Element 1 - Affordability

Clean water affordability provisions are implemented in the permitting programs as a result of several changes to environmental rules in 2011. Procedures have been developed to ensure consistency in the application of the affordability requirements in the issuance and enforcement of permits. Affordability requirements may be inserted into rules where applicable. The department is required to issue a permit with final effluent limits that are in accordance with current Water Quality Standards per the Clean Water Act and the Missouri Clean Water Law. In order to mitigate adverse impact to distressed populations resulting from the cost of compliance, the practical use of affordability findings allows longer implementation schedules. The affordability finding document, included with the operating permit or enforcement agreement, does not take the place of Factor 6  (a separate process removing a designated use under 40 CFR 131.10(g)) in the Use Attainability Analysis (UAA), issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, or, a variance. If the department fails to make a finding of affordability, the resulting permit shall be null, void and unenforceable.

The department is required to issue findings of affordability upon which to base NPDES permits and enforcement decisions, to the extent allowable under chapter 644.145.1 and the Clean Water Act., concerning any portion of a combined or separate sanitary sewer system or publicly-owned treatment works, when it contains a new environmental requirement or, enforces provisions of the law. The department is not required to make a finding of affordability for sewer extensions, or renewals or modifications that contain no new environmental requirements, or, if the community is greater than 3,300 people and waives the department’s finding requirement.

There are eight criteria that the department uses to analyze whether a community can immediately afford the upgrades necessary to meet the new permit effluent limits, before making a decision. The eight criteria evaluated in the department’s Cost Analysis for Compliance (CAFCom), as required by 644.145 RSMo, are:

  1. A community’s financial capability and ability to raise and secure necessary funding;
  2. Affordability of pollution control options for the individuals or households at or below the median household income level of the community;
  3. An evaluation of the overall costs and environmental benefits of the control technologies;
  4.  Inclusion of ongoing costs of operating and maintaining the existing wastewater collection and treatment system, including payments on outstanding debts for wastewater collection and treatment systems when calculating projected rates;
  5. An inclusion of ways to reduce economic impacts on distressed populations in the community, including but not limited to low- and fixed- income populations. This requirement includes but is not limited to:
    • a. Allowing adequate time in implementation schedules to mitigate potential adverse impacts on distressed populations resulting from the costs of the improvements and taking into consideration local economic considerations; and
  1. b. Allowing for reasonable accommodations for regulated entities when inflexible standards and fines would impose a disproportionate financial hardship in light of the environmental benefits to be gained; and through assessment of other community investments and operating costs relating to environmental improvements and public health protection;
  2. An assessment of factors set forth in the USEPA’s guidance, including but not limited to the “Combined Sewer Overflow Guidance for Financial Capability Assessment and Schedule Development” that may ease the cost burdens of implementing wet weather control plans, including but not limited to small system considerations, the attainability of water quality standards and development of wet weather standards; and
  3. An assessment of any other relevant local community economic conditions;

The affordability of new pollution controls, required under the 2nd criteria, is analyzed by a spreadsheet developed by the department which utilizes the preliminary design and costing software CapDetWorks, developed by Hydromantis. The department evaluates four different mechanical treatment technologies and two land application scenarios all of which are capable of meeting ammonia less than 1.0 mg/L and that meet losing stream effluent limits for biochemical oxygen demand (BOD5) and total suspended solids (TSS). CapDet Works uses a unit cost approach with an extensive national cost database that accounts for the effects of inflation. CapDet Works allows for the treatment plant to be designed based on wastewater characteristics.

CapDet Works estimates the overall project costs, including capital costs, and operations and maintenance costs. From there the department developed a spreadsheet to calculate present value over a twenty year period, debt retirement per user, operation and maintenance cost per user, and, overall estimated user cost per household on a monthly basis. The operation and maintenance costs include operational staff costs, material, energy, chemical, and maintenance costs. As CapDet Works is based on national cost indices, the cost estimations within the CAFCom analysis are consistently higher than the actual construction costs for similar projects that are submitted within the engineering reports. CapDet Works does not reflect site-specific or individual situations or other items the community needs to address when  upgrading.

The department uses a holistic approach involving each of eight criteria determining the socioeconomic burden associated with the new permit or the enforcement decision appropriate for the community. Prescriptive formulas and measures, such as median household income, cannot be considered as the only indicator of the community’s financial capability to upgrade the existing wastewater treatment facility.

Under 644.145the department must adopt procedures to determine whether a permit or decision is immediately affordable. The department reviews community investments in environmental improvements by assessment of factors set forth in EPA guidance, identified in the "Interim Economic Guidance for Water Quality Standards." The determination is based upon the financial information presented by the applicant within the financial questionnaire, including the readily available empirical data of a community's financial capability, the affordability of pollution control options for individual households, an evaluation of costs and environmental benefits of the control technologies, the inclusion of ways to reduce economic impacts on distressed populations in the community and, an assessment of other community investments relating to environmental improvements. It includes, but is not limited to, low and/or fixed income populations.

The permit writer sends a financial questionnaire to the permit renewal applicant with the department welcome letter. The financial questionnaire can also be found on the department’s website at: http://dnr.mo.gov/forms/780-2511-f.pdf.  The financial questionnaire asks a series of questions regarding the financial situation of the community, to be filled out by a public official. The financial questionnaire is sent back to the permit writer to be incorporated into the CAFCom. If the completed financial questionnaire is not provided to the department within a certain amount of time, the department relies on readily available data to complete the analysis.  Preliminary affordability determinations are released to the applicant, prior to public notice. After public notice and comment, the WPP will issue its final affordability finding. This finding is located in the appendix, attached to the Department of Natural Resources Missouri Fact Sheet, inside the final permit. Renewals and other discretionary actions without substantive modifications will generally be determined as affordable. The applicant may contest a finding.

Affordability findings are prepared where there is a settlement or unilateral order. Enforcement actions resolved by consent will reflect the affordability requirement and include affirmation that the resolution is affordable.

The department is required to file an annual report by the beginning of the fiscal year with the governor, the Speaker of the Missouri House and, the President pro tem of the Senate, including the chairs of the committees in both houses having primary jurisdiction over natural resource issues.

Enforcement

When enforcing the provisions of the Missouri Clean Water Law and the Clean Water Act, for publicly-owned, combined or separate sanitary or storm sewer system or treatment works, the WPP is required to prepare a CAFCom. The CAFCom is used to determine whether pollution controls required to mitigate violations are affordable pursuant to Section 644.145. 

The WPP requests information from the community to aid in evaluating the eight criteria as described above. Information provided by the community is used to draft a CAFCom that the WPP sends the responsible party along with a draft Abatement Order on Consent (AOC). The community then has an opportunity to comment or suggest changes to the AOC and/or the CAFCom. Once an agreement on AOC and the Finding of Affordability is reached, the community signs the AOC which is considered fully effective and enforceable at the time it is signed by the department.  The CAFCom is incorporated into the AOC as an exhibit.