INDIANAPOLIS – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has announced that Indiana will receive $ 127 million to improve the state’s water infrastructure.
The funding is allocated by the bipartisan infrastructure law, which was signed by President Biden last month.
Water infrastructure has been a concern of some Indiana lawmakers for some time. The improvements needed in Hoosier state total billions of dollars, according to a task force established by the Indiana General Assembly earlier this year.
“In some parts of our state, we still carry water to homes through wooden pipes and old infrastructure,” said State Senator Andy Zay (R-Huntington).
And experts say the needs are different in each community.
“When there are dozens and dozens of individual utilities, it’s just not a seamless approach to maintenance, and the resources available to utilities vary widely,” said Sally Letsinger, research associate in the department. of Geography from Indiana University.
According to the EPA, federal funds will be used for projects to replace or upgrade aging pipes and equipment and to prevent contamination from lead and PFAS.
“With our infrastructure so old, there are areas that still have lead pipes,” said Brian Neilson, board member of the White River Alliance, calling the new funds “exciting” for the. Indiana.
Yet state lawmakers say there is still a lot of work to be done outside of what this law will fund.
Earlier this year, the state legislature’s task force on investment in wastewater infrastructure and service in underserved areas examined water infrastructure, making several recommendations to collect necessary funds and solve other problems.
“A more realistic look at rates,” said State Senator Eric Koch (R-Bedford). “Also, whether for some systems, different modes of operation may include service sharing or partnerships.”
“We don’t have enough expertise and people across the state of Indiana to run our wastewater treatment plants,” said State Senator Fady Qaddoura (D-Indianapolis).
Koch and Qaddoura said they plan to introduce legislation to address some of these issues in the next session. But they recognize that they will have to wait for the budget rewrite in 2023 to come up with additional public funding.
EPA administrator Michael Regan said he sent a letter to Gov. Eric Holcomb asking him to ensure underserved communities are given priority for funds.
We have contacted the governor’s office for a response and are awaiting a response.
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