Policy Clarifications on the Eligibility of Water and Wastewater Utility Projects for FEMA s Public Assistance and Hazard Mitigation Assistance Grants

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1 Policy Clarifications on the Eligibility of Water and Wastewater Utility Projects for FEMA s Public Assistance and Hazard Mitigation Assistance Grants I. Introduction and Purpose This document provides policy clarifications on the eligibility of water/wastewater utility projects for funding under FEMA s Public Assistance (PA) Grant Program and FEMA s Hazard Mitigation Assistance (HMA) Grants Programs. The PA and HMA Grant Programs are administered by two separate parts of FEMA, the Recovery and Mitigation Directorates, respectively. The clarifications address past questions by utilities and local governments on both these grant programs and take into consideration some of the special characteristics and design features of utility operations. The following is the Environmental Protection Agency s (EPA s) understanding of the eligibility policies for PA and HMA grants based on input and concurrence from FEMA s PA Division in the Recovery Directorate and FEMA s Grants Implementation Branch in the Mitigation Directorate. In two previous coordinated efforts with FEMA, EPA issued a publication targeted to utilities entitled, Public Assistance for Water and Wastewater Utilities in Emergencies and Disasters (EPA 817-F ; August 2010) and released a tool on disaster funding from federal agencies entitled, Federal Funding for Utilities Water/Wastewater- in National Disasters (Fed FUNDS) (see II. Characteristics/Design Features of Water/Wastewater Utility Operations To assist with eligibility determinations, there needs to be an understanding of the processes, equipment, and locations of water/wastewater utility operations. Below are schematics of the surface water treatment process, the groundwater treatment process, and the wastewater utility process. Both water and wastewater systems are essentially industrial facilities located in low lying areas with a network of distribution/collection pipelines, pumps and storage equipment. Figure 1. Surface Water Treatment Process Source: National Environmental Services Center 1

2 Figure 2. Groundwater Treatment Process Source: National Environmental Services Center Figure 3. Wastewater Utility Process III. Established Eligibility for Water/Wastewater Utilities in FEMA s PA/HMA Grant Programs A. Utilities Eligibility. Many water and wastewater utilities are publicly owned/operated by local governments and thus are eligible for funds under both FEMA s PA Grant Program and HMA Grant Programs. However, utilities that are either private non-profit or private for-profit also may be eligible depending on the conditions specified in the different grant programs. 2

3 B. Eligible Categories under FEMA s PA Grant Program. Because of their public health mission, water/wastewater utilities are eligible and should be encouraged to apply for funding under Emergency Work (see Figure 4). This includes funding for work in Category A Debris Removal (e.g., to provide access to utility) and Category B Emergency Protective Measures (e.g., emergency repair of pump to maintain water pressurization). Utilities can also apply for more long-term Permanent Work. This includes funding for work in Category F Utilities (e.g., permanent repair of treatment process) as well as funding for Category C Roads and Bridges (e.g., culvert washout), Category D Water Control Facilities (e.g., damaged utility-owned dams), and Category E - Buildings and Equipment (e.g., flooding of water utility laboratories). Figure 4. Categories of Work FEMA Public Assistance Categories of Work Category Type of Work Emergency Work A Debris Removal B Emergency Protective Measures Permanent Work C Roads and Bridges D Water Control Facilities E Buildings and Equipment F Utilities G Parks, Recreational Facilities, and Other Items C. Temporary Relocation under FEMA s PA Grant Program. Under Provision of Temporary Relocation Facilities, damaged utilities may get reimbursed under FEMA s PA for temporary relocation of facilities. For utilities, this could mean, as an example, temporary relocation of an administration building. IV. Policy Clarifications on Eligibility of Water/Wastewater Utility Projects A. Mitigation in Floodplain. By design, water/wastewater utilities and wellhead facilities are often built in floodplains near rivers or aquifers. Although FEMA generally encourages relocation outside of a floodplain, the FEMA PA Grant Program does not preclude funding repair or mitigation of water/wastewater utilities within a floodplain (see text from Hazard Mitigation Funding under Section 406). Utilities can apply for FEMA PA funding to install mitigation measures in a floodplain. B. Predetermined Cost Effective Mitigation for Water/Wastewater Utilities. FEMA s PA Grant Program has a list of mitigation measures that are predetermined to be cost effective for water, sewer, and stormwater facilities. No cost/benefit analysis is necessary. These measures include: 3

4 Sanitary and Storm Sewer Systems 1. Access covers - When feasible, access covers can be elevated to the hydraulic grade line. There are a number of devices that prevent infiltration into access holes. 2. Sewer lines - Repair, lining or encasement of damaged sections to prevent infiltration or structural collapse. 3. Pump stations Equipment or controls in a pump station that are subject to damage from the 100- year flood can be elevated. Pump station buildings can be dry flood-proofed. Installation of camlocks, transfer switches, and electrical panels to facilitate the connection of portable emergency generators. Pump stations If pumps and their attached motors are damaged by storm water inundation, replace them with submersible or inline pumps as appropriate. Pump stations If pump station equipment is damaged as a result of inundation resulting from power failure, install switches, circuit isolation and/quick connect capability to facilitate rapid connection of backup power. Wastewater Treatment Plants 1. Elevation of equipment and controls that can be elevated easily. 2. Dry or wet flood-proofing of buildings. Potable Water 1. Well systems Reduction of infiltration and subsequent contamination of the aquifer. Methods include casing the well or raising the elevation of the well head. Elevation of controls, mechanical equipment, or electrical service associated with use of the well to protect them from flood damage. 2. Raw water intakes - Buttressing to prevent damage from erosion, scour and flood debris. 3. Water treatment plants Elevation of equipment and controls that can be elevated easily. Dry flood-proofing. For other mitigation measures to be eligible under FEMA s PA Grant Program, the utility or wellhead facility would need to conduct a cost/benefit analysis, and the project would be considered on a case-by-case basis. In addition, FEMA s PA Grant Program only covers a damaged element (i.e., specific equipment/process) and not mitigation for the entire facility. For example, FEMA s PA Grant Program would not cover installation of a floodwall or dike to prevent water intrusion to the entire water/wastewater facility. Under this program, FEMA would also not cover rebuilding a new facility (e.g., drill new well, reconstruct pump house) outside of the floodplain. However, under FEMA s HMA Grant Program, the utility could conduct a detailed cost/benefit analysis of the project (e.g., barrier wall or new structure) and apply for these competitive mitigation grants. 4

