Washington News--May, 2002

April 30, 2002

House Panel Approves Infrastructure Measure

A bill authorizing $20 billion for wastewater infrastructure over five years has been approved by the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. Floor action was expected promptly. A similar measure is pending in the Senate.

Rep. Don Young, R-Tenn., chairman of the committee, said, “We face a growing crisis if we do not take this action to improve the nation’s water infrastructure.”

The measure would encourage alternative methods of financing water-quality improvements beyond the federal contribution. The $20 billion would be used to capitalize State Revolving Funds.

The committee said that the vast majority of infrastructure funding comes from consumer rates, but “it would be a hardship for some communities if they had to finance needed wastewater infrastructure improvements entirely through sewer rate increases.”

Grants Available for Anti-Terrorist Planning

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is soliciting applications from large, publicly owned drinking water systems for grants to assess their vulnerability to attack, develop plans for emergency response and security enhancements, or for a combination of those initiatives.

The grants, which will be valued at up to $115,000, are part of the agency’s broad program to help water supply and treatment systems prepare for attacks by terrorists.

In addition to the grants to large utilities (serving populations of more than 100,000), the activities include support for development of tools, training and technical assistance for small and medium-sized drinking water and wastewater utilities and promotion of information sharing and research to improve treatment and detection methods.

Additional information on the various programs is available online at www.epa.gov/safewater/security/status1.html.

New Guidance on Designated Uses

EPA plans to develop additional guidance on the development of attainable uses of water bodies. The first step will be a symposium that will address key questions on such designated uses as aquatic life and recreation.

The agency said the session, scheduled June 3–4 in Washington, D.C., was in response to requests from interested parties over the past year for additional guidance on designating protection levels and on the process for making designated uses more or less restrictive. Additional information is available at http://epa.gov/waterscience/standards/symposium.

Initial Study Shows Presence of Chemicals

Pharmaceuticals, hormones and other organic wastewater-related chemicals have been found in streams across the nation, the U. S. Geological Survey (USGS) reports. The contaminants were discovered at very low concentration levels.

Of the 95 chemicals found, 81 do not have drinking-water standards or health advisories. The concentrations of chemicals that do have standards or advisories rarely exceeded the specified levels, the survey said.

The most frequently detected compounds included coprostanol (fecal steroid), cholesterol (plant and animal steroid), N-N-diethyltoluamide (insect repellant) and caffeine.

Robert Hirsch, USGS association director for water, said the study “begins a process of exploring the occurrence of these chemicals in our nation’s streams.”

The study sets the stage for future analysis that will address such questions as how far downstream from their sources the chemicals remain present in the stream, how concentrations vary by climate, land use, flow rates, waste characteristics and treatment methods.

Cost of One Water Cleanup Project: $1 Billion

The price tag for eliminating pollution from groundwater on Cape Cod in eastern Massachusetts has reached more than $1 billion, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) reports. The agency notes that information already gleaned from the massive project, which started nearly 25 years ago, “has been successfully applied at sites around the world.”

The site now is known as the Massachusetts Military Reservation. USGS said activities of this site have contaminated billions of gallons of groundwater with fuels, solvents, treated sewage, landfill leachate and explosive compounds.

Groundwater is the only source of drinking water for residents of the area. More than 15 contaminant plumes, some moving several feet a day, have been discovered.

Acid-Rain Auction Held

EPA and the Chicago Board of Trade have completed their 10th annual acid-raid reduction auction. At such auctions, utility plants, private parties and brokers trade allowances for sulfur dioxide emissions within a national cap. A power plant or other source purchases allowances, each of which permits discharge of one ton of sulfur dioxide a year. A source that reduces emissions more than required may trade the excess allowances or save them for future use.

Trading takes place under a national limit designed to achieve an overall reduction in output of sulfur dioxides. 

About the Author

Robert Gray

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