Water Quality Day: 2020 More Than Ever

True, in 2020, this important annual observance isn’t making the waves (pun noted) it has in past years.  This is because our main public awareness events – tours at drinking water and wastewater facilities – can’t take place due to COVID-19 restrictions.  Last year, 19 facilities throughout the state welcomed students, legislators, and the general public for fun, informative, eye-opening tours. 

This year, none are allowed to.

Ironically, though, the pandemic underscores the importance of our water quality infrastructure and the dedicated professionals who keep it running, 24/7/365.  How many times have we all been advised to wash our hands in the last four months?  Try doing it without clean, running water.  

Hospitals, public institutions, and essential businesses are on heightened sanitation protocols – relying on the water that comes so readily from the tap.  Vermonters sheltering in place at home rely on water coming to and leaving their sometimes claustrophobic residences for virtually every need.

Water Quality Day is a day to appreciate the systems and people who keep it clean and flowing.

And what about the water that leaves our hospitals, offices, and homes?  As it turns out, the SARS-Cov-2 virus can survive in human feces for up to 33 days.  A May 6 Science News article, reporting on recent studies, quoted researchers as saying “the potential spread of COVID-19 via sewage ‘must not be neglected’ in the battle to protect human health.”  Check out the article here: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/05/200506133603.htm .

In a May 8 article on Fox News, Prof. Aaron Packman, of Northwestern University’s McCormick School of Engineering, put it in even starker terms: “New information on COVID-19 indicates that the virus infects the human GI tract and is excreted into sewage. Our assessments indicate that there is a risk of waterborne transmission of the coronavirus.”   Read more of Packman’s comments here: https://www.foxnews.com/science/risk-of-covid-19-transmission-from-waste-water-higher-than-believed-study-claims .

That means Vermont’s 500 + wastewater operators are being pretty courageous every day, when they go to work to deal with the stuff up close and personal.  Fortunately, they’re smart, too, and have undertaken special facility sanitation, staff rotation, and personal protection protocols to keep themselves and the public healthy.  (Also, to help keep plants operating, GMWEA, VRWA, and the Vt. DEC have reactivated the VTWARN system, allowing facilities to get substitute personnel if one of their staff gets sick or quarantined: www.VTWARN.org.)

Water Quality Day 2019 at Wilmington WWTF

Are Vermonters at risk from COVID-19 transmission in wastewater?  Not likely – because those “first responders” at your local wastewater plant are making sure you’re not.  OSHA reports that coronaviruses are vulnerable to the same disinfection techniques used currently in the health care sector, and “Current disinfection conditions in wastewater treatment facilities is expected to be sufficient.”  Prof. Packman, cited above, says that transmission risk in sewage is “likely to be a problem . . . [primarily] in parts of the world that do not have good water infrastructure.”

So, on Water Quality Day 2020, I say we renew, with determination, our commitment to maintaining our good water infrastructure.  And let us give an extra big tip of the hat in gratitude to our water quality professionals, who put it on the line for us every day.

If you agree, please take a moment to circulate this post via Facebook or blog, or write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper. 

To return to GMWEA’s website, CLICK HERE.

GMWEA COVID-19 Updates

Like our allied organizations, GMWEA is responding to upheavals due to the global COVID-19 virus pandemic. This post provides resources for important information and announces changes in GMWEA’s continuing education calendar. First, some answers to crucial questions:

Can COVID-19 be transmitted through drinking water or wastewater facility effluent? The short answers are “probably not” and “not yet known,” respectively. But there’s some fine print, too — including the fact that related viruses have been found in human feces and can survive for two to 14 days there. For more detailed information, go to the helpful overview page maintained by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC): https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/php/water.html.

What can wastewater workers do to protect their own, and the public’s health? The CDC offers many suggestions for hygiene, protective equipment, and workplace training: https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/global/sanitation/workers_handlingwaste.html.

Also, the Water Environment Federation offers an excellent resource, “The Water Professional’s Guide to COVID-19” at: https://www.wef.org/news-hub/wef-news/the-water-professionals-guide-to-the-2019-novel-coronavirus/

GMWEA COURSE POSTPONEMENTS:

We are postponing both the Stormwater Management Manual training, originally scheduled for March 27, and the Basic Wastewater Management course, originally scheduled for April 7 through May 26.

Our goal is to present both courses as soon as the situation permits, so please stay tuned for more information. If you have already registered for either, please be patient as we determine the best way to organize refunding tuition or applying it to the rescheduled classes. For more information, visit www.gmwea.org.

