Biden EPA expands wastewater services pilot to assist underserved communities

aerial view of treatment plant

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced the expansion of its successful Closing America’s Wastewater Access Gap Community Initiative to 150 additional communities as part of President Biden’s Investing in America agenda.

Originally launched in partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the initiative partners with underserved communities to provide technical assistance on accessing federal wastewater funding. The pilot initiative has been assisting 11 communities since 2022. This program, along with historic funding through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, will advance President Biden’s historic environmental justice agenda and help thousands of Americans access the wastewater infrastructure they need to thrive.

Many rural and low-income communities in the U.S. lack basic running water and indoor plumbing, and our Closing America’s Wastewater Access Gap Program has been instrumental in helping communities from White Hall, Alabama to McDowell County, West Virginia to San Carlos Apache Tribe, Arizona access Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding to address this critical need” said EPA Assistant Administrator for Water Radhika Fox. “In expanding the program to 150 additional communities, we are working to restore dignity and opportunity to underserved communities nationwide.”

“For communities throughout the six New England states and the ten federally recognized Native Tribes, I am excited to see the potential impact that expanding this program could have in New England. This wastewater initiative is another step toward closing the gap and ensuring that rural and underserved areas receive support to access historic funding available through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law,” added EPA Regional Administrator David W. Cash. “By providing no-cost technical assistance that can help communities assess their wastewater needs and identify funding opportunities, we are reducing barriers and empowering communities to access federal funding, contributing to both the health of the environment and the overall well-being of communities.”

Closing America’s Wastewater Access Gap Community Initiative

According to EPA, an estimated 2 million people in the United States live without adequate wastewater infrastructure and safe and reliable drinking water in their homes. Many more live with wastewater infrastructure that is ineffective and puts people’s health at risk. To date, the Closing America’s Wastewater Access Gap initiative has helped provide communities with no-cost technical assistance that helps identify affordable options for accessing wastewater infrastructure. For example, technical assistance providers help the community conduct assessments of the community’s specific needs and submit applications for wastewater funding. So far, progress for the 11 pilot communities includes seven funding awards and 10 additional funding applications submissions. All 11 communities have drafted community solution plans, which are in the process of being finalized, and will be posted to EPA’s Closing America’s Wastewater Access Gap webpage in the early spring.

In Lowndes County, Alabama, children and families are exposed to raw sewage at the place that should be safest – their own homes. Yards regularly flood with sewage from straight pipes or from broken pipes that clog when it rains. However, with the help of EPA’s technical assistance, known as “WaterTA,” the community of White Hall successfully applied for federal funding and received $450,000 to help accelerate their wastewater infrastructure goals.

“The expansion of this program makes clear that coordination between the communities actually impacted by these issues and state and federal government drives real change. This announcement is further acknowledgement of the Biden Administration’s commitment to resolving America’s Dirty Secret in rural and poor communities throughout the United States. The Center for Rural Enterprise and Environmental Justice continues to be supportive to this cause as we seek resilient and innovative sanitation solutions,” said Catherine Flowers Founding Director of Center for Rural Enterprise and Environmental Justice.

Interested communities can request assistance by completing the WaterTA request form. Communities will be selected on a rolling basis; there is no deadline to apply. For questions, email SepticHelp@epa.gov. Learn more about Water Technical Assistance from EPAwaterTA.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*