WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), a senior member of the Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW), issued the following statement on the Conference Report on the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), which was approved by the Senate 78-21 early Saturday.
“The Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) is one bill that truly impacts every single person in our country. Every community— urban, rural and suburban neighborhoods — has a right to expect that water coming from their tap is safe to drink and that Congress will do everything within its power to ensure that happens. Clean water means good jobs and better health,” said Senator Cardin. “This bill is too important to have been left until the 11th hour to finalize where it was susceptible to last-minute provisions that could have derailed the whole hard-fought package.
“I am proud of the concrete achievements in this WRDA, many sections taken from legislation that I authored such as improving testing in schools for lead, replacing lead pipes and revising financing programs so communities can replace their crumbling water infrastructure. Long before Flint was seared into the national consciousness, I have been fighting year after year to upgrade our hidden water infrastructure. The bill authorizes $300 million over 5 years for lead pipe replacement, $300 million over 5 years for underserved communities to do what they need to comply with the Safe Drinking Water Act, $100 million over 5 years for testing specifically in schools. There is also a requirement that the EPA, state, and local governments notify residents immediately when lead is found in their water, something that would have stopped years of exposure and needless suffering in Flint and countless cities across America.
“The heart of WRDA provides for the conservation and development of water resources. The high quality jobs associated with maintaining and building our water infrastructure means WRDA is incredibly important to strengthening and growing the middle class in the U.S. The investments this legislation makes to improve the safety and performance of the nation’s locks, levees and dams and ports, channels and harbors is essential to our country’s continued economic growth. Maryland, like many coastal states, has much at stake in this bill. The Port of Baltimore directly employs more than 1,000 workers while supporting thousands more jobs across the entire mid-Atlantic region. These jobs and the movement of the valuable cargo coming in and out of the port would not be realized if it weren’t for the Army Corps’ work to maintain the Baltimore Harbor Channel. I fought hard to ensure that WRDA, which includes provisions related to specific river basins, watersheds and coastal areas, increases the authorization for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Chesapeake Bay Oyster Recovery Program in Maryland and Virginia from $60 million to $100 million. The health of our oyster population is critical to Maryland’s economy, the health of the Chesapeake Bay and our natural environment.”