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News Releases

NESC Supports Protect Your Groundwater Day
Annual Event Set for September 9

GWDayExtended drought in California and Texas have put the spotlight on a critical resource of importance to every person--groundwater. The National Environmental Services Center (NESC) urges the public to pitch in on the annual Protect Your Groundwater Day, held this year on September 9, 2014.

Groundwater makes up 99 percent of all available fresh water in the world and is connected from beneath to most surface water bodies. But groundwater is out of sight and out of mind for most people.

Groundwater is the source water supply for 13 million households on private water wells in America. It also supplies much of the water to our country's more than 40,000 community drinking water systems, especially in small towns and rural areas. Not only that, groundwater supplies 53.5 billion gallons of water a day for agriculture and supports the environment.

Started by the National Ground Water Association, Protect Your Groundwater Day is the perfect time for every household to act to protect this resource. Visit the Protect Your Groundwater web page to learn ways citizens can protect groundwater from overuse or contamination.


Rain or Storm?

RainandStormCurious about how to plant a rain garden? Want to learn more about stormwater management?

Two new articles posted on the National Environmental Services Center (NESC) website cover both of these topics. Check them out here.

If you are interested in other drinking water or wastewater topics, the NESC site has a wealth of information available to you at no charge. Use the Google site search feature on the main page to find what you need.


Harvesting Urine for Fertilizer

EIurineFor much of the recent history of civilization, urine has been viewed as a waste product that must be eliminated. Increasingly, though, wastewater experts are looking at urine as a resource and devising ways to harvest it as fertilizer.

Commonly known by the term "urine diversion," this harvesting involves separating urine from the wastewater stream at the point of excretion and reusing the urine as an agricultural fertilizer. The interest in this approach centers on the fact that urine makes up only about one percent of the typical residential wastewater stream but contains about 80 percent of the nitrogen, 55 percent of the phosphorus, 60 percent of the potassium, plus smaller amounts of other nutrients including sulfur, calcium, and magnesium.

Nitrogen and phosphorus are the two nutrients most responsible for the over-enrichment of freshwater and coastal waters causing the proliferation of harmful algae blooms, negative changes in aquatic plant and animal life, and loss of fisheries. Residential wastewater is not the only source of these nutrients but it is a contributor and decreasing the amount of nutrients released in wastewater is necessary to protect and rehabilitate our aquatic resources. By harvesting urine, communities can not only recover a useful organic fertilizer but also improve the quality of their rivers, lakes, and coastal waters.To learn more, read NESC's latest Emerging Issues by clicking here to download the pdf.


Filter Backwashing PowerPoint Available

FilterBackwashPPTAre you a technical assistance provider or training professional who provides instruction about filter backwashing? Maybe you’re a new water operator who would like to learn more about this important task? Whatever the case, the National Environmental Services Center (NESC) has developed a free PowerPoint presentation that provides an overview of filter backwashing.

The PowerPoint, available via this link, includes the different steps undertaken when cleaning a sand filter and features a six-minute video of the process. The PowerPoint complements an existing Tech Brief about the topic, also available at the link above.

"Filter backwashing is one of the most important steps a system performs," says Zane Satterfield, NESC engineering scientist. "Without a properly functioning filter, a system won't be able to provide quality drinking water to the community and may fall out of compliance with health regulations."

If you have questions about filter backwashing or other drinking water or wastewater topics, call NESC's toll-free help line at (800) 624-8301 and select option "3." A complete list of Tech Briefs, four-page fact sheets providing concise, technical information about a drinking water treatment technology or issue relevant to small systems, may be found here.


RUS Loan Rates

Interest rates for Rural Development Utilities Service (RDUS) water and wastewater loans—issued quarterly at three different levels: the poverty line rate, the intermediate rate and the market rate--have been announced. The rate applied to a particular project depends on community income and the type of project being funded.

