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Government Affairs Committee Update August 2020

Want to stay updated on regulatory changes in the PNW but don't have time to track all the different agencies? You don't have to! The PNCWA Government Affairs Committee stays on top of issues and gives monthly updates in the PNCWA digest. Not signed up for the digest? We've got you covered. Sign up here. Here's the update for August 2020.

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Racial and Social Justice Subcommittee Goals

We are committed to furthering the role of racial and social justice within the water/wastewater industry. To do so, the Pacific Northwest Clean Water Association (PNCWA) has taken the step to create the Racial & Social Justice Subcommittee (RSJ) under the Member Services Committee (MSC) to empower PNCWA membership by providing education and resources, collaborating with impacted communities, and advocating for enduring racial and social justice in water resource organizations, programs, and projects that bring about lasting change. The inaugural Chair, Rob Lee, and Vice Chair, Brittany Downing, have volunteered to lead this subcommittee’s effort in pursuing 5 main goals:

  1. Focus on furthering the membership’s education on RSJ issues by providing an optional book club and quarterly LinkedIn posts with articles and additional resources related to RSJ.
  2. Engage and collaborate with other organizations and groups that are leaders in this effort to leverage ongoing studies, share ideas, and further community engagement.
  3. Partner with MSC and the Students and Young Professionals (S&YP) committees to focus on outreach to underrepresented communities and to provide mentorship opportunities.
  4. In the long-term, the subcommittee will take on a project that provides resources and leadership opportunities for impacted communities to improve their water/wastewater systems; and
  5. Partner with the Government Affairs Committee to potentially influence legislation.

Together, we can learn, grow, and make a real, lasting change in our community. If you're interested in joining the subcommittee, please contact Rob Lee.

PNCWA YPs Shine

Kristi Steiner has been selected as the WEF Outstanding YP Award winner. HUGE congrats and well deserved. Kristi has served WEF in so many ways through YP connections, PNCWA leadership, Water Leadership Institute, and the WEF-AWWA YP Summit. Please congratulate Kristi and join us digitally for the WEF Awards Ceremony during WEFTEC. 

We are also pleased to share that Brittany Burch, Isle Americas' Senior Program Manager, has been named to Water & Wastes Digest list of 2020 Young Professionals! Brittany Burch is active in the Pacific Northwest Clean Water Association and takes a lot of pride in the InFLOW program — Introducing Future Leaders to Opportunities in Water — which aims to encourage more people of color and women to join the industry by engaging them through more hands-on experiences like attending the annual conference. Burch has said, “Engaging future leaders on an individual and personal level is one of the echoed sentiments of the next generation of workers, who are likely to push the digital transformation of the industry to the next level.” Check out the article and video

Challenge Accepted? Raise funds for PNCWA Scholarships!

Clean Water Services is putting up a challenge to raise $12,000 for the PNCWA Scholarship Fund. CWS will donate $1,500 if five additional utilities, consultants, or manufacturers match that amount, adding $9,000 to the fund. Clean Water Services will also match individual member donations up to $1,500 — another potential $3,000 for the fund.

The PNCWA Scholarship Committee, which supports students pursuing a professional career in the water quality field by awarding scholarships on an annual basis, would like to thank Clean Water Services for kicking off this challenge and for their generous donation. Award recipients receive complimentary one-year PNCWA and WEF memberships and are invited to attend the PNCWA Annual Conference, held each fall, the year the scholarship is awarded. Thanks in advance to all of those who can join!

Please send donations to: CWS PNCWA Scholarship Challenge, C/O Jennifer Byrn, PO Box 13158, Portland, OR 97213.

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Committee Spotlight: Utility Management

Check out this article on Asset Management submitted by the PNCWA Utility Management Committee.

Asset management is the practice of managing infrastructure capital assets to minimize the total cost of owning and operating those assets while delivering the service level customers desire. Asset management can be a valuable process to gain knowledge about the condition of system components when they need to be repaired and replaced, and costs over time. This can be useful for decision-making, budgeting, capital improvements planning, and funding for projects to sustain utilities. 

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Government Affairs Committee Update July 2020

Want to stay updated on regulatory changes in the PNW but don't have time to track all the different agencies? You don't have to! The PNCWA Government Affairs Committee stays on top of issues and gives monthly updates in the PNCWA digest. Not signed up for the digest? We've got you covered. Sign up here. Here's the update for July 2020.

