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Governor's Task Force Cites PA's $36.5 Billion Water Infrastructure Need; Report Underscores Call for Additional Investments
Date:10/31/2008

Voters Asked to Approve $400 Million Election Day Bond Referendum to Support Water, Sewage Systems

HARRISBURG, Pa., Oct. 31 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Governor Edward G. Rendell pointed to a report issued today that measures the unmet financial needs of Pennsylvania's deteriorating water and sewer infrastructure and warns of an impending crisis unless the state significantly changes the way it funds these systems.

The report, compiled by the Sustainable Water Infrastructure Task Force that Governor Rendell convened earlier this year, found the commonwealth's drinking water and wastewater systems face $36.5 billion in capital repairs and upgrades over the next 20 years.

With a few days before Pennsylvanians are set to vote on a bond referendum that would make $400 million available for water and sewer system repairs, the Governor said the findings further validate the need to make this investment now in order to protect public health and respond to population and job growth.

"More than 10 million Pennsylvanians depend on the promise of clean and safe drinking water every day, but many of our water systems and miles of water and sewer pipes are nearing the end of their useful lives," said Governor Rendell. "The challenge confronting us is not just a matter of finding the dollars to rehabilitate our aging infrastructure. We need to break the historic pattern of investing sporadically in these systems with no long-term funding solutions. This approach leads us into a situation like the one we find ourselves in now--where much-needed system maintenance and repairs are put off until a later time and creates additional expenses and a backlog of unmet needs."

The 30-member task force of business leaders, legislators, government officials and industry experts created work groups to gather and analyze information on existing water infrastructure and examine possible solutions to funding capital repairs and upgrades to drinking water and wastewater systems. In addition, the task force met around the state this spring to gather recommendations about ways to promote the long-term sustainability of our water infrastructure.

In addition to the $36.5 billion for capital repairs and upgrades, the task force estimates the commonwealth will need to spend another $77.1 billion for operation, maintenance and debt service, for a total of $113.6 billion over the next 20 years. The report outlines options to increase funding and reduce operating costs through more effective management of facilities, regionalization of systems, and maximizing nonstructural solutions and conservation measures.

The task force also stressed the need to educate the public on the true value and cost of drinking water and wastewater service.

"Continued federal budget cuts and historic problems like combined sewer and stormwater systems present a daunting challenge to Pennsylvania's public drinking water and wastewater systems that are increasingly unable to sustain community growth and meet new demands from residents and industry," said the Governor. "Our future depends on a safe and reliable supply of water. If our infrastructure is allowed to deteriorate, so, too, will Pennsylvania's business climate and property values.

"The task force report clearly describes the extent of the problem for the first time, and it also provides us with concrete recommendations for long-term solutions to better manage and fund our water infrastructure to meet the challenges of the future."

The report is available at http://www.depweb.state.pa.us, keyword: Water Quality; click on the "Sustainable Water Infrastructure Task Force" link.

On Election Day, voters will have the opportunity to decide whether to borrow an additional $400 million for public drinking water and wastewater system repairs, stormwater improvements and practices to manage non-point source pollution. This money will be available for municipally-owned drinking water and wastewater systems statewide, large or small, urban or rural.

Governor Rendell and the legislature have laid the groundwork for an historic effort to rebuild Pennsylvania's vital infrastructure by approving two measures that will direct up to $1.2 billion to repair and upgrade our drinking water and wastewater systems.

In July, the Governor signed a bill to provide $800 million in grants over the next 10 years for critical water, sewer, flood control projects and repairs to unsafe, high hazard dams. This grant program will be funded using gaming revenues.

The Department of Environmental Protection regulates 9,359 public drinking water systems and 4,224 wastewater treatment plants. Approximately 86 percent of Pennsylvania's population (10.7 million people) is served by public water systems.

The Rendell administration is committed to creating a first-rate public education system, protecting our most vulnerable citizens and continuing economic investment to support our communities and businesses. To find out more about Governor Rendell's initiatives and to sign up for his weekly newsletter, visit http://www.governor.state.pa.us.

CONTACT:

Chuck Ardo

717-783-1116

Teresa Candori (DEP)

717-787-1323


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SOURCE Pennsylvania Office of the Governor
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