2019 Water News

  • October 23, 2019

    Dear Water System Official,

    Vermont Rural Water is sending you this letter because your system is one the 590 drinking water systems required to test their water for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) by December 1, 2019. This requirement was mandated in S.49/Act 21 (An act relating to the regulation of polyfluoroalkyl substances in drinking and surface waters) passed by the Vermont Legislature in April and signed by Governor Scott in May.

    Vermont is not immune to PFAS in our environment; it has been found in groundwater throughout the state. Water systems did not create the problem, but are being required to react on an accelerated timeline. As of today, eight public water systems are treating for PFAS and two additional systems have received initial PFAS sampling results over 20 parts per trillion (ppt). The majority of systems have not yet sampled. Any system whose water is confirmed to contain total PFAS levels over 20 ppt will have to issue a “Do Not Drink” order until the contamination is resolved. This “Do Not Drink” order would apply to humans, pets, livestock and also to water used for cooking and irrigation of vegetable gardens and food crops.

    We are sending you this letter because there are several important things for you to do in the next few weeks:

    • Collect your PFAS sample(s) by December 1st
    • Contact your state legislators to tell them how Act 21 impacts your water system
      • See the back of this letter for more information and how to do this
    • Provide ANR with your comments on Water Supply Rule revisions related to PFAS; a link to more information on rulemaking is provided here: bit.ly/VTwaterrules
      • Comment in person at one of the public hearings:
        • November 6 at 9 am: ANR Annex Building
          190 Junction Road, Berlin
        • November 7 at 7 pm: Rutland Free Library - Fox Room
          10 Court Street, Rutland
        • November 12 at 7 pm: DEC Essex Regional Office - Act 250 Room
          111 West St, Essex Junction
      • Send comments by email to ellen.parrdoering@vermont.gov with the subject line of “PFAS Water Supply Rule Revisions” by November 25
        • Use the bullet points on the back of this page to guide your comments

    The cost of the first round of monitoring for PFAS will be $450 to $1100 for most drinking water systems. For a system whose water contains PFAS over the 20 ppt limit, the cost of remediation could be tens of thousands to several million dollars. Because Act 21 did not designate any funding for testing and remediation, public drinking water systems will have to pay these costs.

    Your local legislators need to hear how Act 21 is affecting their communities. We all want to protect public health, but there are unintended consequences of these new requirements. On behalf of your public water system, remind our lawmakers and regulators of the ongoing impacts of Act 21 and of future legislation that places a financial burden on our utilities. You may want to ask them to consider funding mechanisms to help drinking water systems to continue monitoring PFAS and other chemicals that may emerge as contaminants of concern. And finally, remind our legislators that we need them to help us protect public health by funding compliance assistance and remediation options for all public water systems.

    Here are some ideas of information to provide in a letter or email to your state senators and representatives:

    • Who does your system serve – are you a Fire District that serves 400 people? A school with 150 students? A mobile home community with 25 connections? A nursing home with 40 residents?
    • What would be the impact of a “Do Not Drink” order on your system and your customers? Would you provide bottled water? Would businesses have to shut down? How would that affect your town and local community? How would you regain public trust?
    • If you had to treat for PFAS or find a new water source – what would your options be? What are the potential costs of engineering, permitting, construction, and remediation? Would you need a new building for treatment? Do you own land for locating a new well?
    • How will PFAS testing and potential remediation impact your rates, your customers, and the future of your system? How might development in your service area be restricted?

    Please consider writing a letter, sending an email, or making a phone call to your legislators to tell them this information and anything else you feel might be useful in their decision-making process. In addition, please consider attending a public hearing or providing comments on the Cumulative Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) for the five PFAS included in the proposed Water Supply Rule.