U.S. EPA Updates
In May, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reversed itself regarding Washington’s water quality standards, replacing water quality standards it adopted in 2016 with different standards. The new rules went into effect on June 12. Washington State Department of Ecology (DOE) has challenged the reversal based on the process followed. A lawsuit has also been filed by 3rd parties against the EPA. In the meantime, WA DOE seeks preliminary comments on 5 individual variances related to PCBs in the Spokane River, driven by the 2016 water quality standards.

On May 18 the U.S. EPA issued for comment a TMDL for temperature for the Columbia and Snake Rivers spanning Washington and Oregon. The TMDL includes heat load allocations for NPDES permit holders directly discharging to these rivers (both OR and WA). Comments due July 21. Read the EPA document here. 

Oregon Drug Take-Back Program
The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is proposing amendments to its administrative rules at OAR 340. DEQ is planning to adopt new rules to establish a drug take-back program. The Oregon legislature adopted HB 3273 (2019) establishing a drug take-back program in Oregon and requiring DEQ to adopt rules for that program. This program is a statewide product stewardship program for safely disposing of unused medications. DEQ expects to complete this rulemaking by the fall of 2020. Click here to learn more.

Nutrients
The Washington State DOE is holding the next General Permit for Nutrients on July 16. 

Mercury TMDL
EPA is reviewing public comments on EPA’s version of a Willamette Basin Mercury TMDL.

Oregon NPDES
Oregon DEQ has issued a 5-Year Issuance Plan for NPDES permits. 

LOCAL Infrastructure Act
A bipartisan bill has been introduced in the Senate which would reinstate the advance refunding of municipal bonds. S. 4129, the Lifting Our Communities through Advanced Liquidity for Infrastructure Act, or LOCAL Infrastructure Act

US Stockholm Junior Water Prize Winner Hails From Washington

PNCWA is excited to announce that Zoe Gotthold, from Richland, WA, is the winner of the 2020 U.S. Stockholm Junior Water Prize (SJWP), the nation’s most prestigious youth competition for water-related research. Gotthold developed prototypes of devices that promote oil flocculation at the surface and increase the efficacy of traditional oil spill remediation techniques. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, SJWP had to pivot to an online-only competition for the first time. Watch Gotthold’s video explanation of her research with this link.

Students from 41 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico competed in the national finals during a virtual event on June 20. Gotthold won $10,000 and will represent the United States at the international competition in August.

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Climate Impact Survey

The University of Washington Climate Impacts Group is engaging staff and operators in the water sector in the broader Northwest region (WA, OR, ID, AK) in a series of conversations about how to plan and prepare for the impacts of climate change. With support from the Water Research Foundation, they will be organizing several focus group calls, followed by a series of webinars, which will include training on how to access and use regionally relevant climate data and tools. To support peer-to-peer learning, UW Climate Impacts Group also plans to include case studies from regional operators that showcase how climate science is being used in support of building climate resilient water systems across the Northwest.  

Please help UW Climate Impacts Group tailor these sessions to fit your needs and interests by completing this brief survey. They are interested in hearing from water utilities and operators of all stripes—including drinking water, wastewater, stormwater, and combined utilities—and are hoping to focus on small- to medium-sized utilities (serving populations <200,000).

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Racial and Social Justice Subcommittee

On July 10, the Member Services Committee kicked off the first meeting for the Racial and Social Justice Subcommittee. The purpose of this group is to provide education and leadership opportunities for PNCWA members to advance and promote racial and social justice into water resources organizations, programs, projects, and the impacted communities in our region. Contact the Subcommittee Chair Rob Lee if you're interested in joining. We need your voice!

The national Black Lives Matters movement has put a spotlight on systemic racism and injustice. In response, PNCWA has created this new subcommittee with the goal to educate our membership on the issues. If you have not yet read it, here is the statement against racism that PNCWA released, PNCWA Statement Against Racism; these ideals will be the backbone of the Racial and Social Justice Subcommittee.

Committee Spotlight: Stormwater

New Stormwater Management Strategies and Benefits During These Unusual Times

Community leaders continue to be pressed to determine essential services and define the critical activities to operate safely and continuously in their communities. The need for clean, safe, and reliable drinking water is high on that list, as well as the need for functioning wastewater collection and treatment systems. With tight budgets and little time, these leaders find themselves asking critical questions: What level of functionality of stormwater infrastructure is essential? Can we wait to perform some of these functions when things are safer? What activities are truly essential?

