Statement: Bipartisan water infrastructure bill passes U.S. Senate

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This legislation is a good first step towards cleaner water, but more investments are needed to adequately address need

Environment Illinois

Chicago, IL — The U.S. Senate passed the Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act of 2021 on Thursday. The legislation would provide a boost to water infrastructure by authorizing more than $35 billion over a five year period for water resource projects. The bill also improves programs to replace lead pipes and stop lead contamination of schools’ water, and creates a program to increase water affordability.

Sewage and runoff pollution continue to threaten public health with pathogen pollution. In addition, lead contamination of drinking water is widespread, even in our schools. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that we will need $271 billion for wastewater infrastructure, and over $472 billion for drinking water infrastructure over the next 20 years. 

Environment Illinois Associate Paloma Paez-Coombe issued the following statement:

“We applaud Senators Duckworth and Durbin for responding to our water woes with common sense, bi-partisan action, and thank Senator Duckworth for spearheading this important legislation. This legislation makes critically important investments in our outdated and failing water infrastructure.

“But there is much more to do. We’ll keep working with our elected leaders to reinstate the 20 percent carve-out for natural and green infrastructure and provide full funding to get the lead out of our drinking water systems.

“Nearly fifty years ago, our nation set goals for making all our waterways safe for swimming and ensuring safe drinking water from every tap. Yet 19 Illinois beaches were potentially unsafe for swimming on at least one day in 2018 due to fecal bacteria. In Cook County, the only county where testing was reported in the national database, the average beach was potentially unsafe for swimming on 22 percent of the days that sampling took place. And our drinking water continues to be at risk as Illinois has more lead service lines than any other state.

“Environment Illinois has been building the case for the historic investments needed to address these threats to clean water. Environment Illinois is delivering to our leaders proof of the great public support for clean water, from a letter signed by more than 130 businesses to one from more than 360 local officials, including 14 leaders from Illinois. We have solutions to the problems our waterways and drinking water face — solutions boasting bipartisan public support.”