Running Toilets Get Their Own 5K Race!

Running Toilet
Catch a Running Toilet in a 5K Race Near You!

The EPA has been promoting Fix-a-Leak Week (March 16-22, 2015) for the past seven years. But like many issues in public works, sometimes it is difficult to drive awareness and attract people's attention to the message. Even with great social media resources and a topic that left ignored could mean a loss of money, it's still not easy for a message like this to stand out in today's constant stream of information. So some communities are taking a different and innovative approach by promoting the problem of running water with a 5K Run, and a few races will even include a running toilet.

If you manage a water system and have been looking for an idea for getting your message out about Fix-a-Leak, you can check out the races listed at the end of this post and consider organizing something similar in your own community. As the popularity of the race in Roswell, Ga., shows, your one event can end up reaching 800 people from your community. If the idea of a race is too much for your staff to manage on their own with the often limited time and resources available, you can follow the lead of Fort Worth, Texas, and partner with a local running group or club to help organize and host your run.

Many of the communities also enhance their event by incorporating social media. A few have created videos to promote their run (included with each listing below) or encouraged participants to use social media to post photos of themselves running in the race. Some of the races are themed and include a costume contest. At least one of the races offers a prize to a random person who posts on social media something they learned from the event. And others, including the one in Fort Worth, have also arranged for groups such as the EPA, local water conservation organizations, and local hardware or plumbing companies to set up information booths at the race. What better way to raise awareness, offer information, and have some fun!?


Races Promoting Fix-a-Leak Week:


Peoria: One for Water 4-miler, Saturday, March 21, 2015


Santa Rosa: St. Patrick's Day 5K, Sunday, March 15, 2015


Roswell: Water Drop Dash, Saturday, March 21, 2015



Fort Worth: Chasing Leaks 5K Run/Walk, Sunday, March 15, 2015

Plano: Chasing Leaks Fun Run, Saturday, March 14, 2015


Charlottesville: Fix-A-Leak Family 5K, Sunday, March 22, 2015



Proposed New Rule to Extend Army Corps Jurisdiction and Oversight?

St. Charles on the Fox

According to a recently released Latham & Watkins Client Alert Commentary, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) jointly released a proposed rule on March 25, 2014, which would represent the most sweeping change in a generation to the rules governing federal Clean Water Act (CWA) jurisdiction.

Based on information presented in the commentary, it appears this new rule would expand the definition of "waters of the U.S." which would result in extending the jurisdiction of the Corps to areas not now regulated by this agency. The need for proposing this new rule has been explained by both agencies as necessary to, according to their press release, "clarify protection under the Clean Water Act for streams and wetlands."

The pre-publication version of the new rule (which is at this point a 370-page document) states:

Under the proposed first section of the regulation, section (a), the agencies propose to define the “waters of the United States” for all sections (including sections 301, 311, 401, 402, 404) of the CWA to mean:
• All waters which are currently used, were used in the past, or may be susceptible to use in interstate or foreign commerce, including all waters which are subject to the ebb and flow of the tide;
• All interstate waters, including interstate wetlands;
• The territorial seas;
• All impoundments of a traditional navigable water, interstate water, the territorial seas or a tributary;
• All tributaries of a traditional navigable water, interstate water, the territorial seas or impoundment;
• All waters, including wetlands, adjacent to a traditional navigable water, interstate water, the territorial seas, impoundment or tributary; and
• On a case-specific basis, other waters, including wetlands, provided that those waters alone, or in combination with other similarly situated waters, including wetlands, located in the same region, have a significant nexus to a traditional navigable water, interstate water or the territorial seas.


After reading through the pre-publication version and the Client Alert Commentary mentioned above, you might be left wondering just what area through which water can flow would not potentially be subject to the Corps jurisdiction. The proposed rule offers these exceptions:

  • Waste treatment systems, including treatment ponds or lagoons, designed to meet the requirements of the Clean Water Act.
  • Prior converted cropland. Notwithstanding the determination of an area’s status as prior converted cropland by any other federal agency, for the purposes of the Clean Water Act the final authority regarding Clean Water Act jurisdiction remains with EPA.
  • Ditches that are excavated wholly in uplands, drain only uplands, and have less than perennial flow.
  • Ditches that do not contribute flow, either directly or through another water, to a traditional navigable water, interstate water, the territorial seas or an impoundment of a jurisdictional water.
  • The following features:
    • artificially irrigated areas that would revert to upland should application of irrigation water to that area cease;
    • artificial lakes or ponds created by excavating and/or diking dry land and used exclusively for such purposes as stock watering, irrigation, settling basins, or rice growing;
    • artificial reflecting pools or swimming pools created by excavating and/or diking dry land;
    • small ornamental waters created by excavating and/or diking dry land for primarily aesthetic reasons;
    • water-filled depressions created incidental to construction activity;
    • groundwater, including groundwater drained through subsurface drainage systems; and
    • gullies and rills and non-wetland swales.

