Coverage of the latest developments in water and drilling matters in the government.

Wastewater Security Bill Passed

Under a bill recently passed by the U.S. House, wastewater plants would get money to protect facilities from terrorism.

The Wastewater Treatment Works Security Act of 2002 would authorize $200 million in grants for plants to conduct vulnerability assessments and make some security improvements. The bill also authorizes $15 million to help small wastewater treatment plants pay for the technical assistance. The Association of Metropolitan Sewerage Agencies has endorsed the legislation.

Texas Approves Water Projects

The Texas Water Development Board recently approved financial assistance totaling $121.7 million for water-related projects in the state.

The funds were distributed to the cities of Del Rio, Kaufman and Houston, the San Antonio Water System, Cibolo Creek Municipal Authority and the Greater Texoma Utility District to be used for expansion and improvements to the wastewater treatment and collection systems; $11.9 million in loans from the Texas Water Development Fund Program to the city of San Benito, Cade Lakes Water Supply Corp., Brushy Creek Municipal Utility District and the Greater Texoma Utility District to finance improvements to the wastewater and water supply systems; and $6.7 million in loans from the Rural Water Assistance Fund to the Mountain Peak Water Supply Corp., the Cade Lakes Water Supply Corp. and the Benton City Water Supply Corp. to finance improvements to the water supply systems.

Governor Vetoes Contaminants Bill

California Gov. Gray Davis has vetoed a bill that would have given residents more information about contaminants in their drinking water.

Water agencies argued that by giving customers too much information they would never bother to read water-quality reports. Water agencies in California have to issue an annual Consumer Confidence Report identifying any contaminants that exceed the maximum contaminant level allowed by law.

The law vetoed would have required public water systems to include in that report information about health effects whenever a contaminant exceeds a public-health goal, a level found to be completely safe for consumption.

Water Agencies Agree On Water-sharing Plan

Four California water agencies have agreed on the details of their agriculture-to-urban water transfers.

The agreement is said to provide a possible end to years of disputes over usage and dependency on water from the Colorado River. The agreement still has to be approved by the board of directors of each agency.

The agencies involved are the San Diego County Water Authority, the Imperial Valley Irrigation District, the Coachella Valley Water District and the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which serves 17 million customers.

Under terms of the agreement, Imperial Valley will transfer up to 1 million acre-feet during the first years of the project to the San Diego County through more efficient irrigation and land fallowing. Imperial Valley farms will fallow an average of 20,000 acres of land a year.

Imperial Valley will receive $258 per acre-foot of water that is transferred. Of that price, $200 will go to farmers. The rest will go to environmental mitigation and to help communities that are hurt by the decrease in farm production.

The pact is necessary because a plan must be presented to the federal government that reduces the state's dependence on water from the Colorado River.

EPA Plans Ground Water Cleanup

The EPA has unveiled an estimated $8.1 million interim ground water cleanup plan for the West Site/Hows Corner Superfund site in Plymouth, Maine.

The plan calls for installing a ground water extraction and treatment system for a two-acre fenced area of the site thought to be the source of contaminated ground water.

Officials said ground water use restrictions would be imposed to reduce the risk that people are exposed to contaminated ground water and to reduce the risk of drawing contaminants from the site.

EPA said prior to this, the decision calls for monitoring residential drinking water wells near the site and to provide public water in the event data shows unsafe levels of contaminants. An EPA site investigation revealed that ground water in private drinking water supply wells near the site and in monitoring wells on the site were contaminated with volatile organic compounds. EPA has since installed a new water supply system to serve 36 residences whose drinking water was found to be contaminated.

Bottled Water Standards Proposed

The Mississauga News has reported that Canadian legislative assembly representative Margaret Marland has proposed that stiffer monitoring and testing of Canadian bottled water is needed since bottled water consumption has increased 45 percent in the last three years.

If passed, the bill would give the province authority to prescribe standards, similar to those for tap water, to bottled water. Included would be detailed parameters for chemical and radiological contaminants in bottled water, a prohibition on the selling of bottled water unless that water meets provincial standards and analysis of bottled water ground sources and conditions resulting from natural run-off through aquifers.

Lobbyists Unveil Water Principles

Colorado 58, a coalition of three largely rural lobbying organizations recently unveiled 10 water principles to be included in a statewide water plan not dominated by the Denver metro area. The three organizations include the Pueblo-based Action 22, Club 20 and Progressive 15. Together they represent 58 of Colorado's 64 counties.

The new group promotes developing existing local water supplies before considering new water transfers.

Some of the principles state that all Colorado water users must share in solving the state's water resource problems, and the state should assist local entities in developing water supply plans and implement solutions that respect local authorities, private property and water rights. The principles also include that the state should pursue additional water storage through rehabilitating existing reservoirs and building new structures and there must be a concerted effort to educate all Coloradoans on the importance of water and the need to conserve, manage and plan for the future.

Well Water Testing Endorsed

Under a new law called the Private Well Testing Act, homeowners in New Jersey who rely on private wells for their drinking water must have the wells tested for contamination before they sell their property.

According to Kathleen Bird, the director of communications for the state's Department of Environmental Protection, the new law requires that tests of private drinking water wells must be conducted by a laboratory certified by the department.

The tests must be conducted before the closing, and both buyer and seller must certify in writing that the tests were performed and they had been notified of the results. Testing is required for any residential real estate transaction for which contracts were signed on or after Sept. 14, 2002, the effective date of the law.

The act also provides that landlords who rent out property with drinking water supplied by private wells must have those wells tested by March 14, 2004, and the results must be provided to rental tenants within 30 days after they are received. Landlords also must provide the test results to each new tenant and retest the well every five years.

Under the law, the well must be tested for a number of contaminants and characteristics and any volatile organic compounds for which maximum contaminant levels have been established by state regulation.

Canada Proposes Water Act

The Ontario government recently introduced the Safe Drinking Water Act of 2002 in the provincial legislature. The legislation would force all operators of water systems to be licensed and testing laboratories to be accredited.

The new legislation also would require all waterworks operators to pass formal testing to become licensed and will create the office of a chief water inspector. This person would oversee all inspection policies, including frequency of checks on water systems and training for Ministry of Environment inspectors.

Highlights of the act include: a new standard of care for municipalities to act honestly, competently and with integrity; new standards for the treatment, distribution, quality and testing of drinking water; mandatory certification of all operators of drinking water systems, including those who have been grandfathered; mandatory licenses for all municipal owners of drinking water systems.