DEP Acting Secretary Says Water, Sewer Funding Needed to Protect Pa.'s Economy, Public Health

POTTSVILLE (Oct. 21) – Without repairs and upgrades to its water treatment systems, some Schuylkill County residents will see the quality of their drinking water compromised, the state’s top environmental official cautioned today.

“On Nov. 4, Pennsylvania voters have an opportunity to provide vital funding that our municipalities and communities need to complete costly improvements to their water and wastewater facilities,” Department of Environmental Protection Acting Secretary John Hanger said. “By approving the $400 million bond issue, Pennsylvanians will be making an important investment to rebuild the commonwealth’s water treatment systems.”

Agreeing to the Water and Sewer System Referendum will help serve as a down payment towards fixing Pennsylvania’s deteriorating and aging pipes and sewer lines. The $400 million would be used for grants by the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority, or PENNVEST, to upgrade or repair drinking water system and wastewater treatment system projects in every region of the state.

Grants awarded would range from $2 million to $20 million, depending on the size of the drinking water or sewage treatment system.

In addition, the 183 publicly owned water systems facing federal mandates to reduce nutrient pollution in the Susquehanna and Potomac river basins, and downstream in the Chesapeake Bay, would be eligible for support under this referendum.

Speaking at the Mt. Laurel water treatment plant in New Castle Township, Hanger said much of the drinking water and wastewater pipeline infrastructure in Schuylkill County’s public water and sewer systems is aging and in need of replacement.

“As in other parts of the state, many Schuylkill County water treatment facilities are in danger of failure, putting the public and the environment at risk,” Hanger said.

A recent study by the Sustainable Infrastructure Task Force, which Governor Rendell convened earlier this year, estimates drinking water and wastewater systems statewide need at least $36.5 billion over the next 20 years to maintain reliable service.

Governor Rendell and the legislature have laid the groundwork for an historic effort to rebuild the state’s vital water infrastructure by approving $800 million to repair and upgrade the state’s drinking water and wastewater systems, flood control projects and high-hazard dams. This money will be repaid with gaming revenues.

In addition, the Governor convened a 30-member Pennsylvania Sustainable Infrastructure Task Force, which conducted a series of meetings around the state this spring to gather recommendations from the public about ways to promote the long-term sustainability of the state’s water infrastructure. This group of business leaders, legislators, government officials and industry experts found that every county in the commonwealth is facing significant water infrastructure needs.

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