PA Invests $269M in Water Infrastructure Projects
Last week, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf announced the investment of $269 million for 11 drinking water, wastewater, stormwater and non-point source projects through the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority (PENNVEST).
“The concerted effort to improve our nation’s infrastructure puts into focus the importance of investing in the many facets of our infrastructure, including water infrastructure,” said Gov. Wolf.
“Pennsylvanians have been leading the way in making responsible, reliable infrastructure improvements for years and this administration has been a proud partner to those communities. These investments will result in generational change to our clean water facilities and are representative of the many efforts of this administration to prioritize environmental stewardship and advancement.”
According to the release, the funding comes from a combination of state funds approved by voters, Growing Greener, Marcellus Legacy funds, federal grants to PENNVEST from the Environmental Protection Agency and recycled loan repayments from previous PENNVEST funding awards. Funds are reportedly disbursed after expenses for work are paid and receipts are submitted for review.
“With federal investments like the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act expected later this year, I am excited to see communities investing in their water systems now,” said Gov. Wolf. “Federal investments, paired with the continued financial commitment of this commonwealth, are literally changing communities for the better every day.”
Investing in water infrastructure is a huge priority, so it’s wonderful to see the largest loan in PENNVEST history go to @pgh2o to rehabilitate and replace the facility at Highland No.2 Reservoir. https://t.co/OElDCntZdh— Lindsey Williams (@SenWilliamsPA) July 21, 2022
The funding is broken down into four drinking water projects, five wastewater projects, one stormwater project and one non-point source project, spanning across 10 counties in the state. The projects aim to address environmental concerns, improve water treatment, maintain compliance and provide safe, reliable drinking water to communities, among other reasons.
For example, in Allegheny County, the Pittsburgh Water and Sewage Authority received a $209,005,329 loan to replace a 114-year-old clearwell, reducing contaminant infiltration at the Highland No. 2 Reservoir. According to State Senator Lindsey Williams, the loan is the largest in PENNVEST History.
The funding will be used to support the PWSA’s Water Reliability Plan to modernize and improve the region’s water system. The plan is expected to take about six years and invest nearly $470 million total in large-scale water improvement projects.
“Investing in the water infrastructure of our region is a huge priority for me, so it’s wonderful to see the largest loan in PENNVEST history go to PWSA to rehabilitate and replace the facility at Highland No.2 Reservoir,” said Senator Williams. “Ensuring that we have clean, safe drinking water without imposing rate hikes is absolutely crucial, especially as inflation and rising utility costs impact working families.”
Additionally, the Hazleton City Authority in Luzerne County received a $3,500,000 loan to make operational upgrades at the treatment facility, including replacement of four raw water drive pumps and a deteriorating lime chemical feed system.
The Meadville Area Sewer Authority will make improvements to an existing wastewater treatment plant, including roof replacement and installation of new mechanical bar screens, raw wastewater pumps, blowers, and a new ultraviolet disinfection system and back-up generator. They received a $3,776,392 loan and a $16,223,608 grant from the funding.
McKean County plans to construct a new wastewater treatment facility, including a pump station, headworks, aerobic digesters, and an ultraviolet disinfection system, utilizing a $634,347 loan and a $14,143,757 grant.
Receiving a $944,400 loan, the Borough of Midland in Beaver County will install approximately 150 feet of 48-inch-high density polyethylene line inside an existing failing 72-inch storm sewer line, which will also involve grouting and slope stabilization of existing line.
The full list of projects can be found here.
PA Drinking Water Regulation Proposal
At the end of March, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection proposed a new regulation to set maximum containment levels (MCLs) in drinking water for two forms of per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances, perfluorooctane sulfonic acid and perfluorooctanoic acid.
Currently, there are no state or federal MCLs for PFOA and PFOS. Per the Pennsylvania Safe Drinking Water Act, the Environmental Quality Board (EQB) can adopt MCLs or treatment technique requirements without federal standards.
The proposed state rule would set an MCL of 14 parts per trillion for PFOA and an MCL of 18 parts per trillion for PFOS, which are reportedly stricter limits compared to the Environmental Protection Agency’s lifetime Health Advisory Level of 70 parts per trillion for both substances combined.
“Since Governor Tom Wolf signed an executive order in 2018, DEP has worked tirelessly to protect Pennsylvanians from these chemicals. This public comment period allows stakeholders to share their feedback and concerns as we continue to put the safety and health of Pennsylvanians first,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell.
Prior to proposing the rulemaking, the DEP completed the following steps:
Additionally, the department conducted sampling of public water supplies that have elevated potential contamination, starting in May 2019 through 2020. Several locations, including military bases, fire training schools and sites, airports, landfills, manufacturing facilities and State Hazardous Sites Cleanup Act sites, the EPA Superfund sites and other known PFAS-contamination sites were tested.
The final results were released in June 2021. Of the 412 samples analyzed for PFOA, reportedly 112 (27%) resulted in detectable concentrations. In total, the department used results from 435 sampling sites.
According to the rule, the proposed MCLS will applied to all 3,117 water systems in the state. 1,905 of those systems are reportedly community water systems, serving 11.4 million residents, and 1,096 of these are nontransient noncommunity water systems that serve 507,000 people.
Once in effect, initial compliance monitoring will begin as follows:
The proposed rule, published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin, can be found here.
At the end of June, Gov. Wolf announced the PENNVEST board of directors had approved a second annual funding award designed specifically to assist communities in the remediation of PFAS. The $6.7 million principal forgiveness loan was awarded to the Susquehanna Area Regional Airport Authority (SARAA), which maintains and operates Harrisburg International Airport (HIA) in Dauphin County.
According to the release, the funding will be used for the installation of a new granulated activated carbon system to treat the emerging contaminant levels of PFAS at HIA.
“For a second year, I have maintained my commitment to providing dedicated resources to keep our drinking water safe from harmful legacy chemicals like PFAS,” said Gov. Wolf. “Through the hard work of our PFAS Action Team and continued financial commitments like this one, we can ensure the health and welfare of countless Pennsylvanians.”
The application period for interested parties to apply for funding opens every spring.