As the coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the need for safe drinking water to allow for hygiene measures such as frequent hand-washing, both chambers of the U.S. Congress are working on water legislation, informs Bloomberg.
The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee pushed through two bipartisan water infrastructure bills, now set to go to the full Senate. John Barrosso, the Republican Chairman of the committee, said the two bills are crucial to addressing the pandemic. Both bills are updated by Congress every two years and reauthorize legislation related to flood control and clean water grants.
First, the America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2020 deals mostly with projects and policy relating to the Army Corps of Engineers, and would authorize about $17 billion in infrastructure projects, including increasing water storage and addressing flood risks. It would also reauthorize the EPA’s Clean Water State Revolving fund for the next three years, with increasing funding levels.
Second, the Drinking Water Infrastructure Act of 2020 would reauthorize programs under the Safe Drinking Water Act. It includes infrastructure for drinking water, and resources for communities with issues around the provision of drinking water. It proposes about $2.5 billion in authorizations, and $300 million in grants for cleaning drinking water from pollutants such as PFAS. Several changes were made to the this draft in a substitute amendment, including language to ask the EPA to develop a national drinking water standard for perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), also known as “forever chemicals”, which do not break down in the environment and accumulate in the human body.
The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee is also looking to introduce an important water bill by end of May, for markup during the summer.
Adam Krantz, CEO of the National Association of Clean Water Agencies, expressed in a statement the sector’s appreciation for the funding reauthorizations, but said the funding levels should “only serve as a starting point”, as much of the legislation was drafted prior to the current health crisis. He called for Congress to consider the “heightened need and appreciation for access to clean water in protecting public health and the environment in a pandemic”.