U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler announced a $202 million Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) loan to the City of Baltimore, Md., to help the city make system-wide upgrades to its aging wastewater infrastructure at the Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant. Administrator Wheeler was joined by Maryland U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, Mayor Catherine Pugh, Maryland Department of the Environment Secretary Ben Grumbles, Baltimore County Executive John A. Olszewski Jr., Baltimore City Department of Public Works Director Rudolph Chow, and EPA Mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator Cosmo Servidio.
“This WIFIA loan will help Baltimore modernize its wastewater infrastructure, protect human health, and prevent sewage and polluted runoff from entering the Chesapeake Bay,” said EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “Through WIFIA, EPA is playing a leading role in President Trump’s efforts to upgrade our nation’s infrastructure, create jobs, and safeguard public health and the environment.”
“Maryland appreciates the support of our federal partners in helping Baltimore City promote public health and ensuring that we continue making historic progress to restore our most precious natural asset, the Chesapeake Bay,” said Governor Larry Hogan (R-MD).
“This is tremendous news for the people of Baltimore. Continued federal support for water infrastructure is an investment in public health, good jobs and economic stability for our neighborhoods,” said U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD). “Every community has a right to expect that water coming from their tap is safe to drink. I'm proud of our continued effort to make needed upgrades and repairs to drinking and wastewater systems that reduce the burden on consumers.”
“Every Marylander deserves safe drinking water and wastewater treatment systems that keep our rivers and Bay clean. This major federal investment will support Baltimore City’s efforts to install pollution control technology and help prevent residents from paying even higher water bills. I was pleased to work with the EPA and Baltimore leaders to make this happen, and I will continue fighting for funding to modernize our infrastructure and improve our water quality,” said U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD).
Like many urban centers, the City of Baltimore is facing the immediate challenges of aging wastewater infrastructure. With EPA’s WIFIA loan, the City of Baltimore will complete 14 projects that will include a series of repairs and upgrades across its large wastewater conveyance system, finish upgrades to the Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant, and make improvements to its stormwater management system. Together, these projects improve the reliability and performance of the city’s wastewater infrastructure, reduce polluted runoff and sewage from flowing into the Inner Harbor, and safeguard the significant investments that have been made toward restoring the Chesapeake Bay.
“Our water and wastewater customers have been required to shoulder the burden of paying for these long overdue and essential improvements,” said Baltimore Mayor Catherine E. Pugh. “Making these critical investments is not only long-overdue, but vital to Baltimore becoming a truly 21st Century City. We are grateful to the EPA for this low-interest loan that will assist us in managing effectively the significant costs associated with our infrastructure improvement efforts.”
Baltimore’s project is estimated to cost $942 million. EPA’s WIFIA loan will help finance more than twenty percent of that amount—up to $202 million. Additionally, Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) will finance approximately $280.5 million from its Water Quality Revolving Loan Fund and approximately $47.5 million from the Bay Restoration Grant Fund. The Maryland Water Quality Revolving Loan Fund receives an annual grant from EPA, including nearly $39 million in 2018. Because both the WIFIA program and the MDE loan program, offer low interest rates, the City is expected to realize significant cost savings. The WIFIA loan alone will save the City up to $40 million.
Established by the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act of 2014, the WIFIA program is a federal loan and guarantee program at EPA that aims to accelerate investment in the nation’s water infrastructure by providing long-term, low-cost supplemental credit assistance for regionally and nationally significant projects. EPA’s WIFIA program plays an important part in President Trump’s Infrastructure Plan, which calls for expanding project eligibility. To date, EPA has issued seven loans totaling nearly $2 billion in WIFIA credit assistance. Combined, these seven projects will create over 6,000 jobs.
On Nov. 1, 2018, EPA invited 39 projects in 16 states and D.C. to apply for a WIFIA loan. Together, the selected borrowers will receive WIFIA loans totaling approximately $5 billion to help finance over $10 billion in water infrastructure investments and create up to 155,000 jobs.