Weekly Check-in: Friday, April 3, 2020

To all of our members: we have made it through another week, and we are hoping you continue to stay safe and healthy.

As indicated last week, through the duration of this pandemic, Advisory Board staff will be sending a weekly update to all of our membership. Here are some items from the Advisory Board and the MWRA:

Advisory Board
  • Staff continues to work remotely. Remote briefings with MWRA staff will continue with the Operations Division proposed FY21 CEB briefing and a look at the proposed FY21 CIP
  • As is scheduled on our calendar, the Executive Committee meeting for April 10th will be held remotely. Agenda items include discussing the community impacts of COVID-19, FY21 MWRA budget review, Quincy’s request regarding LWSAP borrowing, and the Advisory Board budget for FY21.
    • Of particular note, Advisory Board staff will present a plan that would extend community payments for the I/I and water loan programs for the remainder of FY20 and all of FY21 by adding approximately 15 months to the term of the loans.
    • If adopted, this proposal could significantly benefit our communities by deferring $35-40 million in payments. Many details still need to be determined.
  • Staff, in consultation with Chairman Taverna, have decided to cancel the regularly scheduled April 16th Advisory Board meeting in light of the increasing severity of COVID-19. We hope to hold our regular May meeting on May 21st and will be emailing members with our budget comments.
  • Staff is developing a plan to remotely hold our PFAS workshop in June.
  • MWRA will be sending their May 2020 invoices (with assessment charges only) via email. Click here to see the notice to communities.
  • Mr. Laskey updated all employees with the status of MWRA operations here.
  • April 10 | Executive Committee Meeting at 10:00 AM
  • April 15 | MWRA Board of Directors Meeting TBD
  • April 16 | Advisory Board Meeting Cancelled

Please stay safe. We hope to see you in the near future.

Weekly Check-in: Friday, March 27, 2020

Advisory Board staff will be reaching out to our designees and community leaders with weekly updates. This will take the place of our monthly News and Notes for now. Here is a brief look at what’s happening at the federal, state, Authority, and Advisory Board levels:

  • Federal
    • The federal stimulus bill includes $150 billion for state and local governments. We are still waiting for the details on how these funds will be distributed and used.
    • The National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA) had been urging Congress to include $12.5 billion in the stimulus in order to help public water utilities weather the COVID-19 pandemic.
    • Utilities are providing essential clean water services to the public at a time when revenue is falling and many utility employees must continue to show up for work.
    • The $12.5 billion is a conservative estimate for the nationwide loss of revenue in clean water utilities due to COVID-19.
    • You can find the full statement from NACWA here.
  • State
    • While many municipalities have suspended construction projects for the time being, Governor Baker wants most projects to continue.
    • In this Boston Globe article (paywall), the Administration classifies state projects through DOT and MassPort as essential, despite concerns about construction workers being in close proximity to each other and potentially spreading COVID-19.
    • Inconsistent rules between jobs and communities have made the situation confusing for construction workers, who are seeking clearer guidance on the issue. Statewide guidance is expected to be delivered soon.
  • MWRA
    • MWRA Executive Director Fred Laskey sent an email to all Authority employees on March 24th with an update.
    • The Authority continues to provide essential services for three million Massachusetts residents amidst the pandemic, as it has been thorough about safety protocols, regularly sanitizing facilities, and having as many employees telework as possible.
    • The MWRA donated 6,000 N95 masks to MEMA to assist in emergency efforts.
  • Advisory Board
    • Advisory Board staff is working remotely and is coordinating with Authority staff to continue budget review briefings on a remote basis. Coming up are the Operations Division proposed FY21 CEB briefing and a look at the proposed FY21 CIP.
    • Please note: you are welcome to comment on the MWRA’s proposed FY21 budget until May 21, 2020.
    • Staff will organize remote Executive Committee and Advisory Board meetings for the month of April. Stay tuned for details.

Please let us know if you have any comments or questions. Staff is always available by email or office phone. Thank you, and stay safe.

Proposed Changes to Lead and Copper Rule

Earlier this month, EPA released a series of proposed changes to the Lead and Copper Rule. Here are the major differences you should know about:

Lead action level: The lead action level remains unchanged at 15 parts per billion (ppb), and systems testing at or above 15 ppb would be required to replace 3% of lead service lines (LSL) per year, which is down from 7% in the current rule.

New trigger level: The agency is adding a new trigger at 10 ppb. Water systems testing between 10 and 15 ppb would be required to implement the following planning procedures: (1) evaluate corrosion control, and (2) set a goal for LSL replacements at a pace agreed upon between the community and the regulator.

LSL replacement procedures: Cities must replace the portion of the LSL on public property within 3 months of a homeowner replacing the portion on private property. For every replacement, partial or full, the city is required to provide a filter and three months of cartridges.

Inventory: To improve transparency, water systems must make a complete and publicly available inventory of lead service lines, including indicating unknown pipes, within three years of the rule changes.

Testing: Changes to sampling requirements include mandatory testing at schools and daycares: 20% of schools and 20% of daycares in a community every year.

Outreach: Systems are required to notify households testing above 15 ppb within 24 hours.

Comments will be accepted on these proposed changes through early December. You can read more about the issue on EPA’s website.

Massport Responds to Advisory Board’s Letter

thumbnail of MWRA – Massport’s Response 6.17.19In the Advisory Board’s FY20 Comments & Recommendations, it was recommended that the MWRA engage Massport in discussion on two issues: (1) Massport should rescind the $8 million that was extorted from ratepayers for the HEEC/Eversource Cross-Harbor Cable to go through Conley Terminal, and (2) the MWRA should be charging Massport for the O&M and capital costs of running Wiggins Pump Station at Conley Terminal, so that communities are not paying for Massport’s operations.

The recommendation was followed up, per request, by a letter from the Advisory Board to the MWRA Board of Directors. That letter was redirected to Massport and received a response on June 17, 2019. The letter confirms one of the glaring issues with the $8 million extortion: No appraisal was done to justify this exorbitant cost; it was simply “negotiated” between Massport and HEEC/Eversource, with the latter receiving their standard 9% escalator on top of the cost.

Finally, the response letter from Massport indicates they will be sitting down with the MWRA to discuss the past, current and future costs of running and maintaining the Wiggins Pump Station. The Advisory Board expects a swift resolution to this issue, and will not back down. Next stop: the State House.

Update: you can view our video summary of the issue here.