Academic journal article Environmental Health Perspectives

EPA: Funding and Pollution Problems Persist. (Water Quality)

Academic journal article Environmental Health Perspectives

EPA: Funding and Pollution Problems Persist. (Water Quality)

Article excerpt

The provision of wastewater treatment and clean drinking water may experience a funding gap of more than $500 billion between projected needs and current spending levels during the next two decades. Despite this crisis, nonpoint-source pollution (NPSP) remains the nation's largest water quality threat. These are the findings of two reports released by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2002, The Clean Water and Drinking Water Infrastructure Gap Analysis and the National Water Quality Inventory: 2000 Report.

The starting points for the gap analysis were ongoing EPA surveys of the nation's 16,000 publicly owned wastewater treatment plants and 75,400 drinking water systems. Comparing projected growth to current spending levels, the gap analysis projects an average capital and operations/maintenance gap of $271 billion for wastewater treatment and $263 billion for drinking water by 2019. And assuming that spending will increase by 3% per year, the gap narrows to $31 billion for wastewater treatment and $45 billion for drinking water.

Paul Pinault, executive director of the Narrangansett Bay Commission and president of the Association of Metropolitan Sewerage Agencies, says the gap was created in large part when the federal government backed away from "its commitment to fund water and wastewater infrastructure." He notes, for example, that the EPA's proposed fiscal year 2004 budget would cut monies for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund Program by nearly $500 million over previous budgets. This fund was mandated by the Safe Drinking Water Act Amendments of 1987 to provide low-interest loans for infrastructure improvements.

G. Tracy Mehan III, EPA assistant administrator of the Office of Water, says the 2004 budget extends the federal commitment to fund wastewater treatment through 2011 and drinking water through 2018. He further says that utilities need to look at every opportunity to close the gap, including full-cost pricing (charging customers the actual cost of the service), proper asset management, and anticipating problems before they occur. He also recommends implementing water reuse projects, increasing federal funding, and consolidating resources, purchasing power, and systems.

The crisis in water infrastructure funding is dire, but NPSP is an even greater threat to U. …

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