The vitality of stormwater infrastructure is necessary to protect our urban areas during storms and prevent pollutants from entering our waterways. We increasingly rely on green infrastructure to better manage stormwater, deliver water quality benefits, enhance the appearance of urban areas, and make movement safer for pedestrians and bicycles.

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PNCWA: Racial and Social Justice Initiatives

The PNCWA board issued a statement last week calling on PNCWA members to “commit time to be educated, to increase your understanding, and to promote ideas and programs that eliminate structural racism in our organization, region, and the communities we serve.”  In follow up to that message, here are some actions that PNCWA has been and will continue to take promote diversity and social and racial justice.

Our Members Services Committee has a goal for the PNCWA membership and the water industry to represent the communities we serve. We recognize that overall, the water industry lacks racial and gender diversity that truly mimics and represents our communities and we want to change that. At our 2019 PNCWA conference in Portland, 13% of attendees were people of color (PNCWA conference Survey data) compared to the population of Oregon, which is composed of 25% people of color (US census data). Similarly, less than 20% of the conference attendees were women. We strive to increase the diversity of both our membership and our leadership. We have therefore developed a goal to increase diversity in membership by 2025 with a targets to increase membership of women, people of color, and young professionals.


Table 1: PNCWA current and target demographics. Target demographics are defined for new joining members.


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Government Affairs Committee Update June 2020

Want to stay updated on regulatory changes in the PNW but don't have time to track all the different agencies? You don't have to! The PNCWA Government Affairs Committee stays on top of issues and gives monthly updates in the PNCWA digest. Not signed up for the digest? We've got you covered. Sign up here. Here's the update for June 2020.

Navigable Water Protection Rule
In a Notice published in the Federal Register on April 21, EPA and the Department of the Army (Army) finalized the Navigable Waters Protection Rule, (the “Waters of the US Rule”), which provides updated regulations on what waters fall under the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act. Several states and NGOs have challenged the new rule.

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Dare to Disagree

Leadership Corner

I am, generally speaking, a HUGE fan of Ted Talks. I browse topics regularly, and just this past weekend, I watched one with my 12-year-old while we were baking in the kitchen. There is one talk, which I have come back to repeatedly: Margaret Heffernan’s “Dare to Disagree.” She emphasizes that allowing ourselves to be challenged (in our work or paradigms) is not good enough. We should willingly seek out conflict and ask for input from those with other points of view. That conflict should be viewed not as something to be avoided- but as a mechanism to do our best collective thinking.   

On projects, I’ve worked to incorporate this approach: Asking questions like: “Before we discount this option- can anyone make a case for why it should still be on the table? Or, X is one of our fundamental assumptions, how confident are we that this assumption will hold?” are good ways to welcome input. I’ve also found verbalizing the team expectation of respectful discourse sets the tone for maximizing diverse perspectives. 

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PNCWA Statement Against Racism

PNCWA exists for the, “education… increased public understanding, and promotion of sound public laws and programs in the water resources and related environmental fields.” Like all of our members, PNCWA believes that the right to clean water and sanitation is a basic human right, just like the right to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. And yet the recent senseless murders of Black Americans such as George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor have shown us that we cannot talk about protecting human health and the environment without talking about the systemic racism and injustice that has existed from our nation’s beginning and still exists today. We realize our silence and inaction makes us complicit in denying certain segments of our population, like the Black Community, of their basic rights, not just to clean water but to life itself. We have much to learn.

Our membership is comprised of people who joined this industry to be a part of something greater than themselves – wanting and willing to make the world a better place. As PNCWA leaders, we promise that the Black Community does not simply have our solidarity but our enduring voices, resolved to help carry the burden of fighting institutional racism, discrimination, and bias. This is not a Black problem, but a human problem. And we call on all of our members to use their privilege and platforms to lessen the burden off of the shoulders of those who are the subject of these injustices.  This will take each and every one of us, committed to this hard work that must endure even after the protests have quieted and the headlines have faded.

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Meet Mark Walter, PNCWA Contract Manager

When the Covid-19 crisis broke it impacted us all a little differently, but it was a reminder to all of us about the power of human connection. Mark Walter is the new PNCWA Contract Manager. His role is to facilitate connection between contracted vendors as well as to connect PNCWA members to the resources and support they need. While not a stranger to PNCWA involvement, we asked Mark to tell us a little more about himself, in his own words.

