Joel Beauvais

About Joel Beauvais

Posts by Joel Beauvais:

Water Infrastructure is Everyone’s Business

By Joel Beauvais

Safe drinking water and effective wastewater management are basic building blocks of public health. Too often, we neglect our infrastructure until it fails. We need to invest in America’s water infrastructure – and we need to be strategic about doing it right – especially in disadvantaged communities.

We’ve known for years that our nation’s investments in water and wastewater infrastructure weren’t keeping up with the needs—which EPA estimates at $655 billion over the next 20 years. But those struggles are not the same everywhere—they are most acute in low-income and small communities.

In the wealthiest country on Earth, clean water needs to be available to everyone–no matter what part of the country you live in, no matter how much or how little money you make, and no matter the color of your skin.

To fix the problem, we’ll not only need innovative financing to leverage more investment, but we’ll also need to help these communities build capacity—so they can sustainably manage and operate their water systems, get access to those funds, and put them to good use.

We have to start by confronting the same ingrained, systemic challenges that threaten our country’s water resources – a resource that’s essential to every human being on the planet.

  • That means taking a serious look at America’s aging water infrastructure – in both urban and rural communities across the country – and asking ourselves what needs to be done to upgrade it.
  • That means finding better ways to address legacy pollutants, while striving to better understand the risks of emerging pollutants—and what they mean for water treatment technologies moving forward.
  • That means asking hard questions about how we achieve environmental justice—and how we deal with the long-term disinvestment in low income communities that contributed to situations like the terrible one we saw in Flint.

Everyone needs to bring their tools to the table—at the local, tribal and state level—along with utilities, investors, community advocates, and civil society. There’s a lot of innovative work going on out there, and we need to share and leverage each other’s ideas and expertise.

Joel Beauvais speaks from behind the conference panel table with four other presenters facing a room filled with conference attendees.

Joel Beauvais, Deputy Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Water, speaks on a panel about best practices in water infrastructure funding coordination in Washington, DC.

For one thing, we need to make sure our current funding is working as hard as it can. Some states have been especially successful in leveraging EPA capitalization grants into more money—that can be lent to borrowers at below-market interest rates. We need to transfer these lessons to all states.

We also need new tools. EPA is getting started with one new one—our Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act, or WIFIA, authority, to provide loans for large infrastructure projects. We hope to have rules on this out by the end of this year.

Finally, we also need to attract more private capital into the infrastructure market. This is not a new idea—many communities have been doing this for years, but we need to apply lessons learned to other parts of the country.

We know that for our infrastructure to stand the test of time, we have to build sustainability and climate resilience into our designs. EPA’s Water Infrastructure and Resiliency Finance Center was created a year and a half ago to provide innovative financial and technical guidance to communities.

Already, they’re helping communities across the country make better-informed decisions about financing resilient, sustainable infrastructure projects—consistent with their local needs. We’re doing it through direct outreach, tools, and strategies shared in regional water finance forums and everyday conversations. We also provide technical assistance grants to help small systems get the technical, managerial, and financial capacity they need to stay sustainable over the long term.

The WaterCare project, announced earlier this year, is also helping communities in need by offering targeted financial and technical planning and guidance.

And EPA is developing a drinking water action plan that focuses on addressing environmental justice and equity in infrastructure funding. We’ll be releasing that later this year.

We are committed to working with all of you to strengthen our nation’s drinking water and wastewater infrastructure. Our health—and our national security—depend on it.

 

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA Continues Work with States to Improve Protection from Lead in Drinking Water

By Joel Beauvais

Taking action to address lead in drinking water is a top priority for EPA. We are continuing our robust work on implementation and compliance with the Lead and Copper Rule (LCR), working closely with states, who under the Safe Drinking Water Act are the first line of oversight of drinking water systems. During the past six months, EPA has engaged with every state drinking water program to ensure they are addressing any high lead levels and fully implementing the current rule.

On February 29, 2016, EPA sent letters to all Governors, state environment and public health commissioners, and tribal leaders outlining specific steps they should take to enhance oversight of LCR implementation. Today, we are providing our response to the letters received from states and are making the state responses available on our website.

Currently, every state has confirmed – either in its initial response to the February 29 letters or in follow-up communications with EPA – that state protocols and procedures are fully consistent with the  LCR and applicable EPA guidance, including protocols and procedures for optimizing corrosion control. States have indicated that they already posted or will post state LCR sampling protocols and guidance to their public websites. In addition, many states have provided examples of how they are promoting transparency and public education.

