Philadelphia’s recently launched water infrastructure revitalization plan is set to receive a $500-million boost in federal funding, including $340 million from a low-cost U.S. Environmental Protection Agency loan, officials announced Feb. 3.
The city’s efforts are aimed at replacing miles of aging water mains and lead service lines, as well as rehabilitating and upgrading other water infrastructure. Philadelphia Water Dept. Commissioner Randy Hayman says the 25-year plan is expected to cost billions. The EPA funding, supplied through its Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) program, is set to start with $19.8 million that will cover the costs of replacing about 160 lead service lines and 13 miles of water mains.
“This represents the biggest investment in drinking water infrastructure in a generation, and we would not be able to do this work without this level of federal investment” Hayman says.
EPA officials say the federal financing will save Philadelphia about $4 million on its projects.
Future projects included in Philadelphia’s plan include improvements to the Torresdale, Lardner’s Point and George’s Hill pumping stations and the East Oak Lane reservoir and pumping station, as well as upgrades to the Baxter, Belmont and Queen Lane treatment plants.
President Joe Biden visited the Belmont facility on Feb. 3 and spoke about the WIFIA funding for Philadelphia and other ongoing infrastructure initiatives.
Philadelphia is also set to receive $160 million over five years from Pennsylvania’s share of Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act funding that the city will use to upgrade water facilities and replace 19 miles of lead service lines.
White House officials say the administration has also funded removal of more than 100,000 lead service lines. They expect to continue funding additional work with $1.2 billion in the infrastructure law approved for lead service line identification and replacement in 23 states. The law also set close to $15 billion for EPA to allocate to lead service line replacement over five years.
“Many water mains and pipes in the country are nearing the end of their useful lives,” Biden said. “As our water systems break down, the pipes start to deteriorate, exposure to lead increases."
EPA says it is still accepting letters of interest for $5.5 billion it announced was available for WIFIA loans last June along with $1 billion available under the similar state water infrastructure financing authority loan program.
The WIFIA program has closed on 97 loans totaling about $17 billion to help finance water infrastructure, EPA says.