It has been exciting to serve as Contract Manager for the PNCWA as the association transitions to new business management practices. My experience with the PNCWA has been a wonderful part of my career in water quality. I cannot imagine a better group of people to be around. No matter what the challenge, PNCWA members rally together to solve some of the most complex water quality challenges.

I became a WEF member in 1988 as an Operator at Irvine Ranch Water District in California. My local Section was the Santa Ana River Basin Section, where I competed in the Scott Air Pack Challenge. This was a timed response to a simulated gas leak, back when gaseous chlorine was used for disinfection. I moved back to Oregon in the early ’90s and became a member of the NW Oregon Operators Section (now Lower Columbia Section), where I became an active Operations Challenge competitor. After several years competing, I served as the PNCWA Ops Challenge Chair, Oregon Region Director, and went on to serve on the PNCWA Board. I was elected as the PNCWA President in 2000. Throughout the 2000s, I dedicated my volunteer time to the Oregon Water Environment Foundation’s Water Environment School. In 2015, I was asked to establish the PNCWA Awards Committee. The Awards program exposed me again to the great contributions of the members of the PNW. The PNCWA Awards program continues to evolve as new members bring their “style” into the committee. We sure know how to have fun!

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Government Affairs Committee Update May 2020

Want to stay updated on regulatory changes in the PNW but don't have time to track all the different agencies? You don't have to! The PNCWA Government Affairs Committee stays on top of issues and gives monthly updates in the PNCWA digest. Not signed up for the digest? We've got you covered. Sign up here. Here's the update for May 2020.

Idaho Biosolids and Stormwater Permits
Idaho is developing the guidance manual for the implementation of biosolids and municipal stormwater permitting, starting in July 2021. Find more information and how to participate, go here.

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The Expert in Sheep's Clothing

Leadership Corner

Now that I’m in the mid-life of my career, I’ve struggled with the following questions lately: Do I want to “move up” in my current job? If so, do I need to go back to school? How much value can I place on hard-earned, practical experience? Do I need to learn a new skill to stay competitive, secure, AND have a job that I love?

I regularly listen to podcasts and devour articles and books on how to better my personal and professional life. I truly enjoy learning and self-improvement. Last year, I came across the book The Expertise Economy: How the Smartest Companies Use Learning to Engage, Compete, and Succeed by Kelly Palmer and David Blake. The authors examine the very culture of learning: what it is, how it’s conducted, and what it means for tomorrow’s workforce. Most importantly, it helps business leaders place value on the well-rounded employee−one who is agile, adaptable, a problem-solver, curious, and has emotional intelligence. It’s not all about the college degree and credentials. Fellow author and business entrepreneur Seth Godin complements Palmer and Blake’s approach. He says the most important skills we can teach our kids are how to lead and how to solve interesting problems. 

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A Message From the 2020 PNCWA Technical Chair

Wow. What a wild year we’ve experienced already and we’re not even to summer yet.  So far 2020 has made us strive for flexibility as we adapt to a new normal at home and work.  For many, those places have merged to become one location.  We’ve seen unprecedented rates of unemployment too, as the impact of social distancing restrictions rippled throughout our communities.  This is truly an unprecedented time.  Never has it been more important to be there for each other.  We all need a support system, and the PNCWA community is one of those support systems. We are stronger when we are together (maintaining an appropriate physical distance, of course). 

As of May 1st, the 2020 PNCWA Annual Conference is still scheduled to take place in Spokane, WA this September. Ultimately, this year’s conference may look a little different from the previous years.  We are weighing options and maintaining flexibility as we take into consideration the evolving information incoming during this dynamic period. Ensuring the safety of our membership is our primary concern.  The most up to date information related to the Annual Conference can be found on the conference website.

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A Message From the 2020 PNCWA Conference Chair

Greetings Pacific Northwest Clean Water Professionals!

Now more than ever, it’s clear that our collective work to protect and preserve public health through clean water is essential, and I want to take a moment to thank each of you for your commitment, especially the operators and field crews.

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Government Affairs Committee Update April 2020

Want to stay updated on regulatory changes in the PNW but don't have time to track all the different agencies? You don't have to! The PNCWA Government Affairs Committee stays on top of issues and gives monthly updates in the PNCWA digest. Not signed up for the digest? We've got you covered. Sign up here. Here's the update for April 2020.

COVID-19

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