The state responses also highlight areas where both states and EPA should focus further efforts with public water systems going forward. These include:

  • prompt public notification of lead sampling results and public education following action level exceedances,
  • increased focus on systems serving vulnerable populations including schools, systems with historical action level exceedances
  • identification of lead service line locations, and
  • additional training and information to address key issues identified in the state responses, including LCR requirements and corrosion control.

We appreciate the state responses, and will continue to follow up on the identified issue areas to confirm proper implementation of the Lead and Copper Rule and related agency guidance, as well as to offer assistance if needed. We encourage all states to learn from one another and to implement best practices that strengthen public health protections. EPA remains committed to, and is actively working on, proposed revisions to the LCR that will strengthen the public health protections of the rule.

EPA has also launched a concerted, strategic engagement with key partners and stakeholders – including state, tribal and local governments, drinking water utilities, and public health, environmental and community stakeholders – to develop and implement a national action plan to address the critical drinking water challenges and opportunities before us.

Learn more about what you can do to reduce lead in your drinking water.

 

 

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Celebrating 10 Years of WaterSense

By Joel Beauvais

Did you know that two-thirds of the continental U.S. has experienced drought in the last few years? It has left many utilities grappling with water scarcity and the costs of finding new water resources and treatment.

This makes conserving water is more important now than ever.

This month we mark the 10th anniversary of EPA’s WaterSense program, which has helped save more than 1.5 trillion gallons of water and $32.6 billion on American utility bills.

How did we do this? Through the power of partnerships the WaterSense program has transformed the marketplace for products that save water, saved Americans’ money, and protected the environment. WaterSense has partnered with more than 1,700 manufacturers, retailers and distributors, water and energy utilities, state and local government, non-profit and trade organizations, irrigation training organizations, and home builders.

Today, thanks to working with industry and other partners, American families and businesses can buy WaterSense-labeled products that use at least 20 percent less water and are independently certified to perform as well or better than standard models. In fact, Americans can choose from more than 16,000 available models of WaterSense-labeled products for bathrooms, commercial kitchens and irrigation systems.

Already, more than 700 families around the country have cut their energy and water bills by up to $600 because they live in WaterSense-labeled new homes that can save about 50,000 gallons of water every year, compared to a typical home. Homeowners and businesses can hire any of the 2,200 WaterSense certified irrigation professionals to help design, install, and maintain an irrigation system that delivers a healthy landscape while minimizing waste.

Last week I had the opportunity to visit a product design laboratory of one of our valued WaterSense partners, Kohler Company. Kohler has been a partner since 2007, offering more than 600 models of WaterSense labeled products and becoming an eight time WaterSense award winner. Kohler, like many of our partners, has brought leading-edge innovation to U.S. customers by designing and testing new toilets, faucets, shower heads, and more for efficiency and performance. It was great to talk with Kohler’s sustainability and design team about what has made the partnership work and to hear their thoughts for the future.

I’m proud that the WaterSense label has become an international symbol that consumers and businesses can rely on for superior performing water-efficiency products. We couldn’t have accomplished our successes without the strong partnership we have built with our network of partners representing all sectors of the economy. Working hand-in-hand with these partners helps this nation protect our water supply and meet the challenges of climate change.

I encourage you to join a Twitter Chat we are hosting tomorrow at 1 p.m. to celebrate the anniversary and answer questions about how to save water this summer. To join the conversation, follow @EPAWater on Twitter use the #WaterSense in your messages during the chat.

Learn more about WaterSense and actions you can take to save water at: www.epa.gov/watersense.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

May is American Wetlands Month: What We’re Doing to Protect America’s Wetlands

By Joel Beauvais

May is American Wetlands Month and a time to celebrate the importance of our nation’s wetlands. Healthy wetlands reduce water pollution, buffer communities from severe and costly impacts from floods, and provide habitat for fish and wildlife. Our economy also benefits from many recreational opportunities that wetlands offer along with goods that come from wetlands.

Earlier this month, we released the country’s first-ever national assessment of the ecological health of our nation’s wetlands. With support from our state, tribal, and federal partners, we were able to send over 50 field crews to survey 1,138 wetlands across the nation to collect data on plants, soil, water chemistry, and algae.

