The latest legislative updates & trends from regional associations
The water industry depends on regional and state associations to advocate for industry interests at state and local levels. These associations frequently meet with lawmakers, providing education and helping to enact change. They also are seeing some regional trends, from emerging contaminants to employment concerns. In these pages, some associations from across the country discuss what they have seen and done in the last year.
Eastern Emerging Contaminants
Executive Director, Eastern Water Quality Assn.
Emerging contaminants seem to be a trend in the east. In Westhampton, N.Y., there was a detection of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) above U.S. EPA guidelines in a well located near the Westchester County Airport and the Kensico Reservior. The airport is a likely suspect in the contamination due to the past use of firefighting foams on the property. The biggest concern is the proximity of the contaminated well to the Kensico Reservior and public water supply wells in Connecticut. There also are several private wells located nearby that may be impacted. The Suffolk County Health Department is working with the New York State Department of Health’s Wadsworth Laboratory to get private wells tested at no cost, given the expense of testing. Furthermore, they are working to provide those affected with bottled water and water treatment systems to reduce any levels that may be present.
PFOA and PFOS are emerging contaminants that are not currently regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act, but guidelines have been developed because they have been detected in numerous water supplies across the country. The concern with these contaminants is that they are persistent in the environment and bioaccumulate in our food supply and our bodies.
Ironically, in North Carolina, they are dealing with an even newer contaminant, one developed to replace PFOA. It was in 2009 that Dupont introduced GenX as an alternative to PFOA, the main ingredient in Teflon and other coatings, used for its stain-resistance properties. This contaminant is present in the drinking water of North Carolina, Ohio and West Virginia in areas located near DuPont manufacturing locations.
Specifically, in Cape Fear, N.C., the presence of GenX is suspected to be coming from a nearby DuPont plant that has a permit to discharge waste, including GenX, into various waterways in Ohio and North Carolina. North Carolina state lawmakers have GenX in their sights for future regulations.
The House recently approved a bill for further study of GenX, but there is concern the Senate will not support it. The Senate currently is waiting on more research before making any effort to address GenX.
In Connecticut, the Water Planning Council (WPC) has submitted a water plan to the General Assembly, which convened beginning Feb. 7, 2018. There are four committees set to review the plan and if approved, it will move on to the General Assembly. If it is not approved, it will be sent back to the WPC for any necessary revisions and then resubmitted. WPC has seen a water plan as a necessity given the droughts the state has experienced, reducing water levels to alarmingly low levels in some areas. The plan addresses scientific evidence and data collection, decision making based on the data, usage balance, conservation efforts, and maintaining the highest-quality drinking water.
Minnesota Eyes Chloride Discharge
Executive Vice President/COO, Driessen Water Inc. President, Minnesota Water Quality Assn.
Following the last session of the legislation in Minnesota where, as an industry, we were very successful after several years of work in having language passed that was favorable to our industry, it has been fairly quiet.
The next step here in Minnesota is the review of the 2018 Uniform Plumbing Code by the Minnesota Plumbing Board and how it integrates and compares to the amended Minnesota Plumbing Code that was passed. The Minnesota Water Quality Assn. (MWQA) will be monitoring this closely in 2018, as it will be opened up for request for comments in March.
The issues of chloride discharge via wastewater effluent is being discussed more often in cities and communities throughout the state. As an organization, MWQA has become involved with some of the communities, providing information and input when communities are considering steps to take in chloride discharge reduction, especially as it relates to household softeners. There are many opportunities to provide this information and past research to city officials and contracted engineers that do not have it or may have information that is not up to date or correct. This issue is not going to go away and will become more of a topic discussed and reviewed in communities and cities, not only in Minnesota, but in other states as well. Educating ourselves and providing education to others involved will be a challenge for all of us in our industry.
PWQA members meet with lawmakers during the association's annual Legislative Days.
Meeting With Legislators
Ronald E. Reuf
Executive Director, Pacific Water Quality Assn.
The Pacific Water Quality Assn.’s (PWQA) 2017 Legislative Days, held May 16 and 17 in Sacramento, Calif., was a success. With the efforts of Randy Pollack and Josiah Young, our new lobbyist team from Churchwell White LLP, we had one of our best Legislative Days in PWQA’s history. Assembly member Brian Dahle spoke the morning of May 16 during our preparation time and board meeting at the Hyatt Regency Hotel across from the Capitol. Then we headed over to the capitol building and spent time with our legislative members and their staff talking about the industry and everyone’s needs with respect to improving California’s water quality. That evening was spent eating great food and socializing with members of the legislature at our legislative reception. On the morning of May 17, we met back at the hotel for an overview of federal issues. Laurel Firestone from Community Water Center spoke about our common need for better water for Californians, especially in disadvantaged communities. At lunch time, Assembly member Blanca Rubio spoke about her assembly district and water. We completed the day lobbying at the capitol building.
Legislative Days 2018 is scheduled for May 22 and 23, 2018.
The TWQA annual convention featured an interactive exhibit hall and informative educational sessions.
Employment & Recovery
Executive Director, Texas Water Quality Assn.
The Texas Legislature recently passed legislation to increase skilled worker opportunities in the state. H.B. 2790, by Rep. James White, expands the opportunities for more people to acquire trade skills by expanding apprenticeship training programs. S.B. 22, by Sen. Larry Taylor, established the Pathways in Technology Early College High Schools (P-TECH) in the state. P-TECH is an open-enrollment program that provides students with work-based education at no cost to the students. The program will be provided by a school district or open-enrollment charter school that has applied and been granted the designation. These bills expand the channels by which TWQA can gain a skilled workforce.
As the Texas Legislature prepares for the 86th Session next year (the Texas Legislature only meets every other year), all eyes are on Hurricane Harvey recovery efforts. The impact of Harvey was felt across all industries, state agencies and communities within the state. The Lt. Governor and Speaker of the House both issued specific charges to standing committees related to the hurricane. Standing committees are assessing the impact in hopes of providing feedback to the Legislature before it convenes in January 2019.
Left: Kenny Gibson (left) and Amanda Moore (second from left) meet with two representative of the Florida Attorney General's office. Right: FWQA members in the Florida capitol's rotunda.
Clearing Up Misconceptions
Kenny Gibson, CWS
President, Absolute Water Management Inc. dba EcoWater Systems President, Florida Water Quality Assn.
The Florida Water Quality Assn. (FWQA) recently met with several legislators to discuss the merits of point-of-use filtration. Todd Mosteller, FWQA treasurer and Julie Guimond, director for FWQA, educated senators and representatives about topics such as the filter manufacturing process and the importance of water testing.
In January 2018, the Florida attorney general’s office, which also is in charge of consumer affairs in the state, posted a notice on its website warning the public about the dangers of free water testing. David Loveday, government affairs director for the Water Quality Assn. (WQA); Kenny Gibson, president of FWQA; and Amanda Moore, vice president of FWQA met with the attorney general’s office to explain the WQA certification process, the education that FWQA offers and the WQA code of ethics. After the hour-long meeting, the representatives from the attorney general’s office said they plan to put the consumer affairs department in contact with FWQA for guidance in updating the website. WQA and FWQA will be cited as resources for those with water questions or concerns.
Left: Todd Mosteller, FWQA treasurer, outside the state capitol. Right: FWQA members meet with legislators in Tallahasee, Fla.