New safe drinking water fee hike in effect

The Pennsylvania Environmental Quality Board published notice of final Safe Drinking Water regulation changes and fee increases in the Aug. 18 edition fo Pennsylvania Bulletin (Page 4974).

The final fees will generate approximately $7.5 million annually and will account for nearly 50 percent of the program’s state funding.

The fees will augment the $7.7 million in funding currently coming from the state’s General Fund.

The final fees use population served by water systems as basis for assessing the fees but will be phased in over the next year.

By increasing fees, the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) hopes to hire up to 33 additional staff in the Safe Drinking Water Program to address major deficiencies in the program identified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in December of 2016.

EPA is monitoring DEP’s progress closely in addressing the deficiencies in the program.

DEP had been giving EPA quarterly updates, and has now shifted to updates every six months starting in January of this year on its progress. DEP has not heard much at all back from EPA as a result of the updates. DEP believes they are making good progress.

DEP started hiring new staff in March and has 13 of the 17 field inspector positions filled in anticipation of the fee revenue.

The goal is for the new staff to significantly increase the number of water system inspections done by the agency, in response to the primary concern raised in EPA’s December 2016 deficiency letter.

The final regulation also makes other changes to the Safe Drinking Water Program, including to provisions related to the lead and copper requirements for drinking water, provisions for general permits to simplify permitting and other changes.

The regulations were adopted as final by the board in April.

For more information and copies of additional background documents, visit the Environmental Quality Board webpage.

(Source: PA Environmental Digest via Crisci Associates, Harrisburg)

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