Please visit this blog again for more information in future posts. In the meantime, as we’ve all been seeing in our e-mail sign-offs, or your mother might say, “Wash those hands!”


Stormwater!

Why is effective stormwater management a topic of growing importance?  If you’re reading this, you probably already know the answers.

With increased development, there are more impervious surfaces, and climate change has made Vermont’s precipitation patterns less predictable.  Storm flows wash fertilizers, pesticides, dog poop, petroleum products, and worse into natural waterways, poisoning water or causing hyper- nutrification. When stormwater flows into public treatment facilities, it can cause system overloads and CSOs. 

Not to mention the issues of waterway sedimentation, streambank erosion, threats to community infrastructure. . . 

All of which explains why 1) a tangled thicket of regulations and rules surrounds stormwater management and 2) why GMWEA is offering another Vermont Stormwater Management Manual training!

The full-day program will take place on Friday, March 27, 2020, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., at the South Burlington Police Station conference room, 19 Gregory Drive.

As with last year’s training, this course will be taught by Andres Torizzo, of Watershed Consulting Associates, and Dave Marshall, Civil Engineering Associates, who together have four decades of experience designing and permitting stormwater projects in Vermont.  The course won rave reviews from attendees last September.

For more course content details, visit our website at www.gmwea.org.  To register online, click here: gmwea.z2systems.com/event.jsp?event=2& . Or, contact Lisa Goodell at lisa.goodell@gmwea.org or (802) 262-1958.

The fee for the course is $95 for GMWEA members and $135 for non-members (includes a GMWEA membership for 2020!). Lunch is not included.

Space is limited to 35 participants and demand is high – sign up today!

It’s Awards Season at GMWEA!

Almost, anyway.  Our annual service excellence awards won’t be presented until our Spring Meeting & Training Conference on May 21, 2020, at Killington Grand Hotel.  But it’s time for people to nominate candidates. 

Who delivered exceptional service in 2019? 

We believe water quality professionals should be honored for their expertise and commitment.  Most of our members are public servants, good at it and proud of it – but their work is usually “out of sight, out of mind.”  Water flows from taps, toilets flush, but most Vermonters aren’t aware of the massive infrastructure and dedicated professionals behind the scenes, delivering these essential services 24/7/365.

GMWEA’s annual awards are one way to show appreciation where it’s due.  With the new year here, we invite members to tell us about individuals, facilities, or companies they feel did an exemplary job at drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater management in 2019. 

It’s easy to make a nomination: Just go to our Awards website page and fill out the e-mail form. 

Nine awards are offered in various categories:     

Bob Wood Young Professional: For notable contributions to the water environment, water or wastewater operations, or GMWEA by a young operator, engineer, or academic student (must be 30 or under).

Ashliegh Belrose, South Burlington WRRF, receives the 2018 Bob Wood Young Professional Award from GMWEA President Tom DiPietro

Water Facility Excellence: For outstanding facilities exceeding system operation requirements (given to entire facility and staff).

Wastewater Facility Excellence: For outstanding facilities exceeding system operation requirements (given to entire facility and staff).

Town of Ludlow WWTF team receives the 2018 Wastewater Facility Excellence Award

Andrew D. Fish Laboratory Excellence: For outstanding activity in laboratory performance at work, community service, education, committee participation, or other contribution (individual).

Rod Munroe receives the 2018 Andrew Fish Laboratory Excellence Award

Michael J. Garofano Water Operator Excellence: For outstanding performance in system maintenance, protecting public health, and achievement beyond normal responsibilities  (individual).

Wastewater Operator Excellence: For outstanding performance in system maintenance, protecting public health, and achievement beyond normal responsibilities (individual).

Outstanding Industrial Facility: For demonstrated commitment to clean water and pollution prevention, including implementation of water or wastewater treatment changes to address problems common to similar industries.

Outstanding Industrial Operator: For significant accomplishment in operation, problem solving, crisis management, training, or understanding of industrial wastewater  issues.

Stormwater (Individual or Organization): For outstanding performance in stormwater management and/or education, or other significant contribution to the stormwater field.

Chelsea Mandigo, stormwater coordinator, Essex Junction, receives GMWEA’s 2018 Stormwater Award

We want to hear from you! For more information on the awards, visit www.gmwea.org, or call executive director Daniel Hecht at (802) 595-0997.

DRUGS!

Well, the title is a bit dramatic – it really should read “Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products.” 

