The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released new guidance on wet weather overflows involving wastewater utilities and their combined sewer overflows and sanitary sewer overflows. The new guidelines, which call for an integrated planning process to address sewer overflows, was hailed by the Washington-based U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) as a step forward in the partnership between federal, state and local governments in addressing the problem.

The proposed integrated planning process would seek to identify efficiencies in implementing overlapping and competing requirements that arise from separate wastewater and stormwater projects, including capital investments, and operation and maintenance requirements, according to EPA. "This approach can also lead to more sustainable and comprehensive solutions, such as green infrastructure, that improves water quality as well as supports other quality of life attributes that enhance the vitality of communities," according to an EPA web page on the plan. "The [the Clean Water Act (CWA)] and implementing regulations, policy and guidance provide the necessary flexibility to implement an integrated planning process."

EPA released the new guidance in an Oct. 27 memorandum that highlights the need to meet a basic objective of CWA, keeping raw sewage out of the nation's water supply, while being sensitive to the delicate financial condition of state and local governments. "We must be mindful that many of our state and local government partners find themselves facing difficult financial conditions," the memorandum states. "Their ability to finance improvements by raising revenues or issuing bonds has been significantly impacted during the ongoing economic recovery. We write this memorandum to make sure that we proceed as one EPA to assure that we work with states and communities to get the most effective as well as cost-effective approaches for meeting our shared objective of clean water that protects public health and environment."

USCM released a statement on Oct. 28 saying it recognized the work put into creating the integrated plan. "The Integrated Planning approach will make it possible for local government to achieve clean water goals and increased environmental and public health results," said Pleasanton, Calif., Mayor Jennifer Hosterman, who co-chaired the Mayors Water Council at the 2011 U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) Water Summit held last week in Washington. "The Conference will continue to provide support to cities who will work collaboratively with EPA's Regional Offices permitting officials to implement the Integrated Planning policy guidance."

Read the EPA statement, download the memorandum or the entire USCM statement.

Related Stories