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tv   State Officials Testify on Water Infrastructure Funding  CSPAN  July 21, 2017 2:03am-3:37am EDT

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discuss the 2018 federal budget. and -- of the migration policy institution talks about the increase of low-skilled worker visas. be sure to watch live at 7:00 a.m. eastern friday morning and join the discussion! earlier today -- he testified before a senate environment and public works subcommittee on his family's trouble accessing safe drinking water and the help he received from a world government assistance program joined by local officials to brief members on the nation's water system. this is about an hour and a half. >> i call this hearing of the subcommittee on fisheries,
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wildlife, fisheries, water and wildlife to order. we are here today to discuss innovative financing and funding to address america's i did efficient water infrastructure sflchl. many members of this committee including myself often reference the american society of civil engineers, infrastructure report card. currently they grade america's drinking water infrastructure with a "d." was wastewater slightly better at d-plus. reminds me of some of our grades in school. how about you? this is not a rural problem or big city problem. it's not a republican or democrat problem. this is a national emergency and
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we need to find solutions before it's too late. it is one thing to see these terrible grades on paper but what does this actually mean for people in their day-to-day lives? usually when we imagine life without clean and efficient drinking water and wastewater, we picture communities that do not resemble our own. we picture far-off countries that do not have all the blessings america has. sadly, this could not be further from the truth. currently an estimated 1.7 million americans live without access to clean running drinking water in their homes. there are tremendous infrastructure needs in rural america. the estimated cost to improve these facilities totals more than $60 billion with the needs of water systems in american indian and alaskan native villages accounting for $3.3 billion alone. we are in a position to address
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this problem. we have an administration that has made infrastructure investment a top priority coupled with bipartisan support in both the senate and the house we have an incredible opportunity to work across the aisle and get back on track to making america's water infrastructure the best in the world. while we all agree that infrastructure investment is a necessity, this hearing will look at common-sense approaches along with new ideas to fund these important projects so we can give the american people the basic service they desperately need and deserve. a popular funding strategy at the moment is the public-private partnership or the p-3. they are a crucial component of the administration's proposal and are necessary to get to the trillion dollar investment in infrastructure it promises. a great way to fund certain
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projects it is not a magic cure for all. they are a great tool in our toolbox however it is important to realize they do not always work in small rural states such as arkansas. that being said a combination of innovative financing, private investment along with state and federal funding such as loans and grants is a good way to address the problem. the problem will not be solved with a one-size-fits-all approach. we will have to use every funding and financing mechanism at our disposal while giving communities the tools to help themselves to fix the problem. for a moment, picture a small community in rural arkansas trying to update an aging an deficien wastewater system with a small tax base meaning any improvements needed would make the cost of these simply unaffordable. a community like the one i described has few options to
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fund such a project. they could look toward the will water infrastructure financing act which provides low-interest treasury rates to finance water projects but this project is not likely large enough to receive any assistance. a problem larger communities to fund large-scale projects will refund the state revolving fund for smaller communities. the clean water state revolving fund and drinking water state revolving fund provide funding assistance to repair, replace or expand -- -- systems consistent with the rirp requirements of the clean water act. this community could also fund the project with tax-free municipal bonds. since 1913 bond earnings have been exempt from income tax leading are investors to offer
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low borrowing rates. in 2016 alone they issued nearly 38 billion to pay for projects, resulting in millions of dollars for local water ratepairs. lastly, they could look to the federal government and state governments for assistance. there are a multitude of grants available to communities to help them help themselves. as you can see, we have many tools at our disposal. the trick is finding what works in every community rather than one-size-fits all. what works in rogers arkansas might not work in chicago, illinois. -- the time to act is now. we have an incredible opportunity to develop an infrastructure bill that directly addresses america's drinking water and wastewater infrastructure challenges. i want to thank our witnesses
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today for attending today's hearing and look forward to hearing real-world examples of the problems average americans are facing and i'm interested in seeing what kind of common, solutions we can all agree upon. now, i turn to our ranking member, senator. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i want to apologize. i have a terrible cold. yesterday i sounded like chewbaca, today, a boy going through puberty. i'm hoping i get to kathleen turner tomorrow. today, it's not so sexy. i thank the chairman for convening today's hearing and all of our witnesses participating in this very important conversation. last week, the ranking member and i organized a round table discussion to highlight some of other most pressing drinking water and wastewater challenges. we discussed 90 contaminants that e.p.a. currently monitors, toxins like led, mercury and
