Executive Director, Environment Texas
Executive Director, Environment Texas
AUSTIN –A group of bipartisan state legislators, business leaders and conservation and civic organizations wrote the Texas congressional delegation today urging them to invest in water infrastructure and address the growing problems with lead contaminated water.
The Senate version of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) bill includes $4.8 billion in funding to address clean drinking water, removal of lead pipes and stormwater management, including a $220 million aid package to address the Flint, Michigan crisis, but the House version does not. The group is calling on Congress to make sure this additional $4.8 billion is included in the final package of the bill.
“Most people are familiar with the Flint, MI water crisis, but here in Texas, our drinking water infrastructure also too often poses health risks to Texas families,” said Hayden Hamilton, Clean Water Advocate at Environment Texas. “Congress needs to make these investments immediately because everyone deserves the right to drink clean and safe water.”
According to a June 2016 report by the Natural Resources Defense Council, 6.6 million Texans were served by water systems with lead violations in 2015, the most of any state in the nation. Of those 6.6 million people, 169,818 were effected by lead levels that could cause serious health problems.
Drinking water with lead, especially for children, leads to very serious health effects, including development issues, high blood pressure, and can lead to kidney failure.
In addition, the Environmental Integrity Project found that drinking water systems that serve more than 51,000 people across 34 Texas communities had exceeded Safe Drinking Water standards for arsenic, a dangerous cancer-causing chemical.
“Flint raised to national awareness that too many communities are suffering from poor drinking water quality,” said State Senator José Rodriguez of El Paso. “We have our own examples locally, from arsenic in some rural areas to lead pipes contaminating water at an aging state facility. This timely federal investment would include much-needed funding to remove outdated and harmful lead pipes, thereby helping to alleviate an important part of the problem.”
The group reiterated to Congress that “Texas needs a major investment to help modernize our water infrastructure and protect public health and safety. In 2012, the American Society of Civil Engineers assigned Texas a grade of D- for drinking water infrastructure. Texas has also reported water infrastructure needs of $33 billion in the next twenty years – the second greatest water infrastructure need in the nation.”
“In 2013, Texans took the initiative and passed a constitutional amendment to invest in our state’s water infrastructure,” said State Representative James White of Woodville. “The Senate WRDA bill will bring back hard earned Texas tax dollars to help with grant funding for small and disadvantaged communities for desperately needed basic drinking water or wastewater services.”
The Senate’s WRDA 2016 authorizes a number of critical programs to help communities update and maintain their drinking water and sewage-treatment systems. The bill helps small and disadvantaged communities that lack basic drinking water or wastewater services with $1.4 billion in authorized funding over five years, and another grant program authorizes $300 million over five years for the replacement of lead water lines. An additional $1.8 billion in grants is authorized over a five-year period to address sewer overflows and stormwater discharges. The bill also promotes green infrastructure and innovative technologies to address drought and water supply needs.