Senator calls for increased efforts to protect water quality

U.S. Senator George V. Voinovich (R-Ohio) has introduced legislation that would help communities protect water quality by making it easier for them to make needed improvements to wastewater collection and treatment facilities.

WASHINGTON � U.S. Senator George V. Voinovich (R-Ohio) has introduced legislation that would help communities protect water quality by making it easier for them to make needed improvements to wastewater collection and treatment facilities.

The Clean Water Infrastructure Financing Act would provide $3 billion per year for five years in grants to states who in turn loan the funds to local communities to repair and upgrade existing wastewater treatment facilities.

In addition, Voinovich's legislation would provide technical and planning assistance for small water systems, expand the types of projects eligible for loan assistance, and offer financially distressed communities extended loan repayment periods and principal subsidies.

"Protecting our water supply is vital to making sure we have clean drinking water, viable habitat for wildlife, and safe water for recreation. As a fisherman I have a deep appreciation for Ohio's natural waterways and want to preserve them," said Voinovich. "Our local communities are doing a great job with the assistance they've been provided, but, frankly, they need more to comply with tougher environmental regulations. Passing these costs on to the public would be devastating to many families. With such massive needs nationwide the federal government is really the only entity that can help local communities make the necessary improvements to protect water quality."

The new funds would go to the Clean Water State Revolving Loan Fund which was created in 1987 but which hasn't received funding increases adequate to keep up with wastewater infrastructure needs nationwide. Last year's funding was $1.35 billion while an estimated $4 billion in needs were identified in Ohio alone to correct aging combined sanitary/storm sewers.

A survey conducted by the U.S. Environment Protection Agency in 1996 documented $139 billion worth of wastewater capital needs nationwide. In April 1999, that national assessment was revised upward to nearly $200 billion, while some private studies have estimated the needs to be closer to $300 billion.

In December, Voinovich met with Ohio mayors to discuss their wastewater concerns and the challenges they have in meeting tough regulations with limited funding. Many communities faced soaring water and sewage rates to pay for wastewater facility repairs.

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