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arsenic and discussed our most vulnerable populations, young children, pregnant mothers and elderly whose exposure can alter the trajectory of their lives. we also talked about our nation's water infrastructure mostly bid in the early to mid 20th century with an average lifespan of 75 years. -- according to the american waterworks association, replacing failing or outdated drinking water systems and expandi expanding capacity will cost at least a trillion dollars over the next 25 years. the american society of civil engineers as my chairman has mentioned highlights that, 271 billion in wastewater infrastructure needs with 56 million more people connecting to the plants by 2032. we are now six months into the trump administration and still hasn't seen any meaningful
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details about their infrastructure plan. despite campaign rhetoric about the need to invest in our infrastructure, the 2018 budget provides am n net loss, loss, o roughly 144 billion across all modes. -- eliminates usda's rural development programs and slashes epa's budget 31%. last night the white house announced a president advisory council on infrastructure to make recommendations regarding funding, support and delivery of projects across all mod dzes. -- the confusion and delay of the president's goal, mission accomplished. our goal to enhance safety protect public health and create jobs. personally, i'd like to advance
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those goals and put people back to work sooner than later. our communities face daunting challenges to guarantee what most of us take for granted, clean, safe, healthy water when we turn on the tap. we're here today to better understand the funding challenges and to work for bipartisan solutions. whether text-exempt bonds -- -- and to identify the gaps where new tools may be needed or [ inaudible ] may be modified. each provides communities with opportunities to address their water infrastructure needs and each needs to be thoughtfully considered in their context. again, i thank the witnesses for their participation in this conversation and look forward to listening to your testimony. thank you, mr. chairman.
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>> thank you, senator duck worth very much. i'm going to introduce mr. frassi from arkansas and go to senator booker for an introduction, also. mr. frassi moved in 1990 to be closer to his family. and was in a situation where he didn't have running water. in 2014, mr. frassi's mother contacted my office and we discussed the problem that the family was facing. after talking to pls frassi, i got her in touch with the water systems council who were able to drill wells and brought fresh reliable drinking water directly to the home as well as the homes of the neighbors. as many of you know this subcommittee hearing was supposed to take place june 20th but due to a scheduling conflict we had to cancel at the last minute. unfortunately for them they were already on a plane flying to d.c. by the time the hearing got officially canceled. luckily for me, i think luckily for us, i got the opportunity to
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speak with him in my office about what his family and community went through and how their lives changed since receiving running water. most people who are just got ten reliable and affordable drinking water would forget about the problem and go on with their lives but not him. to this day he is still getting word out to everyone who is hauling water in their community, he told me whenever he sees someone hauling water he stops and tells them about the options available for assistance. mr. frassi, i would personally like to thank you and your family for everything you've done for the area. i would like to especially thank your wife, jenny, who was nice enough to travel up to d.c. again to watch you testify. and given your personal experience, you know, these are the kind of stories we need to get out. there's simply no substitute for it so thank you very much for being here. senator? >> first of all i want to thank
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the chair and ranking member for holding this urgently needed hearing. most people don't understand the crisis we have in the united states of america when it comes to the quality of our drinking water. the reuters article recently that talked over a thousand jurisdictions in the united states of america that have more led in their water and in the blood of our children than flint, michigan does. we are in a crisis in this country and it's affecting the next generation, our economic competitiveness, affecting the greatest natural treasure we have, not oil or gas but the genius of our kids. i'm blessed to have a guy here who is one of the champions of our state doing extraordinary work in a difficult environment in a city that has had a lot of challenges and a county that has had a lot of challenges with drinking water. and so, andy, thank you for coming here. andy, for those -- for the record is currently executive director and chief engineer of the camden county municipal
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utilities authority. before becoming the executive director and cheer engineer there in 2011, he was the deputy executive director from 1996 to 2011. for over two decades andy's been an incredible public servant and made a reputation for himself even to the northern counties like essex. he is renowned in his field the work he has done to rebuild and upgrade camden county's water treatment plant implementing really cutting-edge changes including focusing on green infrastructure solutions. he's utilized cutting-edge -- green infrastructure solutions to address other issues including camden's combined sewer overflow challenges. andy and his team were able to make these impressive improvements and i think this is good news to all of us while holding user rates steady for 17 years.