It’s the second brochure in GMWEA’s “Don’t Flush It!” series, and it’s now available.  Part of a public education project funded by a grant from the Lake Champlain Basin Program and NEIWPCC, it’s intended to protect our natural waters – and ourselves – from contaminants we flush, pour, spread, or otherwise put into our wastewater stream. 

GMWEA encourages every Vermont city and town to help get the information into the public’s hands.  It’s now available for download on GMWEA’s website, and GMWEA can provide a total of 5,000 printed brochures to towns requesting them. 

Click here — Don’t Flush It — Drugs! — to download the print- and post-ready PDF; to request printed copies (for towns planning to mail them to residents), contact Daniel Hecht at dan.hecht@gmwea.org.

The first brochure, “Cloggers!,” was enthusiastically received — especially by wastewater operators weary of dealing with pump and pipe malfunction due to congealed fats, oils, and greases mixed with solid materials such as the not-very flushable “flushable” wipes.  Sent in digital form to every municipality and waste district in Vermont back in June, “Cloggers!” was posted on scores of town websites, and many towns printed the brochures and mailed them with property tax bills or sewer/water bills. 

“Drugs!” details the harmful impacts of medications – both prescription and over-the-counter – when they’re flushed or poured into household wastewater streams.  These unnatural chemicals can linger in groundwater, rivers, and lakes, and some can enter drinking water sources.  They can cause harm to aquatic ecosystems, some causing deformities in fish, amphibians, and other wildlife.

They’re not so great for people, either.  The brochure advises dropping off unused medications at one of the Vt. Health Department’s 84 safe drop sites, mailing them in, or mixing them with something unpleasant – cat litter, for example – before tossing in the trash.  (For more information, go to www.healthvermont.gov/alcohol-drugs/services/prescription-drug-disposal or call (802) 651-1550.)

Medications, though, are the easier pollutant to control.  More problematic are the thousands of chemicals used in personal care products – consumer products for body care and comfort.  We all use them every day, unaware that they pass through or wash off our bodies and pollute ground and surface waters with damaging chemicals.  They’re not food, so they’re not regulated by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration. 

Hair dye, shampoo, perfume, insect repellent, sunscreen, body washes, cosmetics, deodorants, steroid cream, anti-fungal cream, nail polish – it’s a long list.  These chemicals aren’t removed by our private septic systems or municipal sewage treatment plants, so they end up in natural waters, damaging wildlife, and the U.S. EPA considers many of them to be “contaminants of emerging concern” for humans as well.  In essence, that means we’ve only recently discovered they’re bad for us, and we’re not sure how to deal with them.

“Drugs!” identifies the most common products chock-full of bad chemicals – highly-perfumed and highly-colored products are often the worst – and suggests easy ways to limit your household’s contribution of them.  Never pour or flush ‘em if unwanted or unused (cap tightly and put in trash); avoid highly-scented products; limit use of antibacterial lotions; identify the worst environmental offenders and choose brands that don’t use them.  Most of all, learn about them — the brochure offers several web resources for more information. 

The underlying principle of this initiative is that public systems can only do so much to identify and remove contaminants.  Fortunately, informed Vermonters can easily adopt habits that significantly reduce our collective pollution of our waters. 

Get the brochure!  And please help spread the word.

GMWEA thanks the Castleton University Content Lab for donating graphic design services to this initiative, and is grateful to the Vermont League of Cities and Towns for logistical support.

To return to GMWEA’s website, CLICK HERE.

A Day Without Water?

The U.S. Water Alliance, along with 1,100 other nonprofits, water and wastewater districts, municipalities, businesses, schools, and state agencies throughout the U.S. will observe Imagine a Day Without Water on October 23.  The event is intended to remind us of the importance of water – natural waters and working water – and to renew our commitment to good stewardship of it.

I’ve noted the day for years, but today I actually took the suggestion – that is, tried to imagine having no water.

Daniel Hecht

Well, I wake up and stumble to the bathroom to wash my face, but the tap is dry and my face retains that puffy, crusty feeling.  Then I visit the toilet, but after finishing my business realize that I can’t make it go away with a push of the flush handle. 

Okay, bad start to the day.  But I grump downstairs for some coffee to help get myself into gear – only to discover I can’t make any!  My son is crabby: He has to go to school still sweaty from yesterday’s cross-fit workout because he can’t take a shower.  Also, he put his clothes in the washer and they just went round and round and are not up to high school social standards.  Of course, it’s moot anyway, because the school calls to say it’s closed because the bathrooms, labs, and sprinkler systems don’t work. 

