EPA to Finalize Total Coliform Rule By End of 2012, Agency Official Says

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark.--The Environmental Protection Agency expects to finalize a new Total Coliform Rule by the end of 2012 and to issue guidance on it before it takes effect three years later, an agency official said at a water conference.

Pam Barr, acting director of EPA’s Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water, said the agency also is expected to propose long-term revisions to the Lead and Copper Rule in early 2013.

EPA is folding requirements of the Lead in Drinking Water Reduction Act of 2011 into the lead rule, Barr said. The act, in general, would require the allowable lead level in plumbing products to drop from 8 percent to 0.25 percent, she said Oct. 16 at the annual meeting of the Association of State Drinking Water Administrators.

In another area, EPA is working to propose a regulation setting limits for perchlorate in drinking water by February 2013, Barr said. “We are working very hard to meet that deadline and we are working on everything from the health to the analytical methods to the treatment,” she said.

Monitoring for the 30 contaminants named in the third Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule, signed in April, will take place between 2013 and 2015, she said.

In December, EPA plans to hold a third public meeting to review the Long-term 2 Surface Water Treatment Rule, which will focus on the “full suite of monitoring, binning, and the microbial toolbox,” she said. “We’re really trying to make sure this rule has a really strong analytical basis. It’s a hard rule to review because we have limited data with which to review it,” she said.

The agency also plans to make the third round of regulatory determinations on at least five of 34 contaminants from the Contaminant Candidate List by “the earlier side” of 2013, she said.

EPA also is conducting a retrospective review of its Consumer Confidence Report Rule and expects to issue an interpretive memo by the end of 2012 explaining how the water quality reports can be delivered electronically, she said.

In 2011, EPA announced it would regulate volatile organic compounds as a group. “This has been more complicated than we thought when we started,” Barr said.

Rule Includes Monitoring for Three VOCs.

Barr said the third Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule includes monitoring for three VOCs. EPA expects to have the VOC rule out by 2013 or 2014. “We’re still working through the schedule on that,” she said.

For the drinking water state revolving loan fund, $440.5 million was appropriated for “basically the first half of this year,” Barr said. There will be a continuing emphasis on encouraging sustainability practices, she said. A survey on drinking water needs is due to Congress by Feb. 3, 2013, she said.

In another area, EPA set up two new work groups with the states in 2012--one to promote asset management practices and the other to serve as a noncommunity water system work group. “I think as we’re implementing our [Total Coliform Rule] that’s going to be a really important one,” Barr said.

The agency also is promoting water system partnerships. “This is looking at ways that water systems can better work together using economies of scale so they can produce good quality water cheaper than they otherwise could,” Barr said.

EPA has been working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and there have been some renewed relationships with small systems and infrastructure issues, she said. EPA also is working on a project to bring veterans into the water industry as its workers retire, she said.

The agency received over 90,000 comments on its draft guidance for hydraulic fracturing and diesel fuels, which was issued in May. EPA expects to issue final guidance by the end of 2012, Barr said.

By Pat Ware