Federal Water Tap, November 28: EPA Determines Pennsylvania Will Not Meet Chesapeake Bay Pollution-Reduction Goal

The Rundown

  • Because Pennsylvania will miss a 2025 deadline for Chesapeake Bay improvements, the EPA will continue stricter oversight of the state’s polluters.
  • The DHHS office that oversees water and energy bill assistance will collect demographic data on grant recipients.
  • Federal agencies release a draft environmental review of Tijuana River sewage projects.
  • The Biden administration publishes a report on nature-based solutions to the climate crisis.
  • The EPA drinking water advisory group will hold a public meeting this week.
  • The EPA’s internal watchdog reports that small water systems are lagging on cybersecurity measures.

And lastly, the EPA reports that more polluters are obeying the limits of their waste discharge permits.

“The final amended Phase III WIP does not provide EPA with confidence that Pennsylvania will have all practices and controls in place by 2025 to achieve the CBP partnership’s nitrogen and sediment targets.” — Letter from Adam Ortiz, EPA Region 3 administrator, to the acting head of Pennsylvania’s environment agency. CBP is the Chesapeake Bay Program, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency determined that Pennsylvania is not doing enough to prevent ecologically damaging sediment and nutrients from entering the bay.

Pennsylvania’s WIP, or watershed implementation plan, falls short, the EPA says, largely because the state is still sending too much nitrogen into the bay. That means the EPA will step up its oversight of farms and stormwater runoff, two major sources of the pollutant.

By the Numbers

9 Percent: Share of polluters that did not meet their Clean Water Act discharge permit this year, according to the EPA. The non-compliance rate dropped by more than half since 2018, exceeding the agency’s goal. About 46,000 facilities are regulated under such permits.

News Briefs

Nature-Based Climate Solutions
The Biden administration identified five key areas of federal action for using trees, wetlands, and other natural features to respond to a warming planet.

The action areas include: new policies, funding, and job training. Federal facilities need to incorporate green designs. And more research is required.

Studies and Reports

Review of Projects to Reduce Tijuana River Sewage
Federal agencies released a draft environmental review of projects to reduce sewage flows and water pollution in the Tijuana River.

Shared by the U.S. and Mexico, the Tijuana River is beset by foul water. The U.S. government pledged at least $300 million for projects on both sides of the border, including sewer system and sewage plant upgrades.

Data Collection for Energy and Water Bill Assistance
The Department of Health and Human Services agency that oversees federal water and energy bill assistance is seeking to collect more data about the people who receive grants.

Starting in fiscal year 2023, the Office of Community Services wants to know race, ethnicity, gender, and renter/homeowner status for recipients of LIHEAP, the energy bill assistance program. The office already plans to collect this demographic information next year for LIHWAP, the water bill program.

The goal is to assess whether federal grants are being equitably distributed.

Cybersecurity Audit
The EPA Office of the Inspector General reviewed compliance with federal cybersecurity requirements, finding that small systems serving disadvantaged communities most frequently failed to complete risk assessments required by a 2018 law.

The audit found that 19 percent of water systems did not submit risk assessments, and that 95 percent of those systems were small. In this case, small systems serve between 3,300 and 50,000 people. These systems often lack staff or technical skills to meet requirements.

The audit notes that the EPA does not review submitted risk assessments for quality control.

The audit made four recommendations for agency action, but the EPA disagreed, saying that they are not needed.

In context: Cheap Cybersecurity Defenses Exist, But They’re Not Reaching Water Utilities Who Need Them

On the Radar

National Drinking Water Advisory Council Meeting
The expert panel that advises the EPA on drinking water matters will hold a virtual meeting on November 30, from 10:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Eastern.

On the agenda: changes to the Lead and Copper Rule, plus a working group update on the harmful compounds generated as a byproduct of disinfecting drinking water.

The meeting is open to the public. Register here.

Satellite Hearing
On December 1, a Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation subcommittee will hold a hearing on Earth-observing satellites.

In context: New Satellite Will See Water’s Big Picture

Great Lakes Advisory Board Meeting
The expert panel that advises the EPA on the Great Lakes will hold a public meeting on December 6, from 1:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Central.

Register for the meeting here.

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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