Millions coming to improve drinking water

$2.3 million is available in the Pacific Northwest to improve drinking water for schools as well as small or disadvantaged communities.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced this week that these regional funds are part of nearly $87 million in nationwide grant funding is available to assist states, tribes, and territories with improving drinking water.

“EPA is committed to ensuring all Americans, regardless of their zip code, have access to safe and clean drinking water,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “With these grants, EPA is fulfilling its core mission of providing states, tribes, and territories with the resources needed to protect children from lead exposure and other contaminants and ensure all American families have safe drinking water.”

According to a release, funding is made available through two new EPA drinking water grant programs established by the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act (WIIN):

  • Under EPA’s new Voluntary Lead Testing in Schools and Child Care grant program, EPA will award $43.7 million in grants to fund testing for lead in drinking water at schools and child care programs. Testing results carried out using grant funds must be made publicly available.
  • Under EPA’s new Assistance for Small and Disadvantaged Communities grant program, EPA will award $42.8 million in grants to support underserved communities with bringing public drinking water systems into compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act. Funding can also be used for conducting household water quality testing, including testing for unregulated contaminants.

Under the Trump Administration, EPA says that they have taken significant actions to modernize aging water infrastructure and reduce exposure to contaminants in drinking water:

  • In 2018 the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds committed $9.6 billion in drinking water and clean water infrastructure loans and refinancing and disbursed $8.8 billion for drinking water and clean water infrastructure.
  • Over the past year, EPA’s Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) program has issued eight loans totaling over $2 billion in WIFIA credit assistance to help finance over $4 billion for water infrastructure projects.
  • EPA is undertaking the first major overhaul of the Lead and Copper Rule since 1991. EPA anticipates releasing the proposed rule in summer 2019.

In the Pacific Northwest and Alaska the following funding allotments have been established (amounts include funding for drinking water in schools and small & disadvantaged communities):

  • Alaska: $420,000 (including $114,000 for lead testing in tribal schools)
  • Idaho: $420,000
  • Oregon: $556,000
  • Washington: $949,000

State, tribal, and territorial grant allotments for the two grant programs are available on EPA’s website.

As a next step, program participants will be asked to submit workplans to EPA outlining their proposed project(s) for approval and funding. EPA will announce funding details for WIIN’s third newly-created grant program dedicated to reducing lead in drinking water systems in summer 2019.

For more information, visit: https://www.epa.gov/safewater/grants

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