Monday, December 31, 2018

Check the Sewer Line Before You Buy the House

from Fairfax City

Replacing the sewer line running from your house to the sewer main in the street can end up costing from $3,000 to $25,000: $50 to $275 per foot for the pipe replacement and if you have to trench additional costs to repair damaged landscaping and any hardscapes (driveways, walkways, patios etc.) that were impacted. These costs are borne by the homeowner, not the sewer utility or county. So, before you consider buying an older home, have the sewer line inspected.

A sewer line inspection is not included as part of the home inspection. A sewer line can be inspected by inserting a special camera into the sewer line and viewing the viewing the resulting Closed Circuit Television Video (CCTV). This typically costs $300 to $400 and allows a plumber or rooter company to see the complete system. A trained professional will be able to identify any blockage within the pipe, tree root infiltration and broken pipes or joints and view the general condition of the pipe. Make sure that you get a copy of the video.

The sanitary sewer lateral is the pipe that carries waste water from the house to the public sanitary sewer main. The sanitary sewer lateral is located on private property and crosses the right of way, and its maintenance and repair is entirely the responsibility of the property owner. Sanitary sewer laterals are typically 4” in diameter. The public sewer mains are typically 8” and larger in diameter.

The building lateral is part of the home. Maintenance repair, and replacement of laterals is the responsibility of the owner and is enforceable by law in most jurisdictions, because a failed sewer lateral is a threat to public health. Many of the sewer laterals installed in this part of the country before the 1980’s were essentially made of cardboard and pitch a product known as Orangeburg pipe which was used for both water pipe and sewer pipes from the 1860's through the 1970's. After 1980 PVC was used for water pipes and ABS pipe for sewer pipes.

Some of the signs that a sewer lateral may require repair include: Frequently clogged drains, Odor of sewage, and basement sewer backups during rain. Sewer backups in the basement can be caused by a variety of factors including a blockage in the sewer lateral. Most sewer laterals can be cleaned by accessing the sanitary clean-
out and this is the service of the “rooter” companies and plumbers. If they occur during heavy rain storms, then it is likely due to the fact that sewer system is being inundated and indicates that rainwater is entering the sewer pipe.

There are three basic methods of repairing/replacing a sewer lateral; Excavating from sewer main to house and replacing the pipe, CIPP (Cured-in-place-pipe) lining of the pipe, and the pipe-bursting method. CIPP involves inserting a fiberglass or polyester sleeve that is saturated with an epoxy resin inside a pipe that has been cleaned out. The sleeve is then inflated and cured. This is typically done on Orangeburg pipe and when appropriate is very effective. Taking this route allows you to keep more of your property intact. The pipe-bursting method a pneumatic or hydraulic head is fed into the sewer pipe to break up existing brittle clay or iron piping. At the same time, a new, flexible line is drawn through the original space. CIPP and pipe bursting are not options for all repairs.

CIPP and Pipe Bursting can only be used on pipes where the tuberculation (mounding and corrosion) of the pipe inner surface is not too excessive to prevent a thorough cleaning and preparation. Joints of the pipe must not be offset and the pipe does not sag (this is seen during the inspection if the video camera goes underwater). The bottom of the pipe, the invert, must be round and straight and in Orangeburg pipe the bottom must not be raised in the middle of the pipe signifying that the pipe is failing. The pipe must not have already collapsed, and there are no turns greater than 15-degrees. If you repair the pipe before complete pipe failure, then these methods can be used.

In Northern Virginia, NOVAC and Dominion Power sell sewer line insurance, while not a perfect solution- they only pay to repair breaks not prevention or maintenance, the insurance is reasonably priced. In Fairfax City, there is a cost share program that will pay up to 75% of $5,000 to replace the entire lateral line.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Scott Surovell’s Push to Remove Coal Ash from Possum Point

There is a whole lot of coal ash in Prince William County-3.7 million tons of the stuff. It is all sitting on a peninsula where Quantico Creek meets the Potomac River in eastern Prince William County, known as Possum Point. All this coal ash was produced by Dominion Power at their Possum Point power plant. Coal ash is the remainder left after coal is burned to generate electricity. Dominion Power is proposing to “close in place” all that coal ash by capping an existing surface impoundment.

State Senator Scott Surovell is fighting that plan and plans to draft legislation for the next session of the General Assembly prohibiting that. Senator Surovell whose district includes Possum Point wants the coal ash to be recycled or hauled away. Recycling the coal ash is also the option favored by the Southern Environmental Law Center and me.

