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Water Quality Investment Act Passes House

By Judy Sheahan
March 23, 2009

The House passed on March 13 the Water Quality Investment Act of 2009 (HR 1262) by a vote of 317-101. The bill, which is a combination of five bills that were passed by the House during the last Congressional session, would authorize $19.4 billion for a variety of water quality measures including $13.8 billion in wastewater treatment loans and grants.

The bill includes: grants to states for administering programs for the prevention, reduction, and elimination of pollution; watershed pilot projects; grants to states for water pollution control revolving funds; alternative water source pilot projects ($250 million); sewer overflow control grants ($1.8 billion); and remediation of sediment contamination in “areas of concern” in the Great Lakes ($750 million).

The EPA Administrator would administrate the sewer overflow grants. In 2010, the Administrator will give grants to municipalities and municipal entities. However, starting in 2011, the Administrator will give the grants to the states in accordance with a formula that the Administrator establishes. The states would get a proportional share of the total needs of the state for municipal combined sewer overflow controls and sanitary sewer overflow controls.

Included in the legislation is a provision that requires public notification within 24 hours if a sewer overflow occurs that has the potential to affect human health. There is also a prohibition for the revolving loan funds to be used for the construction of treatment works unless the steel, iron, and manufactured goods used are produced in the United States.

Representative Connie Mack (FL) offered an amendment on the floor that would have removed Davis-Bacon prevailing wages to projects receiving federal funding. It was defeated by a vote of 140-284.

An amendment that did pass was from Representative Betsy Markey (CO) that would require states to use 15 percent in grants for capital grants for water pollution control in cities or towns of less than 10,000 people. The set aside in the original bill was ten percent.

The Senate is working on their version of a bill.