Congressmen Propose Trust Fund for Nation's Water Infrastructure
Posted 7/15/2009 -- Journal Sentinel
The nation's drinking water and sewage treatment systems are
getting older and need massive investments to protect public health
and the environment, a billion-a-year bipartisan group of
congressmen said Wednesday in proposing a $10 federal clean water
Revenue for the trust fund would come from proposed taxes on the
pharmaceutical industry, many beverages, a variety of household
goods - toothpaste, detergents, face creams and other toiletries,
toilet paper, water softeners and cooking oil - that are normally
disposed of in residential sewers, as well as corporate profits.
Beer and most other alcoholic beverages would be exempt from the
proposed beverage tax of about four cents per container.
The Water Protection and Reinvestment Act would provide a stable
and dedicated source of revenue for upgrading aging facilities and
create tens of thousands of jobs, according to Rep. Earl Blumenauer
(D-Ore.), the bill's chief sponsor.
"The problem of inadequate and crumbling wastewater facilities is
urgent and nationwide," said Rep. Thomas Petri (R-Wis.), a
"It is no secret to the people of Wisconsin that our aging
wastewater infrastructure is increasingly being overwhelmed," Petri
said in a statement. He reminded congressmen attending a Wednesday
news conference at the Capitol billion building in Washington that
heavy rain last month caused nearly 1 gallons of sewer overflows in
the Milwaukee metropolitan area.
Water pipes, too, are failing, he said. More than 240,000 water
main breaks were reported in the U.S. in 2008.
The trust fund bill "would assess a number of small taxes on a
broad base of those who use water and contribute to water
pollution," Petri said. "By using a broad base, the individual
impact should be minor."
A hearing on the bill was held Wednesday before the House
Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
billion gap between The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
forecasts a $534 current levels of investment in the systems and
projected needs in the next 20 years, Petri and other bill sponsors
"Cities across the country need help just to prevent us from
losing ground in our efforts to protect waterways," Milwaukee Mayor
Tom Barrett said Wednesday in support of the water trust fund. He
spoke at the opening day of the National Association of Clean Water
Agencies summer conference in Milwaukee. The group represents more
than 300 sewer utilities in the U.S.
Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District Executive Director Kevin
Shafer said he expects the bill to provide a rallying point for
municipalities in emphasizing the need for additional investments.
"We need this shot in the arm," said Shafer, who was named president
of the national association on Wednesday.
"We're not standing here with our hands out. We know that we also
need to continue local funding," Shafer said in an interview.
About half of the annual funding would be distributed as grants
and loans to municipal wastewater utilities through the existing
Clean Water State Revolving Loan Fund, according to Blumenauer.
One-third of the annual funds would be distributed as loans to
municipal water departments through the existing Safe Drinking Water
Act State Revolving Loan Fund.
Remaining funds each year would be targeted to security upgrades
at water and wastewater plants, sewer overflow controls and other