Federal Water Tap, Nov. 28: EPA finds Pennsylvania will not meet Chesapeake Bay pollution reduction goal

The Rundown

  • Because Pennsylvania will miss a 2025 deadline Chesapeake Bay improvements, the EPA will continue tightening oversight of the state’s polluters.
  • The responsible DHHS office Assistance with water and energy bills collects demographic data of the grant recipients.
  • Federal agencies publish a draft environmental assessment of Tijuana River wastewater projects.
  • The Biden administration issues a report on it nature-based solutions to the climate crisis.
  • The EPA Drinking Water Advisory Group will hold a public session this week.
  • The EPA’s internal watchdog reports that small water systems are lagging behind Internet security Dimensions.

And finally, the EPA reports that more polluter comply with the limits of their disposal permits.

“The final amended Phase III WIP does not provide the EPA with confidence that by 2025 Pennsylvania will have all of the processes and controls in place to meet the CBP partnership’s nitrogen and sediment targets.” – Letter from Adam Ortiz, Administrator of the EPA Region 3, to the acting chief of the Pennsylvania Environmental Protection Agency. CBP is the Chesapeake Bay Program, and the US Environmental Protection Agency found that Pennsylvania is not doing enough to prevent environmentally harmful 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 increase its oversight of farms and stormwater runoff, two major sources of the pollutant.

Through the numbers

9 percent: Percentage of polluters not complying with their Clean Water Act discharge permit this year, according to the EPA. The non-compliance rate has fallen by more than half since 2018, exceeding the agency’s target. Approximately 46,000 facilities are subject to such permits.

short messages

Nature-based climate solutions
The Biden administration identified five key areas for federal action to use trees, wetlands and other natural features to respond to a warming planet.

The areas of action include: new policies, financing and professional training. Federal agencies must incorporate green designs. And more research is needed.

studies and reports

Review of Tijuana River Runoff Reduction Projects
Federal agencies have released a draft environmental assessment of projects to reduce sewage flows and water pollution in the Tijuana River.

The Tijuana River, shared by the US and Mexico, is plagued by polluted water. The US government has pledged at least $300 million for projects on both sides of the border, including modernizing sewage systems and sewage treatment plants.

Data collection for energy and water bill support
The Department of Health and Human Services agency, which oversees government support for water and energy bills, is trying to collect more data on those receiving grants.

Beginning in fiscal year 2023, the Office of Community Services wants to know race, ethnicity, gender, and renter/homeowner status for recipients of LIHEAP, the utility bill assistance program. The agency is already planning to collect this demographic information for LIHWAP, the Water Accounting Program, next year.

The aim is to check whether federal funds are distributed fairly.

Cybersecurity Audit
The EPA’s Office of the Inspector General reviewed compliance with state cybersecurity requirements and found that small systems serving disadvantaged communities most commonly failed risk assessments mandated by a 2018 law.

The audit found that 19 percent of water systems did not provide 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 the staff or technical skills to meet the requirements.

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

The audit made four recommendations for agency action, but EPA disagreed, saying they weren’t necessary.

Related: There are cheap cybersecurity defenses out there, but they’re not reaching the water utilities that need them

On the radar

Meeting of the National Drinking Water Advisory Board
The panel of experts advising 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, and a working group update on the harmful compounds produced as a by-product of drinking water disinfection.

The session is public. Register here.

satellite listening
On December 1, a Senate subcommittee on Commerce, Science and Transportation will hold a hearing on Earth observation satellites.

Related: New satellite will see the full picture of the water

Great Lakes Advisory Board Meeting
The panel of experts advising 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 review of trends in US government water policy. To get more water news, consequences Circle of Blue on Twitter and subscribe to our newsletter.