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EPA Hosts Water Infrastructure Roundtable with Local Community Leaders
Michigan Ag Connection - 04/06/2021

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Michael S. Regan hosted a virtual roundtable with water utility directors, public officials, and community leaders from across the country to discuss water infrastructure and President Biden's American Jobs Plan. During the roundtable, Administrator Regan highlighted EPA's experience partnering with states and communities to achieve multiple benefits through water infrastructure investment--protecting public health, improving the environment, creating jobs, laying a foundation for long-term economic growth, improving equity, and addressing climate change.

"Local leaders across the nation are struggling with the challenges of doing more with less while maintaining vital water services. They are working tirelessly on novel solutions to meet the water needs of their communities," said Regan. "Today's discussion highlighted that local leaders need a stronger federal partner when it comes to water infrastructure. The American Jobs Plan would do just that while providing the resources that communities desperately need to deliver essential water service for all."

On March 31, 2021, President Biden announced the American Jobs Plan, which proposes to invest an unprecedented $111 billion in water infrastructure. During the EPA-hosted roundtable, Administrator Regan heard directly from local leaders who are advancing innovative and equity-focused water infrastructure projects. Participants also discussed the potential community benefits of long-overdue investment in water infrastructure.

A focus of the roundtable was opportunities to reduce lead in drinking water. EPA estimates that six to 10 million homes in the U.S. have lead service lines. The American Jobs Plan calls for removing 100% of these lead water service lines. Additionally, the plan calls for investment to reduce lead in schools and childcare facilities, which would better protect the health of children in as many as 400,000 facilities across the country. These actions represent a bold plan to protect vulnerable communities and children from the negative health effects of lead exposure.

"As Mayor of the City of Buffalo, I see firsthand the need for increased investment in our water infrastructure. Protecting the public health for all of our residents requires a strong federal partner. The planned $111 billion in water infrastructure is a generational investment--a down payment, to ensure that our children's lives and minds are no longer threatened by lead service lines," said Buffalo, N.Y., Mayor Byron Brown. "For far too long, cities like Buffalo have had to carry this burden with little support and I am excited that President Biden's American Jobs Plan will provide the necessary investment that will result in equitable economic growth."

"The water utility industry is eager and ready to remove these lead lines. This funding is significant and helps us take a giant, equitable step towards improving water quality, restoring the trust our country needs in drinking water systems, and providing lead-safe environments for all children," said Greater Cincinnati Water Works Executive Director Cathy B. Bailey. "All neighborhoods, especially low-income and African American communities, will benefit from this plan and the changes this will bring."

Participants also discussed opportunities to upgrade America's aging drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater systems to help prevent sewer overflows, improve drinking and wastewater infrastructure in rural communities, support Tribal water infrastructure needs, and address emerging contaminants like PFAS. These efforts would significantly improve drinking water and wastewater management, the health of the nation's waterbodies, and opportunities for recreation and economic activity.

"Americans today are the benefactors of a once strong partnership with government (at all levels) to clean up our treasured waterways. Unfortunately, declining investment from the federal level over the past 30 years has shifted this burden almost entirely onto local ratepayers," said Hampton Roads Sanitation District General Manager Ted Henifin. "The American Jobs Plan helps breathe new life into that partnership, so that together, we can build back better to ensure clean water for all."

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