    You can find contact information for your legislators on the “Search by Town” feature at:
    https://legislature.vermont.gov/people/search/2020

    Click here for a list of PFAS Sampling Analysis Certified Labs, State Sampling Contractors, and Contractors Used by the State of Vermont for PFAS Sample Collection. (pdf)

    Sincerely,

    Liz Royer
    Executive Director, VRWA

  • FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
    DATE: October 1, 2019
    CONTACT: Paula Jackson, Apprenticeship Program Coordinator
    802-660-4988 x332

    Apprenticeships Available for Drinking Water and Wastewater Operators

    Program to provide job training, new employees to state’s utilities

    ESSEX JUNCTION – Like many industries in Vermont, water utilities are facing a worker shortage. Many operations specialists at drinking water and wastewater treatment plants across the state are approaching retirement age, and there are not currently enough trained professionals to fill their places.

    The Vermont Rural Water Association is spearheading an apprenticeship program to train the next generation of water and wastewater operators in communities throughout Vermont.

    This program will provide water utilities with the new employees they need as well as providing job training—and an alternative to an expensive college education—to Vermonters.

    Operators of drinking water facilities provide safe drinking water to the public. Operators of wastewater treatment plants ensure that clean, treated water is released back into the state’s rivers, lakes, and groundwater.

    These water utilities are responsible for protecting the health and safety of Vermont’s communities and environment. This is especially important now as the state begins new regulations of contaminants like PFAS and water resources are impacted by climate change.

    Vermont Rural Water is currently recruiting qualified candidates for the apprenticeship program. Apprentices must have a minimum of a high school diploma or equivalent. The apprenticeship is a two-year, full-time position, during which apprentices will be paid a salary.

    Apprentices will receive 288 hours of classroom instruction and 4,000 hours of on-the-job training.

    In the classroom, they will learn the chemistry, microbiology, environmental science, and mechanics needed to operate a drinking water or wastewater treatment plant. The cost of this education is paid by the apprenticeship program.

    At the treatment plant, apprentices will train under water quality professionals to learn the operations of the facility.

    The shortage of water utility employees is not unique to Vermont. Communities across the nation are having a hard time recruiting the next generation of water and wastewater operators. In the next five to ten years, more than half of the most skilled water professionals will retire, taking decades of institutional knowledge with them.

    Similar apprenticeship programs, in partnership with the National Rural Water Association and the Department of Labor, have been established in other states. Vermont’s program is the first in New England.

    If you are a water or wastewater utility that is interested in hiring an apprentice, or an individual interested in becoming an apprentice, contact Paula Jackson, Apprenticeship Program Coordinator at the Vermont Rural Water Association at 802-660-4988 x332 or email Paula.

    The Vermont Rural Water Association is a nonprofit providing training and technical assistance to water and wastewater systems in Vermont since 1982.

    Visit us at www.vtruralwater.org

    ###

    Apprenticeship Press Release (pdf)

  • Tour of the Deer Island Wastewater Treatment Plant on October 3rd

    Join GMWEA, VRWA and NHWPCA for a tour of the Deer Island Wastewater Treatment Plant in Winthrop Massachusetts. Deer Island is the largest Waste Water Facility in New England and the second or third largest (depending on the criterion) in the US, with an average influent flow of over 300 mgd and a maximum storm-influenced flow of over 1280 mgd. This is a rare opportunity to see one of the 20th century’s most challenging and successful major environmental improvement projects.

    To sign up click here.

  • Just added - upcoming trainings:

    2019 Legislative Update - New Regulations on Lead in Drinking Water in Schools and PFAS Sampling

    Instructors from the Vermont DEC - DWGWP Division will examine recent state legislation impacting public drinking water systems.  This training course focuses on two bills just signed by the governor: (1) sampling for PFAS-related compounds and (2) lead in drinking water in schools and child care facilities.  The presenters will walk through the new requirements and what they mean for public drinking water systems. Topics will include sample collection, data review, and next steps after sampling. This training will be held in two remaining locations:

    Thursday, August 29th9:00 AM–
    2:00 PM
    Bennington Fire Department
    130 River St
    Bennington, VT 05201
    VRWA Member: $32
    Non-Member: $40
    4 TCHs
    Tuesday, September 24th9:00 AM–
    2:00 PM
    Milton Town Office
    43 Bombardier Rd
    Milton, VT 05468
    VRWA Member: $32
    Non-Member: $40
    4 TCHs

  • List of PFAS Sample Collection Contractors and Labs Certified for EPA Method 537.1

    View list here (pdf). Last updated September 24, 2019.