If you recall, in 2017 Virginia’s General Assembly passed a bill that required Dominion Power to study and report on the costs and benefits, risks and recycling options for the 30million tons of coal ash now stored in lagoons at the company’s power plants across the state. Governor McAuliffe amended the bill to include a moratorium until 2018 on any new permits for coal ash disposal until a study of its risks and possible alternatives for coal ash disposal could be completed.

The consultant for Dominion Power prepared a report that examines the expenses and time frames for the three methods of disposal or recycling the coal ash: recycling for use in concrete, cinder block or wallboard; hauling it to a modern, lined landfill by truck, barge or rail; and Dominion’s original plan of consolidating all of the on-site coal ash into one impoundment , dewatering and closing in place. According to a report in the Prince William Times, Dominion Power obtained bids for recycling the coal ash at between $126-$942 million and costs for closing the coal ash ponds in place at between $137 to $418 million.

For decades the millions of cubic yards of coal ash has sat in open ponds at Possum Point. Today there is estimated to be 3.7 million cubic yards of coal ash there that Dominion Power has consolidated into one pond. 

The groundwater monitoring at Possum Point has found occasional instances where tests of downgradient wells showed elevated levels of heavy metals associated with coal ash. Monitoring has found traces of arsenic, boron, cadmium, calcium, chloride, cobalt, hardness, iron, lithium, manganese, nickel, phenol, sodium, sulfate, total dissolved solids (TDS), and zinc down gradient of the coal ash pond where all the coal ash had been consolidate, Pond D; however, the concentrations found were below the federal Safe Drinking Water Standards for those substances that have them (lithium does not have a drinking water standard). 

Dominion Power has only tested the shallow aquifer up-gradient and down-gradient of Pond D. Groundwater impacts were observed. As Dominion Points out no impact to human health or the environment was found, but it was not looked for, either. You do not find what is not tested for. It is clear by the presence of contaminants in the surrounding aquifer that the coal ash ponds at Possum Point were not adequately lined or had a functioning barrier (there is some question if there was a slurry wall installed to prevent impact to the groundwater in 1988) there is clearly hydraulic communication between Pond D and the surrounding groundwater.

The coal ash has been impacting groundwater for decades. Pond D does not appear to have adequate containment for the coal ash to be permanently disposed in. Additional groundwater monitoring is needed to determine what corrective measures are needed to restore the groundwater. As Senator Surovell argues the best option even at a high cost that will ultimately be borne by electric rate payers is recycling of the coal ash into concrete and road base.

I disagree with Senator Srovell and believe that the next best option is properly disposing the coal ash on site. However, to do this properly, Dominion Power needs to build a new disposal pond with a synthetic impermeable liner and comply with all the monitoring requirements of modern landfills. All physical barriers fail over time. This risk is best controlled by monitoring and maintenance; and Possum Point is downstream from most drinking water supplies and residents. Moving the coal ash would only make sure that ultimately more locations in Virginia will be impacted.

Monday, December 24, 2018

The Governor's Budget Proposals

Last week our Governor, Ralph Northam, presented his proposed amendments to the state’s 2018-2020 biennial budget in an address to the Joint Money Committees of the state General Assembly. You can read the entire speech at this link or the excellent review and summary in the Richmond Virginian Pilot.

The bottom line is that it appears that Virginia could have an extra $2.2 billion in revenue in the next two years. Changes to federal tax law will result in additional $1.2 billion from taxpayers forced to take the Virginia standard deduction because they took the new higher federal standard deduction and the remainder from Virginians’ higher incomes, higher sales taxes, rising business taxes- the booming economy in addition to a larger-than-expected surplus from last year. There is some question of the anticipated sales tax increase will be as large as projected; however, the fight during the next session of the General Assembly will be how to allocate it or return it to tax payers- increase the standard deduction in Virginia or earned income tax credit for the poor.

From the Virginian-Pilot I picked up this excellent summary:”Northam’s budget proposes one-time spending of:
  • $180 million in water quality, clean energy and environmental protection; 
  • $75 million for transportation projects; 
  • $80 million to free up funds for school construction loans; 
  • $46 million for expanded broadband services; 
  • $40 million for a 1 percent bonus for state employees and local officials whose salaries are supported by the state; and 
  • $20 million to acquire sites for economic development projects. 
The biggest jump in recurring expenses is a more than $200 million a year increase in the Medicaid budget, needed because the state underestimated the cost of the Medicaid program last year when it was approved.

