The National Utility Contractors Association (NUCA) testified before House appropriators to encourage higher funding for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Loan Fund (SRF) Programs in 2005.
These programs provide critical resources to states for the repair and installation of America’s water and wastewater infrastructure.
On Thursday, Mar. 25, NUCA President Bill Bowman, of The Bowman Group in West Berlin, NJ, discussed SRF funding with members of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on VA-HUD and Independent Agencies, which has jurisdiction over SRF annual appropriations. Bowman’s message was clear: the SRF programs need immediate substantial funding increases, beginning in FY 2005.
Addressing subcommittee chairman James Walsh, R-NY, Bowman asked, “Why does the administration continually propose to cut the Clean Water SRF program by 40 percent when its own EPA reports that existing needs exceed $181 billion? In New York alone, existing wastewater needs exceed $20 billion.”
NUCA strongly opposed President Bush’s proposed $850-million funding level for the Clean Water SRF in FY2005 — a figure $500 million less than what the SRF program has received the past several years. The Senate passed an amendment during debate on the FY05 Budget Resolution that increased funding for the Clean Water and Drinking Water SRF programs to $5.2 — a huge step in the right direction, according to NUCA.
The House budget resolution, however, did not include these necessary increases in funding. NUCA encouraged the House subcommittee to enact the Senate’s approved FY05 budget blueprint for the SRF programs.
“There is no question that funding the SRF programs is an economically sound federal investment,” Bowman said. He noted, for example, that each year, sewers back up in basements 400,000 times and municipal sanitary sewers overflow on 40,000 occasions, dumping potentially deadly pathogens into the nation’s waterways, streets, and beaches.
Water and sewer systems built generations ago that have projected use periods of 30, 50, or 100 years are all reaching the end of their useful life concurrently. The aging infrastructure is suspected to be currently causing a health crisis in Washington D.C. — namely dangerously high levels of lead in the drinking water.
“We regularly uncover pipes with gaping holes from which raw sewage escapes into the surrounding ground in residential neighborhoods. This leakage can go undetected for months, if not years,” Bowman explained. “My colleagues can tell stories of finding infrastructure so old that the pipes are made out of hollowed tree trunks. To make matters worse, these systems are often within close proximity of lakes and rivers where we swim, fish, and play,” he added.
According to Bowman, the EPA programs have made a difference. “The Clean Water SRF program has leveraged more than $22 billion in federal grants into about $43 billion in revolving loans to American communities, while the Drinking Water SRF has provided more than $6.5 billion to communities for drinking water projects and state and local activities,” Bowman said.
Based in Arlington, VA, NUCA comprises 44 chapters of local underground utility construction contractors and suppliers throughout the United States.
For more information, visit www.nuca.com.