November 16, 2009
BOSTON – State Senator Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton) was appointed the Chair of the newly-created Water Infrastructure Commission by Governor Patrick, which will examine ways that the state can help cities and towns finance their water infrastructure needs.
“Now, more than ever, it is important to think creatively about how the Commonwealth can help cities and towns pay for basic needs, like clean water and modern sewage treatment.” said Eldridge. “I’m looking forward to discussing ways we can preserve precious natural resources and reduce pressure on strained local budgets.”
The new Water Infrastructure Commission was created through an amendment to the FY2010 budget filed by Eldridge. Eldridge, who is Vice Chair of the Joint Committee on the Environment, Natural Resources & Agriculture also filed a separate bill to establish the Commission.
The miles of water and sewer pipes under the streets of Massachusetts cities and towns are aging, and can eventually become corroded, clogged, or leak. These degradations can result in the loss of fresh drinking water, and even the leakage of untreated sewage. In addition, many cities and towns have outgrown their water and wastewater treatment infrastructure overtime but are unable to update and expand those facilities due to fiscal constraints.
The cost to repair this aging infrastructure is growing each year. In 2007, $1.543 billion dollars was requested for the maintenance of water infrastructure, and the state could only allocate $364 million.
“The sooner we plan ahead to address our communities’ water infrastructure needs, the less expensive the maintenance needs will cost the state,” emphasized Eldridge.
Treatment plants for both water supplies and sewage are required by state and federal regulations to be periodically updated, often at a great cost to ratepayers in a community. These upgrades are essential to ensure that we are providing clean drinking water, and also that we are safeguarding our groundwater, our rivers, lakes, and streams.
The EPA estimates that $6.79 billion dollars will have to be spent over the 2007-2027 period to pay for the maintenance of the Massachusetts Water Infrastructure. The Water Infrastructure Commission will study ways to assist towns in reducing their debt, developing new sources of revenue, enhancing existing sources of revenue and establish new incentives for public-private partnerships.