Other proposed additions to recurring spending include:
  • $87.6 million over the next two years for the teacher salary increase 
  • $36 million to increase the number of school counselors, a recommendation of the House of Delegates’ special committee on school safety; 
  • $24 million for programs to cut overcrowding at state mental hospitals; 
  • $18.9 million for medical care at state prisons; 
  • $15.5 million for financial aid for students at state colleges and universities; and 
  • $9.7 million more for state efforts to expand access to preschools.” 
The plan Northam presented included money for Natural Resources with the following impacts for soil and water conservation districts :
  • Maintains current levels of essential operational funding for the 47 Soil and Water Conservation Districts. 
  • The Governor’s budget includes an additional $20 million; $7 million to finish the remaining SL-6 (stream exclusion fencing) backlog and $11 million to jump start Watershed Implementation Plane III (WIP3) to achieve the 2025 pollution reduction goals for the Chesapeake Bay, $1.5 million for CREP, and $500,000 for nonpoint source projects such as poultry liter transport and RMPs. 
  • The Governor’s budget includes the mandatory deposit to the Water Quality Improvement Fund (WQIF) associated with the FY19 year-end surplus of $73,757,699. 
  • The Governor also included an additional $15,031,151 from general funds. These funds would translate into $14,531,151 for Ag BMPs and technical assistance. 
  • The Governor additionally designated over $8.2 million from surplus dollars for the WQIF Reserve. 
While the Governor’s proposed budget demonstrates strong support of the agricultural cost share program and Soil and Water Conservation Districts, this is only the Governor’s proposal and the beginning of budget negotiations. Like all members of the Conservation Districts Legislative Committee I will be meeting with local legislators to inform them of the importance of our work in hopes that these funds remain in the budget. You could help by voicing your support of our mission.

Additionally, per our legislative agenda passed by the membership, we are seeking patrons for budget amendments for items not included in the Governor’s budget– additional operational funding, environmental education funding, dam rehabilitation, dam monitoring or a DCR urban nutrient management specialist to support equine nutrient pollution reduction for recreational animals.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Climate Talks in Poland End on a Mixed Note

For the first two weeks in December negotiators from 196 countries and the European Union worked on a Climate Package to implement the Paris Agreement. You might be surprised that the United States was not only present, but reportedly paid a significant role in the negotiations. While the President of the United States said he intends to withdraw from the Paris Accord, that cannot be done until 2020.

The United States was present at the talks and participated in discussions to secure the deal. At the Katowice, Poland climate change conference called COP24 Katowice. The conference was intended to approve technical rules to govern how nations will put into action the soft goals they set in the Paris Agreement of 2015, when the world agreed to hold global warming to no more than 2 degrees C above pre-industrial levels, with an aspiration to limit temperature rises to no more than 1.5 degrees C.

They made enough progress to continue moving forward; however, on a critical but complicated issue involving how countries trade and account for certain pollution they were not able to come to an agreement. Nonetheless, mankind is nowhere near on track to reduce global emissions of greenhouse gases to meet the goal of keeping global temperatures within 1.5 degrees C. In order to avoid exceeding 1.5 degrees C of warming, the recent The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) ,the United Nations body for assessing the science related to climate change, says carbon pollution must be cut almost in half by 2030, less than 12 years away, and then reach "net zero" by mid-century. New research shows that global emissions of CO2 equivalents continue to rise, despite the Paris accord. Total annual greenhouse gases emissions, including from land-use change, reached a record high of 53.5 Gigatons of CO2 equivalents in 2017, an increase of 0.7 from 2016.

The problem is that under the Paris Agreement China has only agreed to stop growing their CO2 emissions by 2030 and the reduction in emissions pledged so far are nowhere near sufficient to hold temperature change to 2 degrees C according to the climate models. With China in 2016 as the largest CO2 emitter at slightly more than 26% of the total- twice the United States level, the goals of the Paris Agreement cannot be met without reductions in China and the other nations still growing their emissions and all other nations must increase the level of emissions cut pledged to even meet the 2 degree C goal, let along the aspirational goal of 1.5 degrees C.

The technical rules to govern how nations will put into action the promises or soft goals they set in the Paris Agreement; but were unable to settle on rules for the monitoring and trading of carbon credits.
from Oliver et. al 
For more information see the link below to read the entire reports.

