Type: Law Bulletins
Date: 06/11/2010

EPA's Municipal Drinking Water Initiatives, Funding, and Sustainability

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson recently announced the agency’s new nationwide strategies to strengthen public health protection from contaminants in drinking water. To use the Safe Drinking Water Act more effectively and promote new technologies, the agency’s drinking water strategy will be organized around four key principles: (1) addressing contaminants as a group rather than one at a time to enhance drinking water protection on a cost-effective basis; (2) foster development (with universities, technology developers, and the private sector) of new drinking water treatment technologies to address health risks posed by a broad array of contaminants; (3) use the authority of multiple statutes (including the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA)) to help protect drinking water; and (4) partnering with states to share more complete data from monitoring of public water systems. EPA stated that it intends to use its regulatory authority under FIFRA and TSCA to ensure that decisions made for new and existing industrial chemicals are protective of drinking water and provide health effects and exposure data. This element also includes EPA’s chemical action plans to regulate contaminants before they get into drinking water. EPA anticipates initiating rulemaking efforts within the next year to revise the drinking water standards for tetrachloroethylene and trichloroethylene, and is considering further revisions to the lead and copper standards to better address risks to children.

This follows EPA’s issuance of Contaminant Candidate List 3 (CCL 3) in September 2009. CCL 3 is a list of contaminants that are currently not subject to any proposed or promulgated national primary drinking water regulations. It covers contaminants that are known or anticipated to occur in public water systems, and which may require regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act. CCL 3 includes 104 chemicals and chemical compounds and 12 microbiological contaminants, including pesticides, disinfection byproducts, chemicals used in commerce, waterborne pathogens, pharmaceuticals, and biological toxins. The complete list can be found at www.epa.gov/safewater/ccl/ccl3.html.

Funding to modify drinking water plants to incorporate new treatment technologies may come from the “Assistance, Quality, and Affordability Act of 2010,” introduced on May 10, 2010, by Representatives Waxman (D-Calif) and Markey (D-Mass). This legislation would authorize $13 billion over the next five years for the state drinking water revolving fund program and make other changes to the Safe Drinking Water Act. The legislation would help communities afford compliance with federal drinking water standards, clarify what activities can be funded with revolving fund money, and enhance EPA’s Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program, requiring the agency to test substances found in drinking water to determine whether they disrupt the endocrine system and set up a time frame for the agency to develop a transparent process for selecting substances to be tested.

Finally, when incorporating the new treatment technologies, municipalities will also want to explore green or sustainability projects. In April 2009, EPA released an agency memo confirming that 20% of Fiscal Year 2010 Clean Water and Drinking Water States Revolving Funds should be targeted to “green” projects with a preference for updating existing infrastructure over new infrastructure in an effort to discourage sprawl and encourage location efficient investments, smart growth practices, and green infrastructure development. In April 2010, EPA released its “2010 Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Fund 20% Green Project Reserve: Guidance for Determining Project Eligibility.” The Fiscal Year 2010 Appropriation Law (P.L. 111-88) included requirements that affected both the Clean Water and the Drinking Water States Revolving Fund programs. These included that not less than 20% of the funds made available to each state for Clean Water States Revolving Fund capitalization grants and not less than 20% of the funds made available to each state under the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund be used for projects to address green infrastructure, water or energy efficiency improvements, or other environmentally innovative activitie.

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