The report found that about half of our wetlands are in good condition, with 32 percent in poor condition.  Nationally, the top sources of stress for wetlands come from vegetation removal through actions like mowing and forest clearing, soil compaction for paths and roads, and intrusion of non-native plants.

The report’s state-of-the-art, high-quality wetland science has advanced our understanding of these dynamic and extremely important ecosystems that were once actively removed throughout much of the U.S. With new insight, we are in a better position to work with our state partners to more effectively manage, protect, and restore some of those wetlands that have been lost.

It’s exciting to see that others are finding this environmental data useful, too. The Association of State Wetland Managers is using the report’s monitoring methods to evaluate wetland restoration projects in North Carolina and Ohio.  EPA’s Office of Air is using the collected soil carbon data to better estimate carbon sequestration in coastal wetlands and marshes. And, states and tribes are reaching out to us to develop complementary monitoring tools, analytical approaches, and data management technology to further their wetland protection and restoration programs.

The sampling work for the next report is already underway. It will be interesting to see new trends emerge that show that progress we are making to improve the condition of our nations’ wetlands.

EPA is also launching the National Wetland Condition Assessment Campus Research Challenge to encourage graduate students to identify and use the data to address one or more key and innovative questions and hypotheses on water quality, wetland health, or wetland ecology.

In addition to advancing the science, EPA is working with partners to address wetland protection and restoration in the U.S. Some of the ways include:

  • Overseeing dredge and fill permit decisions to ensure permits are based on science and policy, as well as developing tools for improving the management of aquatic resource protections.
  • Working with states and tribes directly and through the Association of State Wetland Mangers to bolster the ability of states and tribes to manage, regulate and protect wetlands within their state and tribal lands.
  • Working with other federal agencies on national programs to map, assess, manage and restore wetland resources on federal lands and to help private landowners be informed stewards of their wetland resources.
  • Continuing to lead the Interagency Coastal Wetlands Workgroup on new tools, strategies, and information for protecting and restoring wetlands in coastal watersheds.

I hope you all take some time during American Wetlands Month to read our assessment and then get out to experience a wetland first-hand.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Science Guides Public Health Protection for Drinking Water

By Joel Beauvais

As a country, we’ve come a long way toward providing clean air, water, and land – essential resources that support healthy, productive lives. But we have more work to do to make sure that every American has access to safe drinking water.

That’s why EPA launched a concerted engagement effort with key partners and stakeholders – including state, tribal and local governments, drinking water utilities, and public health, environmental and community stakeholders – to develop and implement a national action plan to address critical drinking water challenges and opportunities.

As always, our work to protect public health and the environment must consistently be built on a foundation of sound science and data. When it comes to drinking water, scientific information helps us identify pollutants of concern – including new or emerging contaminants – assess potential health impacts, and understand the steps needed to address them.

Today, based on the latest science on two chemical contaminants called PFOA and PFOS, EPA released drinking water health advisories to provide the most up-to-date information on the health risks of these chemicals. These advisories will help local water systems and state, tribal and local officials take the appropriate steps to address PFOA and PFOS if needed.

For many years, PFOA and PFOS were widely used in carpets, clothing, furniture fabrics, food packaging, and other materials to make them more resistant to water, grease, and stains. PFOA and PFOS were also used for firefighting at airfields and in a number of industrial processes.  Between 2000 and 2002, PFOS was voluntarily phased out of production in the U.S. by its primary manufacturer. And EPA asked eight major companies to commit to eliminate their production and use of PFOA by the end of 2015 and they have indicated that they have met their commitments. While there are some limited ongoing uses of these chemicals, in recent years, blood testing data has shown that exposures are declining across the country.

For most people, their source of exposure to PFOA and PFOS has come through food and consumer products. But drinking water can be an additional source of exposure in the small percentage of communities where these chemicals have contaminated water supplies.  This is typically a localized issue associated with a specific facility – for example, in communities where a manufacturing plant or airfield made or used these chemicals.

EPA’s assessment indicates that drinking water with individual or combined concentrations of PFOA and PFOS below 70 parts per trillion is not expected to result in adverse health effects over a lifetime of exposure.  These levels reflect a margin of protection, including for the most sensitive populations.

