News Briefs: Federal Judge Tosses Out Trump-Era Water Pollution Rule

Also in this week's water and wastewater news, the EPA announces a $477 million WIFIA loan for the Hampton Roads Sanitation District in Virginia

A federal judge has thrown out a Trump-era rule that eased water pollution regulations, but the judge is still deciding whether to restore rules from the Obama era or from before that time.

Judge Rosemary Márquez nixed the Trump administration’s Navigable Waters Protection Rule and returned it to the Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for reconsideration.

For more information, see The Hill’s report.

Increased Pumping in California’s Central Valley During Drought Worsens Groundwater Quality

Intensive pumping of aquifers during drought can speed up deterioration of groundwater quality, according to a new study by the U.S. Geological Survey. The results highlight clean drinking water supply vulnerabilities in California and other western states currently experiencing record drought conditions.

“Water quality problems from legacy groundwater pollution could get worse, faster, when pumping increases during drought,” says Zeno Levy, a research geologist with the USGS. “This could lead to more public drinking-water wells being shut down if costly treatment or cleaner water sources to mix with are not available.”

Researchers examined 30 years of data from California’s Central Valley to find increasing nitrate concentrations at public drinking water wells were more prevalent in areas where groundwater levels dropped rapidly during drought. Scientists found that increased pumping from wells during drought can pull shallow, contaminated groundwater down to depths commonly tapped for public drinking-water supply.

The study "Critical aquifer overdraft accelerates degradation of groundwater quality in California’s Central Valley during drought" is published in Geophysical Research Letters.

EPA Announces $477 Million WIFIA Loan for Water Project in Virginia

At a recent event with Newport News Mayor McKinley Price, Virginia Department of Environmental Quality Director David Paylor and other local officials, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Assistant Administrator for Water Radhika Fox announced a $477 million Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act loan to the Hampton Roads Sanitation District.

This loan is the second installment of a total of $1 billion in WIFIA assistance for HRSD. The WIFIA funding will help retire an 80-year-old wastewater treatment plant in an economically challenged community and replenish groundwater supplies that are threatened by sea level rise.

The Sustainable Water Infrastructure for Tomorrow Program includes more than twenty projects across the Hampton Roads service area to upgrade existing treatment works and build full-scale facilities that will ultimately replenish the overdrawn Potomac Aquifer with water treated to meet drinking water standards.


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