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Concrete Products
Copyright 2001 by Intertec Publishing Corporation, a PRIMEDIA Company. All
rights reserved.

Saturday, September 1, 2001

Volume 104; Number 9; ISSN Number 0010-5368

editorial

Water's weight
by Don Marsh

This month's pipe and drainage product coverage shows there is no shortage of activity in plant operations (pages 16, 17), good engineering and field practice (pages 10, 54), or market development. On the latter point, construction interests are firm supporters of the lobbying group Water Infrastructure Network (WIN), which this column visited in April. A coalition of industry and government agencies, WIN is challenging Congress to pass legislation recognizing water supply and wastewater infrastructure in the same manner it has surface and air transportation.

WIN's call for a funding package that would grow to $15 billion
annually by the middle of the decade is being heard. Our Federal Market
News columnist Cy Malloy notes that water is indeed a hot topic, based
on (a) feedback from a recent Senate Subcommittee on Transportation and
Infrastructure hearing on the federal role in meeting infrastructure
needs; and (b) a mid-summer press briefing, at which Sen. James Jeffords
(I-Vt.) affirmed, "I will focus on improving water infrastructure. We
plan to write legislation to help meet drinking water and wastewater
treatment needs." Jeffords heads the Environment and Public Works
Committee, which is over the Transportation and Infrastructure
subcommittee.

Malloy notes that the case for building and revitalizing water supply
and wastewater treatment and conveyance could be strengthened with the
release of a report from the National Academy of Sciences' National
Research Council (NRC). The Washington, D.C.-based group feels a more
science-based approach is needed to improve a federally mandated program
requiring states to clean up the nation's lakes, rivers, and other
bodies of water. Despite three decades of progress in controlling
discharges from wastewater treatment plants and industry, NRC finds,
pollution from other sources is jeopardizing water quality and the
ability of states to achieve further progress.

Under the 1972 Clean Water Act, each state must identify polluted
waters, put them on its so-called 303d list, and establish what are
known as Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs), which determine the amount
by which sources of pollution would need to be reduced to meet the
state's standards. During previous decades, states focused on issuing
permits to control industrial and municipal discharges into bodies of
water from point sources, such as an identifiable pipe or channel. Now
the focus has shifted to implementing the TMDL process and controlling
pollutants from various nonpoint sources including urban storm water and
agricultural runoff.

"State agencies need to use better data and tools to establish
appropriate water quality standards, determine whether standards have
been violated, and develop restoration plans," notes Professor Kenneth
Reckhow of Duke University, Durham, N.C., chair of the NRC committee
behind the report.

The TMDL process has become one of the most discussed and debated
environmental programs in the nation, as drafting and revising of the
final rules for implementation and enforcement have taken place in the
last year. In October 2000, Congress suspended EPA's implementation of
these rules until further information could be gathered. In particular,
Congress asked NRC to examine the program's scientific basis for
determining which waters are impaired and for developing TMDLs. Under
1992 regulations, states are required to meet a deadline of eight to 13
years for establishing the TMDLs, although the General Accounting Office
finds that only six states have enough data to fully assess water
conditions.

NRC's technical arguments tend to reinforce a message inherent in the
WIN argument: Good drainage infrastructure weighs heavily on fresh-water source quality.

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