Water Infrastructure Initiatives Afoot

March 2013, Vol. 68 No. 3

Meanwhile, on a related wastewater issue, Congress handed over another $500 million to the EPA for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund as part of the Hurricane Sandy Relief bill Congress passed at the end of January. That legislation also included an extra $100 million for the Clean Water SRF. Those sums are on top of the approximately $2.5 billion the agency is expected to have for fiscal year 2013, which began Oct. 1, 2012. Congress has not set a final EPA budget for fiscal 2013, or any other federal budgets, because of the continuing debate of resolving "sequestration." The additional $600 million must be spent on projects in New York and New Jersey.

Aside from the extra $600 million, the Sandy bill also contained some important legislative language which expands eligible SRF projects in these two states to include those "whose purpose is to reduce flood damage risk and vulnerability or to enhance resiliency to rapid hydrologic change or a natural disaster at treatment works . . ." Hanna Mellman, legislative manager for NACWA, says allowing SRF funds to be used to harden water infrastructure against the effects of a future storm or hurricane sets a precedent. That could include protecting underground pumping stations from being flooded, for example. The NACWA hopes Congress will encode the "enhance resiliency to rapid hydrologic change or a natural disaster" language in future legislation affecting the SRF funding in all states.

PHMSA pressured to turn on pipeline valves rulemaking

A Columbia Gas and Transmission Corp. pipeline gas leak in West Virginia last December has reignited the debate over installation of automatic shutoff valves (ASVs) and remote control valves (RCVs) as a means of quickly limiting the potentially disastrous effects of a pipeline explosion and subsequent fire. The fire in Sissonville, WV, destroyed three homes and closed a section of a major highway for 14 hours.

Columbia was slow to pick up on the gas leak. The controller on duty at the time of the accident received 16 pressure drop alerts having to do with three, separate intertwined pipelines monitored by the company Supervisory Control & Data Acquisition (SCADA) system. But no critical alarms sounded. The control room only found out about the leak after receiving notification from another pipeline company, Cabot, who called to say one of its field technicians was seeing a "huge boom and flames shooting over the interstate." Columbia finally closed two manual shut-off valves at two separate compression stations 58 minutes after the explosion.

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