State, Federal Updates & Everyday Heroes

By the time you read this, summer will have slipped into fall and we will have eclipsed the second anniversary of Hurricane Harvey. We will be buoyed by the many voices and energy of WEAT’s Leadership Summit and infused with a renewed commitment and challenged by new ideas at WEFTEC. You may also be eyeing the results of the November 5 election, which has the historic Proposition 8 on the ballot as well as Proposition 2, which would increase the availability of bonds issued by the TWDB to fund water and wastewater projects in some of the lowest income communities of state. On the state regulatory side, we will likely be reviewing the new 312 Rule package covering biosolids, disseminating white papers on pretreatment issues, attending the stakeholder’s meeting covering the mandates of HB 2771, which is known as the produced water discharge bill.

On the Federal front, we will be reviewing and producing comments on EPA’s Water Reuse Action Plan. We will likely still be awaiting EPAs new Blending Rule package, and reviewing the Oil and Gas Disposal study in light of HB 2771. No doubt there will be anticipation at the new chapter of WOTUS as we should soon see the rollback of Obama’s WOTUS and the replacement rule package. And lastly, we should soon hear the oral arguments at the Supreme Court on the Maui case covering what’s jurisdictional under the Clean Water Act when wastewater injected down into disposal wells meets groundwater that then waters of the US.

As you’re looking back at election results, cross your fingers that Prop 8 passed. Proposition 8 is the voter approval of the shifting of funds to the tune of $800 million from the Rainy Day fund to the TWDB administered flood infrastructure fund. The creation of this fund was approved under HJR 4 during the 86h Legislative Session. HJR is authored by Dade Phelan out of the Beaumont area. WEAT members in attendance at last year’s Horizon Conference heard a preview of this House Joint Resolution as the Representative grappled with the need for the ongoing funding component of flood mitigation and creation of a dedicated flood infrastructure fund. The fund will assist in the financing of drainage, flood mitigation, and flood control projects.

Another story out of the Texas Legislature making waves and with the potential for a major impact is Speaker of the House Bonnen’s discussion of other lawmakers with Empower Texans Michael Quinn Sullivan that was recorded this past June. No doubt this is a perilous time for the Speaker. If the allegations are true, the Speaker will likely lack the confidence of House colleagues to be able to effectively continue his position as the highest ranking House member and known and respected aisle bridger. We do not yet know what impact the alleged conversation will have the Speaker’s career. And right about this time of odd numbered years, we are usually waiting for and discussing the likely content of the House Interim Charges, which should be out in the Fall. However, we do not know when the Speaker will promulgate these Charges, or off-session year studies, but will report back on these as they often tell the tale of the next session’s bills. Similarly, we should soon see the Senate Charges, which we will unpack, review, and report back on the salient issues to WEAT members.

TCEQ Rule Changes, Stakeholder Meetings, and Updates

Chapter 312 Biosolids Rule

  • Commission Agenda proposal date: Oct 9, 2019
  • Anticipated Texas Register publication date: Oct 25, 2019
  • Anticipated public hearing date: Nov 19, 2019
  • Anticipated public comment period: Oct 25 - Nov 26, 2019
  • Anticipated adoption date: March 20, 2019
  • Contact our illustrious Biosolids Committee Chair, Matt Berg, or

TCEQ Pretreatment Stakeholder’s meeting:

Following a lively September 19 Pretreatment Stakeholder’s meeting, the TCEQ will be hosting the next Pretreatment Stakeholder meeting:

Following a very informative Oil and Gas Discharge Stakeholder meeting, the TCEQ will be hosting the second Oil and Gas Discharge Stakeholder meeting (HB 2771):

  • December 5, 2019, 1:30PM, TCEQ Campus
  • Email to be added to the stakeholder email distribution list

When looking at the legislative mandate created by the passage of HB 2771, WEAT produced a high level overview of our organizational commitment and mission of protecting and enhancing the water environment of Texas and advocating on behalf of our membership and informing those inside and outside of the sector on water quality events. The bulleted overview of HB 2771 mandate vis-a-vis WEAT’s mission is:

  • The Texas Legislature recently passed legislation, HB 2771, directly TCEQ to seek delegation from EPA to issue TPDES permits for discharges of produced water into the state.
  • Produced water is primarily formation groundwater that is surfaced alongside minerals extracted in oil and gas hydraulic fracturing.
  • WEAT supports a dialogue and regulatory process that is protective of human health and the environment through water quality controls, including appropriate effluent treatment standards and surface water quality standards when issuing discharge permits inline with HB 2771
  • As TCEQ proceeds to implement the legislation, WEAT will participate in the stakeholder process addressing water quality protections and controls in the framework developed for the time of any EPA delegation of such authority to TCEQ.

