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Senator Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) today addressed more than 100 drinking water providers at the American Water Works Association's (AWWA) Water Matters! Fly- In in Washington, D.C. Senator Chafee, chairman of the Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Fish, Wildlife, and Water, used the occasion to announce his support for increased drinking water infrastructure spending.
Chafee called on Congress to redouble their funding efforts to replace and repair infrastructure that has reached the end of its functional lifespan.
"It will be difficult indeed to invest the necessary billions in water infrastructure, given the current budgetary and political landscape. But it's not out of reach—and the need is undeniable," said Chafee in his prepared remarks. "Along with a number of my colleagues, I am pushing hard to keep level annual appropriations for dinking water, and clean water, during the fiscal year 2006 budget and appropriations process."
Chafee's remarks were made to more than 100 water professionals from across the country, who are gathered in Washington, D.C., to encourage members of Congress to address critical drinking water issues, including infrastructure spending, MTBE liability immunity, and the exemption of the Department of Defense from environmental laws. Delegates are meeting with their respective Senators and Congressmen, as well as members of relevant committees.
The delegates are urging members of Congress to:
-- Fully fund the state revolving loan funds for drinking water ($1 billion) and wastewater ($1.35 billion) in FY2006, and expand the program to provide at least $15 billion over the next five years. Much U.S. water infrastructure is nearing the end of its useful lifespan. Coupled with heightened security awareness, there is an immediate need to increase investment in water- related infrastructure. Most of the work will be done by utilities and their customers, but Congress can support this critical effort through the Drinking Water State Revolving Loan Fund;
-- Reject MTBE liability immunity. Gasoline manufacturers are urging Congress to include MTBE liability immunity (so-called "safe harbor") in the Energy Bill. The provision would shield the petrochemical industry from paying for the clean-up of MTBE- contaminated water supplies. MTBE is classified as a possible human carcinogen and has contaminated water sources in 36 states across the country. Providing "safe harbor" to gasoline manufacturers would effectively saddle local water utilities and consumers with a $29-billion cleanup bill; and
-- Oppose provisions that would exempt the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) from environmental laws that protect local drinking water supplies from contamination. The DoD is seeking legislation that would leave sources of drinking water near some DoD installations unprotected from contaminants such as perchlorate, a component of rocket fuel that has been found in water supplies near DoD-related sites across the country. Such legislation would undermine the ability of water systems to provide Americans with clean, safe drinking water.
"The provision of a safe and adequate drinking water supply is fundamental to the health of our country and its people. The issues elevated in Washington are critically important in assuring the water we all share is among the safest in the world," said Jack Hoffbuhr, executive director of the American Water Works Association. "Our country's water professionals consider it their responsibility to make sure that safe drinking water is top-of-mind for our nation's leaders."