How NEPA Rule Updates Affect Water System Operators

How NEPA Rule Updates Affect Water System Operators

Proposed changes to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) will dramatically affect how environmental permitting and reviews occur across all industries – including water and wastewater infrastructure.

The changes were part of the Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2023 (FRA) that President Biden signed into law on June 3, 2023.According to a white paper published by environmental consulting company WSP, noteworthy changes to the 54-year-old act include:

  • Introducing the concept of a NEPA threshold so that agencies do not have to prepare a NEPA document if certain criteria are met
  • Narrowing the scope of NEPA review to focus on reasonably foreseeable environmental effects rather than more speculative impacts of proposed actions
  • Providing directions on how federal agencies should agree to lead agency status or appoint state, tribal, or local agencies for joint lead agency status, and cooperating agency status
  • Establishing deadlines for completion of Environmental Impact Statements (EISs) and Environmental Assessments (EAs)

Signed into law on January 1, 1970, NEPA requires federal agencies to assess the environmental effects of their proposed actions prior to deciding whether to take those actions.

The President’s Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) oversees NEPA implementation.

In the November 2023 issue of Water Innovations, WSP Senior Vice President and National Practice Leader for Environmental Processes and Policy, Michael D. Smith, wrote that the changes to NEPA “pose significant implications for many industry sectors, including infrastructure, land management, natural resources, extraction, manufacturing, construction... and water.”

“When finalized, these proposed changes to the federal environmental and permitting review process will require federal agencies to substantially adjust their approaches to environmental permitting and reviews,” Smith wrote.

A desire for increased dialogue with key stakeholders is evident in the proposed NEPA changes, with the term “public involvement” being replaced with “public engagement” to reflect this.

In concluding his piece in Water Innovations, Smith said that “WSP will continue to evaluate the implications of these important changes and any further related developments, including possible Congressional action to further amend the NEPA statute beyond the important changes made in June 2023. By incorporating climate change, environmental justice, public engagement, and other priority topics, the newly proposed regulatory text provides strong direction for agencies to consider these issues more robustly than some agencies have in the past. Furthermore, these changes show a serious emphasis on improving the efficiency of the NEPA process.”

A worker uses a small crane to lower a video pipe inspection rover out of the back of a van.
GPRS Project Managers use an arsenal of video pipe inspection rovers and other technology to fully visualize your wastewater infrastructure.

How GPRS Helps Municipalities & Water Systems Comply with NEPA Regulations

The proposed changes to the NEPA process are expected to result in substantial alterations to how water and wastewater infrastructure projects are designed, evaluated, and maintained.

GPRS Video (CCTV) Pipe Inspection services assist in the design, evaluation, and maintenance of wastewater systems by providing you with a clear picture of your system’s integrity.

VPI is a sewer inspection service using industry-leading video cameras to prevent problems by inspecting underground sewer lines and lateral pipelines. Our NASSCO-certified Project Managers can locate clogs, investigate cross bores, find structural faults and damages, and conduct lateral sewer line inspections.

Wastewater infrastructure that has been compromised by degradation or cross bores can cause environmental problems such as contaminated groundwater or soil. VPI services can locate existing cross bores before they cause problems and prevent new cross bores by identifying where potential intersections of utilities could occur during directional drilling projects.

GPRS video sewer scope services can help discover a collapsed sewer lateral, duct, or an unknown blockage in a pipe – all problems that, if left unchecked, could affect the environment and surrounding communities. We limit project delays and budget overruns by locating the exact impediment in your sewer or stormwater line, including bellies, collapses, tree roots, lateral taps, cross bores, or other damages.

Our utility locating services are enhanced by our ability to discover, inspect, and map water and sewer systems by using robotic video pipe cameras, push cameras, and lateral launch cameras. Our VPI services ensure you receive a comprehensive map of your sewer system including hard-to-discover elements like lateral lines.

Two workers lower a video pipe inspection rover into an open manhole.
Sewer inspection services ensure the integrity of your wastewater infrastructure and prevent costly and potentially hazardous problems such as cross bores and inflow/infiltration (I/I).

Why Do I Need a Sewer Inspection?

The average sewer pipe in the United States is 45 years old and operating at 81% capacity. 70,000 sanitary sewer overflows occur annually in the U.S., and over 50% of those overflows can be directly attributed to Inflow/Infiltration (I/I): the process of groundwater or water from sources other than domestic wastewater entering sanitary sewers.

I/I can cause dilution in sanitary sewers, which decreases the efficiency of treatment which can lead to overflows. The best way to mitigate this problem is to hire a professional sewer video inspection service like GPRS to run our remote-controlled rovers equipped with CCTV cameras through your infrastructure to ensure its integrity.

GPRS VPI Project Managers are industry-leading experts in the sewer inspection services that ensure your project’s success and eliminate negative impact to the environment and community. They are certified by the National Association of Sewer Service Companies, and trained to the highest standard possible, and they use only the most advanced equipment to locate problems in sewer lines.

From skyscrapers to sewer lines, GPRS Intelligently Visualizes The Built World® to keep your projects on time, on budget, and safe.

What can we help you visualize? Click the links below to schedule a service or request a quote today!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is NEPA?

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires federal agencies to assess the environmental effects of their proposed actions prior to deciding whether to take those actions.

Does NEPA apply to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)?

Yes, the EPA is required to comply with the requirements of NEPA for certain research and development activities.

What is Video Pipe Inspection (VPI)?

Video Pipe Inspection, or VPI is a sewer inspection service using CCTV video cameras to mitigate or prevent infrastructure damage by inspecting underground water, sewer lines, and lateral pipelines. GPRS’ NASSCO-certified technicians can locate clogs, investigate cross bores, find structural faults and damages, and conduct lateral sewer line inspections.