Lawmaker is Co-Author of Bill That Will Create Jobs & Provide Additional Funding for Water Infrastructure

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Representative Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), chairman of the Energy and Environment Subcommittee of the Energy and Commerce Committee today released the following prepared remarks at a hearing on the Assistance, Quality and Affordability Act of 2010:

“When people turn on their bathroom or kitchen faucets they often take for granted that an abundant supply of clean water flows freely from their taps. It is only when the water stops flowing due to a catastrophic failure that attention is given to the complexities of providing clean, safe drinking water.

“A prime example of such a catastrophic failure occurred just over a week ago in Massachusetts, when a breach in a seven year old pipe caused a water supply emergency that affected over 2 million residents of Boston and its surrounding areas, including a large portion of my district.

“A boil-water advisory lasted for several days. People swarmed the Stop and Shop and other grocery stores to stock up on bottled water. Restaurants and diners had to close because they had no water to serve or wash dishes with. And people had to get through Monday without their morning cup of Dunkin’ Donuts-which resulted in a near riot at the Dunkin’ Donuts across from my District Office in Medford Square.   In the Boston papers, the entire incident became know as the Aqua-pocalypse.

“Although the MWRA incident could not have been anticipated because the pipe that broke was so new, public attention immediately turned to the need for increased federal funding for infrastructure projects that ensure a safe drinking water supply for years to come.

“The reality is that the country’s drinking water infrastructure is rapidly aging.  EPA estimates that over the next 20 years, water systems will need to invest nearly $335 billion dollars on infrastructure improvements to ensure safe water to our nation.  Water systems simply can’t afford to do this on their own, and people who are already struggling to pay their water bills can’t absorb these costs either. We cannot turn off the flow of federal funding for this essential infrastructure at a time when our water systems need it most.

“The Assistance, Quality, and Affordability Act that Chairman Waxman and I have introduced will reauthorize the Safe Drinking Water Act State Revolving Fund for the first time since its creation in 1996 and will make a number of changes to invest in our future.

“The bill increases water project funding from $1.5 billion dollars in 2011 to $6 billion dollars in 2015. This will mean that more drinking water projects can be completed, and that more jobs are created for people who need them.  A December 2008 report from the U.S. Conference of Mayors estimated that every million dollars of drinking water and wastewater infrastructure investment directly creates 8.7 jobs. Over the next 5 years, our legislation would therefore lead to more than 100,000 new jobs. 

“We have also included a new emphasis on cutting-edge projects to allow funding priority to be granted for projects that will make drinking water safe and affordable for years to come.  We will also encourage projects that increase water and energy efficiency, and projects that anticipate future problems and propose repairs before a crisis occurs.

“We’ve ensured that we are directing resources to those who need it most, so that water systems serving communities that can’t afford to pay for the upgrades necessary to comply with Safe Drinking Water Act standards are given what they need to do so. 

“We’ve also included a change in drinking water enforcement requirements that will ensure that systems that have violated drinking water standards in the past are inspected to ensure they stay compliant. I would like to thank Congressman Bobby Rush for his work in this area, following a truly horrific case in the village of Crestwood, Illinois in which people were literally and knowingly poisoned by the water they were drinking for decades. 

“Finally, this bill also includes my language to strengthen EPA’s endocrine disruptor screening program. Endocrine disrupting chemicals are like computer viruses that, over time, can severely disrupt your body’s operating system, and it is vital that EPA have a more robust and transparent program that screens drinking water contaminants to identify the chemicals that pose such concerns.

“I thank the witnesses for attending today’s hearing.  We look forward to your testimony.”