Feb 28, 2018

Hot Topics in Government

Federal & state legislative initiatives follow national trends

Federal & state legislative initiatives follow national trends

With a new year, federal and state governments are reconvening to deliberate over proposed legislation. The momentum created by media coverage of drinking water across the nation has carried over from 2017. Legislators are continuing to discuss drinking water infrastructure; how to improve detecting and remediating regulated contaminants, such as lead; and how to address emerging contaminants.


To support disaster relief efforts, including infrastructure repairs, after hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, as well as the 2017 wildfires, representatives in Washington, D.C., have proposed legislation to provide aid. House Bill 4667 makes supplemental appropriations for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2018, for disaster assistance. The Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands Equitable Rebuild Act of 2018 (House Bill 4782) is aimed at providing additional disaster recovery assistance for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

State governments also are assessing how to improve their water infrastructure. Last year, Pennsylvania and California considered legislation to create task forces to look into each state’s drinking water. Although neither bill has become law, Indiana now is aiming to establish its own state task force to study drinking water systems and wastewater management systems under Senate Bill 361. The task force would be charged with developing a long-term plan by Dec. 1, 2018, addressing the drinking water and wastewater needs of the state.

The California State Assembly is considering Resolution 21, which would amend the State’s constitution to create the California Infrastructure Investment Fund. Each fiscal year, an amount equal to up to 2.5% of the estimated General Fund would be transferred to the Infrastructure Investment Fund.

Lead in Schools

Along with attention to infrastructure, several legislators continue to focus on lead in schools. In 2017, Virginia considered adopting a state amended maximum contaminant level for lead, but the legislation was not adopted. This year, the proposal has been reintroduced as Virginia House Bill 979. It establishes the action level for lead in drinking water as no more than 10 ppb beginning January 1, 2019, and no more than 5 ppb beginning Jan. 1, 2023.

Michigan also is continuing to address lead in drinking water at the state level with House bills 5400 and 5401. They will require every veterans facility to sample and test monthly for lead and all other substances for which there is a state drinking water standard established under the Safe Drinking Water Act to determine whether the water is in compliance.

New Jersey already has introduced several bills in 2018 to address lead. Assembly Bill 676 and Senate Bill 772 require lead testing at institutes of higher education. Assembly Bill 1875 requires lead testing at public and nonpublic schools. Assembly Bill 1879 requires lead testing at child care centers. All four bills list installing and maintaining a filter at the drinking water outlet as a proper remediation option.

Addressing Emerging Contaminants

In 2017, the Water Quality Assn. (WQA) worked to unify several water groups to endorse the federal Senate Bill 914, which would create a national strategy to coordinate the federal response to and scientific research on emerging contaminants, as well as aid states in responding to public health challenges posed by potentially harmful materials such as perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs). With WQA’s support, the first national study on the impact of PFCs was authorized by both the House and Senate in the 2018 fiscal year National Defense Authorization Act and signed into law by President Donald Trump.

States also are taking steps to address PFCs and other contaminants beyond lead in drinking water. Michigan House Resolution 228 creates a framework for agencies to ensure worthwhile and relevant use of funds is carried out for PFC-related activities.

Over the course of 2017, North Carolina received a great deal of media attention for GenX, a trade name for an unregulated PFC used as a replacement for perfluorooctanoic acid that has been detected in drinking water. North Carolina House Bill 189 on emerging contaminants was introduced in February 2017, and in early January 2018 passed the House to move onto the Senate. It directs the Department of Health and Human Services and the Secretaries’ Science Advisory Board to work together on developing contaminant health goals. The proposed legislation also provides funding for identification, characterization, and monitoring of GenX and other emerging contaminants in the state.

Similar to North Carolina, New Hampshire’s House of Representatives has carried over proposed legislation from 2017 to address arsenic, methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) and PFCs. House Bill 1592 requires the revision of the ambient groundwater quality standard for arsenic to 0.004 ppb. House Bill 1727 sets the permissible level of MTBE in drinking water at 0.5 micrograms per liter. House Bill 1799 focuses on PFCs exposure testing, directing the Department of Health and Human Services to offer blood testing for PFCs. Additionally, the state’s Senate, in Senate Bill 309, is proposing to adopt a state drinking water standard and ambient groundwater quality standards, and to establish surface water quality standards for PFCs.

Another emerging contaminant, 1,2,3-Trichloropropane (TCP), is also being addressed at the state level. In 2017, California’s State Water Resources Control Board adopted a state maximum contaminant level for 1,2,3-TCP, at 5 ppt. New Jersey introduced Assembly Bill 352 in January 2018 to require the state’s Department of Environmental Protection establish a maximum contaminant level for 1,2,3-TCP in drinking water at 15 ppt.

As the year progresses, monitoring drinking water legislation will continue to be vital as the bills are potentially amended and put to votes. 

About the author

Kathleen Fultz is regulatory and government affairs manager for the Water Quality Assn. Fultz can be reached at [email protected] or 630.505.0160.