May 23, 2002 -- NEWS ALERT SERVICE
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NEWS ALERT SERVICE!

CONGRESS POISED TO APPROVE ANTI-TERRORISM BILL WITH FUNDING FOR DRINKING WATER VULNERABILITY ASSESSMENTS


  • PRESIDENT BUSH EXPECTED TO SIGN $3 BILLION MEASURE
  • ASSESSMENTS REQUIRED FOR ALL PWS LARGER THAN 3300 PERSONS
  • DRINKING WATER FUNDING IS MUCH LESS THAN TOTAL NEEDS
  • DRINKING WATER QUALITY PROTECTION WILL BE PART OF ASSESSMENTS

A conference committee of the Senate and House has approved a compromise version of a broad anti-terrorism bill, HR 3448, with a few surprise results. The House of Representatives has approved the bill by a 428-1 vote. The Senate is expected to take up the bill, perhaps today, but possibly not until after their spring recess ends on June 3. It is believed that the President will sign it into law. The $3 billion bill includes significant funding for the drinking water provisions.

The essential drinking water aspects of the bill are:

  1. MANDATORY vulnerability assessments (VAs) followed by MANDATORY preparation (or revision) of emergency response plans (ERPs) by all except the smallest public water systems (<3300 persons)
  2. Funding of $160 million for USEPA to use in assisting utilities in (a) conducting VAs; (b) preparing ERPs; (c) initiating "basic security enhancements" identified in VAs (but no O&M costs); and (d) responding to and alleviating urgent vulnerabilites (up to $5 million in grants)
  3. Guidance by EPA and up to $5 million of the funding for grants to small (<3300 person) PWS to do VAs and ERPs, which are NOT mandatory
  4. VAs must be submitted only to USEPA and only in writing to avoid creating an electronic data base; Utilities must certify to EPA that ERPs are done, but they need not be submitted to EPA
  5. VAs are exempt from freedom of information requirements
  6. Deadlines for completing VAs vary by population served: March 31, 2003 for >100k, Dec 31, 2003 for 50k to 100k, June 30, 2004 for <50k
  7. Expands EPA's emergency authority and makes penalties for tampering more severe
  8. Funding of $15 million to EPA assess prevention, detection and response information on contaminants and supply disruption, in conjunction with CDC

Some aspects of the legislation, including what role States may play, will be clearer as EPA implementation evolves. AWWA has estimated that $450 million is needed for doing the assessments. It is noted that while the funding noted above will be "authorized", the Senate and House Appropriations Committees may "appropriate" lesser amounts.

Newspapers across the country are reporting on this important story.



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