Today, President Biden offered a welcome proposal that includes a $ 111 billion investment in water infrastructure. It would fund strong action to protect millions of Americans from water contaminated with lead, other toxic chemicals and pathogens. The package would create a multitude of new paid jobs while protecting our health. Congress should take swift action to advance these priorities.
Investing in hydraulic infrastructure means investing in equity. As we’ve learned from our studies and the communities we’ve worked in, including Flint, Newark, Pittsburgh and other cities, those left behind by divestment in water infrastructure are low-colored communities of color. disproportionately income. Disadvantaged rural and tribal communities are also at serious risk. Families in these communities often have to live every day with severely contaminated water or no water at all, have lead service lines and sometimes raw sewage flows through their streets or runs out of water altogether. sanitation. In many of these communities, democracy itself has been seriously compromised. In Flint, for example, state-appointed officials made the fateful reckless decisions that led to serious contamination, with residents and their elected officials effectively disenfranchised. Meanwhile, water prices continue to rise, making water unaffordable for many low-income families across the country and putting them at risk of losing water service altogether. Similar stories can be told in many other communities. It is only with reforms in the management of our water supply systems and major federal investments that the country’s water problems can be solved.
It is also important to keep in mind that investing in water infrastructure is a big job creator. For example, a recent study by the Metropolitan Planning Council found that replacing all of Illinois’ lead service lines alone could create up to 224,500 jobs and $ 23 billion in additional economic activity. Amplify that to a national investment, and the number of new high paying jobs will be huge.
One of the most important water proposals in the Biden Plan is to dig up and replace the 6-10 million lead service lines, found in every state, DC and Puerto Rico, at a cost of $ 45 billion. This is crucial, as removing lead from the system is the only way to ensure that generations of children are safe from tap water contaminated with lead.
An additional $ 56 billion would be injected into programs that finance the modernization of wastewater, stormwater and drinking water infrastructure. This increase is a big step in the right direction to reach the estimated $ 750 billion needed to put our nation’s water systems back in good shape.
After decades of procrastination, it’s time to finally get down to business. China and other countries around the world have invested in their infrastructure and left us in the dust. We have aging and dilapidated roads, bridges, transit systems, sewage, and drinking water systems. The American Society of Civil Engineers recently gave our wastewater treatment infrastructure a D + rating, a D + rating for stormwater infrastructure, and a C- rating for drinking water infrastructure. This is a newsletter that you would like to hide from mom and dad.
If passed, the Biden package would make big strides in cleaning the tap water of tens of millions of people contaminated with lead, PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) and other pollutants. In addition to significant spending on water infrastructure, the proposal would also invest in cleaning and protecting groundwater and surface water sources to improve our health and the environment.
The Biden plan says it would target 40% of the benefits of climate and clean infrastructure investments to underprivileged communities. Ensuring that the financing of water infrastructure is prioritized in this way will be essential to address the historic and ongoing divestment in these areas.
Key investments, drawn from briefing documents released by the White House, would focus on:
- Eliminate major service lines. In line with calls from community leaders, health experts, the NRDC and others, the Biden plan would eliminate 100% of lead pipes and service lines in drinking water systems to improve the health of children and in especially communities of color.
- Funding for the removal of lead pipes from homes, schools and daycares. To phase out all lead and service lines, the plan would invest $ 45 billion in the EPA’s State Revolving Drinking Water Fund (SRF) and grants for infrastructure improvements. hydraulic systems for the Nation Act (WIIN). The funds will be used to invest in reducing lead in homes and 400,000 schools and daycares.
- Upgrade and modernize drinking water, wastewater and stormwater systems. The plan would modernize aging water supply systems by scaling up existing and successful programs, including providing $ 56 billion in grants and low-cost flexible loans to states, tribes, territories and disadvantaged communities.
- Resolve PFAS contamination. The plan would provide $ 10 billion to monitor and remediate PFAS in drinking water and to invest in small rural water supply systems and household well and sanitation systems, including drainage fields. As we discussed in more detail previously, PFAS contamination is a major threat to millions of Americans.
Protect and clean groundwater and surface water
- Clean up brownfields and Superfund sites. The plan would invest $ 5 billion in the cleanup and redevelopment of the Brownfield and Superfund sites, as well as related economic and workforce development. These sites are often the source of pollution of groundwater and surface water. The objective is to transform this untapped property into new poles of economic growth and job creation.
- Plug orphan oil and gas wells and clean up abandoned mines. Hundreds of thousands of old orphaned oil and gas wells and abandoned mines pose serious safety risks, while causing damage to air, water and the environment. Many of these old wells and mines are in rural communities that have suffered from years of divestment. The plan calls for an immediate initial investment of $ 16 billion to put hundreds of thousands of people to work in unionized jobs plugging oil and gas wells and restoring and reclaiming abandoned coal, hard rock and mining mines. ‘uranium. In addition to creating decent-paying jobs in hard-hit communities, this would reduce air emissions of methane and reduce the brine that escapes from these wells and can contaminate water sources.
- Engage the next generation of conservation and resilience workers. The plan would make a $ 10 billion investment to put a diverse new generation of Americans to work with living paying jobs by conserving public lands and waters, building the resilience of communities, and advancing environmental justice through to a new Civilian Climate Body. Restoring watersheds and wetlands can significantly improve the quality of groundwater and surface water.
- Solve problems of rural water supply and other infrastructure. The plan would invest $ 5 billion in a new rural partnership program to help rural areas, including tribal nations, invest in water and other infrastructure and take other steps to leverage their assets. and realize their vision of inclusive community and economic development.
Nature-based infrastructure, resilience, water efficiency and recycling
- Protect and restore nature-based infrastructure to protect water resources. The plan would protect and restore nature-based infrastructure, including land, forests, wetlands, watersheds, and coastal and ocean resources. The proposal would invest in protection against extreme forest fires, coastal resilience to sea level rise and hurricanes, support agricultural resource management and climate-smart technologies, and protect and restore key resources. land and water like the Florida Everglades and the Great Lakes.
- Improving resilience to drought and climate change in the western United States: The plan would improve the West’s resilience to drought and climate change by investing in water efficiency, water recycling, tribal water establishments, among other projects.