Federal Update: EPA Rule Packages, Timelines and Updates

In April 2018, EPA announced a Blending rule package update to be published late 2019. A series of stakeholder meetings and public input was taken in order to determine when blending may be permissible during wet weather events, treatment technologies, compliance, and pathogen issues, among others. We have not seen the package but expect to within the next quarter or perhaps early 2020.

EPA’s Study of Oil and Gas Extraction Wastewater Management was published in May 2019. Comments were provided by many national water quality organizations including NACWA and WRA as well as Texas’ Railroad Commission and the TCEQ. The Study will be impactful as Texas (as a result of legislative mandate with the passage of HB 2771), New Mexico, and Oklahoma are all seeking delegation to issue discharge permits of certain types of produced water used in oil and gas extraction under the NPDES program.

EPA’s Water Reuse Action Plan was announced on September 10 at the WateReuse Annual Conference in San Diego. As pulled from the summary on the Federal Registrar, the draft plan “seeks to foster greater consideration of water reuse across the water sector, such as agriculture, industry, potable water and more… [and] describes how agriculture, industry, and communities have demonstrated the value of reusing water... Water reuse can improve the security, sustainability, and resilience of our Nation's water resources, especially when considered at the watershed or basin scale, through integrated and collaborative water resource planning.” Public comment deadline is December 16, 2019. Contact to be added to the Water Reuse Action Plan comment team.

WOTUS Update: EPA should soon release the replacement of the Obama administration’s 2015 WOTUS rule with pre 2015 language. This saga will continue after the new language is published as many groups will no doubt challenge it in court. In Texas, however, pre or post WOTUS will not substantively change or challenge the way we treat and discharge due to Texas’ more stringent rules around waters adjacent to the state.

Leadership Summit Retrospective:

WEAT recently held an incredibly informative and lively Leadership Summit on September 11 in New Braunfels. Ideas discussed included a committee membership drive, committee leader mentorship, WEAT’s Workforce Development Committee initiatives, WEAT’s Student and YP initiatives and WEAT’s Strategic Plan. And as a direct result of Leadership Summit discussions, we have been taking a hard look at what we can do to engage more members with our committees, and to ensure that each committee is fully staffed. While a new member might be interested in getting involved, at present it’s difficult to direct them to where their efforts would be most effective for WEAT Committees and rewarding for themselves. In an attempt to match WEAT committee needs with members’ talents and enthusiasm to serve, we need data!

If you are in WEAT leadership, please take this brief committee leader survey providing us the information we need to assess each committee’s needs. We’ll then work on communicating that data to new and existing members by noting which committees need help and in what areas. We will match enthusiasm and talents to your needs!

You can take the survey, share it with others, and view existing responses using this link: (Pro tip, links are life if you go to the online version of the magazine)

To date, the following Committees are active, filled out the survey, and are actively looking for new members:

  • Diversity and Inclusion
  • Municipal Resource Recovery and Design
  • Odor and Corrosion Management
  • Operations Challenge
  • Public Communication and Outreach
  • Professional Wastewater Operator
  • Safety and Security
  • Scholarship Fund
  • Utility Management
  • Workforce Development
  • Young Professionals

If you are interested in advancing your career through rewarding committee work or just want more opportunities to learn from and work with like minded folks, please go to and select the “Join” tab and “Committee” in the drop down, and take the15 seconds to apply to become a committee member today! And remember, WEAT committee’s help drive and produce the educational content of WEAT and participate in the selection of abstracts for Texas Water.

In closing this issue’s installment, I want to applaud and recognize WEAT’s Workforce Development Committee, once again. Katie Zheng with AECOM, Dylan Christensen with Black and Veatch, and Justin Rackely with AECOM are doing some of the most important work in water sector workforce development in Texas’ to date. Much more exciting information will be published in followup issues. But for now, I’ll close with a few words by David Ross, EPA Assistant Administrator, provided at a recent event in Utah: Operators are “silent everyday unsung heros… While police officers, firefighters and teachers are routinely praises for their value in the public service sector, the skilled workers who provide clean drinking water at the tap and treat wastewater often go unnoticed… We can drop billions of dollars into brick and mortar, but if we don’t have a trained workforce it won’t matter… [there] will be a 30 to 40% decrease in skilled labor in the United States over the coming years as the aging workforce retires… Without this sector, we don’t have a society as we know it.” Don’t let the force of these words slide past you. Let’s all do better in talking about careers in water and the vital, yet unsung, role operators and the water sector plays in our everyday lives. You all are indeed everyday heroes, and I always look forward to letting people in on this truth!

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