and public health protection,
- Maintaining an awareness of developing issues and problems in the drinking water area and advising EPA on emerging issues,
- Advising on regulations and guidance as required by the Safe Drinking Water Act,
- Recommending policies with respect to the promulgation of drinking water standards,
- Recommending special studies and research,
- Assisting in identifying emerging environmental or health problems related to potentially hazardous constituents in drinking water,
- Proposing actions to encourage cooperation and communication between EPA and other governmental agencies, interest groups, the general public, and technical associations and organizations on drinking water quality, and
- Analyzing sustainable infrastructure issues with special emphasis on the security of the nation’s drinking water systems.
EPA Office of Water Provides Administration to NDWAC
The EPA Office of Water provides financial and administrative support for the NDWAC that typically meets twice each year, or as needed and approved by the EPA Designated Federal Officer (DFO). As required by Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA), NDWAC meetings are open meetings unless the EPA Administrator determines that a meeting or a portion of a meeting may be closed to the public in accordance with 5 U.S.C. 552b(c). Interested persons may attend meetings, appear before the committee as time permits, and file comments with the NDWAC. This presents opportunities for companies and water systems to offer expert advice, ideas, and opinions to officers and agencies in the executive branch of the federal government.
Membership of NDWAC
The NDWAC is composed of fifteen (15) members. Members are appointed by EPA’s Administrator after consultation with the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.
As required by the Safe Drinking Water Act, five (5) members each are appointed from:
- appropriate State and local agencies concerned with public water supply and public health protection;
- private organizations or groups demonstrating an active interest in the field of water hygiene and public water supply, of which two (2) members will represent small, rural public water systems; and
- the general public. 42 U.S.C. § 300j-5(a).
In addition, up to five (5) federal employees will be appointed as technical advisors to the Council which may include:
- Individuals representing the EPA’s Science Advisory Board (SAB),
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Center for Environmental Health and National Center for Infectious Diseases, and
- Such additional Federal officials as the EPA deems necessary for the NDWAC to carry out its function.
For the current list of members serving on the NDWAC click here.
Chronology of Important Congressional/Regulatory Actions Amending SDWA & Drinking Water Infrastructure
- On December 2, 1970, President Richard Nixon signed an executive order creating the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
- On March 8, 1973, EPA issues a press release supporting the Safe Drinking Water Act.
- On December 17, 1974, President Ford signs the (Nixon Administration-supported) Safe Drinking Water Act into law (Pub. L. 93-523).
- Two and one-half years later, on June 25, 1977, EPA issues a press release announcing Safe Drinking Water Standards Go into Effect.
- After nearly nine years to-date, on June 20, 1986, President Reagan signed the first significant amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act. Among the provisions were requirements to develop drinking water standards for 83 contaminants and an additional 25 contaminants by 1991. It also strengthened EPA’s enforcement powers in dealing with recalcitrant water systems and underground injection well operators. It also imposed a ban on lead-content plumbing materials.
- On November 1, 1988 Congress enacted the Lead Contamination Control and Asbestos Information Act that amended the SDWA (Pub. L . 100-572). Among the provisions EPA was directed to consider drinking water coolers with lead-lined tanks as imminently hazardous consumer products which must be repaired, replaced, recalled, or refunded by their manufacturers and importers within one year. It also directed each State to establish a program to assist Local Education Agencies in testing for, and remedying, lead contamination in school drinking water from coolers and from other sources of lead contamination.
- In 1991, EPA promulgated the Lead and Copper Rule (LCR) – a treatment technique regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) – to protect public health by minimizing lead and copper levels in drinking water, primarily by reducing water corrosives through corrosion control treatment. This rule applies to public water systems nationwide.The rule replaced the previous Maximum Contaminant level (MCL) standard of 50 ppb, measured at the entry point to the distribution system, with an Action Level (AL) of 0.015 mg/L for lead and 1.3. mg/L for copper based on 90th percentile level of required compliance monitoring values. The Lead and Copper Rule differs from previous regulations in that it replaced compliance determination based on an MCL with a three-pronged approach to reducing lead and copper levels:
- Treatment technique requirements, including corrosion control and source water treatment;
- Lead service line replacement program;
- Public Education for lead.
- (Derived from the June 1986 SDWA amendments) on May 19, 1992, EPA issues 23 final Drinking Water Standards.
- In 1996 Congress amended the SDWA (P.L. 104-182). The provisions encouraged sound science and risk-based standard setting & provided flexibility and technical assistance to small water supply systems. Also, authorization was given to create a drinking water state revolving loan fund (DWSRF) program to help water systems finance infrastructure projects needed to comply with SDWA regulations and protect public health.
- On January 12, 2000, EPA published interim revisions to the Lead and Copper Rule. Substantial changes to the 1991 Rule included:
- Requirements for water systems replacing lead service lines:
- Replacing the portion of the lead service line that the water system owns,
- Notifying consumers of the potential for temporary increases in lead levels and measures they can take to reduce lead levels if the system replaces only that part of a lead service line that it owns.
