Biden-Harris admin announces $340 million for Philly water projects

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced a $340 million financing commitment to upgrade the City of Philadelphia’s aging drinking water infrastructure, including replacing customers’ lead service lines. The agency says a Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) low-interest loan will jumpstart the work to modernize the drinking water system with an initial investment of nearly $20 million.

“At EPA, we’re committed to ensuring access to clean, safe water for all. Thanks to the Biden-Harris Administration’s historic investment in water infrastructure upgrades, we’re delivering on that commitment for communities across this nation,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “With the funds announced, the City of Philadelphia will be able to upgrade its aging system for the 1.6 million people that depend on it, ensuring no one has to worry about access to safe, affordable drinking water.”

The announcement was made by President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and Regan at an event in Philadelphia, Pa.

Portions of the City of Philadelphia’s drinking water systems are approaching the end of their useful life and need significant upgrades to continue to deliver clean and safe water to the residents of Philadelphia. With this announcement, EPA is committing over $340 million in WIFIA financing to the city. The initial loan of $19.8 million will modernize critical drinking water infrastructure by replacing approximately 160 lead service lines and 15 miles of water mains throughout the city.

“This commitment will provide an immense boost to Philadelphia’s ongoing efforts to ramp up water main replacement and help sustain our recently launched 25-year, multibillion-dollar Water Revitalization Plan, investments that will result in direct health and safety benefits for all Philadelphians,” said Philadelphia Water Department Commissioner Randy E. Hayman. “Replacing miles of water mains in these neighborhoods will also strengthen our campaign to replace customers’ lead service lines as we renew and improve the city’s infrastructure. This represents the biggest investment in drinking water infrastructure in a generation, and we would not be able to do this work without this level of federal investment.”

The Biden-Harris Administration has committed to revitalizing the nation’s water and wastewater infrastructure to ensure every community has access to clean, safe and reliable drinking water, wastewater and stormwater services. In addition to WIFIA loans and other federally funded programs, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is making a historic $50 billion investment in water infrastructure and allocates $15 billion specifically for lead service line replacement and removal. To date, more than $4.7 billion of Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding has been invested through the State Revolving Funds to support states, Tribes and territories in improving water infrastructure.

By financing this first project with a WIFIA loan, EPA estimates the City of Philadelphia will save approximately $4 million. Construction and operation under this first loan are estimated to create approximately 100 jobs.

Established by the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act of 2014, the WIFIA program is a federal loan and guarantee program administered by EPA. The WIFIA program’s aim is to accelerate investment in the nation’s water infrastructure by providing long-term, low-cost supplemental credit assistance for regionally and nationally significant projects. 

The WIFIA program has an active pipeline of projects that will result in billions of dollars in water infrastructure investment and thousands of jobs. With this loan closing, EPA’s WIFIA program has announced 97 loans that are providing $17 billion in credit assistance to help finance $36 billion for water infrastructure while creating 122,000 jobs and saving ratepayers over $5 billion. 

EPA is currently accepting letters of interest for WIFIA and SWIFIA loans. In June, EPA announced the availability of $5.5 billion under the 2022 WIFIA Notice of Funding Availability and an additional $1 billion under the SWIFIA program.

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