Agriculture Dept. Funds Rural Water Projects

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman has announced the funding of nearly $130 million in wastewater and safe drinking water projects in 59 rural communities in 37 states.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman has announced the funding of nearly $130 million in wastewater and safe drinking water projects in 59 rural communities in 37 states.

“These projects will improve the health conditions, living environment and economic opportunities of more than 84,000 people in economically distressed areas of rural America,” Glickman said.

“Inadequate wastewater disposal is still a major source of water pollution in rural areas. Corroded pipes, outdated waste treatment facilities and sub-standard septic systems all take a heavy toll on the quality of our nations drinking water, aquatic habitat and recreational waters.”

Glickman said most of Agricultures partners in the ventures are economically distressed local governments and most of the projects involve wastewater system improvements.

The Agriculture funding includes $75.3 million in loans and $54.3 million in grants. The grants are complemented by an additional $52 million from other public and private sources, raising total funding for the projects to more than $181 million.

Agriculture said since 1993 it has aided more than 5,400 communities with $6.5 billion in loans and grants for wastewater and safe drinking water system improvements.

EPA Budget

Water groups recently urged Congress to provide more funding for water programs in the Environmental Protection Agencys fiscal 1999 budget than the administration had requested. That budget totals $7.8 billion.

EPA Budget

Stephen Gorden, chairman of the AWWA Water Utility Council and AWWA president-elect, testified at the House appropriations subcommittee hearing.

EPA Budget

He said the budget request for capitalizing the newly authorized Drinking Water State Revolving Fund is inadequate. He noted the 1996 Safe Drinking Water Amendments authorized $599 million for fiscal 1994 and $1 billion each for fiscal years 1995 through 2003.

EPA Budget

The law said authorized funds not appropriated in a fiscal year may be appropriated in subsequent fiscal years until fiscal 2004. Gorden said through fiscal 1998, Congress has appropriated $1.6 billion, or $3 billion less than authorized amounts.

EPA Budget

AWWA said the administrations request for drinking water research is also inadequate since it would reduce spending by the EPA Office of Research and Development and the Office of Drinking Water and Ground Water.

EPA Budget

Gorden said it is uncertain how EPA is allocating the appropriation for drinking water related research. The agency said it would spend $10 million of its fiscal 1997 appropriations on drinking water contaminant health effects research by mid-April 1998 but did not mention specific research contaminants such as cryptosporidium, disinfection byproducts and arsenic.

EPA Budget

AWWA said, “The massive demands on states arising from the SDWA have become increasingly apparent because of the dramatic increase in the number of regulated contaminants over the past few years.”

EPA Budget

It noted the administrations budget request would not raise Public Water System Supervision funding for states from its present level of $90 million. AWWA recommended Congress appropriate the $100 million authorized in the SDWA.

WEF View

Billy G. Turner, President of the Columbus, Ga., water works, testified as president of the Water Environment Federation. He said, “Significant funding will soon be needed to rehabilitate and replace existing municipal wastewater treatment facilities.”

WEF View

He said EPA surveys indicate capital costs for secondary and advanced treatment will be $55.6 billion over the next 20 years. Costs for controlling urban wet weather will be higher, about $200 billion.

WEF View

Turner said, “In addition, a just-completed EPA survey of drinking water infrastructure needs found $138 billion will be needed over the next 20 years. This will be in addition to the needs for wastewater infrastructure.

WEF View

“According to the drinking water survey, $77 billion is needed immediately to implement improvements to the nations drinking water infrastructure to protect public health. These improvements include replacing distribution pipes and reducing the risk of microbiological contaminants such as cryptosporidium, which is resistant to standard disinfection procedures.

WEF View

“The sum of the water and wastewater facility needs over the next 20 years then, based on the preceding figures, is approximately $407.3 billion.”

WEF View

He said a major problem looms in needs for combined sewer overflow (CSO) control. Turner said EPA estimated costs of controlling CSOs on a nationwide basis were $42 billion in 1992 and “We believe these costs will actually be higher.

WEF View

“In Columbus alone, we have spent $75 million in local funds and an additional $20 million in federal funds to implement a CSO control project. The project consists of building larger interceptor sewers and two treatment plants.

WEF View

“The federal portion has allowed Columbus to explore new technologies for CSO treatment that should produce significantly improved treatment and cost savings in other projects across the nation.

WEF View

“The experience with the Columbus CSO project along with other cost estimates clearly indicates that CSO control for the 1,200 cities in the U.S. with CSOs is going to be more expensive than previously believed.”

Transportation Bill

A House-Senate conference committee was working on the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA), the Senate version of which contained a one-call excavation notification provision.

Transportation Bill

One-call excavation notification provisions affect water utilities both as excavators and as underground utility operators.

Transportation Bill

The bill would require excavators to participate in a one-call system if their state elects to apply for a federal one-call grant. The bill allows states to exempt utilities if they judge the costs will outweigh the benefits, or if there is minimal risk to the environment.

Transportation Bill

Also, the Senate bill allows drivers of utility service vehicles to exceed maximum driving and on-duty times during emergencies. Current regulations restrict commercial drivers to 70 hours over an 8 day period. The proposed exemption would apply to any driver of a utility service vehicle during an emergency period of not more than 30 days declared by a state or local government official.

New Orleans Settlement

The Justice Department and EPA said New Orleans has agreed to a $200 million settlement to address allegations that its sewage system has been spilling raw sewage into the Mississippi and other waters.

New Orleans Settlement

The city will renovate its sewage collection system, pay $1.5 million in civil penalties, and spend $2 million improving water quality along Lincoln Beach Park. The federal government had sued the city in 1993.

Atlanta Settlement

Justice, the state of Georgia, and Atlanta reached a settlement to upgrade Atlantas sewer system, which federal officials said has been discharging partially treated sewage for years.

Atlanta Settlement

The city will pay a $2.5 million penalty and spend $27.5 million to clean rivers and steams and replace part of the sewage system “at an estimated cost of several hundred million dollars.”

Atlanta Settlement

A local citizens group, the Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, originally sued the city. A federal court ruled last November that Atlanta had violated the Clean Water Act by discharging sewage with high levels of fecal matter and other pollutants for the past several years.

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