As originally posted on TraceyC-Media on December 6, 2015.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The state’s most vulnerable communities are eligible for federal clean water infrastructure funding through low-interest loans provided under $18.2 million allocated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Rhode Island’s Congressional delegation announced the allocation of green infrastructure monies to two federal-state loan programs that subsidize water infrastructure projects geared towards public health and environmental quality.
“Investing in clean water infrastructure must be a priority and the federal government needs to be a reliable partner when it comes to maintaining healthy, safe water in our communities,” Rhode Island’s Senior Senator Jack Reed said. “I am proud to have secured this vital funding to help put Rhode Islanders to work modernizing our water infrastructure, reducing pollution, and protecting public health.”
In November, Reed joined Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse in defending the Clean Water Act of 1972, voting against a Republican effort to weaken the Nation’s environmental protections and limit waterways protected under the Act. RI congressmen James Langevin and David Cicilline also supported stronger definitions and expansion of protected waterways.
Budget cuts threatened pollutant protections
Proposed federal budget cuts also threatened the safety of the Nation’s waters. In 2015, the EPA proposed a 25 percent budget cut in the Clean Water and Safe Drinking Water State Revolving Funds.
The Obama Administration requested $1.8 billion in funding; $581 million below previously enacted funding levels. Rhode Island’s Congressional delegation rallied to restore critical environmental funding.
“With the floods of 2010, Hurricane Sandy, and tight local budgets, our water infrastructure has faced serious challenges over the last few years,” said Senator Sheldon Whitehouse. “Rhode Island communities need to upgrade and strengthen wastewater and runoff systems, and prevent water pollution in the first place,”
A long-standing member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and ranking member of the Fisheries, Water and Wildlife Subcommittee, Whitehouse joined Rhode Island’s Senior Senator Jack Reed in his support of clean water funding.
“This federal funding will help leverage state efforts to improve our water infrastructure and make it easier for local water systems to afford key projects. That’s why I’m happy to join with my colleagues in the delegation to support these important EPA programs,” Whitehouse said.
According to the EPA, approximately 117 million Americans get their drinking water from waterways protected by the Clean Water Act.
EPA Finance Center to administer funding
The federal funding allocated $9.4 million to the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) and $8.8 million to the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF), for a total of $18.2 million in clean water financing.
In January, EPA announced the creation of a the Finance Center to Improve Community Water Infrastructure and Resiliency, providing a state-by-state needs analysis for both drinking water infrastructure and clean water infrastructure.
Rhode Island’s estimated need was reported as $ .7 billion in water infrastructure needs. The report did not include clean water infrastructure needs for Rhode Island as they were not reported.
The $18 million allocated is just a fraction of the funding needs reported in January.
The CWSRF provides loans at low interest rates for water quality protection projects that improve wastewater treatment systems, control pollution from storm water runoff, and protect sensitive water bodies and estuaries. The fund is administered by the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM).
“Ensuring clean water for both drinking and recreation is a matter of public health, environmental health and economic health for Rhode Island,” said Congressman Jim Langevin. “These low-interest loans will protect and improve water quality in our state now and in the future, and I am proud to join my colleagues in our continued support for these important public projects.”
DWSRF focused projects target programs for low-income communities to ensure safe drinking water and encourage pollution prevention protocols for at-risk populations.
“Too often, Rhode Islanders are forced to confront water main breaks, damaging floods, and sewer overflows that result from our state’s aging water infrastructure,” said Congressman David Cicilline. “I am pleased that we have secured more than $18 million to support critical enhancements for water systems in Rhode Island. Investments like these are critical for creating jobs and ensuring the quality of our drinking water.”