Federal Water Tap, January 16: EPA Warns of Water-Treatment Chemical Shortage After Illinois Factory Fire

The Rundown

  • A factory fire in Illinois could disrupt the national supply chain for water-treatment chemicals, the EPA says.
  • The EPA announces $100 million in environmental justice grants.
  • A report in a CDC journal describes the ongoing cholera outbreak in Haiti.
  • The EPA tentatively rules that discarded PVC is not a hazardous waste.

And lastly, the Interior Department establishes an office to oversee cleanup of abandoned oil and gas wells.

“Plugging orphan wells is a matter of environmental justice that will help secure a healthier future for our communities while creating good-paying jobs for New Mexicans.” — Rep. Melanie Stansbury (D-NM). The Orphaned Wells Program Office will coordinate the Biden administration’s $4.7 billion effort to cleanup abandoned wells on federal, state, tribal, and private lands. Funding comes from the infrastructure bill and will largely be distributed as grants to states and tribes.

By the Numbers

$100 Million: Funding from the EPA for state, local, and tribal governments and community organizations to address environmental justice problems. Special emphasis is on rural areas, health impacts, and resilience to climate change and extreme weather. The funds are part of a $3 billion program in the Inflation Reduction Act that Congress passed last year.

9: Number of PFAS the EPA added to the Toxics Release Inventory. Industries and facilities that handle hazardous chemicals use the TRI to report the amount of chemicals they emit to land, air, and water.

News Briefs

Potential Water Treatment Chemicals Shortage
The EPA is warning water utilities that an explosion and subsequent fire at a chemical plant in northern Illinois could disrupt the supply chain for water-treatment chemicals.

The fire occurred at the Carus Chemical plant in La Salle, Illinois. The plant is the primary domestic manufacturer of two key treatment chemicals: potassium permanganate and sodium permanganate.

Utilities may encounter supply problems “until the lost production capacity is restored,” the EPA says. The agency recommends that utilities locate alternate suppliers or turn to mutual aid networks for assistance.

Water-Related Bills in the New Congress
House members wasted no time filing bills in the new Congress.

Andy Biggs, a hard-right Republican from Arizona, once again submitted legislation that would abolish a federal health research agency. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry investigates the health impacts of chemical contaminants. Biggs opposes the agency’s investigation of chemicals from a poultry farm in Arizona.

California House Republicans, led by Rep. David Valadao, banded together to reintroduce the WATER for California Act. The bill seeks to move more water to farms and cities through state and federal canals. And it would allow for federal funding to raise Shasta Dam, the largest reservoir in the state.

Discarded PVC Not Hazardous Waste, EPA Says
The EPA tentatively denied a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity to classify discarded polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, as a hazardous waste.

The EPA said that there is no evidence that a hazardous waste designation would substantially reduce exposure to chemicals in PVC. The agency also said that it has more important rulemakings that take priority.

PVC is a common plastic that is used in water supply pipes.

Studies and Reports

Haiti Cholera Outbreak
More than 20,000 suspected cholera cases have been reported in Haiti since September, the Caribbean country’s first outbreak of the disease in more than three years, according to a CDC report on the public health response.

Children between age 1 and 4 have been most affected.

Cases appear to have peaked in early November, though cases are still being reported throughout the country.

The outbreak has been made worse by civil unrest and fuel shortages that impede water treatment.

On the Radar

Cybersecurity Regulation
According to the Washington Post, the Biden administration is preparing a national cybersecurity strategy that will call for uniform standards to prevent attacks on critical infrastructure.

A senior official told the Post that the EPA will soon issue rules for the water sector.

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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