If these chemicals are found in drinking water systems above these levels, system operators should quickly conduct additional sampling to assess the level, scope, and source of contamination.  They should also promptly notify consumers and consult with their state drinking water agency to discuss appropriate next steps. Public notification is especially important for pregnant or nursing women because of the impact these chemicals can have on the development of fetuses and breastfed or formula-fed infants. There are a number of options available to water systems to lower concentrations of these chemicals in the drinking water supply.

EPA will continue sharing the latest science and information so that state and local officials can make informed decisions and take actions to protect public health.  This is an important part of our broader effort to support states and public water systems as we work together to strengthen the safety of America’s drinking water.

For more information on the health advisories for PFOA and PFOS, visit the webpage.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Moving Forward for America’s Drinking Water

By Joel Beauvais

Our nation’s record of progress in advancing public health under the Safe Drinking Water Act is significant.  But too little water in the West, flooding from extreme weather in the Midwest and Southeast, and the recent water quality issues in Flint, Michigan have rightly focused national attention on America’s drinking water.  As a country, we can and must do more to make sure that every American has access to safe drinking water.  EPA is committed to working together with our governmental partners, communities and stakeholders to strengthen the nation’s drinking water systems. That is why, today, we are announcing the next steps in that effort.  Beginning next month, EPA will lead a series of engagements to inform a national action plan on drinking water, to be released by the end of the year.  In addition, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) has begun a new study of the science and technology relevant to ensuring the safety of the nation’s drinking water.

THE PROGRESS WE’VE MADE

With public attention rightly focused on drinking water quality in communities across the country, it’s worth remembering how far we’ve come in providing clean safe drinking water.  Before Congress passed the Safe Drinking Water Act in 1974 – granting EPA the authority and the funding to take action and affirming the leading role of states and municipalities – more than 40 percent of our nation’s drinking water systems failed to meet even the most basic health standards.

Today, over 300 million Americans depend on 152,000 public drinking water systems and collectively drink more than one billion glasses of tap water each day.  Our agency has established standards for more than 90 contaminants, and our compliance data show that more than 90 percent of the nation’s water systems consistently meet those standards.  Clean water is the lifeblood of healthy, vibrant communities and our nation’s economy.  Making sure that all Americans have reliable access to safe drinking water is essential, and a core task for EPA.

Over the years, through the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund established by Congress in 1996, $30 billion in low-interest loans have supported infrastructure projects that are delivering drinking water to thousands of communities across the country.  This has supplemented local and state finance of drinking water infrastructure – especially in low-income communities and where public health risk is the highest.

And, relatedly, our Clean Water Rule is a major step forward to protect our nation’s precious water resources, including streams that are the source of drinking water for 117 million Americans – over one third of the country’s population.

We’ve come so far.  But our work is far from done.

NEW AND REMAINING CHALLENGES

The crisis in Flint, Michigan has brought to the forefront the challenges many communities across the country are facing, including from lead pipes that carry their drinking water and uneven publicly-available information around drinking water quality.  At the same time, as new technology advances our detection ability, we’re detecting new contaminants in our water from industrial chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and other sources that can pose risks to public health.

And science now shows that climate change – especially the extreme weather and drought impacts it brings – are placing added stress on water resources and creating uncertainty in many regions of the country.

In some areas, pollution threatens upstream sources like rivers and lakes that feed into our drinking water.  Hundreds of thousands of Americans were cut off from drinking water because of a chemical spill in Charleston, West Virginia and a harmful algal bloom on Lake Erie that impacted the drinking water for Toledo, Ohio.  We need to protect our drinking water sources and the Clean Water Rule is critical to that effort.

Meanwhile, EPA data show that at least $384 billion in improvements will be needed through 2030 to maintain, upgrade and replace thousands of miles of pipe and thousands of treatment plants, storage tanks and water distribution systems that make up our country’s water infrastructure.  And if local and state governments do not lean into these investments and instead defer and delay, rebuilding our water infrastructure will only become more expensive.

Too often, the toughest infrastructure challenges are found in low-income, minority communities – both large and small – where inadequate revenue and investment have left many water systems crumbling from age and neglect, and where citizens lack the resources and timely and accurate information about their water quality to do something about it.

These are big challenges and EPA recognizes that no one can tackle them alone.

