Federal Water Infrastructure Spending Needed
In Wisconsin could be used to replace lead service lines and improve sewerage systems.
Wisconsinites proved our resilience in 2020. The pandemic put stress on our community, but we continued to persevere. Now, as we are starting to return to a brighter horizon, it’s time to take stock of what our priorities should be in a post-pandemic world. Clean water needs to be high on the list.
However, getting to clean water will require fixing our infrastructure. We still have billions of gallons of sewage overflows and runoff pollution contaminating where we swim. In 2019, authorities tested 61 Wisconsin beaches and found that they had potentially unsafe levels of fecal bacteria at least one day during the year. South Shore Beach in Milwaukee was potentially unsafe on 19 days, which was more than any other beach in the state.
Lead in our drinking water is an equally persistent problem. We still have an estimated 240,000 lead service lines across Wisconsin, including an estimated 70,000 in the city of Milwaukee alone. Nationwide, there are an estimated 9 million toxic pipes, but we need to do more work to identify the actual number. These toxic pipes are contaminating our water with a potent neurotoxin that damages our children’s health. They’ve got to go.
To build a better future, we need an ambitious and bold infrastructure package. President Biden and Chairman DeFazio have put out good roadmaps. If we want our lakes and beaches to be safe for swimming, then Congress should, as a start, fully fund the Sewer Overflow and Stormwater Reuse Municipal Grants program and ramp up the Clean Water State Revolving Fund to $8 billion this year. And if we want lead-free water for our children, then we’ll need to provide the $45 billion proposed in President Biden’s American Jobs Plan to replace all the lead pipes across the country.
Finally, we need to make sure this funding is accessible to all communities, no matter their income or size. This can be done by setting aside water infrastructure funding for grants rather than loans, which would allow communities to access federal funds without fear of having to take out loans that they cannot afford to pay back.
We have a once in a generation opportunity to secure clean water for America. Let’s do it.
- Wisconsin is Double the National Average for Child Lead Poisoning - Isiah Holmes - Sep 30th, 2021
- Local Orgs Join State to Remove Lead from Milwaukee Homes - Matt Martinez - Sep 23rd, 2021
- City Hall: 12 Takeaways From City’s 2022 Budget - Jeramey Jannene - Sep 22nd, 2021
- Op Ed: It’s Time to Reclaim Wisconsin’s Legacy of Water Protection - Tony Wilkin Gibart - Aug 13th, 2021
- Health Commissioner Says Lead Crisis is Top Priority - Matt Martinez - Jul 22nd, 2021
- Site Visits Highlight Lead Safety Efforts - Wisconsin Department of Health Services - Jul 19th, 2021
- City Hall: $98 Million Plan Targets Lead Poisoning - Jeramey Jannene - Jul 19th, 2021
- City Hall: Update Expected Soon on Criminal Investigation Into Health Department - Jeramey Jannene - Jul 16th, 2021
- City Hall: Anger and Frustration With Milwaukee’s Lead Program - Jeramey Jannene - Jul 15th, 2021
- Public Safety and Health Committee to discuss city’s lead abatement program on Thursday - Ald. Marina Dimitrijevic - Jul 12th, 2021
Read more about Lead Crisis here