Federal Water Tap, June 15: Reclamation Selects Preferred Route for Lake Powell Pipeline

The Rundown

The Bureau of Reclamation publishes an environmental impact statement for the Lake Powell Pipeline. The U.S. Forest Service indicates that it will revise its environmental analysis of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. A CDC journal publishes a study on Legionnaires’ disease cases that were spread by toilet flushing. The CDC also releases a podcast on Legionella bacteria in tap water from the Flint River. The Justice Department publishes a draft consent decree for cleaning up contaminated soils and groundwater at a Montana Superfund site. And lastly, the EPA is seeking nominees for the National Drinking Water Advisory Council.

By the Numbers

5: Vacancies that the EPA is looking to fill on a council that advises the agency on drinking water regulation. The positions are for people from state or local government agencies, small water systems, and non-governmental groups. Nominations are due by July 13. (EPA)

News Briefs

Lake Powell Pipeline
The Bureau of Reclamation published an environmental impact statement for a proposed 141-mile pipeline that would transfer Colorado River water from Lake Powell to Washington County, in southwestern Utah.

If current trends hold, the county’s population could triple by the 2060s, which is the major factor driving the pipeline project.

The EIS evaluated two major pipeline routes, and within one of those routes, three subroutes. The Bureau prefers a southern route.

The project purpose was defined in such a way (“deliver a reliable annual yield of approximately 86,000 acre-feet of water per year from outside the Virgin River Basin into Washington County”) that two conservation-oriented alternatives were not considered.

The Bureau estimates that the total cost of the pipeline, once construction, interest payments, and operating costs are factored in, to be in the ballpark of $1.9 billion to $2 billion. The Utah Legislative Auditor says that construction costs could be higher than that, when accounting for inflation and a later project start time.

How will this affect residents of Washington County? Water costs will go up. The county plans to double the charge on new development and raise the water rate by 4.5 times over 30 years, per a report from the Utah Legislative Auditor.

There’s an interdependence here. More water needs growth to pay for it. The Bureau itself, in the report, says that the county’s ability to pay for the project is “dependent on continued growth in the region.”

Public comments on the report are being accepted through September 8. Send them to lpp@usbr.gov.

Stormwater Study in Highway Bill
The Invest in America Act, a transportation bill introduced by House Democrats, includes a provision on water pollution that flows from roads and highways.

The bill, which will be marked up on June 17, requires the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to study best practices for stormwater management from highways.

Consent Decree for Montana Superfund Site
The Department of Justice published a draft consent decree with Atlantic Richfield Company for removing mine tailings and treating contaminated groundwater at a Superfund site near Butte, Montana.

The consent decree is the latest in a series of decrees to clean up wastes that accumulated during more than a century of mining, milling, and smelting. It requires Atlantic Richfield to take several actions regarding the Butte Priority Soils Operable Unit, which is one mining district within the Superfund site.

The company must pay $3.5 million to the EPA for past costs, $11.2 million in future costs, and $20.5 million to Montana for site cleanup.

Studies and Reports

Atlantic Coast Pipeline EIS Returns
The U.S. Forest Service will prepare a supplemental environmental impact statement for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, after a federal appeals court threw out the previous analysis.

Developed by Dominion Energy and Duke Energy, two utility giants, the pipeline is intended to move natural gas from West Virginia to markets in North Carolina and Virginia.

It will cross portions of the Monongahela and George Washington National Forests. The revised analysis will consider the effects on water quality, erosion, and sedimentation, as well as on endangered species.

A separate challenge of the pipeline’s proposed crossing of the Appalachian Trail was heard in the U.S. Supreme Court in February. A ruling against the pipeline would force the developers back to the drawing board.

Legionnaires’ Disease Spread by Toilet Flushing
Two patients at a French hospital contracted Legionnaires’ disease by breathing in Legionella bacteria that were aerosolized by flushing the toilet in the room.

Both patients stayed in the same room, five months apart. Other potential points of infection — showerhead, sink faucet — tested negative for the bacteria.

The case study was published in Emerging Infectious Diseases, a journal of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Legionella in Flint
The CDC published a podcast on Legionella in tap water from the Flint River, in Michigan. The interview features Legionella expert Amy Pruden, a professor in the department of civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech.

In context: Risks Grow for Deadliest U.S. Drinking Water Hazard

On the Radar

EPA Section 401 Webinar
The EPA will hold a public webinar on June 17 from 2:00 p.m. to 3:15 p.m. Eastern to discuss a recent Clean Water Act rule change.

The change was to limit state reviews under Section 401 to look only at water quality impacts.

Water Access in Massachusetts
On June 23, a state advisory committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights will discuss water access issues in Massachusetts. The online meeting is open to the public. Dial-in information is available at the above link.

An initial version of this post misstated the topic of the CDC podcast. It is about Legionella in tap water from the Flint River, not from the river itself.

Federal Water Tap is a weekly digest spotting trends in U.S. government water policy. To get more water news, follow Circle of Blue on Twitter and sign up for our newsletter.

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