WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), a senior member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, today lauded the importance to Maryland communities of new legislation passed by the Senate that will enable much-needed improvements to our nation’s water infrastructure and fund critical Chesapeake Bay restoration projects.
The “America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018” will repair aging drinking water, wastewater and irrigation systems; deepen nationally significant ports and maintain the navigability of inland waterways across the country; and provide better protection from dangerous floodwaters.
The massive legislative package includes multiple individual pieces of legislation either authored or championed by Senator Cardin, including measures to reject the Trump administration’s proposed reclassification of the Poplar Island restoration project, which could imperil the progress of this national model for restoration success located in Talbot County. It extends the original seven-year authorization of the Mid-Bay Island Ecosystem Restoration Project, focused on James and Barren Islands in Dorchester County, by an additional three years, to total 10 years. The legislation also:
– Nearly Doubles Grants to States for Drinking Water Revolving Loan Funds. This is the first reauthorization of the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund for more than two decades. It authorizes $1.17 billion for fiscal year 2019; $1.3 billion for fiscal year 2020; and $1.95 billion for fiscal year 2021 for the Drinking Water State Revolving Loan funds. This nearly doubles the current annual authorization.
– Includes S. 1137, the Clean, Safe, Reliable Water Infrastructure Act. This bill, introduced by Senators Cardin, Boozman, Inhofe and Duckworth, addresses the need to invest in our nation’s drinking water, sewer and stormwater systems. It also provides for increased water efficiency, specifically by including $450 million to protect the sources of our drinking water and funding to repair and eliminate combined sewer overflows. And it formally authorizes the voluntary WaterSense program, which identifies and promotes water-efficient products through voluntary labeling.
– Creates Multiagency Federal Task Force on Stormwater Infrastructure. The task force will, with feedback from permittees, state and local governments and other stakeholders, provide in a report to Congress suggestions for improving the funding and financing of stormwater systems.
– Expands Onsite Wastewater Treatment. The bill addresses the need for information about onsite waste water recycling as one alternative for communities who cannot afford the upfront costs or ongoing maintenance costs of traditional wastewater infrastructure.
– Includes S. 451, the Water Resources Research Amendments Act. This bill, introduced by Senators Cardin and Boozman, addresses the need for additional research into increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of new and existing water treatment works.
– Enhances Drinking Water Infrastructure Resiliency and Sustainability. This provision directs the EPA to establish a “Water Infrastructure Resiliency and Sustainability Program” to award grants in each of fiscal years 2019 and 2020 to increase the resiliency or adaptability of drinking water systems to regional changes in hydrologic conditions like droughts, floods and sea level rise. This section authorizes $4 million to carry out this section for each of fiscal years 2019 and 2020.
– Bolsters Voluntary School and Child Care Program Lead Testing Grant Program. This provision requires technical assistance to be given to recipients of grants contained in the WIIN Act that are to be used to carry out testing for lead contamination of drinking water in schools and day care centers. This technical assistance will be to aid the recipients in identifying the source of the contamination, identifying and applying for federal and state grant programs to eliminate the lead contamination, to provide information on other financing options, and to connect grant recipients with nonprofit or other organizations that may be able to assist with elimination of contamination. Priority must be given to schools in low income areas.
“The Senate’s passage of the America’s Water Infrastructure Act includes several measures that will mean major improvements for Maryland. It will help Maryland counties meet state storm water requirements, ensure that clean drinking water reaches Marylanders’ homes, protect our drinking water from the effects of climate change, and keep kids safer from lead contamination. It will allow the Army Corps to better maintain federal channels in Maryland, replenish our beaches, and restore and expand islands in the Chesapeake Bay that protect Maryland communities and improve habitats for fish and wildlife,” said Senator Cardin, the Ranking Member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee. “Water infrastructure should not be a partisan issue and I have been proud to work with my colleagues to develop legislation that will benefit our aging water resources and infrastructure. Congress has a responsibility to be a strong partner with states and localities to repair and maintain our nation’s waterways and infrastructure, and this legislation is a major step toward fulfilling that responsibility.”