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EPA drinking water regulatory outlook 2001


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EPA drinking water regulatory outlook 2001

12/19/2000 “It is a mistake to look too far ahead. Only one link in the
chain of destiny can be handled at a time.”—Sir Winston Churchill

By Frederick W. Pontius, P.E., Pontius Water Consultants, Inc.

Speculating on the future is always risky business. Remember Y2K? What was
to be sure disaster passed as perhaps the biggest non-event of the millennium.
With the Presidential race now settled, attention has quickly turned to the
key Presidential appointees: the selection of Congressional committee members
and chairs, the inauguration, and the beginning of a new Congress. The twists
and turns in judicial rulings of recent weeks alone illustrate how quickly speculations
can be overtaken, trampled by other events. And so it is with the US Environmental
Protection Agency’s (EPA) drinking water regulatory agenda…

EPA’s regulatory agenda Twice a year the Executive Office publishes an
official federal agency regulatory agenda in the Federal Register. The status
of all planned, current, and anticipated rulemakings are reviewed. EPA’s
most recent agenda listed 21 regulatory actions related to the Safe Drinking
Water Act (SDWA) for the next 12-month period. Just how future drinking water
rules will be impacted by the Presidential election and change in administration
is a matter of speculation. Prior to the election, the lineup looked something
like this…

December 2000—EPA anticipated issuing three rulings by 2000’s end.
A final rule to update analytical methods, the final revisions to the Stage
1 Disinfection Byproducts Rule (DBPR) and Interim Enhance Surface Water Treatment
Rule (IESWTR), and a final rule for Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule
(UCMR) List 2 Methods. Pending completion of the notices and, in some cases,
a decision as to whether full review by the Office of Management and Budget
(OMB) is needed, these actions will likely slip into the new year.

January 2001—EPA planned to proposed a secondary standard for Methyl-Tertiary
Butyl Ether (MTBE), issue the final Long-Term 1 Enhanced Surface Water Treatment
Rule (LT1ESWTR), and issue the final filter backwash rule (FBR). Of these, only
the FBR has been forwarded for OMB review.

March 2001—A final rule codifying the Drinking Water State Revolving
Loan Fund (DWSRF) guidelines is expected. In addition, proposal of Method 1622
for Cryptosporidium and Giardia is scheduled.

May 2001—Proposals for the Stage 2 DBPR and Long-Term 2 Enhanced Surface
Water Treatment Rule (LT2ESWTR) are expected. Issuance of these proposals is
critical to meeting the statutory deadline of May 2002 for final rulemakings.
Also, a proposal to regulate approximately 20 types of Underground Injection
Control (UIC) Class V wells is scheduled.

June 2001—The final radon rule and final ground water rule are expected.
The final arsenic rule is due no later than June 22, 2001 by congressional action.

July 2001—A proposed rule to require public water systems and States
to report regulated contaminant occurrence level data to USEPA is expected.

August 2001—Scheduled for this month is a proposed rule for aldicarb
and metabolites which has been in the works for several years, an Advanced Notice
of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) for six-year review of drinking water regulations,
a decision whether or not to regulate sulfate, and an update of State UIC programs.

September 2001—Determinations are due as to whether or not regulation
is needed for at least five contaminants on the Drinking Water Candidate Contaminant
List (DWCCL). The long-delayed rule to reformat drinking water regulations is
also scheduled.

Speculating on the future The above agenda is already changing. But like gasoline
is to a car, so news and rumor are to Washington. The perception of how new
regulations will fair under a new administration will influence agency actions
in the coming weeks. In many cases politics and expectations of the future will
drive events and knee-jerk decisions of stakeholders and the agency rather than
reasoned judgments. Some regulatory actions may be suspended and trade press
reports claim that the arsenic rule will be done by inauguration day.

In post-election Washington anything is possible, though not everything is
likely. A predictable regulatory agenda will not be known until all appointees
are in place, agency reorganizations are completed, and priorities are set.
To think much beyond the regulatory actions listed above, knowing that deadlines
will change—in the words of Sir Winston Churchill—is to ‘look
too far ahead.’

About the Author: Frederick W. Pontius, P.E., is president of Pontius Water
Consultants, Inc., Lakewood, CO, specializing in drinking water regulatory affairs,
compliance, water quality and treatment. Fred has 20+ years in the water and
wastewater industries. He is a frequent conference and seminar speaker, was
a former staffer with the American Water Works Association from 1982 to 1999,
and is a contributing editor to the Journal of the American Water Works Association
(since 1991). He may be reached at fredp@pontiuswater.com.


See what other topics Fred Pontius has addressed in his column, Getting the
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