MOVING FORWARD – ENGAGING KEY PARTNERS AND STAKEHOLDERS ON A NATIONAL ACTION PLAN FOR SAFE DRINKING WATER

That’s why we’re launching a concerted, strategic engagement with key partners and stakeholders – including state, tribal and local governments, drinking water utilities, and public health, environmental and community stakeholders – to develop and implement a national action plan to address the critical drinking water challenges and opportunities before us.

EPA has already intensified our work with state drinking water programs with a priority focus on implementation of the federal Lead and Copper Rule, including directing EPA staff to meet with officials from every state to make sure they’re addressing any high lead levels and fully implementing the current rule.

We sent letters to every governor and every state environmental and/or health commissioner of states that implement the Safe Drinking Water Act, urging them to work with EPA on steps to strengthen protections against lead and on a broader set of critical priorities to keep our drinking water safe.  We’re following up with each and every state on actions to increase public health protection, transparency and accountability.

We’re now taking the next step forward.  In the coming weeks, EPA will launch a targeted engagement with key state co-regulators, regulated utilities, and nongovernmental stakeholders on priority issues related to implementing the Safe Drinking Water Act.  The focus of that engagement will include:

  • Advancing Next Generation Safe Drinking Water Act Implementation:  Identify key opportunities and initiate work on critical next steps to strengthen and modernize state and federal implementation of Safe Drinking Water Act regulations and programs, including ways to increase public data transparency and accountability.
  • Addressing Environmental Justice and Equity in Infrastructure Funding:  Identify additional steps federal, state, tribal and local governments, and utilities can take to better ensure that drinking water infrastructure challenges of low-income environmental justice communities and small systems are being appropriately prioritized and addressed, including through increased information, sharing and replicating best practices, and building community capacity.
  • Strengthening Protections against Lead in Drinking Water: Prioritize opportunities to collaborate and make progress on implementing the current Lead and Copper Rule, particularly in environmental justice communities and expand and strengthen opportunities for stakeholder engagement to support the development of a revised rule.
  • Emerging and Unregulated Contaminant Strategies:  Develop and implement improved approaches through which EPA, state, tribal and local governments, utilities and other stakeholders can work together to prioritize and address the challenges posed by emerging and unregulated contaminants such as algal toxins and perfluorinated compounds (PFCs).

In each of these areas, we will work together with our partners and stakeholders to set a strategic agenda and identify and implement priority, near-term actions we can take in the coming months.  By the end of this year, we will release a summary of our progress and a national action plan for the future.

At the same time, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) is beginning a new study of the science and technology relevant to ensuring the Nation’s drinking-water quality.  PCAST will seek input from EPA, other relevant agencies, and a wide range of experts on ideas on investments in new technology and infrastructure to protect drinking water resources, detect pollutants, advance treatment to remove contaminants and pathogens, and develop improved infrastructure for the future.  Following this review, PCAST will recommend actions the federal government can take, in concert with cities and states, to promote application of the best available science and technology to drinking-water safety.  This builds on current efforts by the Administration to draw on the power of existing and breakthrough technology to boost innovation in water supply.

We owe it to our kids today and to future generations to take steps now and develop future actions to ensure that all Americans have affordable access to high-quality water when and where they need it.  We look forward to partnering with the public and stakeholders in the development of this plan.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Working for Clean Water is a Dream Come True

By Joel Beauvais

I grew up in rural Connecticut in the Housatonic River watershed. My childhood revolved around water, whether it was swimming and fishing in the lakes and streams near my home or hiking in the forested foothills of the Berkshires. It’s a remarkably beautiful part of the country and its waters are a big part of that. But I also learned that problems can lurk beneath the surface, as we were taught early on not to eat the fish we caught because of legacy contamination.

My first job out of college was in Central America, where I worked for several years with indigenous communities to protect the BOSAWAS Biosphere Reserve, the second largest tropical forest in the Western Hemisphere. I spent much of my time traveling by river, living a couple days travel by dugout canoe from the nearest road, electricity or running water. For the communities with whom I worked, water is everything – not just drinking water, but their primary mode of transportation, source of food, and the key to understanding their whole landscape. That experience really brought home to me how critical water is – and how vulnerable poorer communities can be to environmental degradation.

These days, I work in an office instead of the jungle, but I find myself returning to the water again and again. My family loves to canoe and we get out to hike trails by the water every chance we get. Like many families, we visit the ocean every summer – in our case, the Maine coast. When I look at our family photos, it seems every other one is on the water – those experiences are a touchstone for us, as for so many others across the country and the world.

