Increased Sewer/Water Funding Headlines Many Changes In Washington

Economic Stimulus, Trust Fund, Environment & Unions Highlight Many New Directions of Obama Administration
By Stephen Barlas, Washington Editor | February 2009 Vol. 64 No.2
The U.S. Capitol Building.

Environmentalist ascendancy in the Obama administration may be something of a double edged sword, however. Groups like Riverkeeper, Natural Resources Defense Fund and Sierra Club will push a “clean water” agenda which will reverberate at EPA in the form of tighter regulations on sewage and drinking water treatment and recycling--which could result in infrastructure spending. That agenda includes such initiatives as resurrecting the proposed Capacity Assurance, Management, Operation and Maintenance (CMOM) regulations, ditched during the Bush administration, which provide detailed regulations for operators of sanitary sewer collection systems in such areas as providing adequate capacity to convey wet weather flows and performing adequate operation and maintenance. Lisa Jackson, the new EPA administrator, is likely to push to get the CMOM regulation and other water rules back on track. Dena Mottola Jaborska, executive director of Environment New Jersey, calls Jackson, who headed the department of environmental regulation in the Garden State, “a strong advocate on water infrastructure” in New Jersey.

Risks

But for underground construction companies, environmental regulations can cut both ways. A good example there is the proposed rule the EPA issued on Nov. 19, 2008 which would force construction companies to take remedial actions to prevent storm water flowing over an excavated construction site from picking up sediment and contaminants and then dropping them in rivers or lakes. The proposed rule would require all construction sites to implement a range of erosion and sediment control best management practices (BMPs) to reduce pollutants in storm water discharges. Construction sites disturbing 10 or more acres at a time would also be required to install sediment basins to treat their storm water discharges. That rule will be finalized, and maybe even toughened up, under Jackson.