- Offices of the Inspector General for the Defense Department and EPA will investigate water contamination from an Oahu naval base.
- The Justice Department announced a settlement with a southeastern Pennsylvania water authority over sewage spills that violated the Clean Water Act.
- The Department of Energy reverses a Trump-era rule that relaxed water conservation standards for showerheads.
- The Department of Health and Human Services releases its report on cancer-causing substances.
And lastly, the EPA orders utilities to monitor drinking water for 29 PFAS compounds.
By the Numbers
29: Number of PFAS compounds that water utilities will be required to monitor in drinking water. The rule applies to utilities serving more than 3,300 people. For smaller communities, a representative sample of utilities will be required to take part in the monitoring program, which runs from 2023 to 2025. The purpose of the program is to collect data on the occurrence of chemical contaminants that can inform future regulations.
Oahu Water Contamination
The Office of the Inspector General for the Defense Department and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced they would independently investigate the water contamination incident at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, on Oahu.
The Defense Department Office of the Inspector General will investigate the Navy’s oversight of the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility, which is the supposed source of petroleum products in a well that supplies part of the base with drinking water.
The EPA Office of the Inspector General says that its investigation will center on whether the Navy followed federal rules for monitoring water quality, detecting leaks from underground oil storage tanks, and reporting oil spills.
The Bureau of Reclamation outlined how it will spend $210 million in federal funds that Congress earmarked in September for drought and fire response in the western states.
- $40 million will go toward a plan to conserve water in Lake Mead.
- $61.8 million for the Central Valley Project.
- $10 million for technical assistance to tribes.
- $10 million for the Klamath Project.
Studies and Reports
Sewage Overflow Violations
The Department of Justice announced a settlement with a southeastern Pennsylvania water authority over sewage spills that violated the Clean Water Act.
The Bucks County Water and Sewer Authority will pay a $450,000 civil penalty for repeatedly discharging untreated sewage into tributaries of the Delaware River. The violations happened over a five-year period, from January 2014 through December 2018.
In what will turn out to be a more expensive provision of the settlement, the authority also agreed to upgrade its sewage collection and treatment system so as to eliminate future spills.
Report on Carcinogens
The Department of Health and Human Services released its 15th report on cancer-causing substances.
New listings in this edition include six disinfection by-products found in drinking water.
On the Radar
The Department of Energy reversed a Trump-era ruling that relaxed water conservation standards for showerheads.
The Trump rule, which allowed multi-nozzle showerheads to spray more water, was criticized by energy and water conservation groups, plumbing groups, and trade groups.
The rule will now revert to the definition that was established in October 2013, which permits 2.5 gallons per minute, regardless of the number of nozzles.
Correction: An earlier version of this digest referred to the inspectors general of the Defense Department and Environmental Protection Agency. It should have said the Office of the Inspector General for each.
Brett writes about agriculture, energy, infrastructure, and the politics and economics of water in the United States. He also writes the Federal Water Tap, Circle of Blue’s weekly digest of U.S. government water news. He is the winner of two Society of Environmental Journalists reporting awards, one of the top honors in American environmental journalism: first place for explanatory reporting for a series on septic system pollution in the United States(2016) and third place for beat reporting in a small market (2014). He received the Sierra Club’s Distinguished Service Award in 2018. Brett lives in Seattle, where he hikes the mountains and bakes pies. Contact Brett Walton