Olivier J.G.J. et al. (2017), Trends in globalCO2 and total greenhouse gas emissions: 2017 report. PBL NetherlandsEnvironmental Assessment Agency, The Hague.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Atlantic Coast Pipeline Hits a Delay in Virginia

At the recent annual meeting of the Virginia Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts one of the speakers was Virginia State Senator John Edwards of Roanoke. Senator Edwards wanted to discuss his concerns about the Atlantic Coast pipeline, which many environmentalists and rural Virginians oppose for various reasons. Our group was concerned about stabilizing soils and preventing erosion of the slopes and sedimentation of the rivers after removal of the trees. Last Thursday the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond stopped the project (at least for the moment).

Judge Stephanie D. Thacker of West Virginia writing the opinion for a three judge panel of the 4th circuit court of appeals vacated the permit that the U.S. Forest Service had issued 14 months ago to allow construction of the pipeline. In her opinion Judge Thacker stated that the judges concluded that the Forest Service’s decisions violated the National Forest Management Act and National Environment Policy Act, and that the Forest Service lacked statutory authority pursuant to the Mineral Leasing Act to grant a pipeline right of way across the Appalachian National Scenic Trail. The court vacated the Special Use Permit and Record of Decision authorizing the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to be built through parts of the George Washington and Monongahela National Forests; an remanded the Forest Service for “further proceeding consistent with (the) opinion.”

Dominion Energy, lead developer of the $7 billion project, immediately released a statement that they would appeal the panel’s ruling to the full 4th Circuit Court. This underground natural gas transmission pipeline will transport natural gas from West Virginia to communities in Virginia and North Carolina. The 600-mile underground Atlantic Coast Pipeline will originate in West Virginia, travel through Virginia with a lateral extending to Chesapeake, VA, and then continue south into eastern North Carolina, ending in Robeson County. Two additional, shorter laterals will connect to two Dominion Energy electric generating facilities in Brunswick and Greensville Counties. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline will provide a consistent supply of natural gas to the power plants in the region as well as other uses, in addition bring natural gas to the coast for export.

The abundance of shale natural gas coming from the Marcellus is expected to keep prices for natural gas relatively low into the foreseeable future and has created a glut in natural gas that can now be exported. In Pennsylvania and Ohio power companies are building new generation gas fired power plants using the Marcelles shale natural gas to replace coal fired plants. In the past several years 9.3 gigawatts of coal generating capacity has been retired while 8.7 gigawatts have been added so far, and currently there is an addition 8.6 gigawatts of natural-gas fired generation under construction. The gas fired generation can serve as swing power, rather than base supply.

Coal plants generate about twice the CO2 per megawatt of power as gas fired generation plants. In addition, coal plants have higher particulate pollution than gas fired electrical power plants. Though electric demand is not growing nationally, the sources of power generation are changing. Though the Clean Power Plan regulation was replaced with the Affordable Clean Energy Rule, that gives states more authority to make their own plans for regulating greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants. Virginia has moved forward to reduce CO2 emissions. The U.S. overall, has seen a decline in CO2 emissions from power plants, as growth in renewable energy and abundant and relatively cheap natural gas have changed the makeup of power generation in the U.S.

A lot of people feel very passionately about the pipeline (both for and against). Our association has questions about the route selection and mitigations to negative impacts on soils and waters of the Commonwealth. Stay tuned to see how this goes.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Winter's Coming are you Ready?

Winter is upon us. There a few things that you should take care of in the waning days of fall to avoid bigger problems later on. All these problems have to do with water and cold. The first thing you should do is turn off the water to your outside hoses, there should be a valve for each in the basement next to the main water line. In older homes this is not always true. Next, unscrew the hoses. Most modern homes have frost-free sillcocks (hose bibs) installed, and if they are properly installed with a correct angel to drain the water back they should be fine all winter; however, I found out the hard way that sometimes they are simply not installed right or leaving the hose connected that winter may have caused the problem. My frost free sillcock in the back of the house had the pipe in the inside wall split a few years back. I replaced both sillcocks in the spring and now turn off the water in the winter. This should prevent problems in the future.

Next, you need to clear out your gutters. Clogged gutters can accumulate water in the gutter and around the house. In addition, a clogged gutter can contribute to creating ice dam. Coming from New England I worry about ice dams that form above the gutters at the edge of the roof. These dams or ice prevent melting snow from draining off the roof and instead may allow the water to back up behind the dam which can both leak into the home and lift the edge of the roof. Fortunately, in Northern Virginia we do not often have to worry about ice dams on the roof, usually it’s only a few days after a snow that the region warms up enough to melt the roof snow. In snow country it’s essential to insulate to keep the heated area out of the attic. The back side of my house faces south and is covered in solar panels. I’ve found that snow just slides off the solar panels. It’s more a danger to the glass door to my deck which always needs to be cleared away.