To qualify for the poverty line rate, two criteria must be met. First, the loan must primarily be used for facilities required to meet health and sanitary standards. Second, the median household income of the area being served must be below 80 percent of the state’s non-metropolitan median income or fall below the federal poverty level. For 2014, the federal poverty level was $23,850 for a family of four (excluding Alaska and Hawaii).

To qualify for the intermediate rate, the service area's median household income cannot exceed 100 percent RDUS mapof the state's non-metropolitan median income.

The market rate is applied to projects that don’t qualify for either the poverty or intermediate rates. The market rate is based on the average of the Bond Buyer index. The most recent rates announced are:

RDUS loans are administered through state Rural Development offices, which can provide specific information concerning RDUS loan requirements and applications procedures.

For the phone number of your state Rural Development office, contact the National Environmental Services Center at (800) 624-8301 or (304) 293-4191. The list is also available on the Rural Development website.


NESC on PBS

NESCtvOn March 20, 2014, NESC Director Gerald Iwan appeared on the St. Louis PBS program Stay Tuned to discuss water issues. For those not in the Gateway City's viewing area, the Stay Tuned episode title "Water Matters" has been posted to the web click here to view.

Dr. Iwan's remarks start at about the 19:30 mark and last approximately five minutes. The entire show is just over one hour in length.


NESCHostsWVU’s National Environmental Services Center
Hosts Central Asian Visitors

Water Resources Issues Explored during D.C. Meeting

At first, West Virginia would seem to have little in common with Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. But, as with nearly everywhere in the world, water resources management is a growing concern for these former Soviet republics and they have reached out, through the Regional Environmental Center for Central Asia (CAREC) program, to WVU’s National Environmental Services Center (NESC) to help develop solutions. Click here to download an overview of the visit.(PDF).


PlanNow

Plan Now, Don’t Wait for the Emergency

The National Environmental Services Center (NESC) is based at West Virginia University in Morgantown, West Virginia. The water system in Charleston, the state capital, has been in the news since January, when a chemical spill in the Elk River forced the drinking water utility to close, cutting off water to more than 300,000 people in parts of nine counties.

This disaster reminds us that the best time to plan for emergencies is ahead of time, not in the midst of the crisis. Learn more about emergency planning, source water protection, and vulnerability assessments by exploring the following resources.


35YearsHappy Birthday to Us!

In 2014, the National Environmental Services Center (NESC) celebrates 35 years of providing water information to America’s small communities. NESC traces its roots to 1979, when West Virginia University professors Willem Van Eck and Raul Zaltzman established the National Small Flows Clearinghouse, a nonprofit organization devoted to protecting the public health and environment by providing wastewater information and assistance. Since that time, NESC has grown to become a national expert, not just in wastewater, but also in drinking water, environmental training, small system management, and stormwater issues.

Learn more about NESC’s history at: www.nesc.wvu.edu/media/history.cfm


OnTapCover

New Issue of On Tap Available Online

A new issue of On Tap, the National Environmental Services Center's drinking water and wastewater magazine, is now available. Formerly printed and mailed to more than 27,000 subscribers, On Tap is now available in an online format only. Click here for the latest issue.

The fall/winter 2013 issue features articles about stormwater issues, reducing water use, drinking water infrastructure, how to achieve the best rates, and infrastructure issues being faced in Baltimore.

As always, we encourage you to use the information in On Tap in your community. All we ask is that you give us credit and let us know how you used it.


Revised Total Coliform Rule Update

Slowly, but surely, the Revised Total Coliform Rule (RTCR) is being put into place. It was finalized in February of this year with publication in the Federal Register. The effective date of compliance for public water systems is not until April 1, 2016 but water system managers and operators need to be aware of and plan for the changes.

Between now and April 2016, most of the work to be done falls on state drinking water primacy agencies, which must adopt state regulations that conform with the RTCR and crosswalk their rules with federal rules. State drinking water agencies can request extensions if submitted before February 13, 2015.

For public water systems, some of the major changes include the following:

The RTCR establishes a maximum contaminant level (MCL) and maximum contaminant level goal (MCLG) of zero for E. coli. All samples that are positive for total coliforms (TC) must be analyzed for the presence of E. coli.

