EPA Outlines Plan for Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring

June 1, 2012
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has listed 28 chemicals and two viruses that 6000 public water systems will monitor from 2013 to 2015.

By Patrick Crow, Washington Correspondent

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has listed 28 chemicals and two viruses that 6000 public water systems will monitor from 2013 to 2015.

They are part of the agency's program to monitor unregulated contaminants suspected to be present in drinking water, but that do not have health-based standards set under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA).

EPA will spend more than $20 million on the monitoring, most of which will go to small drinking water systems for laboratory analyses, shipping and quality control. The data collected under the program is expected to show the frequency and levels at which the contaminants are found and help the agency determine if additional protections are needed.

The list includes total chromium and hexavalent chromium, also known as chromium-6, which has been the focus of some EPA concern.

Nancy Stoner, acting assistant administrator for water, said EPA selected the target chemicals from a list of priority contaminants that need additional research and are known or anticipated to occur in public water systems. Some contaminants of concern were selected based on current occurrence research and health-risk factors.

EPA has standards for 91 contaminants in drinking water. The SDWA requires it to identify up to 30 additional unregulated contaminants for monitoring every five years.

Green Infrastructure

EPA and Philadelphia plan a $2 billion program to promote green infrastructure.

Over the next 25 years, the partnership agreement will transform many of Philadelphia's hardened surfaces to green areas to better manage rainwater runoff pollution. The federal–city partnership will promote EPA's Green City, Clean Waters Plan as a national model for cities embracing green stormwater infrastructure.

The agency will help Philadelphia identify and promote green infrastructure designs, provide research and technical assistance, and monitor the effectiveness of the program.

Mayor Michael Nutter said, "Where other cities are challenged by very expensive commitments for tunnels, tanks and other gray infrastructure, we have worked with the state and the EPA to take this greener, more fiscally prudent approach that will realize multiple benefits."

Separately, a report on green infrastructure has outlined practices that promise more cost-effective solutions to lower energy expenses, reduce flood damage, and improve public health.

American Rivers, the Water Environment Federation (WEF), the American Society of Landscape Architects, and ECONorthwest released the study.

Green infrastructure refers to practices like green roofs, rain gardens, bioswales, and pervious pavement that capture and treat rainwater and runoff. These measures reduce the amount of polluted runoff the water that mixes with oil, pesticides, and other pollutants as it rushes over streets, parking lots, and yards into local streams.

Jeff Eger, WEF executive director, said, "Case studies shared in this report should be helpful to communities around the country and are from areas where green infrastructure is already making a difference."

The report noted that New York City's plan to reduce combined sewage overflows will save an estimated $1.5 billion over 20 years by incorporating green infrastructure rather than relying solely on traditional gray infrastructure like pipes.

It said in Baton Rouge, La., a high school spent $110,000 on bioswales and a rain garden to reduce flooding rather than the $500,000 it would have cost to re-pipe the site.

And a Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) report has used Philadelphia as an example of how a stormwater fee and credit system can generate funds for green infrastructure investments.

Climate Change

NRDC has reported that only nine states have taken comprehensive steps to address their vulnerabilities to the water-related impacts of climate change.

It studied four preparedness categories to delineate best-prepared states (Alaska, California, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington, and Wisconsin).

The report focused on how state governments are planning and preparing for climate change impacts such as more severe and frequent storms, intense rainfall, sea-level rise, warmer water temperatures, and drought events.

NRDC said "Rising temperatures and more extreme weather events are impacting our families, our health and our pocketbooks. Water is a matter of survival. It powers our lives and industries, and it keeps our natural systems healthy."

The study said states can take proactive steps to minimize climate change impacts, such as: cutting emissions from power plants, vehicles and other major sources of heat-trapping pollution; investing in energy efficiency and renewable energy; conducting vulnerability assessments; planning to address climate risks in all sectors; supporting implementation of those plans; and updating the plan as needed.

In other Washington news:

--The U.S. Geological Survey said almost all the sediment-associated chemical concentrations found in 131 of the nation's rivers are lower than worldwide averages. However, it said half the rivers draining to the Atlantic Ocean and a quarter of those draining to the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico had elevated concentrations of nutrients and trace and major elements.
--The Interior Department's Bureau of Reclamation has awarded $10.75 million toward the Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project, which will serve more than 43 Navajo chapters, the city of Gallup, N.M., and the Teepee Junction area of the Jicarilla Apache Nation. It will include 280 miles of pipeline, several pumping plants, and two water treatment plants.
--EPA and the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board have outlined pollution reduction plans to restore 175 water bodies in Los Angeles and Ventura counties in California. EPA said total maximum daily load limits already have been set for 47 of the 175 water bodies.
--The Water Environment Research Foundation is seeking proposals on the use, deployment, and efficacy of commercially available online water sensors in water collection, treatment and distribution systems.
--Responding to water industry objections, EPA has shelved a plan to make certain risk management plan information available online. The data on the vulnerabilities of water and wastewater plants had been removed from the Internet following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

EPA has updated its community-based Water Resiliency Electronic Tool, which helps communities assess their adaptability to water service disruptions.

The agency has published human health benchmarks for 350 food crop pesticides that could pollute public water supplies.

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