ADVOCACY

AOMWA advocates for the interests of its members at the state and federal level through lobbying, commenting on, challenging and, where necessary, litigating regulatory and legislative initiatives that will adversely affect publicly-owned treatment works (“POTWs”) or that are not scientifically sound or reasonable. It also spearheads and advocates on behalf of programs that will benefit AOMWA members.  Some examples of the issues and advocacy efforts of AOMWA over the years include:

 

Nutrients:

  • Commenting in support of retaining Ohio EPA’s regulatory flexibility contained in the existing biological criteria rules (available here), by allowing the Director of Ohio EPA to conclude that biological criteria in a water body will take precedence over the application of selected chemical specific aquatic life or whole effluent criteria.  This letter also encouraged Ohio EPA to maintain existing protections for point sources that are meeting applicable chemical specific and whole effluent criteria. Additional information is available here  

  • Supporting Ohio EPA’s Nutrient Technical Advisory Group (“TAG”) in its development of recommendations for a Stream Nutrient Assessment Procedure (“SNAP”).  SNAP establishes a dynamic and effective approach to nutrient water quality standards in lieu of an unreasonable and costly across-the-board phosphorus limit.  As proposed, the SNAP would (1) protect Ohio’s watersheds from nutrient impairment; (2) restore impaired waters to their designated uses; and (3) establish implementation procedures and discharge limits that should be effective in abating nutrient impairment as well as reasonable and fair for regulated point sources, such as our members. Additional information is included in AOMWA’s 10/5/17 comment letter on Ohio’s Draft Domestic Action Plan (available here).

  • Championing the enactment of legislation which requires Ohio EPA to develop a biennial nutrient mass balance study assessing the relative contributions of nutrient pollution in Ohio’s Lake Erie and Ohio River basins.  Ohio’s 2018 Nutrient Mass Balance Study for Ohio’s Major Rivers was issued on April 16, 2018 (available here).

  • Providing comments on Ohio Lake Erie Commission’s draft 2020 Domestic Action Plan (DAP), which outlines the State’s strategies and measures for meeting its goal of reducing nutrient loading to Lake Erie by 40% under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement of 2012.  In particular, AOMWA’s comments offer support for the DAP’s recognition of Ohio POTW’s prior nutrient reduction efforts, encourage the development of appropriate nutrient reduction goals for a given waterbody (including the specific watershed or HUC12 units that are focus of the DAP), and advocate for the adoption of reasonable, science-based nutrient reduction measures that maximize our communities’ limited fiscal resources as part of Ohio’s efforts to address its nutrient water quality issues (available here).

  • Commenting in support of retaining biocriteria’s existing role in assessing water quality and ensuring regulatory controls are imposed only when appropriate.  AOMWA’s comments on Ohio EPA’s Draft Biological Criteria Rules (available here) offered support for existing principles associated with biological criteria, including existing protections for point sources that are not the primary cause of nonattainment under certain conditions.

  • Submitting comments on Ohio EPA’s Quality Assurance Project Plan associated with the partial evaluation of the Maumee Area of Concern Beneficial Use Impairment #8.  The comments emphasized AOMWA’s support of the “weight-of-evidence” approach to nutrient evaluation, which recognizes that nutrient impacts cannot be identified strictly through nutrient concentrations.  AOMWA’s comments further encouraged Ohio EPA to complete a more comprehensive evaluation to include sampling chlorophyll, in addition to the parameters Ohio EPA already planned to sample (available here).

 

Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs):

  • Commenting in support of water quality trading programs with non-point sources by allowing for credits from approved water quality programs to offset NPDES permitting requirements (available here).  Such programs provide a significant opportunity for cost-effective water quality programs. 

  • Working with Ohio EPA and other stakeholders to enact legislation (set forth at ORC §§ 6111.561 – 564) that established procedural requirements for the development and implementation of TMDLs.  The legislation seeks to ensure that stakeholders, such as AOMWA’s members, have an opportunity for meaningful input during the TMDL process. It also addresses uncertainty created in the wake of the Ohio Supreme Court’s Fairfield Cty. Bd. of Commrs. v. Nally, in which the high court agreed with arguments advanced by Fairfield County (and supported by AOMWA) that TMDLs were invalid unless subject to Ohio’s rulemaking procedures.

  • Providing comments requesting enhanced engagement in the Maumee Watershed TMDL development.  AOMWA’s comments noted that Ohio EPA had not adequately provided certain statutorily required reports necessary for stakeholder involvement in the TMDL development process.  The letter also requested that Ohio EPA develop the Loading Analysis Plan and water quality targets based on a rigorous and careful consideration of unique watershed characteristics while relying heavily on Ohio EPA’s Nutrient Mass Balance Study.  Click here to view AOMWA’s Comments on Ohio EPA’s Second Module Regarding Maumee Watershed TMDL Development Step 1, Project Study Plan, and Step 2, Biological Water Quality Report.

  • Commenting on several draft loading analysis plans (Draft LAPs), including Draft LAPs for the Maumee Watershed, the Rocky River Watershed, the Southern Ohio River Tributaries Watershed, and the Lake Erie Central Basin Tributaries Watershed.  AOMWA also commented on the Preliminary Draft TMDL Report for the Black River Watershed (available here).  The comment letters encouraged Ohio EPA to take several actions such as recognizing that point sources comprise a small fraction of nutrient loading, providing legally required notice and comment opportunities for draft TMDLS, and properly promulgating standards as rules in separate notice and comment processes prior to use in TMDLs.  Further, AOMWA has discouraged Ohio EPA from actions such as relying on outdated monitoring data or setting unrealistic waste load allocations for Combined Sewer Overflows.  Learn more about AOMWA’s comments in the links to the letters above. 

