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CHRISTOPHER S. BOND Testimony

SENATOR CHRISTOPHER S. BOND - OPENING STATEMENT

WATER INFRASTRUCTURE FINANCING HEARING

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 31, 2001, 9:30 am - SD 406

Mr. Chairman, thank you for holding this hearing on improving the utilization of available water and wastewater infrastructure funding. The cost of providing clean and safe waters for our families is overwhelming local communities large and small. Therefore, we must explore all creative and flexible financing options to fund drinkable and fishable waters.

Yesterday, I introduced a Concurrent Resolution with Sherry Boehlert in the House to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Clean Water Act on October 18, 2002. I believe it would be a wonderful goal for us to set to pass a new water funding bill by that 30th anniversary next October.

We certainly have the need for an increased authorization for water spending. Recent surveys from EPA and outside groups say we need to spend at least $300 billion over 20 years to maintain our water systems.

To traditional infrastructure maintenance and improvement we can now add infrastructure protection. Assessing the vulnerability of our drinking water system's and providing protection from terrorists will not be cheap, but it must be done.

These numbers are only for water infrastructure. There are a host of additional regulatory requirements coming down the pipe as well. We also have bills for expensive Concentrated Animal Feedlot Operations, Total Maximum Daily Load, and Sanitary Sewer Overflow proposals. We are currently debating placing new burdens on localities for additional Arsenic controls. All of these proposals are well intentioned, but they also have very high real costs.

Let me put a Missouri face on the challenges communities face. You all have communities like these in your states, but it's good to remind ourselves of our local problems as we debate these arcane financial methods.

The town of Pickering is in Nodaway County in northwest Missouri. According to the 2000 census, they lost 15 people and are now down to 156 residents. If you drive up Highway 148 out of Maryville, you will see Pickering on the left side of the road.

Pickering is an old railroad town, but the train doesn't stop there anymore. It couldn't anyway, because they pulled up the rails and ties years ago.

There are two churches and one elementary school in town. Pickering residents are hard workers, but most make barely over minimum wage. Pickering has exactly one business - a junkyard. Thus, almost all city tax revenues are from property taxes. The total city budget is . $25,000 per year. There is no police department, no fire department, no library. There are no paid city workers.

The reason I bring this up is because Pickering has no sewer system. Houses have septic systems. Gray water from tubs and sinks goes into the ditch at the road. But many septic tanks don't have proper drainage, and their waste leaches into the ditch. Storm water becomes dirty storm water.

As the financial experts can imagine, a town with 150 residents and an annual budget of $25,000 can't afford $1 million for a sewer system. A town with no city employees is hard pressed to fill out reams of paperwork for loan programs. A town that size can't afford matching requirements. Tripling water rates still won't be enough to pay for the water system they need.

Pickering wants to do the right thing. Pickering wants to meet Clean Water Act standards. Pickering wants to meet EPA regulations. I'm sure no one in Pickering wants to drink Arsenic in their water.

Pickering wants to provide clean and safe water for its residents. Pickering is willing to pay more for clean water, but sometimes good intentions and desire just aren't enough.

We have to keep Pickering in mind when we talk about how to finance water improvements. We also have to remember mid-sized communities such as the 10,000 residents of Lebanon in southwest Missouri. They face millions of dollars in sanitary sewer overflow costs. We also can't forget the aging system that more than a million residents in St. Louis depend upon for every drink of water they take.

All of these Missouri families and all the families in your states deserve clean and safe water, but they need our help. These people are depending upon us for a new water spending authorization to meet their needs.

I urge my colleagues to come together to help meet these water needs. Mr. Chairman, thank you for hosting this hearing and I look forward to further Committee action on paying for clean and safe water.

 
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