A water regulatory update overview, with deep dives to come
Introducing a new quarterly regulatory update column authored by the Water Quality Association’s (WQA) new regulatory and government affairs coordinator.
A graduate of Arizona State University, I acquired my Bachelor of Science in Innovation in Society with a focus in Biochemistry, while also completing a Master of Science and Technology Policy (MSTP) program.
Throughout my academic pursuits, I have analyzed climate change and sustainability issues through the lens of an environmental justice perspective. My focus for the MSTP program’s applied project was centered on a policy of analysis in validating climate data by utilizing satellite remote sensing technologies and blockchain based smart contracts and understanding the intersection of international and space law.
My professional experience began with an internship at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Headquarters in the Office of Legislative & Intergovernmental Affairs. This is where I assisted in supporting the agency in outreach and engagement with private sector companies and congressional staff. I also spent time as a legislative assistant with the Non-Commissioned Officers Association (NCOA) and the Sea Service Family Foundation advocating for veterans. My academic and professional experience will provide unique insights while deep diving into the regulatory and legislative landscape of the water treatment industry.
Federal Funding & Legislation at a Glance
In the Department of Government Affairs at WQA, my focus has been on tracking legislative issues at the federal and state level. Currently, the Biden Administration and Congress have been laser focused on passing a large infrastructure bill to address many facets related to water infrastructure. H.R. 3864 – INVEST in America Act passed in the House on July 1, 2021, contained $165 billion for water infrastructure with $65 billion allocated toward drinking water, $49 billion for wastewater and storm water, $45 billion for lead service line replacement (LSLR), and $6 billion for PFAS. However, the Senate bipartisan infrastructure package would look dramatically different after markups but still asserts the need for funding on these topics.
Cutting the monies allocated for water infrastructure nearly in half to a total of $86 billion, the Senate’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act allots $55 billion in new spending for water and wastewater programs, including $23.4 billion for the Drinking Water and Clean Water State Revolving Funds (SRFs) and $12 billion for LSLR. Although eligible through the Drinking Water SRF, point-of-use (POU) and point-of-entry (POE) filters if owned and maintained by a public water system and used as a compliance treatment technology would be considered as Operating & Maintenance (O&M) costs and thus not authorized for SRF funds. The package also includes $10 billion for PFAS, with $5 billion going toward small and disadvantaged community grant programs. Furthermore, the Senate package allocates provisions for the Voluntary School and Childcare Lead Testing Grant Program. The bill’s passage on August 10, 2021, sends the Senate infrastructure package back to the House of Representatives where it will likely be considered at the end of September.
The current environment in Washington D.C. is setting the stage for many initiatives geared toward addressing small and disadvantaged communities while also bringing to light major themes present at the state and local level. WQA is monitoring more than 200 bills across the nation. Major trends comprise of PFAS, lead, schools and Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) programs. Legislation surrounding lead include measures related to lead service line replacement, lead testing and the determination of a Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs).
PFAS legislation has been centered on the establishment of MCLs, remediation and the mitigation of using PFAS in products. School related bills have been focused on integrating water bottle filling stations in schools and childcare facilities while also addressing contaminants, including lead and copper. These major themes present at the state and federal level assert the need for investing in water infrastructure and addressing contaminants.
EPR legislation have looked at restricting certain plastic products that are vital to the packaging of goods. With the implementation of EPR programs, the cascading impact to industry could be fiscally detrimental and hinder economic growth. Very similar to Senate bill S. 984 – Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act of 2021, several states including New York, California, Washington, and Oregon have begun to incorporate these methods in addressing plastic pollution. This column will get into the weeds on this topic, as well as some of the other major themes present across the country.
Clean Water for All & FIFRA
Some other hot topics in the water treatment world include WQA’s Clean Drinking Water for All initiative, where the association has been looking to introduce legislation to address drinking water issues in underserved communities in rural areas. Another high-level issue this column will digress into includes the Federal Insecticide and Fungicide and Rodenticide Act or better known as FIFRA regulations. FIFRA regulates antimicrobial pesticides and pesticidal devices intended to disinfect, sanitize, reduce or mitigate the growth of microbiological organisms. Therefore, many products and technologies used in industrial processes and water systems, human drinking water systems and swimming pools and other aquatic areas are regulated under FIFRA. Thus, some POU/POE devices fall under these stringent regulations creating unnecessary burden for many manufacturers and dealers in the water treatment industry.
In the next few months, there will be considerable discussion on the regulatory landscape of FIFRA, including a policy analysis and implications of the regulations. This column will also be getting into the details of Clean Drinking Water for All and any legislative updates from the initiative. Additionally, there will be a focus on the major legislative themes present at the federal, state and local level as various bills are signed into law.