Wet Weather:

  • Commenting in support of a flexible approach that recognizes the wide variation between communities for federal notification requirements regarding Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs) to the Lake Erie Basin, in accordance with Section 425 of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016 (additional information is included in AOMWA’s 3/14/17 comment letter available here).
     

  • Supporting a successful appeal to the Ohio Supreme Court which upheld the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District's (NEORSD) municipal stormwater management program and fee, thereby creating a positive legal precedent for other utilities that manage stormwater.

 

Affordability/Funding:

  • Backing legislative changes at both the state and federal level designed to ensure the availability of funding for water and wastewater infrastructure vital to Ohio’s utilities and our members.  See AOMWA 6/21/16 Letter in Support of the Water Resources Development Act of 2016 (available here) and AOMWA 2/5/16 Letter In Support of Proposed Water Pollution Control Loan Fund Improvements (available here).

  • Submitting feedback to Ohio EPA regarding implementation of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) (available here).  AOMWA’s comments sought to expand the affordability criteria used by Ohio EPA in order to help as many entities as possible qualify for IIJA funding.  The comments also identified other barriers that could arise and prevent entities from receiving funding during Ohio EPA IIJA implementation. 

  • Advocating for assistance for Ohio utilities in light of dramatically increased costs associated with chemical supply, costs of construction, and costs of equipment and parts.

 

Other:

  • Urging Ohio EPA to adopt water quality standards that incorporate human health criteria that are based on Ohio’s unique conditions, rather than adopting highly-conservative national criteria without explanation (available here).  This comment also encouraged Ohio EPA to reevaluate its conclusion that these proposed rules would negatively impact a limited number of NPDES dischargers.

  • Supporting Ohio EPA’s efforts to streamline the process for updating surveying and monitoring data for Ohio’s streams and rivers, to ensure that such data is current and reflects better estimates of statewide conditions and pollutants (available here). 

  • Leading advocacy efforts that resulted in Governor Kasich’s veto of an amendment included in Ohio’s 2018-2019 Biennial Budget that would have, among other things, imposed Local Government Fund (LGF) penalties on municipal wastewater utilities that charge nonresidents differently than residents, withheld LGF payments entirely from municipalities that require annexation as a condition of providing water or sewer services, and adversely affected the approach of regional wastewater planning agencies to CWA Section 208 requirements.
     

  • Opposing proposed legislative changes that threaten to undermine the autonomy of Ohio utilities to make operational and capital spending decisions using historical knowledge and professional judgment regarding their wet weather systems as it pertains to material specifications in infrastructure projects put out for bid.  See 11/1/17 Testimony of AOMWA President Brian Gresser (available here).
     

  • Advocating for improvements to Ohio’s Operator Certification Program intended to ensure the availability of qualified professional operators to run our water utilities.  See AOMWA 5/25/17 Comment Letter on Ohio’s EPA’s Proposed Draft Operator Certification Rule Revisions (available here).
     

  • Pursuing appeals of Ohio EPA rulemakings that adversely affected members’ operations, including proposed credible data rule changes and rule revisions governing minimum staffing requirements for operators of record.

  • Offering comments on the Draft Ohio 2020 Integrated Water Quality Monitoring and Assessment Report, including comments opposing Ohio EPA’s new assessment methodology for evaluating algae in the vicinity of Sandusky Bay and the Central Basin where the new approach did not provide a notice and comment process separate from the water quality monitoring and assessment report.  AOMWA also requested that Ohio EPA modify its new method of prioritizing TMDLs to provide more clarity as to which waterbodies are likely to be addressed as part of the TMDL process in the near future (available here).

  • Requesting an extension of the deadline to complete Ohio EPA’s operator certification contact hours in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, which would allow operators and their employers to focus on operations and maintenance issues during the pandemic.  The request also advocated for a deadline extension due to budgetary restrictions connected with Ohio EPA’s prohibition on disconnections for nonpayment of water service, difficulties associated with attending in-person conferences and training, and constraints associated with obtaining online credit (available here).

  • Highlighting member concerns regarding Ohio EPA’s Draft Section 401 Water Quality Certification Associated with the 2021 Nationwide Permit Renewals, including concerns relating to the potential watershed impacts associated with authorizing a variety of activities while removing many regulatory restrictions associated with such impacts (available here). AOMWA wrote a second letter (available here) for 2021 National Permits that were not initially renewed, focusing on concerns regarding Ohio EPA requiring individual water quality certification for Nationwide Permit 59, which authorizes impacts for Water Reclamation and Reuse Facilities.

  • Opposing state legislation that would serve to increase rates for utility customers, such as legislation that would restrict municipalities from recovering unpaid utility bills (available here and also here) and legislation that would result in enormous penalties for relatively innocuous nutrient discharge violations (available here).  AOMWA’s advocacy efforts raise awareness in the state legislature on well-intentioned bills that, contrary to their goals, would ultimately necessitate an increase in cost of service for ratepayers.

  • Offering comments on the Draft Ohio 2022 Integrated Water Quality Monitoring and Assessment Report, including encouraging Ohio EPA to follow separate notice and comment processes before integrating assessments into a report, supporting the collection of updated monitoring data, and requesting the opportunity to review data supporting Ohio EPA’s assessment of attainment status in the Lake Erie Central Basin (available here).