April 05, 2023

'Historic' $6.5 Billion funding for Drinking Water Infrastructure Upgrades Across the Country

Source: Northern Public Radio


Tuesday in Rockford, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan announced $6.5 billion in funding for drinking water infrastructure upgrades throughout the country. The spending represents the largest federal investment in water infrastructure in the nation’s history.

The money will be available to states, Tribes and territories. Regan says $3 billion is dedicated to lead service line replacement across the U.S.

“Getting the lead out of drinking water is a top priority for this administration,” he said. “Because too many families have had to grapple with the dangerous impacts of lead exposure.”

Illinois EPA Director John Kim, U.S Representative Eric Sorenson (IL-17), and U.S Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) joined Regan to celebrate over $330 million coming to Illinois from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, now in its second year of implementation, to fund clean water infrastructure.

Duckworth says that for its part, Illinois will receive $230 million to address the state’s problem with lead pipes. Illinois currently has the greatest concentration of lead service lines of any state in the country.

“We have 23% of the entire nation's lead service line in Illinois,” she said, “and most of it is here in Northern Illinois.

Chicago, for example, has more lead service lines than any other city in the country. The city of Rockford has previously used State Revolving Funds (SRF) loans to replace more than 1400 lead service lines in the past three years, more than any other city in the state. Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara says that the plan going forward is to remove 500 lead service lines per year. In July 2022, the city of Rockford had nearly 15,000 identified lead service lines.

Based on the EPA’s 7th Drinking Water Survey and Assessment, the agency estimates that there are approximately 9.2 million lead service lines nationally. The survey included 3,629 public water systems from all 50 states, Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia and US territories. The survey also included tribal systems for the first time since 1999.

President Joe Biden signed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, commonly referred to as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, into law in late 2021. The legislation authorized well over $1 trillion in spending over five years. $50 billion of which, said Sen. Dick Durbin, will be used to modernize water and wastewater infrastructure improvements over the next five years.

Of the $6.5 billion funding available this year, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will invest $800 million to address PFAS and other emerging contaminants. Durbin said the scope of PFAS contamination across the US will likely haunt the country for generations to come.

“Let's start making the right decisions now to deal with it,” said Durbin.

By:  Northern Public Radio