While I’ve worked most of my career on energy and climate issues, my real passion is environmental conservation. Water, to me, is at the heart of that. It’s central to our health, our communities, and our economy.

So I am absolutely thrilled at the opportunity to lead EPA’s Office of Water. I have immense respect for the office and those who work here, as well as for our regional water offices and all of our partners across state and local government and the private sector. I’m really looking forward to listening to, learning from, and partnering with all of you.

During the past two years leading EPA’s Office of Policy, I’ve had the opportunity to play a key role in finalizing some of our key water rules, including the Clean Water Rule to better protect our nation’s streams and wetlands, the Steam Electric rule that keeps 1.4 billion pounds of toxic pollutants out of waterways each year, and the Cooling Water Intake rule that protects fish and shellfish in rivers.

I’ve also played a leadership role on the Agency’s efforts to help communities grow sustainably and to adapt to the impacts of climate change, which has given me a lot of exposure to the Office of Water’s work on green infrastructure, stormwater management and sustainable water infrastructure.

As we look to the year ahead, this is an exciting time for the Office of Water and there’s no question that there’s a tremendous amount to get done. We must continue to help communities build resilience to climate change, finance improvements to infrastructure, provide safe drinking water, and reduce pollution in waterways where people fish and swim. EPA’s continued support for the work of our state, local, and tribal partners and for innovation and technology in the water sector will be critical.

I’m looking forward to working with all of you on all these fronts.

Joel Beauvais serves as the acting Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Office of Water at EPA. Prior to his appointment in the Office of Water, Joel served as Associate Administrator for EPA’s Office of Policy, the agency’s primary arm for cross-cutting regulatory policy and economics. He also served as Associate Assistant Administrator in EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, where he oversaw a broad portfolio of domestic and international air quality and climate policy issues, and as Special Counsel to the Office of the Administrator in EPA’s Office of General Counsel. He previously served as counsel to the Committee on Energy and Commerce in the U.S. House of Representatives, worked in private practice, and clerked for Justice Sandra Day O’Connor on the Supreme Court of the United States.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA Takes Next Steps to Protect Drinking Water from Harmful Algal Blooms

2015 brought a summer of green water, with many areas of the nation seeing a record year for the growth of harmful algal blooms (HABs) in rivers and lakes – including a 700-mile long bloom on the Ohio River and the largest bloom ever in Lake Erie. These HABs contain toxins that pose serious risks to our health and drinking water quality. EPA estimates that between 30 and 48 million people use drinking water from lakes and reservoirs that may be vulnerable to contamination by algal toxins. In 2014, the City of Toledo had to curtail drinking water use for three days as a result in Lake Erie, which supplies the city’s drinking water.

Last spring EPA issued health advisory values that states and utilities can use to protect Americans from elevated levels of algal toxins in drinking water. We also provided recommendations to water system operators on how to monitor and treat drinking water for algal toxins and notify the public if drinking water exceeds protective levels. Additionally, we are working with NASA, NOAA, and the U.S. Geological Survey to develop an early warning indicator system and mobile app powered by satellite data to detect algal blooms.

Today, we’re releasing a comprehensive strategic plan outlining ongoing actions to address algal toxins in drinking water. Solving the challenge of algal toxins in drinking water will require action at all levels of government and approaches that are collaborative, innovative, and persistent. EPA will work closely with other federal agencies, state and local governments, and the public to provide scientific and technical leadership on a number of fronts, including health effects studies. We will work on treatment techniques and monitoring technologies, develop innovative mapping tools to help protect drinking water sources, provide technical support to states and public water systems, issue health advisories, and support activities to protect drinking water sources.

In the next year alone, EPA intends to:

  • Develop and propose recreational water quality criteria for two types of algal toxins (microcystins and cylindrospermopsin), which will help protect people who paddle, swim, and spend time by the water.
  • Collaborate on workshops to address HABs’ impacts on drinking water and activities to protect drinking water sources.
  • Evaluate whether to include certain cyanotoxins in the fourth Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule, which will require the collection of drinking water to better understand whether these toxins are present in drinking water systems.
  • Assist utilities in managing the risks from cyanotoxins to drinking water.
  • Publish monitoring data for cyanobacteria and microcystins in the National Aquatic Resource Survey National Lakes Assessment.
  • Accelerate development and use of technologies that can recover nitrogen and phosphorus from animal manure and generate value-added products by partnering with the dairy and swine industries on the Nutrient Recycling Challenge.
  • Improve EPA’s Drinking Water Mapping Application for Protecting Source Waters.
  • Co-lead an interagency working group to develop a Comprehensive Research Plan and Action Strategy to address marine and freshwater HABs and hypoxia.
  • Provide funding for critical projects that reduce nutrient pollution that fuels HABs in the Great Lakes.