Also, you need to prevent frozen pipes. Frozen pipes can happen in your supply line or other parts of the house. If your well supply line or the water main is not frozen, you may have water in part of the house, but frozen pipes elsewhere. There are some things you can do to prevent frozen pipes. A couple of ceramic electric heat cubes, thermocouple, electric blanket and a little strategy can prevent frozen pipes.

The likely pipes to freeze are against exterior walls of the home, or are exposed to the cold, like outdoor hose bibs, and water supply pipes in unheated interior areas like basements and crawl spaces, attics, garages, or kitchen cabinets. Pipes that run against exterior walls that have little or no insulation are also subject to freezing. It is easier to prevent pipes from freezing than to unfreeze them.

In sub-zero weather wells with and without separate well houses can freeze. Keeping the temperature in a well house above freezing or your well pipe insulated can prevent this. It used to be that an inefficient 100 watt incandescent bulb gave off enough heat to do the job, but now with more efficient bulbs insulation and other sources of heat have to be used. An electric blanket can do the job. Deep wells are unlikely to freeze, it’s usually a supply line that was not buried deep enough. Abnormally cold snaps can identify many a private well line that was not buried deep enough at its most vulnerable point where it connects to the foundation.

Because of the usually mild winters here in Virginia, bathrooms are often build above garages or have pipes run through a dormer. If you have a bathroom above a garage keep a small ceramic electric heater ($40) connected to a thermocouple that turns it on when the temperature in the garage falls below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Turn on the heating cube in the garage and check it functioning when you turn off the hoses in late fall.

When the weather is forecast to fall into the single digits or lower open the cabinet doors below sinks located on outside walls or against attic dormers, and in the most extreme weather run an extra ceramic electric heater overnight keeping that bathroom toasty while the rest of the house is at an energy saving 62-65 degrees.

Letting the water run in very cold weather can work, but can also create other problems. While running water may prevent the water supply pipes from freezing, in the coldest weather the slowly running water might cause the drain pipe to the septic system to freeze and block the flow or even burst, and it can overwhelm a septic system. If you are on city water and sewer letting water trickle can prevent frozen pipes at a price.

Now is a good time to prepare for winter. Also, you might want to change your furnace and or heat pump filters so that the systems will work their best through the cold months ahead. Remember if we have snow to dig out your heat pump and make sure all furnace vents are clear and unblocked.

Monday, December 10, 2018

WSSC Getting Ready for Winter

After a November that saw more than 200 water main breaks and leaks, the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC), which supplies drinking water to Montgomery and Prince George’s counties held a news conference to release details of WSSC’s #WinterReady plans. (I still don’t get why they do this with a hashtag.)

As you can see below, there is a direct connection between dropping water temperatures in the Potomac River and the increase in water main breaks. When the temperature drops the incidence of water main breaks rise. Of the 5,700 miles of water mains in their distribution system, approximately 2,900 miles are cast iron pipe, which were used from 1916 to through 1976. These pipes are prone to breaks because cast iron is a brittle material and the break rate for pipes increases after 60 years. Nearly 40% of WSSC water mains are more than 50 years old.
Water main breaks from 2015 -2018
Water main breaks can leave hundreds of people without service and can also cause serious traffic problems, making the daily commutes even more challenging. so WSSC takes winter preparations very seriously. “Winter is water main break season, and WSSC crews are ready for whatever Mother Nature throws at us,” said Carla Reid CEO of WSSC. “We keep a close eye on the temperature of the Potomac River, knowing that when the water temps drop, we see an increase in breaks. Our crews are ready to repair these breaks 24/7, and restore service to our customers as quickly as possible.”

According to the WSSC, they typically see an increase in breaks a few days after the Potomac River temperature hits a new low. The dropping water temperature can “shock” water mains, and though the pipes become accustomed to the cold water; whenever water temperatures hit a new low, there is a spike in breaks. As seen in the chart above the cold snap last January lead to an all-time-record 802 water main breaks and leaks in January 2018.