My wife is not in a great mood either – the dishes in the dishwasher aren’t clean, and the dentist called to say her appointment has been canceled due to the absence of water. 

The radio says there’s a fire on the next block, but the fire department can’t put it out. There’s a crisis at the hospital because they can’t clean the operating rooms, hallways, or doctors’ hands.  Now the radio is interviewing a farmer who can’t water her cows or irrigate her crops. 

The cats are looking at me disapprovingly because their water dish is dry.  And I’m getting thirsty, too. 

This litany of woes could go on and on.  In fact, throughout the world, this is the status quo.  There’s not enough water, or the water that’s available is polluted or poorly-managed. For too many, this is not just an incovenience, but a matter of life and death.

The thing to remember is that it takes smart water policy to keep the faucets running.  We have to pro-actively protect natural waters so that we can enjoy and use them.  We need functioning water treatment facilities to make it safe to drink, and we need wastewater plants to clean up water we’ve polluted.  We need, literally, millions of miles of functioning pipe, hundreds of thousands of pumps, to bring it to us.  We need a professional community with the skills to operate this infrastructure 24/7/365.

So, this October 23, ponder the importance of water.  As the U.S. Water Alliance suggests, you might write a letter to the editor, your town council, or your legislator, saying you support investment in water infrastructure. 

And don’t forget that your household, on its own, can help keep your wastewater stream clean and keep the water running – read GMWEA’s “Don’t Flush It!” brochures!

Daniel Hecht, executive director, GMWEA

Click here to return to GMWEA’s website.

Deer Island In Photos

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so for our report on the Deer Island tour, let’s see a few. A tour group from GMWEA. VRWA, and NHWPCA visited the huge, state-of-the-art wastewater plant on October 3 and got a good eyeful. Thanks to Elizabeth Walker and Wayne Graham for the photos!

It’s pretty big.
One of the “eggs” — sludge digesters — seen from below. Check out the “cap” at the top, then see it from the inside, below, to get a sense of scale.
Inside the top “cap” of one of the eggs.
The illustrious Charlie Taylor, who spent 25 years involved in planning, design, construction and process operations of the facility, gives the visitors an introduction.
Some of the tour group, with the eggs in the background.
Secondary clarifiers from horizon to horizon.

If you were a member of the tour group and have photos or comments to share, please send them! We’ll post them here.

To return to GMWEA’s website, click here.

Deer Island WW Tour Coming Up Oct. 3!

NOTE: This tour is at capacity, and no more registrations are being accepted. Sorry! But return to this site in October for more about the Deer Island WW plant and the tour.

Operators, administrators, engineers, planners, educators – don’t miss the bus!  Join GMWEA, VRWA, and NHWPCA for a tour of the huge, state-of-the-art Deer Island Wastewater Treatment Plant in Winthrop, Massachusetts! This is a rare opportunity to get a close-up view of one of the 20th century’s most challenging and successful environmental improvement projects — and to earn 2 TCHs. 

Deer Island Wastewater Treament Facility, Winthrop, Mass.

Serving 2.3 million people in 43 Boston-area communities, Deer Island is the largest waste water facility in New England and the second or third largest in the US.  Its average influent flow of over 300 mgd and maximum storm-influenced flow of over 1,280 mgd are accommodated while discharging consistently clear effluent through its 24-foot diameter, deep-ocean, gravity-fed  9.5-mile outfall tunnel.  A total of 5,000 miles of sewer pipe serves the facility.

Completed in 2001, this mammoth plant’s design and construction reflect the desire to minimize environmental impacts, of every kind, on Massachusetts Bay.  Its renewable energy systems, for example, provide more than half of the island’s electricity through a combination of methane biodigesters, wind turbines, solar power, and hydro-electric generation. 

The famous Deer Island “Eggs” (sludge digesters)

The tour will be guided by plant process engineering staff.  Adding a deep insider’s knowledge, they will tentatively be accompanied by their former colleague, Charlie Tyler, who retired from the plant in 2017 after over 25 years of involvement in planning, design, construction, start-up, and process operations there.

GMWEA has chartered a bus for Thursday, Oct. 3, to transport attendees to the plant. The bus will depart from the South Burlington Department of Public Works (104 Landfill Road, South Burlington, Vt.) at 6:45 a.m. It will make two additional stops: at the Upper Valley Plaza/JC Penney Plaza (250 N. Plainfield Rd., Unit 202, West Lebanon, N.H.) at 8:15 a.m., and at the New Hampshire Mall (1500 S. Willow St., Manchester, N.H.) at 9:45 a.m. Attendees can be picked up any of the locations.

