Monday Morning Briefing

Monday Morning Briefing

Subcommittee Advances SDWA Reforms, DWSRF Reauthorization With Bipartisan Support

Legislation that would make a series of minor reforms to the Safe Drinking Water Act while reauthorizing the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) won bipartisan approval from a House subcommittee last week, as lawmakers promised to continue to refine the bill ahead of a full-committee markup.  At issue was the latest draft of the Drinking Water System Improvement Act, an earlier version of which was the subject AMWA testimony during a May 19 hearing on Capitol Hill.

As unanimously approved by the House Environment Subcommittee, the legislation would authorize spending up to $8 billion on the DWSRF over the next five years, while also authorizing up to $750 million for the Public Water System Supervision grant program.  Other components of the bill would:

  • Extend for five years the current “Buy American” provisions that require the use of domestic iron and steel on DWSRF projects, along with provisions that allow EPA to waive the requirement if domestic products would increase overall project costs by more than 25 percent;
  • Require recipients of DWSRF dollars to certify to their state that they have considered the costs and effectiveness of materials and techniques chosen for the project;
  • Offer a two-year enforcement reprieve to water systems that enter contractual agreements to take over “significant management or administrative functions” of other systems that have a history of water quality violations;
  • Require states to report on actions they take to encourage utility asset management planning, and direct EPA to periodically review and update training materials it produces for water utility managers on asset management strategies;
  • Direct EPA to study and report to the public on existing and potential technologies for the treatment and distribution of drinking water;
  • Improve DWSRF loan terms for projects serving disadvantaged communities; and
  • Amend the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act to ensure that community water systems are notified of a release of a contaminant into its source waters.

During the markup the subcommittee also approved a bloc of amendments to the legislation that would include the cost of lead service line replacements in future EPA Drinking Water Needs Surveys, set aside six percent of a state’s annual DWSRF allotment for projects in disadvantaged communities, permanently apply Davis-Bacon wage controls to DWSRF-funded projects, authorize $25 million over five years for grants to help schools replace drinking water fountains tainted with lead, and require the Government Accountability Office to identify instances of duplicative state, local and federal requirements on DWSRF loan recipients.

Additional provisions could be inserted before the bill goes to the full Energy and Commerce Committee.  Lawmakers plan to negotiate proposals to require regular updates to vulnerability assessments and emergency response plans and to increase the frequency of consumer confidence reports (see related story).  AMWA will remain in contact with committee staff as they work through these issues in the coming weeks.

The bill could be ready to go before the full Energy and Commerce Committee before the end of the month.  After that, the bill could be a candidate for inclusion in any comprehensive infrastructure legislation Congress may attempt to assemble later this year.