December 20, 2019

Massachusetts Delegation Unveil Bill to Help Communities in Massachusetts and Around the Country Struggling with Water Infrastructure Costs

Legislation Eases Cost Burden on Cities and Towns, Supports Communities in Removing Lead and PFAS from Drinking Water

Bill Text (PDF)

Washington, DC - United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Representative Joseph P. Kennedy III (D-MA-04), along with Senator Edward J. Markey (D-MA) and Representatives Richard E. Neal (D-MA-01), James P. McGovern (D-MA-02), Stephen F. Lynch (D-MA-08), William Keating (D-MA-09), Katherine Clark (D-MA-05), Seth Moulton (D-MA-06), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA-07), and Lori Trahan (D-MA-03), today announced the introduction of the Affordable Safe Drinking Water Act, a bicameral bill to provide Massachusetts and other states with more tools to mitigate water infrastructure costs. The bill has been endorsed by the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees (AFSCME).

"We must ensure our cities and towns in Massachusetts and across the country are able to provide safe drinking water-free of lead, PFAS, and other harmful pollutants-to our families," said Senator Warren. "I'm glad to partner with my delegation colleagues on a bill that helps our communities update their water infrastructure and mitigate the costs."

"Our citizens deserve clean water and our local communities deserve the support of our federal government to provide it," said Representative Kennedy. "By extending loan repayments on clean water projects, this legislation will allow local municipalities to invest in critical infrastructure projects and remove dangerous chemicals from their neighbors' water."

"Everyone, everywhere, should have access to clean and safe drinking water," said Senator Markey. "As we continue to learn more about the threats posed by PFAS and the prevalence of lead throughout our drinking system, we must make sure that Massachusetts communities and municipalities across the country have the resources they need to respond to this crisis."

"Since my time as mayor of Springfield in the 1980s, I have been passionate that all individuals have access to safe drinking water," said Congressman Richard E. Neal. "With this bicameral bill, residents here in western and central Massachusetts will be able to update their water systems and alleviate the costs involved, while promoting healthy standards for the future."

"We have water infrastructure in Massachusetts that's been around for longer than some states. Yet the reality is that cities and towns just don't have the money to bring things up-to-date. I've sat across the table from countless local leaders who are pinching pennies trying to bring safe, clean drinking water to their residents, and quite frankly, it shouldn't be that way," said Congressman McGovern. "I'm proud to join our delegation to ensure that municipalities across the country have the tools they need to provide safe water that's free of lead, PFAS, and other dangerous chemicals."

"I am proud to work alongside colleagues that continue to prioritize the health of Americans," said Representative Lynch. "As a member of the Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee, we recently held a hearing on our nation's water resources infrastructure and identified how we can address critical water needs and fund projects to help the development and restoration of our water systems. Many of us take our drinking water for granted and this bill will help states access resources to assist them with updating their water infrastructure to ensure everyone has access to clean, safe water."

"Over the past few years, lead, PFAS, and other contaminants, have presented significant challenges to communities in my district," said Congressman Bill Keating. "We must face these challenges head on by ensuring that all communities have the tools they need to provide clean drinking water to our citizens. This legislation, which has the backing of our entire delegation, will provide much needed assistance to our local water managers nationwide."

"If the tragedies like the one that occurred in Flint, Michigan have taught us anything, it is that we cannot take access to clean, safe drinking water for granted," said Congresswoman Clark. "This bill is an important step towards ensuring Massachusetts communities and all Americans have access to water free of lead and PFAS chemicals."

"Americans are afraid of poisoning their kids by brushing their teeth--this is ridiculous! Having safe drinking water should be an absolute minimum standard for every community in America. We need to invest now in getting PFAS and other "forever chemicals" out of our lives and better understanding the impact they've already had," Representative Moulton said.

"Every American deserves access to safe, clean drinking water. The reality is that too many cities and towns lack the resources necessary to support infrastructure that guarantees that right. I've especially seen this in my fight to help cities like Lowell and Haverhill update their outdated sewer systems to prevent CSO contamination" said Congresswoman Trahan. "I'm proud to join the Massachusetts delegation to ensure that municipalities across the country and in the district I represent have the tools they need to safeguard water and keep it free of lead, PFAS, and other dangerous materials."

Many communities in Massachusetts and around the country have struggled with their water infrastructure costs for several generations. In response, Congress created the State Revolving Funds (SRF) program to improve the nation's water quality by providing critical support to reduce the cost of constructing wastewater treatment facilities and other eligible activities. While the SRF has been successful in dramatically improving the nation's water quality, the cost burden for major infrastructure projects continues to increase, and many communities still struggle to repay SRF loans.

SRF loans give states funding to provide several types of financial assistance to communities, including project construction loans made at or below market interest rates, refinancing of local debt obligations, loan guarantees, and the purchase of insurance. Currently, communities must repay loans to the SRFs within 30 years-beginning within one year after project completion-and local governments must dedicate a revenue stream to repay the loan to the state. Though the 30-year amortization of the loan is helpful, project timelines may exceed 30 years, and costs not addressed or offset by the loan can still strain a community's budget and require making hard cuts in other critical areas of community investment, such as education and public safety.

The Affordable Safe Drinking Water Act would provide some relief to struggling communities by amending the SRF program and giving states the discretion to:

  • Offer local communities the option to repay loans over a longer period of time. The legislation would strike the 30-year SRF loan term limit and allow states to make loans up to the useful life of the project. Many of these water infrastructure projects have a useful life of 50 years or more, and allowing communities to amortize beyond 30 years will relieve some of the financial pressure associated with finding other funding sources for these projects.
  • Use SRF funding to install lead and per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) filtering systems and other lead and PFAS remediation measures across municipal and state facilities. The legislation would amend the Safe Drinking Water Act to allow SRFs to provide funding to remediate lead- or PFAS-contaminated water at public schools, parks, fire stations, police stations, senior centers, community centers, and any other municipal buildings. 

The Affordable Safe Drinking Water Act would not require an increase of federal funding since it leverages an existing funding source, nor would it alter existing law governing SRF interest rates. Instead, it builds on an existing program to provide states more tools to mitigate water infrastructure costs.  

"I am pleased to be working with my colleagues at the local, state, and federal level to elevate the clean drinking water issues that Massachusetts communities face," said Massachusetts State Treasurer Deborah Goldberg, Chair of the Clean Water Trust. "This legislation ensures that the Trust can provide direct funding for infrastructure improvements, that will greatly improve access to safe and clean drinking water for all of our children across Massachusetts."