Let’s Get a Bigger Slice

Aug. 5, 2019

About the author:

Bob Crossen is managing editor of WWD. Crossen can be reached at [email protected]

As of press time, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the National Defense Authorization Act, which included language about per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). The bill specifically calls for the U.S. military to cease use of firefighting foam containing PFAS by 2025.

While the bill passed in the House, there was not a single Republican representative who voted in favor of it, and the Republican-led Senate seems unlikely to take up the cause. Notably, the White House has threatened to veto the bill because of the language referencing PFAS. It seems imprudent that one item can derail the entire bill, especially considering it is a seemingly small piece of the grander pie.

Speaking of small pieces of pie, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker also recently announced his Rebuild Illinois plan, a $41.5 billion plan to rebuild Illinois’ infrastructure. But of that large plan, Environment and Conservation projects—the only section containing water projects—makes up only approximately 2%, or $1 billion, of the total plan. An additional line item in the Economic and Community Development section allocates $145 million to public infrastructure, as well. Compare these figures to the Transportation bucket—69% at almost $29 billion—and you see just how big of a gap there is in funding to improve water and wastewater systems. 

When you factor in the lead pipes and the extent of this pipe inventory throughout Chicago, this small allotment is concerning. What good are new roads if lead pipes contribute to damaging our health? Without clean water, what constituency will there be?

Perhaps I am overreacting, as I am playing into the “doom and gloom” scenarios often espoused, but I also believe that the level of funding for transportation could be slightly reduced and appropriated to water, wastewater and storm water projects so the state can begin to chip away at these infrastructure upgrade necessities.