December 08, 2009

CARDIN CALLS FOR GREATER INVESTMENT IN WATER INFRASTRUCTURE TO ENSURE SAFE, CLEAN DRINKING WATER

Washington, DC - U.S. Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Water and Wildlife Subcommittee, today renewed his call for greater federal investment in water infrastructure to help states and local jurisdictions keep our drinking water safe and clean. Senator Cardin made his remarks at an EPW Hearing on " Oversight of Federal Drinking Water Programs. "
 
"Water is an essential and precious resource that we all too often take for granted. Most Americans expect the water flowing from their faucets to be safe to cook with and to drink. In some jurisdictions that slight chlorinated smell leads people to think that their water has been treated and is safe. Too often they are wrong. Safe and secure water supplies and healthy drinking water start with a functional and modern water infrastructure system.  
 
"The nation's drinking-water systems face staggering public investment needs over the next 20 years. Drinking water systems face an annual shortfall of at least $11 billion in funding needed to replace aging facilities that are near the end of their useful life and to comply with existing and future federal water regulations. Federal assistance has not kept pace with demand, however. We've got to do better.
 
 "In Maryland these maintenance issues are the root of serious contamination issues that have gone unaddressed for years. In 2003, the city's health commissioner ordered water fountains turned off at more than 100 schools because of reports that drinking fountains in scores of city schools were dispensing lead-tainted water; more than a decade after the fountains had been ordered shut off. Sadly, in 2007 the school system determined that it would be more cost effective to provide bottled water indefinitely, rather than retrofitting and monitoring the existing plumbing in school buildings.
 
"The Potomac River is Maryland's largest drinking water source.  Recent studies by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) have found that a large percentage of fish in the Potomac and its tributaries are intersex - meaning they have both male and female characteristics within the same fish. What human populations are flushing and dumping into the river is almost certainly causing these mutations in the fish. These mutant fish are an early warning system that signals contaminants in the water we drink. Ignoring this problem will only allow it to worsen. "
 
In May, Senator Cardin introduced, and the EPW Committee passed, the Water Infrastructure Financing Act , which provides the foundation for our nation's drinking water and wastewater infrastructure. This bipartisan agreement makes important reforms and increases investment in the Clean Water State Revolving fund, which has not been reauthorized in 22 years, and the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, which has not been reauthorized since 1996.
 
Highlights of the Water Infrastructure financing Act ncreases the Clean Water SRF to $20 billion over five years and Drinking Water SRF to $14.7 billion over five years; $1.8 billion nationwide grant program to address combined sewer overflows; $60 million/year nationwide grant program to provide funding to states and municipalities to reduce lead in drinking water; $50 million nationwide grant program to address agriculture-related water quality issues; additional flexibility in the Clean Water SRF to help low-income communities.includei