RD312 - Efficacy of Virginia’s Waterworks Capacity Development Strategy – July 1, 2017 to June 30, 2020

  • Published: 2021
  • Author: Department of Health
  • Enabling Authority: Federal Safe Water Drinking Act - Section 1420(c)(3) (2021)

Executive Summary:

The Virginia Department of Health (VDH), Office of Drinking Water (ODW) is the primacy agency for implementation of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The SDWA defines a public water system, also known as a waterworks in Virginia law and regulations, as “a system that serves piped water for human consumption to at least 15 service connections or 25 or more individuals for at least 60 days out of the year." There are currently 2,808 waterworks in the Commonwealth of Virginia collectively serving approximately 7.6 million consumers--about 89% of the total population of Virginia (8.5 million people). The SDWA categorizes waterworks into three system types: community, nontransient noncommunity (NTNC), and transient non-community (TNC). Approximately 7.1 million Virginians receive water from 1,093 community waterworks that serve year-round residents. VDH regulates 509 NTNC waterworks, which provide drinking water to schools, day care centers, industrial centers, factories and other facilities that serve at least 25 of the same persons 6 months out of the year. Finally, VDH regulates 1,206 TNC waterworks, which serve 25 or more different people for at least 60 days a year. TNCs include hotels, restaurants, campgrounds, and marinas.

Pursuant to Section 1420(c)(3) of the SDWA (42 U.S.C. § 300g-9 (c)(3)), VDH must submit a report to the Governor on the efficacy of VDH’s Capacity Development Strategy (Strategy), including VDH’s progress to improve the technical, managerial, and financial (TMF) capacity of waterworks in Virginia. The Strategy describes VDH’s work to evaluate and assist waterworks with TMF capacity. The Strategy incorporates programmatic and individualized assistance based on need. TMF capacity drives the success of a waterworks’ program to comply with state and federal regulations.

In July 2020, VDH updated its Strategy to incorporate requirements in America’s Water Infrastructure Act (AWIA); U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approval for the updated Strategy is pending. Virginia’s currently approved Strategy has three main objectives:

1) Posses and exercise sufficient authority to prevent nonviable community and NTNC waterworks;

2) Assess, prioritize, and respond to correct TMF capacity limitations; and,

3) Ensure waterworks offered financial assistance have, or will develop, sufficient TMF capacity prior to fund disbursement

VDH’s drinking water program centers on permitting, compliance, TMF assistance, and enforcement. VDH’s program identifies waterworks lacking TMF capacity, provides assistance to improve capacity, and permits the operation of regulatory compliant waterworks.

During the reporting period (July 1, 2017 – June 31, 2020), the Capacity Development Program grew and accomplished many programmatic goals. VDH issued 553 construction permits and 701 operation permits for new waterworks or modifications of existing waterworks. Staff completed 1,577 source water assessments and 70 well site inspections. VDH ensured 1,598 waterworks had a properly licensed operator. In implementing its Strategy, VDH accomplished the following:

• Offered $58,338,275 in low interest or interest-free construction loans to 77 waterworks through the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF).

• Awarded $1,065,600 for lead service line replacements to four localities (Alexandria, Chesapeake, Henry County, and Richmond).

• Awarded $900,750 in planning and design grant funds to 25 waterworks.

• Provided $217,000 in small project engineering assistance to 17 waterworks.

• Completed 3,857 routine sanitary surveys of waterworks facilities.

• Conducted 168 special sanitary surveys in response to complaints or water quality issues.

• Evaluated 2,665 requests for water quality monitoring waivers for man-made chemicals.

• Issued 4,942 notices of alleged violation for noncompliance with the SDWA and Virginia Waterworks Regulations.

• Produced 190 warning letters to waterworks that were persistently in noncompliance with the regulations.

• Issued 15 administrative orders to waterworks substantially and persistently out of compliance with regulations, eight of which have been fully resolved.

• Responded to 31,560 requests for technical assistance from waterworks and operators.

• Evaluated 1,597 community and NTNC waterworks for TMF capacity.

• Reviewed 35 source water protection plans, with an additional 11 plans in draft format.

• Collaborated with technical assistance partners who provided 1,068 hours of leak detection services to 74 waterworks using equipment paid with DWSRF funding.

VDH’s Strategy provides training to ensure managerial capacity at waterworks. VDH trains and assists waterworks owners on business operation plans. VDH contracts with Virginia Tech to provide two classes a year on managerial capacity. During the reporting period, Virginia Tech held four courses for waterworks decision makers. VDH and Virginia Tech canceled two courses in 2020 because of the pandemic.

Waterworks lacking TMF capacity were required to complete Waterworks Business Operations Plans as part of DWSRF funding. Virginia’s Strategy helped waterworks reliably produce and deliver safe drinking water to consumers through direct technical assistance and regulatory compliance help. The Strategy incorporates VDH’s major program activities, which maximizes capacity development in Virginia. This report documents VDH’s assistance to waterworks, especially small waterworks (those serving 10,000 of fewer consumers), which tend to have the greatest need.