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House passes water infrastructure bill.

The Water Quality and Investment Act of 2009 passed the House by a vote of 317-101 on March 12, renewing the federal government's commitment to clean water and helping to close the gap between wastewater infrastructure needs and current levels of spending.

The cornerstone of this bipartisan legislation is the reauthorization of the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (SRF) program for the first time in 15 years. The Clean Water SRF, whose last authorization expired in 1994, provides low-interest loans and grants to local communities for construction of wastewater treatment facilities and other facilities to abate water pollution. This legislation, H.R. 1262, increases the authorization level of the Clean Water SRF through 2014, providing $13.8 billion over five years.

"Despite the obvious need for clean, potable water, Federal funding for Clean Water SRFs has been dramatically cut in recent years, but that is about to change," said Rep. James L. Oberstar (D-Minn.), chairman of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. "Investing in our wastewater infrastructure is a critical priority, both for Congress and the Obama Administration, that will have a significant beneficial impact on the quality of the nation's waters and environment, as well as the protection of public health."

The measure lumps together five bills that separately passed the House in the 110th Congress. In addition to Clean Water SRF authorization, the bill provides $2.5 billion over five years for grants to address combined sewer overflows and sanitary sewer overflows; $250 million for alternative water source projects, such as wastewater reclamation and reuse; and $750 million to address sediment contamination in the Great Lakes watershed.

One of the bills from the previous Congress that is included in this year's legislation is the Sewer Overflow Community Right-to-Know Act, which would amend the Clean Water Act to provide a uniform, national standard for public notification for both combined sewage overflows and sanitary sewage overflows. The legislation would require sewage treatment plants to monitor for and report hazardous sewage releases to the public within 24 hours.

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is expected to mark up its own water quality bill at the earliest opportunity, building off legislation that the panel approved in 2008.

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Author:Berndt, Carolyn
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Article Type:Law overview
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 30, 2009
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