Senate Close to Deal on Bill for Flint Assistance, Lead Notification

Last week, U.S. Senators were approaching a bipartisan deal on legislation that would help Flint, Mich., and cities across the country improve their water infrastructure. The agreement?was announced?last week by a group of senators and would also revise public notification rules following the detection of lead in community water supplies. However, the bill could be at odds with another notification bill approved by the House of Representatives earlier this month.

The Drinking Water Safety and Infrastructure Act would:

  • Provide an additional $100 million through the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) to repair or replace drinking water infrastructure contributing to lead contamination. The DWSRF funding would be available for use in any city that is the subject of a presidential emergency declaration related to the presence of lead or other contaminants in drinking water, but the declaration requirement effectively directs the funding to Flint.? The funding could be used to replace both public and privately owned infrastructure such as lead service lines.
  • Appropriate $70 million in credit assistance through the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA). The funds would be made available not only for lead service line removal projects in Flint, but also to other states or communities for use on any water infrastructure project eligible for WIFIA funding. According?to Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman James Inhofe (R-Okla.) this credit assistance could be leveraged at a ratio of as much as 60 to 1, potentially supporting ?loans of up to $4.2 billion to address water and wastewater infrastructure needs across the country.?
  • Require utilities to notify customers within 15 days following a lead action level exceedance ?or any other level of lead determined by [EPA] to warrant notice, either on a case-specific or more general basis.? EPA would deliver this notice to customers if a utility failed to do so, and EPA would also be given the authority to ?provide notice of any result of lead monitoring? conducted by a utility ?to any person that is served by the public water system.? These notification provisions closely match legislation that was first introduced in Congress in late January (S. 2466/H.R. 4414), but they significantly depart from a bipartisan bill later approved by the House (H.R. 4470) that clarified broad public notices would not be required following isolated tests indicating elevated lead levels.
  • Provide $50 million for various public health initiatives to address and reduce health impacts related to lead exposure.

With the deal in hand, as of late last week senators were working to secure a unanimous consent agreement that would bring the bill to the floor in the coming days. Following Senate passage the bill would go to the House, where lawmakers have yet to weigh in with their own infrastructure funding plan for Flint.

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