Algal toxins are a growing problem in the United States
Naturally occurring blue-green algae in surface water can form HABs. Some species of HABs produce toxic compounds, called algal toxins or cyanotoxins, which can pose health risks to humans and animals. These blooms and their toxins are more than a nuisance – they also have the ability to cause fish kills and contaminate drinking water supplies. Their presence can disrupt recreational activities and harm the liver, kidney, and nervous system.

HABs are a national problem that is growing in frequency and duration across the country. Excess nutrient (nitrogen and phosphorus) pollution is a leading factor contributing to HAB formation in water bodies. These excess nutrients can originate from urban, agricultural, and industrial sources as well as from atmospheric deposition. Additionally, increased temperatures and changes in frequency and intensity of rainfall associated with climate change can also favor bloom formation. Three significant HAB events plagued parts of the nation the summer of 2015, including:

  • A massive toxic bloom in marine waters that hit the west coast extending from central California to Alaska with some of the highest bloom-related toxin levels ever reported,
  • The largest biomass of algae ever recorded on Lake Erie,
  • A river algal bloom in the Ohio River spanning over 700 miles from Wheeling, WV to Louisville, KY.

The cost of these events is significant and impacts our ability to work, our health, and our environment.  In 2015 alone, we had numerous closures of fisheries and beaches as well as increased costs for treating drinking water for the millions of people that rely on Lake Erie and the Ohio River for their drinking water. The good news is that no drinking water systems stopped service to customers due to algal toxin contamination this year. Unfortunately, this was not the case in 2014, when another large HAB on Lake Erie impacted Toledo, Ohio’s finished drinking water. The elevated levels of a cyanotoxin called microcystin in the city’s drinking water led to a state of emergency in OH, preventing approximately half a million people access to safe public drinking water for over two days.

This wasn’t the first drinking water system to be impacted by cyanotoxins, but this event in Toledo highlighted the need to strategically address HABs in drinking water across the country.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA Releases Roadmap for Agency to Prepare for a Changing Climate

Two years ago this week, Super Storm Sandy slammed into the East Coast, causing approximately $65 billion dollars in damages, as well as loss of life and immeasurable suffering for the people of that region. In many ways, that storm was a wakeup call on the need to better prepare for extreme weather and a changing climate.

Today, we know the climate is changing at a rapid rate, and the risk for extreme weather events is increasing. And that’s why the Climate Change Adaptation Plans we’re releasing today are so important. EPA’s overall plan, prepared in support of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan and Executive Order 13653 (“Preparing the United States for the Impacts of Climate Change”), provides a roadmap for how we’ll work with communities to anticipate and prepare for a changing climate.

Given our critical responsibilities for protecting human health and the environment, we recognize the need for smart, strategic and effective responses to new threats and challenges. This plan delivers just that. It reflects serious thinking about how the work we do can be disrupted by a changing climate and ways that we can begin to reduce those potential risks. And it reflects our commitment to support communities all across the country that are already grappling with questions of resilience to current and future climate changes.

More

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Green Infrastructure Helping to Transform Neighborhoods in Cleveland and Across the Nation

By Alisha Goldstein

By Alisha Goldstein

Every community wants clean water. And most communities would like more green space that allows residents to enjoy the outdoors and makes neighborhoods more attractive. Green infrastructure – a natural approach to managing rainwater with trees, rain gardens, porous pavements, and other elements – can help meet both these goals. It protects water quality while also beautifying streets, parking lots, and plazas, which attracts residents, visitors, and businesses.

This week, we are releasing a new report, Enhancing Sustainable Communities with Green Infrastructure, that can help communities develop a vision and a plan for green infrastructure that can transform their neighborhoods and bring multiple benefits. It can be useful to local governments, water utilities, sewer districts, nonprofits, neighborhood groups, and others interested in innovative approaches to managing stormwater to reduce flooding and bring other environmental, public health, social, and economic benefits.

More

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.