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Industry Briefs

Congress Responds to Funding Call from Industry

In mid-December, Congress responded to the National Rural Water Association’s call to action – which aimed at bringing payment support to struggling customers, as well as aid money to utilities. This call to action was met with a favorable outcome. $1 billion was allocated by the bipartisan Senate – $500 million of that aimed at Indian Tribes, native Alaskan Villages and rural areas designated as “Colonias” that were federally recognized.

During this pandemic water and wastewater operators, as well as support staff, have been designated as emergency essential personnel, allowing them to do what is necessary to maintain running water services. New and affordable financing tools have also been implemented, as a result USDA Rural Development can provide zero and one percent loans, as well as the opportunity to reduce customers’ existing loan debt.

With this battle won, the water and wastewater industry can rebuild what it has lost from this pandemic.

Is there a link between PFAS and COVID-19?

A Danish study thinks there is.

We’ve talked about PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) in past ClearTake articles. PFAS are known as “forever chemicals” because they don’t break down in the environment. They can be found in virtually everything including food wrappers, drinking water, and many household products and they’re showing up in the human body. PFBA, a component of PFAS, tends to linger in the lungs before exiting the body. Interestingly, according to The Intercept, a Danish study completed in October 2020, states that people with higher levels of PFBA in their lungs have a harder time shaking COVID-19. The study suggests that this may be a reason some people experience more severe cases of COVID-19. The study analyzed 323 COVID-19 patients and over half of them with a serious case had higher levels of PFBA in their system.

EPA Finalizes New Lead and Copper Rules for Drinking Water

The Environmental Protection Agency finalized rules in late December that will require water utilities to notify the public about possible lead contamination more quickly after detection and to replace lead service lines in what it says will be a more aggressive fashion – the first regulatory update in nearly 30 years.

The updated lead and copper rule will require cities to replace 3% of lead service lines – the lead pipes connecting city water lines to people’s homes – yearly, as opposed to the previous requirements of 7% to be replaced each year and accelerate public disclosure about the location of lead service lines.

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said the new rules will aid in better lead testing of water supplies, more lead pipe replacements and make more information on lead detection available to the public.

“While the old rule, theoretically, included a 7% replacement rate, it was riddled with loopholes and off-ramps. We only saw 1% being replaced. With our new requirement of 3%, we’ll see three times the replacement rate under the old rule,” Wheeler said.

Wheeler said more than 14,000 water systems had enough lead in the water to require them to act, but only 1% of those cities have begun replacing the lead service lines.

While the new rule does require faster notification to residents when lead is detected, it does not require cities to replace the pipes more quickly.

The new measures were announced the same week the Flint City Council came to a $641m settlement with its residents after the lead-driven Flint water crisis, which Wheeler has said inspired the administration to tackle the problem of lead exposure through corroded water pipes.

Under the new rule, utility companies are now required to alert customers of high lead water concentrations within 24 hours of discovery — a significant change from the previous 30-day requirement.

The new rules also mandate that schools and childcare centers be tested for lead, something not required under previous rules.

The EPA said the rule will “help communities locate and prioritize the removal of lead pipes”.