After the tour, the bus will leave Deer Island at 2:30 p.m. Passengers will be dropped off in Manchester at 4:00 p.m.; in West Lebanon at 5:30 p.m.; and in South Burlington at 7:00 p.m.

The Vermont DEC has confirmed that tour participants will receive 2 TCHs (for the tour, but not the bus ride!). 

The charge for the day’s activities is $65 per person. Attendees need to pack a lunch and dinner — meals are not provided, and stops for food are not planned. Light refreshments and snacks will be available on the bus, or you can bring your own. Alcohol is not permitted.

If you are interested in attending, sign up at https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScXvYC8OzSTBjphjdyjphRiXUEj8ugAjwJBEfOhFWeVzCzuBw/viewform?usp=sf_link . Payment is expected at the time of registration. Space is limited, so sign up now! If you have questions, please contact Ryan Peebles, GMWEA’s Membership Committee chair, at (802) 222-1762 or email at Ryan.peebles@cleanwaters.us .

PFAS News III

This is our third post on poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), that ubiquitous and troublesome family of 5,000 “contaminants of emerging concern.” In this post: the risk of PFAS in public drinking water systems, and the current state of affairs in Vermont.

PFAS in firefighting foam photo courtesy of pfascentral.org.

In Vermont, concern spiked after the 2016 discovery of PFOS and PFOA, two of the oldest and best-researched PFAS, in private wells in the Bennington area. The contamination was determined to be due to pollution by Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics, which recently agreed to a $40 million settlement with the state.  One result was that, during the 2019 session, the Vermont Legislature gave PFAS close attention, emerging with Act 21, signed by Gov. Scott. The bill:

  • Requires testing of all public drinking water systems by December 1, 2019 (specifically, 650 public community water systems and non-transient, non-community water systems serving 25 or more people over a period of 6 months per year);
  • Establishes a drinking water health advisory level of 20 parts per trillion, in aggregate, of five PFAS, which, if exceeded, requires publication of a “do not drink” advisory and planning for remediation;
  • Mandates research into potential sources and impacts of PFAS over the next five years;
  • Gives the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources authority to establish drinking and surface water MCLs by, at the latest, January 1, 2024.
  • Full information on Act 21 and the Agency’s actions is available at https://dec.vermont.gov/pfas/pfoa

But is there really a significant risk to public drinking water systems?

The U.S. EPA’s “Third Unregulated Contaminant Rule Data Summary” of January, 2017 (surveying PFOA, PFOS, and four other PFAS from 2011 to 2016) reports on tests at 4,920 public water systems.  Very few tested as at or above minimum reference levels, ranging from .1% of sites for PFBS to 1.9% of sites for PFOS and 2.3% for PFOA.

On the other hand, that data is now three years old; only six types of PFAS were surveyed; and the health reference MCLs of 70 ppt were much higher than Vermont’s 20 ppt. 

More recently — May, 2019 — the Environmental Working Group and Northeast University, using data from the Pentagon and local water utilities, reported PFAS contamination at 610 sites in 43 states, including some public drinking water systems. 

Michigan, with 192 known contamination sites, was the most-impacted; however, of the 65 sites found to have MCLs over the federal limit of 70 ppt in a study conducted by the state in 2018, none were municipal systems. (Three school water systems did show contamination; the rest were military-related, industrial, firefighting, or mining sites.)

Drinking water processing plant at Highland Reservoir, Yorba Linda, Cal., which found reportable levels of PFAS in August, 2019, testing.

But the data keeps coming in – and it merits close attention.  The August 30, 2019 Orange County Register reports finding “reportable levels” of PFAS in 11 source wells operated by Southern California public drinking water agencies – levels that will require remediation (and alternate water sourcing) under newly-legislated limits.  In Los Angeles County, 32 of 138 county wells exceeded limits, resulting in closure of 4 wells.

The best solution for PFAS is prevention and interception at high-concentration sites. But can these “forever chemicals” be eliminated from water that’s already contaminated?

Yes. Granular activated charcoal filters and reverse osmosis are being used to successfully remove PFAS in Michigan, California, and elsewhere.  Of course, water quality professionals and regulators have to ask: But at what cost, to whom? 