Although total coliforms will continue to be used for monitoring purposes, the existing MCL and MCLG for total coliforms and the public notification requirements for TC positive samples have been dropped. These have been replaced by a treatment technique that requires assessment and correction of sanitary defects.

There are two levels of assessment based on the severity or frequency of problems. Depending on the size of the system, Level 1 assessments are triggered by a threshold number of routine or repeat samples that are TC positive or the failure to take repeat samples after a TC positive sample, as required. Level 1 assessments are performed by the water system owner or operator.

Level 2 assessments are triggered by an E.coli MCL violation or a second Level 1 trigger in any rolling 12-month period. Level 2 assessments are conducted by the state or a state-approved entity. However, the public water system is responsible for seeing that the assessment is conducted.

Criteria were established that potentially allow for reduced monitoring for groundwater systems serving 1000 or fewer people.

The complete RTCR is available here. A Quick Reference Guide to the RTCR can be found via this link.


OnTapCover

Phosphorus discussed in latest Pipeline

Phosphorus discharged from onsite wastewater treatment systems is usually not considered to be a problem. However, in some locations phosphorus from these systems has contributed to undesirable algal blooms in lakes and streams.

The latest issue of Pipeline available here discusses situations where and why phosphorus may be a problem, and what the options are for controlling it.

 

 


SORA

Releases Nutrient Regulations Survey Results

SORANutrientCoverAround the country, reducing the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus released from onsite wastewater systems has become a growing concern. To determine how various states are dealing with this issue, the State Onsite Regulators Alliance (SORA) and the National Environmental Services Center (NESC) conducted a survey of all 50 states.

Among other findings, the survey revealed that half the states have existing rules for nitrogen reduction, while fewer address phosphorus. The click here to view the survey results which provide summary information, as well as more specific information about state and local regulations and links to state policies.

NESC has other information about nitrogen and phosphorus:

A Pipeline newsletter devoted to nitrogen reduction, which may be viewed here.

The latest On Tap magazine has an article about removing phosphorus in the wastewater treatment process available here.


Phosphorous and Water Quality

Although phosphorus is a naturally occurring element and a vital nutrient for plants and animals, too much can cause water quality problems.

Phosphorous (and phosphates) trigger algal blooms, through a process called eutrophication, that deplete the receiving watEmergingIssues2ers of oxygen under certain conditions, killing the aquatic life. In many surface waters, algal blooms can have considerable detrimental impacts on leisure activities, tourism, and fish and other organisms. Algal blooms also impact the source water quality for drinking water utilities.

Although fertilizer runoff is a significant factor in eutrophication, domestic sewage also contributes to the problem. Therefore, removing phosphorus during the sewage treatment process has become an area of interest.

The article available here provides a brief overview of phosphorus removal during wastewater treatment. Readers are also encouraged to contact the National Environmental Services Center technical staff toll free at (800) 624-8301 (selection option 3) if they have question.


WHEATLogoEPA Developes Risk Assessment Tool

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in collaboration with drinking water and wastewater sector partners, has developed the Water Health and Economic Analysis Tool (WHEAT). The tool is designed to assist drinking water utility owners and operators in quantifying public health impacts, utility financial costs, and regional economic impacts of an adverse event, based on a variety of asset-threat combinations that pose a risk to the water sector.

Existing WHEAT modules analyze two event scenarios: the release of a hazardous gas and the loss of operating assets in a drinking water distribution system, and provide information that can be used as part of a comprehensive risk assessment. Future WHEAT modules will analyze drinking water contamination and wastewater system hazardous gas releases and loss of operating assets scenarios.

WHEAT is designed to run on Windows-based computers and generates reports in Microsoft Excel. Learn more about this tool, including specific hardware and software requirements, by visiting http://water.epa.gov/infrastructure/watersecurity/techtools/wheat.cfm

EPA has other security and resilience resources at http://water.epa.gov/infrastructure/watersecurity/techtools/index.cfm