5 C. Real-time Access to Emergency Generators for Response. A utility can be reimbursed for rental or borrowed generators (including fuel) under FEMA s PA Grant Program if the generator is needed to supply power during an emergency to treat and distribute clean water or wastewater. In support of public health, the utility could be reimbursed under Category B (Emergency Work). Transportation of a cache of utility or state-owned generators from a storage depot or commercial entity to a specific utility would also be covered. If the utility already owned a generator, but it was damaged by the disaster, FEMA s PA Grant Program could be used to pay for repair or replacement of the generator in accordance with PA Program rules. D. Permanent Emergency Generator to Operate Water/Wastewater Systems. If a utility did not have a permanent generator prior to the emergency, FEMA s PA Grant Program will not pay for the purchase and installation of a permanent emergency backup generator to operate water/wastewater treatment facilities and pump stations. If the utility did have a permanent generator that was damaged, FEMA s PA would consider the repair or replacement of the generator to be a reimbursable expense. To obtain a permanent emergency generator, a utility could apply to obtain funds from the FEMA s HMA Grant Program (Section 404). Utilities have been able to obtain FEMA HMA funds to retrofit utility electrical connections to receive temporary emergency generators during a disaster. E. Rebuild with Increased Capacity/Capability. Under FEMA s PA Grant Program, eligible reimbursable work and equipment are those that restore the design, capacity, and function of the utility as it existed immediately prior to the disaster and in conformity with applicable standards and costs. However, FEMA will consider improved projects where a utility could increase the capacity of a pipeline, capability of the treatment system, etc. and get reimbursed for the cost of restoring/replacing the original sized pipeline, original treatment system, etc. The utility would pay the difference. The same reimbursable policy for improved projects could apply to improving the treatment method or technology used, especially to enhance compliance with drinking water and wastewater regulations. Therefore, it is helpful for the utility to obtain two cost estimates: one for rebuilding to original specifications and another for rebuilding with the improved capabilities. It is also helpful to have had the type of improvement listed on the utility s infrastructure capital improvement plan. F. Common Issues with Flooding of Wellhead. Wells used to tap groundwater can become contaminated with debris during a flood. Also, soils and hardware around the wellhead can dislodge and damage the pumps, casing, piping, and sanitary seal around the well casing (see previous figure of groundwater treatment process). A well could also collapse. Under FEMA PA Grant Program, eligible repair options could be to regrade and fill washed out/eroded soil around flooded wellhead and replace the exposed sanitary seal. Predetermined cost effective mitigation measures (see section IV.B above for list) could include building a housing barrier around a wellhead and raising a wellhead above the base flood elevation (BFE). A separate cost benefit analysis would be needed for other non-listed measures, such as establishing the interconnection between neighboring water systems. 5

6 G. Replace Equipment with Cost Effective Industry Standard. If a utility had outdated equipment that was damaged and the replacement equipment either no longer exists (e.g., clay distribution pipe) or is not reasonably available, FEMA allows the utility to get reimbursed for cost effective industry standard equipment (assuming similar equipment capacity). H. Repair with Energy Efficient Equipment. When rebuilding, utilities may want to replace damaged pumps, blowers, etc. with more energy efficient versions to reduce the electric load on the power grid and be more resilient to service disruptions and any resulting public health impacts. FEMA s PA Grant Process will not reimburse any extra costs above the costs needed to restore original equipment. However, utilities may look toward other agencies (e.g., DOE, EPA) for funds to promote energy efficiency. I. Reimbursement for Resources Shared through Utility Mutual Aid Agreements. FEMA supports the use of mutual aid agreements to assist with emergency response and recovery. The water sector has developed the Water and Wastewater Agency Response Network (WARN), an intrastate network of "utilities helping utilities" to share resources during emergencies. The WARN Mutual Aid and Assistance Agreement (available in 48 states and the National Capital Region) includes provisions for reimbursement of equipment and staff between utilities. Sharing of water resources through WARN has occurred in past emergencies. FEMA PA Grant Program will reimburse eligible work/equipment for eligible applicants (publicly owned/operated or private non-profit utilities) regardless of who provides the resources (including private for-profit utilities). However, FEMA PA Grant Program will not reimburse a private for-profit utility even if the utility borrowed response work/equipment from a publicly owned/operated utility. J. Immediate Repairs. Emergency repairs are reimbursable for water/wastewater utilities under FEMA s PA Grant Program. However, to quickly restore operations and reduce risks to public health, a utility sometimes makes immediate repairs without first documenting the damage. This situation has made it difficult to get reimbursed for expenses under Category B -Emergency Protective Measures. To address this situation, FEMA suggests that the utility staff use cameras to document the initial damage and repair, keep maintenance records to document the pre-disaster conditions of the equipment, and keep detailed work logs and inventory of materials used and purchased during the immediate repair. 6

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