On July 22, the American Water Works Association (AWWA) advocated for a comprehensive nationwide approach to reduce lead exposure from all sources, as well as for increased investment in drinking water infrastructure. Called to testify before the Environment and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, AWWA past president Lynn Stovall presented recommendations on critical water-related issues facing the nation.
Addressing the issue of lead in drinking water, AWWAs recommendations included:
NATIONAL LEAD REDUCTION STRATEGY: AWWA advocates a comprehensive national program of research and public education concerning reducing lead contamination from all sources.
OPTIMIZATION OF CORROSION CONTROL: AWWA advocates the use of corrosion control treatment techniques by all utilities to reduce exposure to lead in drinking water.
REPLACEMENT OF LEAD SERVICE LINES: AWWA supports replacement of lead service lines that are shown to significantly contribute to high lead levels in the home.
HOLISTIC APPROACH TO DRINKING WATER REGULATIONS: AWWA promotes a "holistic" approach to the development and implementation of drinking water regulations to minimize the extent to which regulations can interfere with each other.
INDEPENDENT STUDY OF D.C. LEAD PROBLEMS AND LEGISLATIVE AND REGULATORY CHANGES: AWWA proposes an independent study of the drinking water lead contamination incident in Washington, DC, by a group such as the National Academy of Engineering, to determine what caused this incident and what lessons may be learned from it.
In regard to the lead levels in Washington, D.C., Stovall testified: "The lead situation in the District of Columbia does not appear to represent a nationwide problem, and EPA appears to be responding appropriately to this issue at this time. With more information, it may be appropriate to improve the Lead and Copper Rule (LCR), but the current LCR structure a treatment technique and an action level is the appropriate approach to a federal standard for lead."
In addition to recommendations related to lead reduction, Stovall also addressed the state of the U.S. drinking water infrastructure. AWWA has estimated that the nation needs to invest an additional $250-300 billion over the next 30 years in drinking water infrastructure beyond current levels of investment.
"AWWA is committed to the principle that water systems should be self-sustaining through their rates and other local charges," Stovall noted. "However, in some cases new demands for compliance with expensive standards, investments related to homeland security, and the repair and replacement of aging infrastructure have driven the cost of water faster than the local ability to pay for it."
AWWA offered the following recommendations for addressing the nations "infrastructure gap":
LOW OR NO-INTERST LOANS TO COMMUNITY SYSTEMS: AWWA advocates federal assistance to community water systems in the form of very low or no-interest loans with a 30to-40 year repayment period. The federal government, or the states if the program is administered through them, should also retain current authority to make grants and loans in combination and to use other financing tools to leverage public and private capital.
ELIGIBILITY REGARDLESS OF SIZE: AWWA believes that all community water systems should be eligible for assistance, regardless of size or type of ownership.
REASONABLE REPAYMENT CONDITIONS: AWWA supports repayment terms and conditions that are reasonable. They may include demonstrations of system viability and ability to repay a loan.
VOLUNTARY CONSOLIDATION SUPPORT: AWWA advocates making federal funds available and encouraging voluntary consolidation among water systems where such consolidation is practical and cost-effective.
$15 BILLION OVER NEXT FIVE YEARS: AWWA proposes that at least $15 billion over the next five years be provided in federal assistance to community water systems for the purposes described above.
The complete AWWA testimony is available at: http://www.awwa.org/Advocacy/govtaff/legislat/leg_test.cfm
AWWA is the largest organization of water professionals in the world and is an authoritative resource for knowledge, information, and advocacy to improve the quality and supply of drinking water. AWWA advances public health, safety and welfare by uniting the efforts of the full spectrum of the drinking water community.