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USDA Invests $281M in Water, Wastewater

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

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At the end of May, the United States Department of Agriculture announced that it would be investing $281 million in rural communities for water and wastewater infrastructure.

“These investments will bring modern, reliable water and wastewater infrastructure to rural communities,” said USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Bette Brand. “They will replace deteriorating, leaking water pipes with new ones and upgrade water handling systems that are decades old. These investments create jobs and improve public health and safety for our rural neighbors.”

Rural Water, Wastewater Investment

“Under the leadership of President Trump and Agriculture Secretary Perdue, USDA is committed to partnering with rural communities to help them improve their infrastructure, because when rural America thrives, all of America thrives,” Brand continued.

According to the USDA, in April 2017, President Donald J. Trump established the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity to find ways to promote agriculture and prosperity in rural communities.

The following year, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue presented the task force’s findings, which included 31 recommendations to align the federal government with state, local and tribal governments to take advantage of rural-based opportunities. The task force also made a key recommendation, suggesting that investments be increased for rural infrastructure.

jonathanfilskov-photograpghy / Getty Images

At the end of May, the United States Department of Agriculture announced that it would be investing $281 million in rural communities for water and wastewater infrastructure.

In this round of funding, the USDA is splitting the $281 million between 106 projects in 36 states and Puerto Rico. The funds are being provided through the Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant program, which provides funding for clean and reliable drinking water systems, sanitary sewage disposal, sanitary solid waste disposal and storm water drainage to households and businesses in eligible rural areas.

Specifically, the USDA is funding projects in Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Some water and wastewater projects receiving funding include:

  • The city of Mabton, Washington, will use a $677,000 loan and a $296,195 grant to drill a new well. The city owns and operates a domestic water system that serves 632 active, metered connections. Ground water is currently pumped from two wells, delivered to an 800,000-gallon reservoir, treated by chlorination for disinfection and distributed to customers. The new well will augment water capacity, resulting in improved reliability.
  • The city of Auburn, Kentucky, will use a $6.1 million loan and a $2.6 million grant to replace the wastewater treatment plant to accommodate increased discharge from a new industrial facility. The expanded treatment plant will continue to provide safe and reliable wastewater treatment services for customers in rural Logan County while expanding capacity for economic development.
  • In Terlton, Oklahoma, Pawnee County Rural Water District #2 will use a $1.7 million loan and a $597,000 grant to rehabilitate wells and bring the water treatment plant up to Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality standards. These improvements will enable the district to reduce the amount of water it is required to purchase. This will help lower operating expenses and increase the efficiency and sustainability of the system. The district provides water to 2,174 rural residents.

A full list of the selected projects can be viewed, here.

Other Water, Wastewater News

Earlier this year in April, Environmental and Public Works Committee Chairman John Barrasso, R-Wyoming, and Senator Tom Carper, D-Delaware, released two pieces of draft legislation that would authorize the investment of $19.5 billion in the nation’s water infrastructure.

The legislative pair aims to provide the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers with funding for flood protection, ecological restoration and increased water storage. The proposed legislation included America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2020 (AWIA 2020) and the Drinking Water Infrastructure Act of 2020.

To break each drafted bill down individually, the AWIA 2020 legislation plans to authorize $17 billion for infrastructure projects and sets a two-year goal for the Corps to complete various feasibility studies for potential projects.

Specifically, $4.3 billion in federal funds will be used for 20 Corps projects. Most notably, projects receiving the funds include a $909 million flood protection program in Norfolk, Virginia and a $794 million federal share for a $983.7 million flood protection plan for multiple areas along the Atlantic shore of Long Island, New York.

Additionally, the AWIA 2020 offers conditional funding amounting to $7.5 billion, which would be used over three years for the EPA’s Clean Water State Revolving Funds (SRFs) and $2.5 billion for drinking water SRFs. However, because the funding is conditional, budgetary scoring could require offsetting revenue increases.

The draft of the Drinking Water Infrastructure Act would use the remaining $2.5 billion to reauthorize the Safe Drinking Water Act emergency fund and would authorize $300 million in grants to help with cancer-linked chemical contaminations.

In the month prior to the legislative announcement, the United States Environmental Protection Agency awarded the City of Morro Bay, California, approximately $62 million for the replacement of its 63-year-old wastewater treatment plant.

The EPA reports that the WIFIA loan—established by the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act of 2014—aims to accelerate investment in the nation’s water infrastructure by providing long-term and low-cost supplemental credit assistance for regionally and nationally significant projects.

To date, the EPA has issued 17 similar loans totaling more than $3.7 billion to help finance more than $8.4 billion in water infrastructure projects. The loan program has also helped to create more than 16,000 jobs. Additionally, on Feb. 27, the EPA and its partners announced the National Water Reuse Action Plan which will also aim to improve sustainability, security and resilience in water resources.

Of the $62 million received, approximately 55% is expected to go towards the water system portion of the project, while 45% will go towards the wastewater portion. The loan alone is also expected to cover 49% of the $126 million total project costs and will save ratepayers up to $29 million over the life of the project.

Last month, the Allegheny County Sanitary Authority (ALCOSAN) announced that its $2 billion plan to remove seven billion gallons of stormwater and sewage from rivers and streams in the county has been approved by the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania.

According to the Pennsylvania Environmental Council, ALCOSAN and the EPA developed the “Wet Weather Plan” consent decree in 2008, aimed at developing a wet weather plan for reducing serious combined sewer overflow and sanitary sewer overflow problems.

To reach the Consent Decree goals, the Clean Water Plan will focus on four key areas:

  • Preventing excess water from entering the sewer system through the use of green infrastructure and other technologies, in addition to the use of a multi-year, multi-million-dollar grant through the Green Revitalization of Our Waterways program which plans to fund various municipality and sewer projects;
  • Increasing adaptive management and conveyance capacity through the use of adaptive management and base long-term planning on data from green infrastructure, flow-reduction projects, and other technologies;
  • Regionalizing multi-municipal sewers through the effort to assume ownership of certain multi-municipal trunk sewers and related facilities; and
  • Expanding wastewater treatment plants—which currently have a capacity of 250 million gallons per day (mgd)—by upgrading its pump stations, building a new vehicle maintenance garage and expanding treatment operations. The efforts will expand wet weather treatment capacity of the plant from 250 mgd to 480 mgd and wet weather headworks and disinfection capacity to 600 mgd.

Through the modified plan, ALCOSAN intends to eliminate all illegal sanitary sewer discharges into the region’s rivers and streams and reduce sewage and stormwater overflows from 153 combined sewer outfalls by 85%. To achieve this, the plan has proposed the construction of over 15 miles of underground 14-foot-diameter storage tunnels along the city’s rivers.

“It's vital to keep green infrastructure solutions as the focus moving forward because it addresses multiple issues, like basement backups, flooding, landslides, and more,” said Madeline Weiss, environmental justice organizer for Pittsburgh United, a community advocacy organization with a history of involvement in the sewer overflow issue.

“As we see more rain from a changing climate, we need to make investments that do more than just one thing. Green infrastructure has multiple community benefits and we as ratepayers have said time and again that we want those benefits.”


Tagged categories: Funding; Government; Government contracts; Grants; Infrastructure; Infrastructure; NA; non-potable water; North America; potable water; President Trump; Program/Project Management; Stormwater; Wastewater Plants

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