- Authorization to states to be able to invalidate tap samples under certain conditions.
- Requirements that water systems report to their state agency any changes in treatment or the addition of a new water source.
- Requirements for water systems replacing lead service lines:
- In effect on December 10, 2007, EPA published a final rule on seven targeted regulatory changes to the National Primary Drinking Water Regulations (NPDWR) for lead and copper aimed at providing more effective protection of public health by reducing exposure to lead in drinking water. According to EPA the final rule strengthened the implementation of the Lead and Copper Rule (LCR) in the following areas:
monitoring, treatment processes, public
education, customer awareness, and
lead service line replacement.
- On January 4, 2011 Congress enacted the Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act. The provisions revised the definition of lead free by lowering the maximum lead content of the wetted surfaces of plumbing products (such as pipes, pipe fittings, plumbing fittings and fixtures) from 8% to a weighted average of 0.25%. It also established a statutory method for the calculation of lead content and eliminating the requirement that lead free products be in compliance with voluntary standards established in accordance with SDWA 1417(e) for leaching of lead from new plumbing fittings and fixtures. Exemptions were created in the SDWA (Section 1417) from the prohibitions on the use or introduction into commerce of “pipes, pipe fittings, plumbing fittings or fixtures, including backflow preventers, that are used exclusively for non-potable services such as manufacturing, industrial processing, irrigation, outdoor watering, or any other uses where the water is not anticipated to be used for human consumption. Toilets, bidets, urinals, fill valves, flushometer valves, tub fillers, shower valves, service saddles, or water distribution main gate valves that are 2 inches in diameter or larger are also exempt.
- In 2014 Congress established the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) program in the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 (WRRDA2014, P.L. 113-121). In 33 USC, Chapter 52, Sec 3905 (5), A project is defined as “repair, rehabilitation, or re-placement of a treatment works, community water system, or aging water distribution or waste collection facility (including a facility that serves a population or community of an Indian reservation).”
- In December 2016, Congress made numerous revisions to the SDWA through the WIIN Act (P.L.114-322; Title II, the Water and Waste Act of 2016). Among other amendments, the WIIN Act authorized new grant programs to (1) help public water systems serving small or disadvantaged communities meet SDWA requirements; (2) support lead reduction projects, including lead service line replacement; and (3) establish a voluntary program for testing for lead in drinking water at schools and child care programs.
- On November 3, 2018, the America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 was signed by President Trump (Pub.L. 115–270). Among other provisions the law makes changes in the statue regarding requirements on the use of Drinking Water State Revolving Loan Funds (DWSRF) as well as eligible uses. It makes clear that DWSRF monies can be used to replace or rehabilitate aging treatment, storage, or distribution facilities to meet SDWA mandates or improve public health. The section also moves existing prevailing wage requirements on DWSRFs into the SDWA, reinvigorates the use of DWSRFs for state source water protection planning, requests EPA to collect information on best management practices for DWSRFs, and requires the EPA’s national drinking water needs survey to include a report on lead pipes.
Importantly, this section permits states to increase the amount of DWSRF loans they make to economically disadvantaged communities and permits an additional 10 years for repayment of these loans to the state.
- “SEC. 2015. STATE REVOLVING LOAN FUNDS.
(a) USE OF FUNDS.—Section 1452(a)(2)(B) of the Safe Drinking Water Act (42 U.S.C. 300j–12(a)(2)(B)) is amended by striking ‘‘(including expenditures for planning, design, and associated preconstruction activities, including activities relating to the siting of the facility, but not’’ and inserting ‘‘(including expenditures for planning, design, siting, and associated preconstruction activities, bilitating aging treatment, storage, or distribution facilities of public water systems, but not’’.
- “SEC. 2015. STATE REVOLVING LOAN FUNDS.
More on the Way in 2019, Proposed Rule Revising LCR
EPA Office of Water has been working on revisions to the Lead and Copper Rule (LCR) for eleven years. Newly appointed (not yet Senate-confirmed) Administrator of EPA, Andrew Wheeler has directed the Office of Water to complete the LCR with a focus on populations most at risk with lead service lines. That means, according to an American Water Works Association (AWWA) study in 2017, the likely targets for hefty investments from EPA water financing programs will be the U.S. rust belt from central New York, west through Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, and the Lower Peninsula of Michigan, ending in northern Illinois, eastern Iowa, southeastern Wisconsin and across Minnesota. A proposed rule to revise the Lead and Copper Rule could be published as early as the summer of 2019.
Bottom Line….Congress Will Act on Water Infrastructure in the 116th Congress!
Funding for infrastructure projects, including drinking water systems replacement and rehabilitation is a bipartisan issue that will be undertaken in the 116th Congress beginning January 3, 2019. NOW is the time to develop your advocacy action plan that will guide you in taking advantage of these future public policy opportunities.