Upgrading Critical Water, Sewer Facilities Would Provide Clean Drinking Water, Safeguard Public Health, and Create Jobs

Jan 22nd, 2012 | By | Category: Long Island Sound, Water

Gillibrand Calls for Boost in Water, Sewer Infrastructure Funding in President’s FY 2013 Budget

Washington, DC – With President Obama set to unveil his annual budget plan next month, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) today urged the Office of Management and Budget Director to include more federal funding for water and sewer infrastructure in the President’s final FY 2013 budget. Senator Gillibrand called for allocating at least $2.1 billion for the federal clean water program and $1.4 billion for drinking water improvement programs in this year’s blueprint – a significant increase from last year’s FY 2012 budget. Senator pointed out that investment in New York’s water and sewage facilities, including wastewater treatment infrastructure upgrades for Long Island Sound, would provide safe drinking water, create jobs, and safeguard public health throughout New York’s communities.

Senator Gillibrand wrote in a letter to OMB Director Jack Lew, “As you finalize the President’s budget for Fiscal Year 2013, I respectfully request that you include at least $2.1 billion for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund and $1.387 billion for the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, which are critical to improving the water and sewer infrastructure of our communities… Our nation’s water infrastructure is crumbling, and in many locations, including in my state of New York, residents rely on infrastructure that is over a century old.  Communities are struggling with the prospect of repairing, replacing and upgrading their aging infrastructure during this difficult fiscal climate.  In New York alone, the cost is projected to be nearly $70 billion over the next twenty years… Federal investment in this infrastructure is crucial to stimulating economic growth and protecting public health.”

Currently, Long Island Sound’s outdated wastewater treatment infrastructure weakens water quality, which impacts the area’s shellfish population and beaches. A report released by Connecticut Fund for the Environment’s Save the Sound program gave low grades for New York’s efforts to protect the Sound, including a C+ for a overall caretaking, a C grade for reducing the threat from toxic chemicals, and a D+ for efforts to stop raw sewage from flowing into the Sound.

Critical funding for both the Clean Water State Revolving Fund and Drinking Water State Revolving Fund would allow Long Island as well as communities here in New York and across the nation to invest in the construction, repair, and expansion of rural water and wastewater infrastructure.  Effective water and sewer facilities are vital in providing safe drinking water, meeting wastewater standards, reducing health risks, and strengthening local economies.

Full text of Senator Gillibrand’s letter is below: 

Dear Director Lew, 

As you finalize the President’s budget for Fiscal Year 2013, I respectfully request that you include at least $2.1 billion for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund and $1.387 billion for the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, which are critical to improving the water and sewer infrastructure of our communities.  These programs were severely underfunded in the FY 2012 budget, receiving only $1.47 billion and $919.4 million respectively, and funding of both of these water infrastructure programs at or above the FY 2010 level is vital to bolstering the national economy and protecting public health.   

Our nation’s water infrastructure is crumbling, and in many locations, including in my state of New York, residents rely on infrastructure that is over a century old.  Communities are struggling with the prospect of repairing, replacing and upgrading their aging infrastructure during this difficult fiscal climate.  In New York alone, the cost is projected to be nearly $70 billion over the next twenty years.  Nationwide, the Environmental Protection Agency projects that the cost will be over $520 billion.  The state revolving fund programs provide critical federal funding that allow states and communities across the nation to make investments in their water infrastructure, including the construction, repair, and expansion of rural water and wastewater infrastructure.  Not only are updated and effective water and sewer facilities necessary for providing safe drinking water, treating sewage to meet wastewater standards, and reducing related health risks, but such infrastructure is also central to the economic development of rural communities.  

Deteriorating water infrastructure creates a public health hazard as water quality is reduced and ecosystems, such as the Long Island Sound, are degraded.  Stormwater runoff and raw sewage overflow enter the Sound because of inadequate wastewater treatment infrastructure, adding to hypoxia, nutrient buildup and algae overgrowth.  Despite a 2001 agreement to reduce nitrogen inputs to the Sound by almost 60%, sewage treatment plants within its watershed have not been upgraded to include nitrogen removal processes.  The resulting diminished water quality affects the local economy as shellfish populations plummet and beach closures limit recreational activity.  

Investment in water and sewer infrastructure also creates jobs.  According to the U.S. Conference of Mayors, every $1 million invested in water and wastewater infrastructure directly creates 8.7 jobs, and each of these jobs leads to an additional 3.68 jobs elsewhere in the economy.  Many rural communities rely on these programs to invest in water and sewer facilities that attract new businesses and help existing businesses grow, creating domestic jobs, spurring private investment, and reducing local property taxes.  Federal investment in this infrastructure is crucial to stimulating economic growth and protecting public health, and I urge you to fund to Clean Water State Revolving Fund and the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund at levels equivalent to, or above, FY 2010 levels.  

Thank you for your consideration of these important requests. 

Source: Kirsten Gillibrand – United States Senator for New York: News.

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