Eldridge, Dykema Pass Amendment to Create Water Commission

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

BOSTON – The Commonwealth will take a fresh new look at helping cities and towns finance their water infrastructure capital needs thanks to a budget amendment pushed by State Senator Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton) and Representative Carolyn Dykema (D-Holliston) and supported by the Legislature this week.

“The need for clean water, delivered by a reliable water infrastructure system, impacts every part of our lives, and yet it’s often taken for granted,” said Eldridge. “Even in a state with plentiful rainfall, we can’t afford to waste fresh clean water in leaking pipes, and we must help our cities and towns afford capital upgrades to their water and wastewater treatment plants.”

“Massachusetts has over 20,000 miles of sewage and 21,000 miles of water piping, most of which was installed over 50 years ago. As time goes by and these pipes degrade, they can pose a public health risk and limit our ability to expand the economy and create jobs. We need a comprehensive plan for maintaining and upgrading our water infrastructure,” added Dykema, “and this commission will do just that.”

The new Water Infrastructure Finance Commission was created through an amendment to the FY2010 budget filed by Eldridge.  Eldridge, Vice Chair of the Joint Committee on the Environment, also sponsored a similar bill this year.

The condition of water infrastructure is a significant factor in the Commonwealth’s ability to attract companies and create new jobs. Many companies rely on clean, accessible water to run their businesses, and are looking to locate in places that have the water infrastructure to support their work.

“Senator Eldridge, Representative Dykema, and the Legislature have showed leadership and vision in ensuring that the Water Infrastructure Finance Commission will move forward,” added Paul Matthews, Executive Director of the 495/MetroWest Corridor Partnership.  “As the Partnership has shown with water resource studies, right now far too many 495/MetroWest communities are confronting real water infrastructure problems.  By bringing together a wide range of experts on water issues, the commission will provide direction and assistance on how to best address these needs, so that our region can continue to serve as the state’s economic engine.”

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.

The costs to repair these aging pipes is growing each year. In 2007 $1.543 billion dollars was requested for the maintenance of piping, and the state could only allocate $364 million.

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 would study ways to assist towns in reducing their debt, developing new sources of revenue, enhancing existing sources of revenue and establishing new incentives for public-private partnerships.

A bill to create a Water Infrastructure Finance Commission was also introduced last session, by then-State Senator Pam Resor, and has been supported by a broad group of stakeholders, including municipal water suppliers, environmental groups, regional planning agencies, and engineers.

“Senator Resor’s leadership on water issues is still being felt at the Statehouse, even after her retirement last December,” said Eldridge.  “Getting the right people in the room to think creatively about the financing challenges for water infrastructure in our cities and towns will yield benefits for many years to come.”

Eldridge and Dykema are both members of the Joint Legislative Committee on the Environment, Natural Resources, and Agriculture.

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