  • Proposed PFAS MCL

    This PDF contains the proposed changes to the Water Supply Rule to incorporate a cumulative MCL for 5 PFAS compounds, PFOA, PFOS, PFHxS, PFHpA and PFNA, at 20 nanograms per liter.

    The changes are highlighted in yellow and underlined; they show up in:

    • Subchapter 6
    • Subchapter 9
    • Subchapter 10
    • Appendix A, Part 4
                                         

    Please note that the annotated text you are receiving is based on a version of the Water Supply Rule that is currently in the rulemaking process.  This version has been used for efficiency sake because the changes to the Water Supply Rule that are currently in rulemaking are for the limited purpose of removing provisions that do not pertain to public water systems and are being relocated to Wastewater System and Potable Supply Rules.

    Before initiating the formal rulemaking process, we would appreciate your feedback on the proposed MCL.  We would appreciate your comments by March 29.

    Please also know that PFAS regulation is currently being discussed in the Legislature (Senate bill 49).

    Some things to consider in your review:

    1. Should the MCLG be zero or 20 ng/l
    2. Is Method 537.1 the appropriate method for determining the MCL.  We are concerned with reporting levels low enough to determine compliance with the MCL if all 5 compounds were detected.  Method 537.1 also incorporates 2 PFAS compounds used today in commerce.  The 5 compounds with the proposed MCL are legacy PFAS compounds, associated with past use.
    3. How should we regulate at levels less than 20 ng/l?  We believe requiring increased monitoring when at half the MCL can give water systems a chance to prepare in advance for treatment.  This we hope would eliminate a need to issue a health warning once the MCL was exceeded, as we would apply treatment before exceedance.
    4. Is sampling protocol sufficient to prevent accidental contamination?  Are there other ways to approach this issue?
    5. While it may appear that we are being very detailed in requirements as compared to other potential public water system contaminants, this was necessary due to the construct of the Water Supply Rule.  We incorporate federal rules by reference, but there are no federal rules to cite.  We used EPA’s method 537.1, EPA’s Standard Monitoring Framework, and knowledge gained regarding PFAS treatment over the last 3 years as guides for language.

    Please send all comments and questions to VRWA. Thank you.

  • 2019 Drinking Water Tasting Contest at VRWA Conference

    Do you have the best tasting drinking water in Vermont? Well, here is your opportunity to prove it. Enter the 2019 Drinking Water Tasting Contest! Details here:

    2019 Drinking Water Tasting Contest (pdf)
    Application for Water Tasting Contest (pdf)

  • Tony Torchia VRWA Special Recognition Award

    The Tony Torchia VRWA Special Recognition Award honors a person affiliated with the water/wastewater industry for extraordinary effort or accomplishment during the previous year or over the course of a career. All the members are invited to submit nominations.

    The award will be presented at the VRWA Annual Conference and Trade Show held on May 9, 2019 in Fairlee, VT

    Nominations must be received by January 31, 2019.

  • New VRWA Executive Director

    The Vermont Rural Water Association’s Board of Directors is proud to announce that Liz Royer has taken the position of Executive Director effective January 1, 2019. Liz has many years of service with VRWA and we look forward to continuing the association’s good work in the water and wastewater industry.

    Outgoing Executive Director Shaun Fielder has taken on a new challenge and we wish him the best of luck, and offer our gratitude for many years of service.


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