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andy currently serves on the board the national association of clean water agencies as the chair of the clean water industry of the future committee and environmental -- service committee. he also serves on the new jersey environmental justice advisory council, grateful he's here right now to contribute to this committee and i always say washington would be a better place if more jersey came down here. so, thank you. >> very good. thank you. >> thank you very much. senator? >> thank you, mr. chairman. i'm pleased to welcome josh ellis, vice president of the metropolitan planning council in chicago. since 1934, the council has worked to shape a more equitable, sustainable and prosperous chicagoland region developing, promoting and implementing solutions for sound regional growth. for more than a decade josh has been at the forefront of their urban and regional planning efforts through initiatives like green rivers chicago and
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transform illinois. josh is a leading voice in the regional conversation about storm water management and water supply management as well as advance i advancing investment policy. i greatly appreciate his willingness to join us today and very much look forward to his testimony. thank you. >> mr. frassi, you are welcome to go ahead and present your testimony. >> thank you, senator. good morning, chairman, ranking members, and members of the subcommittee. i would like to express my and my mother's gratitude for the opportunity to share our story. my name is mike frassi, for most of my life my family lived without access to safe, drinkable water. it is my hope telling my story -- -- congress will put in place policies that will bring affordable drinking water to millions of americans who live in our nation's rural areas.
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providing rural communities with this resource to install wells and well systems may bring -- may be the single-most form of assistance our government can provide. i live in rural northwest arkansas, an area of great natural beauty. but where access to basic services like drinking water can be extremely difficult. life without drinking water can be strenuous and stressful. you are constantly worried how much water you have and how much water will be consumed in a simple day-to-day activity. in my part of the world people drive every day thousands of miles a year to haul water from a coin operated water machine. to their homes. and if their water station is broke or there is bad weather conditions, you might not have -- you might have to go several days without water. hauling water consumes many hours a week, tremendous wear
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and tear on vehicles and has resulted in a number of deadly accidents. my dad, who is a disabled vet, spent much of his life hauling water to our home. my mother was constantly stressed out about how much water we had. many people in our area veterans, the disabled, single parents are down on their luck, just trying to do right and survive. these folks can't go to a bank ask for a loan to pay for a well. we do not have the opportunity to tap into city rural water systems. many of my neighbors struggle to get water. we have single -- single moms taking their children to hot water in buckets, one also worries about the quality of the water being hauled. the water station uses a sign that states, we cannot ensure the quality of water. how awful is that? in 2014, our prayers for
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reliable, affordable source of drinking water were answered. my mother contacted senator bosman who listened to our story and took action to help our family and families like ours to get drinking water. the senator arranged meetings between my mom and the water system council that resulted in drilling of wells that brought fresh reliable drinking water drinkly into my mother's home and eventually into my home and our neighbors' homes. wells and well systems are a godsend to rural communities like mine. we were never to going -- we were never going to have resources to pay for drinking water, treatment facilities or run water lines many miles however wells provide to be a very cost-effective alternative for me and my neighbors. the water systems council through its water well trust provided my parents, myself and families across arkansas quality
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drinking water at a reasonable price through wells. and last year the senator worked with senator cardin, thank you, senator cardin, to have the water supply cost sarvving act enacted into law. -- clearinghouses on the information of wells, well systems to meet rural drinking water challenges. the council has proven wells can reduce the cost providing drinking water to many rural communities by over 75%. the 2011 epa needs survey estimates the shortfall of drinking water funding for small communities at 64.5 billion dollars. we've seen in arkansas wells they've significantly reduced the cost of providing drinking water in many small rural communities and congress should do everything it can to promote the use of wells in these rural
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areas. i know firsthand the importance of safe, affordable drinking water and wells are a part of that solution. thanks again to senator bozman, senator cardinfo your work to bring the promise of wells and systems to communities across rural america. i would like to now show a brief video documenting the role that safe drinkable water played in transforming the lives of my neighbors in arkansas:
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>> -- but the lines were never built. water wells went out there and is drilling wells for six families. [ background music ] >> in northwest arkansas we are very blessed to have a lot of water, springs, abundant ground water, lakes and streams but unfortunate a lot of people don't have access to clean drinking waurdrink ing water. >> we've been without water for 17 years i've been hauling water that long. you have to be real, real conservative. you have to take shorter baths. you have to make sure the dishwasher is completely full before you run the dishwasher. (dog barking). >> i have a 450-gallon tank.