The reactions I've read to this proposed rule have been mixed. Some people in the industry are understandably concerned by what they believe to be an expansion of powers by both agencies and by the impacts the rule may have on project timelines and costs. Kevin Kelly, president of the National Association of Home Builders was quoted in the Wall Street Journal as saying, "EPA has added just about everything into its jurisdiction by expanding the definition of a 'tributary,' "  However environmental groups have stated this proposed rule does not extend either agency's jurisdiction or regulation over any waters not currently covered by the Clean Water Act.

I would encourage everyone to perform their own review of the proposed rule and related literature and discuss it with the legal counsel for your agency, and then to comment once the proposed rule is officially published. Below are just a few links with additional information:

EPA Waters of the U.S. Website

Wall Street Journal Article: EPA, Army Corps Propose New Rules Limiting Discharges

AGC News

WEF Stormwater Report




Enter the EPA Water Quality Contest

Over the last year, the EPA has successfully embraced the use of social media to help promote environmental stewardship. One of their most recent efforts is the launch of a water quality contest. According to their Web site, they are “looking for educational videos that inspire people to help protect our streams, lakes, wetlands, and coasts.”

Two winners will be chosen and each will receive $2,500. Their winning videos will be posted on the EPA Web site. According to the EPA, “entries must be received by Earth Day, April 22, 2009. The contest winners will be notified in May via e-mail.”

You can find out more about the contest by watching the video below and by visiting the EPA Web site.


Bumping into the DOT

As a civil engineer, the federal agencies I visit online are usually the DOT, EPA, and FHWA with an occasional click over to the USGS. Upon my entry into Second Life, I searched for these agencies within that virtual world and found nothing.

The only federal agencies that had made it into the virtual realm and set up islands were NASA, NOAA, and the CDC. And although from a personal level, I enjoyed visiting the islands and learning about agencies I really had known little about, I still held hope that one day, I would be able to visit the DOT, EPA, or FHWA in virtual form.

Well that day might be finally getting nearer. Last week, while I was traveling through Second Life researching colleges and universities for an article I am working on, I noticed an island called DOT World. I clicked it hoping it was open to the public, and sure enough I was teleported to the ground. There was only one building so I worried that maybe I had assumed wrong about the name of the island. Maybe someone had just happened to choose the common abbreviation for the Department of Transportation. But once I entered the small structure sitting in the corner of the sim, I knew it was the DOT for which I had searched. There on the conference table was the DOT logo.

DOT building in Second Life
DOT building in Second Life

As excited as I was to find the DOT in Second Life and as much as I wanted to tell everyone, I felt I should check to make sure they wouldn’t mind having their presence known – some agencies want to enter the virtual realm as quietly as possible while they figure out their approach to this new technology. So I IMed the island’s owner and received confirmation that I could publicly let folks know they were there. Unfortunately since then, they have closed off the island to public access so although they might not mind having folks know they are there, they seem to have decided they don’t want them poking around.

Anyway it appears official, the DOT has entered the virtual realm and set up shop in Second Life. And even though right now they only have one building for meetings and have decided not to let anyone visit, at least it is a start; perhaps they will even encourage the FHWA to follow them in. So with all the speculation about how progressive the Obama administration will be and how they will embrace new technologies, I have to think that it might not be long before I can attend classes and collect resources virtually. You don’t get much closer to putting a face to government than establishing an digital representations of your staff in avatar form.


U.S. EPA Launches “Science Wednesday”

The U.S. EPA continues to successfully implement Web 2.0 tools in an effort to reach out to the public. Their latest launch, Science Wednesday, “will feature experiences related to environmental science, brought to you by scientists, engineers, researchers, and perhaps the occasional science writer from across EPA.” Anyone can access this feature by visiting Greenversations: the U.S. EPA blog.


EPA Launches Multimedia Site

The US EPA has started up a multimedia site at that offers videos, audio/podcasts, and images. Some of the videos and podcasts cover information about Radon, water infrastructure, indoor air quality, and other topics related to the environment.

Visitors can also access an area of the site that allows for interaction between the EPA and the public. Here there are “green” tips for citizens and a link to a blog written by the Deputy Administrator, Marcus Peacock. The EPA also holds an “Ask EPA” session that is described as an “online interactive forum where you can discuss a wide range of environmental and human health issues with EPA’s senior officials.”