Cicilline Spearheads Effort to Assist Rhode Island Municipalities With Wastewater Infrastructure

WASHINGTON – (RealEstateRama) — As concerns continue to mount regarding the safety and security of America’s water infrastructure, U.S. Congressman David N. Cicilline (D-RI) today led colleagues in requesting that this year’s federal funding bill direct the Army Corps of Engineers to prioritize aging wastewater management systems in financially distressed municipalities when selecting projects through its general construction fund.

“Upgrading our water infrastructure will safeguard public health, lower costs for taxpayers, and create jobs here in Rhode Island. It’s critical that the federal government provide support especially for financially distressed communities to ensure the safety and security of their water infrastructure,” said Cicilline. “I’m pleased to lead this effort in the House and continue fighting for priorities important to Rhode Islanders.”

Cicilline’s letter, which was signed by 14 of his colleagues, requests language in the FY17 appropriations bill to direct the Army Corps of Engineers to put financially distressed municipalities first when replacing outdated wastewater management systems. 3.8 million Americans are served by facilities that provide less than secondary treatment, which is a requirement of the Clean Water Act. Secondary treatment removes additional biodegradable organics and suspended solids from wastewater. Aging wastewater management systems discharge billions of gallons of untreated sewage directly into U.S. surface waters each year.

Municipalities under financial distress can face significant challenges bringing outdated wastewater infrastructure up to current standards. Directing the Army Corps of Engineers to prioritize these communities would allow them to continue providing essential services to constituents without raising taxes or cutting spending.

The City of Woonsocket, which faced bankruptcy in 2012, is considering bids for a new water treatment plant that is expected to cost roughly $40 million. In the City of Flint, Michigan, which has also considered bankruptcy in recent years, up to 8,000 children under the age of six were exposed to dangerous levels of lead in their drinking water (more than 5 micrograms of lead per one deciliter of blood). According to the CDC, in 2014, 5.9% of children in Providence County tested at more than 5 micrograms of lead per one deciliter of blood, compared to 2.5% in Genesee County, where Flint is located.

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that replacing old systems and building new ones will cost $271 billion over the next 20 years. Cicilline and the members signing his letter have requested that the House Appropriations Committee include language in the appropriations bill saying, “The Committee encourages the Army Corps of Engineers to prioritize aging wastewater management systems in financially distressed municipalities when considering projects funded through its general construction fund.”

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