By Deborah Stadtler

In May, the Water Quality Association (WQA) and the National Groundwater Association (NGWA) hosted the 2024 Water Resources Congressional Summit, a two-day event in Washington, DC, aimed at bringing awareness to water issues.

Maryland Senator Ben Cardin
Maine Congresswoman Chellie Pingree

The first day of the summit featured several speakers from government agencies highlighting the ways clean water is being prioritized. In addition, the WQA Water Quality Leadership Award was given to Congresswoman Chellie Pingree, and the NGWA Groundwater Protector Lifetime Award was presented to Maryland Senator Ben Cardin.

The keynote speaker, U.S. Department of Agriculture Deputy Secretary Xochitl Torres Small, discussed how the USDA is making loans and grant programs more accessible, particularly in rural areas, in addition to providing technical support and forming close relationships with local operators. She also noted that building the workforce of the future is vital to rural communities.

Seth Kellogg, senior principal geologist at Geosyntec Consultants, spoke about the impact of evolving PFAS regulations. Kellogg gave an overview of the regulations for various PFAS at the national level, but noted that water professionals also need to pay attention to state regulations. Commercially available technology to address PFAS includes granulated activated carbon, ion exchange, and reverse osmosis, but many instances will need a treatment train of more than one method. There is a debate about regeneration vs disposal for media from PFAS removal—there isn’t a best available technology for destruction yet. For remediating PFAS in soils, excavation and stabilization are the two main processes.

Bruno Pigott, Acting Assistant Administrator in the U.S. EPA’s Office of Water, was the afternoon keynote speaker. He focused his remarks on how the EPA is providing more than $50 billion in funds to improve infrastructure and strengthening standards for valuing our water, such as the first nationwide standard for PFAS. He mentioned collaboration on updating the certifications for point-of-entry and point-of-use filtration products and advancing science around PFAS in general. Pigott was proud that the new PFAS standard will help more than 100 million people and prevent thousands of deaths. The EPA’s focus on PFAS does not take away from the efforts to replace all lead pipes as put forth in the Lead and Copper Rule. In 2024, the EPA is releasing funding for the testing and treatment of private wells.

J. Alan Roberson, P.E., executive director of the Association of State Drinking Water Administrators, previewed plans for the 50th anniversary of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) on December 16, 2024. While the SDWA is a cornerstone of water regulation, there are still challenges to drinking water in the United States. The top five challenges according to Roberson include:

  • Aging infrastructure.
  • Funding.
  • Affordability.
  • Small systems. (In 2023, more than half of people were served by small systems.)
  • Cybersecurity.

A panel of state and local experts comprised of Roberson, Judy Sheahan from the U.S. Conference of Mayors, and Benjamin Nasta from the National Council of State Legislators, spoke about water quality challenges. They spoke about PFAS, microplastics, saltwater intrusion, cybersecurity, and other emerging issues.

Dr. Joshua Joseph, Jr., acting associate director for the USGS Water Resources Mission, updated the attendees on the wealth of data available from the USGS, including the National Water Dashboard and real-time national monitoring networks for groundwater, water quality, and streamflow. Joseph also emphasized that accessibility of data is a large focus of the agency.

Bart Meroney, executive director, of the Office of Manufacturing, U.S. International Trade Administration (ITA), U.S. Department of Commerce, explained how the agency is working on issues of climate change and resiliency globally, as well as making supply chains more resilient and developing environmental technologies.

The first day of the summit closed with a panel of staffers from members of Congress discussing congressional water priorities. Building a robust rural economy and the various components of the upcoming farm bill were highlights of the discussion.

The second day of the summit was structured to allow attendees to meet with members of congress and their staffers. Both WQA and NGWA emphasized the importance of telling personal stories to convey the vital work being done in the water treatment industry.

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