Funding alone won’t prevent a future Flint water crisis

By: Susan Bodine and Brent Fewell

Our nation’s water infrastructure is crumbling, as the 166,000 residents of Jackson, Miss., who have been without potable water for over four weeks, are painfully aware.
On March 31, President Biden released The American Jobs Plan proposing significant federal investments in a variety of programs. We are pleased that the president included water infrastructure in his proposal.

From Jackson to Newark, New Jersey, to Flint, Mich., too often unsafe water is being delivered to Americans and our rivers continue to be polluted by noncompliant wastewater. These are just a few of the failing systems that have reached headline news.

Pittsburgh, where Biden announced his plan, is a good example of the problem. Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) is under a 2019 order for civil violations of the federal and state Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). In 2020, PWSA entered into an agreement with the Pennsylvania attorney general to resolve allegations of criminal violations of the SDWA, agreeing to hire an independent corporate monitor, and in 2021, PWSA entered into a plea agreement to resolve allegations of criminal violations of the Clean Water Act, agreeing to three years of probation that includes a comprehensive environmental compliance program.

We all agree that water infrastructure is a wise investment. In 2016, the Water Environment Federation and WateReuse Association sponsored a study that shows that every million dollars of federal capital investment in the State Revolving Funds (SRF) generates $695,000 in federal tax receipts.

Biden’s investment plan includes $111 billion for water infrastructure, of which $45 billion will be used to replace lead pipes and service lines. The plan also proposes $56 billion for grants and low-cost flexible loans to states, tribes, territories and disadvantaged communities. That amount of money will go a long way.

However, money alone will not protect public health.

Full article may be accessed at The Hill: https://thehill.com/opinion/energy-environment/546517-funding-alone-wont-prevent-a-future-flint-water-crisis#bottom-story-socials

Susan Bodine

Susan Bodine