Walk the Line

Standards and regulations in the water and wastewater industry are constantly changing, and can often be very confusing to a manager of a water or wastewater plant who is required to comply with these rules.

Water & Wastes Digest recently discussed current and future standards and regulations with a renowned expert in these specific areas, J. Alan Roberson, P.E., director of security and regulatory affairs for the American Water Works Association, who offers his take on the issues plant managers face.

WWD: What are some of the main drinking water regulations currently affecting the industry?

J. Alan Roberson: The Arsenic Rule and the Microbial/Disinfection Byproducts (M/DBP) Cluster are currently having significant impacts on water utilities. Many small groundwater systems are struggling to comply with the Arsenic Rule, even though the initial compliance deadline has passed.

While understanding whether or not your source water contains <10 ppb of arsenic is relatively simple, selecting the appropriate treatment technology for a particular source water is not simple at all.

The M/DBP Cluster impacts almost all systems. Many small systems are still struggling to comply with new Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs) in the Stage 1 Disinfection Byproducts Rule and lower turbidity standards in the Long Term 1 Enhanced Surface Water Treatment Rule.

At the same time, systems are becoming familiar with the new monitoring and treatment requirements in the Stage 2 DBP rule and the Long Term 2 Enhanced Surface Water Treatment Rule that were finalized earlier this year. Many systems are currently wrestling with those regulatory requirements, as some compliance deadlines come up this year; however, the compliance deadlines for these regulations stretch beyond 2010, so utilities will continue compliance efforts for a while.

WWD: How did the U.S. EPA establish these regulations?

Roberson: EPA has been increasingly using stakeholder processes to solicit detailed advice to feed into its regulatory development process. For the Arsenic Rule, EPA initially went to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) for a review of arsenic health effects.

When the Clinton administration finalized this rule on its last day in office, the Bush administration immediately called for a review of all recently finalized regulations, including the Arsenic Rule. So, EPA went back to the NAS for a second review of arsenic health effects, and established two other stakeholder groups to review the health benefits and the treatment costs.

The M/DBP Cluster was developed over a 14-year period through one negotiated rulemaking and two Federal Advisory Committee processes. These negotiations and discussions were a resource-intensive effort for everyone involved.

WWD: What are some of the future regulations the industry needs to be aware of?

Roberson: EPA proposed some minor revisions to the Lead and Copper Rule (LCR) in July, and those revisions are expected to be finalized next year. These revisions should clarify some of the ambiguities in the current LCR.

We should see a final Groundwater Rule in October, and this rule will also impact many small groundwater systems. Groundwater systems will have to collect a fair amount of data and submit it to the state to determine whether they need to disinfect or not. Consequently, systems will have a considerable burden of data collection (and potential treatment), and states will face a significant burden in evaluating this data to make a disinfection determination.

EPA is planning to revise the Total Coliform Rule and/or integrate any revisions into a new Distribution System Rule in the next couple of years, and again, these revisions have the potential to impact many, many systems. EPA is also planning to start another stakeholder process on these revisions in the fall or winter, and that stakeholder process could last a while.

WWD: What is the UCMR2 and how does this regulation affect the industry?

Roberson: UCMR2 is the second Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR). The first UCMR was finalized in September 1999, and the monitoring was conducted from 2001 to 2005. The UCMR2 was proposed in August 2005, and is scheduled to be finalized this year.

UCMR2 monitoring will be conducted from 2007 to 2010. This monitoring data provides EPA with an estimate of national occurrence so it can make a determination on whether a specific contaminant should or should not be regulated.

WWD: What advice or recommendations could you offer to a drinking water plant manager in regards to regulations?

Roberson: Managers should take a holistic approach toward compliance, and understand that simultaneous compliance with all of the regulations is not always a simple process. Managers should ensure that actions toward compliance with one regulation do not jeopardize compliance with another.

For example, managers should ensure that making treatment changes to comply with the DBP regulations will not jeopardize ongoing compliance with the LCR.

Tim Gregorski is editorial director for Water & Wastes Digest. He can be reached at 847/391-1011 or by e-mail at tgregorski@sgcmail.com.

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