In this week’s news briefs, the EPA invites utilities to apply for more than $2 billion in loans through the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act, and OSHA issues citations for an incident that killed three sewer workers in January


The EPA has invited 12 utilities to submit applications for more than $2 billion available in loans through the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA), a new program providing long-term, low-cost credit assistance to large water projects.

The EPA initially received 43 letters of interest from both private and public entities. The 12 projects selected cover nine different states. Four of the projects are in California, including the first phase of the city of San Diego’s Pure Water project, construction of a new water recycling facility producing 30 mgd of purified drinking water by 2021. The WIFIA loan would cover $492 million of the $1.2 billion project.

“This is a tremendous boost to our efforts to create an independent, drought-proof water supply for San Diego,” says Mayor Kevin Faulconer.

Related: New Jersey Receives $70M for Water Infrastructure Projects

Source: press release

Utility Head Testifies in Support of Federal Funding for Infrastructure to Senate Subcommittee
The head of a New Jersey utility testified before a U.S. Senate subcommittee last week, touting his agency as an example of how important federal funds are to upgrading water infrastructure while also keeping fees affordable for ratepayers.

“Like clean-water agencies around the country, Camden County Municipal Utilities Authority (CCMUA) has many competing pressures — including the need to reinvest in aging infrastructure, maintain and upgrade treatment processes, comply with Clean Water Act rules and regulations, make strategic long-term investments, and help support a high quality of life in our community which has significant affordability constraints,” Andrew Kricun, executive director and chief engineer of the CCMUA, testified before a subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.

Related: EPA’s 2016 Budget Proposal Increases Funding for Water/Wastewater Infrastructure

Kricun said the utility has greatly benefited from low-interest loans provided by the EPA-funded New Jersey Environmental Infrastructure Trust, which have allowed it to continually replace and upgrade infrastructure as needed while still limiting how much of the expense lands on ratepayers. He noted that the average customer currently pays $352 annually for wastewater treatment, only $15 higher than what the average customer paid in 1996.

Source: Philadelphia Inquirer

USGS Tool Helps Texas Officials Regulate Groundwater Use
The U.S. Geological Survey has a new web tool tracking 40 years of data about the Houston area’s groundwater levels. It reveals areas where shrinking groundwater levels are a concern, but also shows where regulatory measures have helped groundwater levels recover.

Related: EPA Helps Protect Oklahoma’s Waters with $11.2 Million Grant

“When water levels decline, subsidence occurs on aquifers and that can contribute to flooding and infrastructure damage,” Mike Turco, general manager of the Harris-Galveston and Fort Bend Subsidence districts, told the Houston Press. “Our job is to minimize the aquifer water level decline.”

The USGS has provided data to the subsidence districts since 1975, but the online tool marks the first time the data is readily available to the public. Still, the tool is meant more for engineers than average citizens, Turco says. His districts use the data, alongside water demand and population growth figures, to determine where problem areas may occur and make changes accordingly.

Source: Houston Press

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Companies Receive OSHA Violations in Connection with Sewer Worker Deaths
Two companies have been cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration following the investigation into the deaths of three workers earlier this year in Key Largo, Florida.

Elway Gray, Louis O’Keefe, and Robert Wilson all died Jan. 16 after being overwhelmed by toxic gases in a manhole while investigating reports of a sewage backup. Gray was the first to enter the manhole and become unresponsive, and the same happened to O’Keefe and Wilson when they attempted a rescue. Atmospheric testing after the incident revealed lethal levels of hydrogen sulfide and carbon monoxide.

OSHA investigators cited Douglas N. Higgins Inc. and its related company, McKenna Contracting, with 10 violations totaling $119,507 in penalties. The violations include failure to purge or ventilate a confined space before entry, exposing workers to an asphyxiation hazard, and not providing necessary rescue and emergency equipment for employees.

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Source: Sun News Report


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