New research developments also have promise, as high-tech solutions are being devised to address the problem.  At the international CleanUp 2019 conference, as of this writing being held in Australia (Sept. 8 – 12), the company AECOM unveiled DE-FLUOROTM, a process of electrochemical oxidation that removes 90% to 100% of PFAS. 

Admittedly, only time will tell if the technology proves viable, affordable, workable in diverse contexts, and without unforeseen effects of its own. But AECOM is likely only the first major corporation to be drawn by the lure of marketable — profitable — remediation products/processes.

All of which leaves us wondering what we can expect from the current round of testing in Vermont. The answer: Like everything else about PFAS, we’ll just have to wait and find out!

GMWEA would love to hear from water system operators and administrators about their experiences with the testing process!  Please send perspectives to Daniel Hecht, executive director, at dan.hecht@gmwea.org.

To return to GMWEA’s website, click here.

The PFAS Predicament II

This is the second post on poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), those problematic “contaminants of emerging concern.”

Writing about PFAS is difficult because the landscape is changing so fast.  During the last year, this family of 5,000 human-made chemicals has caused increasing consternation among drinking water and wastewater professionals and regulators.  As awareness of their prevalence — in our bodies, food, consumer goods, industrial products, and water – grows, at least 20 alarmed state legislatures have crafted policies to confront the problem.

Above: Firefighting foam is among the most concentrated sources of localized PFAS contamination.

In the last couple of months, national and regional water and wastewater organizations have jumped into the issue with member advisories and Congressional testimonies. As GMWEA’s Government Affairs committee members can attest, water quality professionals’ inboxes are often jammed with PFAS-related bulletins from the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA), Water Environment Federation (WEF), American Water Works Association (AWWA), and many others.

Coherent, consistent policy related to PFAS is hard to establish for a number of reasons:

  • The scientific and regulatory issues are complex — and hard to quickly convey to preoccupied policy-makers.
  • There are so many PFAS, with so many vehicles for human exposure; their sources, transport and persistence characteristics, and health effects vary widely.
  • Their health effects have, for the most part, not been confidently ascertained.  As WEF states about H.R. 2500 (see below), “With limited research into the health effects of the 5,000 PFAS compounds and no established analytical methods and treatment methods for wastewater effluent, this amendment is bad policy.”
  • Misconceptions abound, sometimes prompting hasty decisions in attempts to protect the public health.

Above: PFAS foam on a Michigan lake, residual from mining operations. Photo thanks to the Detroit Free Press.

Where things stand in the U.S. Congress:

In July, both houses of Congress passed legislation on PFAS as part of the National Defense Authorization Act – but the House and Senate versions differed.  As of this writing, the House bill, H.R. 2500, has provisions that would regulate PFAS under CERCLA, the Superfund legislation passed in 1980. CERCLA has strict stipulations about retroactive liability, which WEF says “could place the burden on FPAS ‘receivers,’ such as wastewater and drinking water agencies.'” 

The Senate version, S.1790, does not include these provisions, and the various water associations are advocating for terms more like the Senate’s; the bills will have to be reconciled in conference during September.  However, to add to the confusion, President Trump has signaled he’ll veto the bill in either form!

Key points:

The national and regional drinking water and wastewater associations strongly support government action to protect public health, but warn of “unintended consequences” of legislation.  The sheer lack of information about PFAS and the risk of local liability are their chief concern.

  • Of particular concern is the misconception that wastewater treatment plants generate or add PFAS. They don’t — treatment facilities only convey what they receive from influent.
  • The best solution is to prevent PFAS from entering the wastewater stream — to identify sources, prohibit certain commercial uses, and focus on origin-specific mitigation.
  • Wastewater treatment plants — that is, the communities that they serve — are unable to afford the expense of measuring, monitoring, and removal of PFAS arriving at facilities.
  • Trace amounts of PFAS in wastewater plant effluent, and in biosolids, could potentially enter groundwater and thus drinking water sources. However, according to the North East Biosolids and Residuals Association (NEBRA), except in “a few worst-case scenarios” when treatment plants have received exceptionally high concentrations from industrial and other points of origin, impact on drinking water sources is not likely to exceed established concentration limits.  NEBRA stresses that PFAS do not “originate” with biosolids but from sources higher up the wastewater stream – the best place to intercept them.

Next: PFAS regulation in Vermont and indications — or lack thereof — of the likelihood that PFAS show up in public drinking water systems.

To return to GMWEA’s website, click here.