On average, WSSC crews repair more than 1,800 water main breaks and leaks each year, with the vast majority of them, approximately 1,200, occurring between November and February. WSSC has already repaired approximately 200 breaks and leaks in November this year and last winter as seen below, the total number of breaks was above average. 
2017-2018 winter water main breaks
According to WSSC Utility Services Director Damion Lampley. “When we experience a high volume of breaks, we prioritize repairs based on factors such as number of customers affected and impact to major roadways. Because some breaks may take longer to repair, we ask customers for their patience and understanding.”

At the new conference, WSSC crews demonstrated how to repair a typical break in a pipe and displayed the leak detection equipment used to pinpoint water main leaks. WSSC has teams of skilled workers and contractors on standby, along with trucks, heavy equipment, and the latest technology ready to roll for the winter to restore water flow after water main breaks.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Global Greenhouse Gas Emissions 2016

From the “Trends in global CO2 and total greenhouse gas emissions: 2017 Report” by Olivier J.G.J. et al. (1) it is reported : “In 2016, total global greenhouse gas emissions continued to increase slowly by about 0.5% (±1%), to about 49.3 gigatonnes in CO2 equivalent (Gt CO2 eq)... the 2016 emission increase was the slowest since the early 1990s, except for global recession years.” This slowdown in growth of carbon dioxide is primarily the result of changing to natural gas from coal for electrical generation and increases in wind and solar power adoption. “Most of the emissions (about 72%) consist of CO2, but methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O) and fluorinated gases account for 19%, 6% and 3%, respectively.(1)

As you can see below the United States represented about 13% of global greenhouse gas emissions. In 2016; the United States’ emissions fell (-2.0%) along with the Russian Federation (-2.1%), Brazil (-6.1%), and, within the European Union, the United Kingdom (-6.4%). China’s emissions were essentially flat at (-0.3%). In contrast, the largest absolute increases were seen in India (+4.7%) and Indonesia (+6.4%) and smaller increases in Malaysia, Philippines, Turkey and Ukraine.(1)

The US now represent 13% of World GHG emissions

US fossil-fuel emission are declining
It should be clear from the data that mankind is nowhere near on track to reduce global emissions of greenhouse gases to meet the goal of keeping global temperatures within 1.5 degrees C. For more information see the link below to read the entire report. 

Monday, December 3, 2018

How Safe is Our Water

The United States has for the most part, safe drinking water available to all. Incidents that I have written about, Flint Michigan, Charleston WV, Toledo, OH and the frequent “Boil Water Alerts” that are occurring in towns and cities highlight the challenge for our community and city water systems to provide 24/7 safe drinking water with aging infrastructure and the reluctance to prioritize spending to maintain our water infrastructure while our source water (both groundwater and surface water) continues to be impacted by all the chemicals our modern life uses.

In Flint, potentially 98,000 residents were exposed to elevated levels of lead, disinfection by-products, E. coli and Legionella bacteria. In Charleston, a leaking above ground chemical storage tank released 4-methylcyclohexanemethanol (MCHM) mixed with 5.6% propylene glycol phenyl ethers (PPH) into the Elk River, the source water for Charleston, West Virginia. In Toledo, Ohio unregulated toxins formed during algal blooms though to have been caused by agricultural runoff into Lake Erie forced the community to close the water intake for the city.

In the United States approximately 86% of the population obtains their water from public water supply. Over the past decades, the frequency of water quality violations under the Safe Drinking Water Act have increased. In a paper published early this year in the National Academy of Sciences, Maura Allaire, Haowei Wu and Upmanu Lall examined the national trends in violations of the Safe Drinking Water Act. As you can see below in the chart from their paper. 

from Allaire et al.
The authors found that “in 2015, 9% of community water systems had health-based violations of water quality standards. This affected nearly 21 million people in 2015. During the years 1984-2015 the authors found that 9–45 million people were affected in each year, representing 4–28% of U.S. population. “Drinking water contaminants pose a harm to public health. Some can cause immediate illness, such as the 16 million cases of acute gastroenteritis that occur each year at US community water systems. ..Health-based drinking water quality violations are widespread, with 9–45 million people possibly affected during each of the past 34 years...Though, relatively few community water systems (3–10%) incur health-based violations in a given year.”

From the U.S. EPA website the total number of serious violations for the past  four years has been decreasing slightly since 2014. Note though that the total number of "serious violations" from the EPA data charting tool appears higher. The number of water systems with any violation is more than 10 times higher.  
from US EPA

If you want to read more about concentration and location of water system violations the full paper cited below can be read at the link.