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we take it 6.2 miles from here and once it's full it's 3200 plus pounds and i drive back here to my water tank in the ground here and unload and i do that three times a week. [ background music ] >> -- 14 inches on the water during rainy season. this road doesn't get serviced by the county during the wintertime. i've had close calls on this hill because of my water tank. people have crashed and killed themselves. you really have to watch what you're doing here hauling water. >> hauling water is dangerous. the added weight in the back of the truck can shift and cause the dliriver to lose control of the vehicle. >> i am so grateful it's not going to happen anymore.
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>> what i do, take the lid off and i insert the hose. eight, nine -- >> hauling water is expensive. according to one -- -- over the 17 years he's been hauling water he has used 26,928, gone from three pickup trucks because of the wear and tear from hauling and spent over $8,000 on gas for these trips totally over $30,000 spent just getting water. >> the water follows the line, into a funnel then becomes my water. so, i just turn around and i have time on my hands and i just sit back and wait and just have a seat in the truck. [ background music ] >> we've been haulin' water for 16 years. they said we would have residential water here in three
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years. it just never happened. >> many of these rural areas, the expense to run public water lines is prohibitive for both the water district and residents who then have to absorb the cost. so the arkansas project, the water district number one estimated the cost over one million dollars to run lines to people. >> i've got to haul this tank about once a day and sometimes that ain't enough. it's somethin' we just desperately need is water. >> i've lived in my home without water eight years. my husband has to haul water in a truck. he drives five miles each day and he has to do this every other day. my husband will no longer have to put the tank on and off the truck, fill it, drive five miles, worry about, okay, don't wash a load of clothes. >> we've been without safe drinking water about 13 years. >> i believe there's about 150 families down here that haul their own water. it would be crazy to get it going and they can benefit from
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it, too. >> -- ranking members and members of the subcommittee, thank you very much for the opportunity to appear before you today. i'm andy crichton -- -- in camden, new jersey. i also serve on the board of directors of the national association of water agencies, a nonprofit trade association representing the interests of clean water use nationwide. i sincerely thank the sub k committee for holding this very important meeting. our agency, we offered an 80 million wastewater treatment
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plant that services over 500,000 people in camden, 36 suburban towns in southern new jersey. we are deeply committed to our responsibility to protect the public health and environment, as well-being responsible stewards of our ratepairs' dollars. all clean water agencies around the country have the same mission, they are as follows. one, to protect the public health. both safe drinking water and freedom from sewage overflows and backups. children shouldn't have to walk through puddles to their bus stop and shouldn't have lead in their drinking water, protect our environment, keep america open for business because without infrastructure there is no opportunity for growth and also maintenance offers jobs. in order to meet our mission -- -- we have to reenvis in aging infrastructure. as said, ours is old. many in camden city, ours are as
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old at the late 19th century, and the average live only about 75 years as you said. our goal is not only to meet our mission of permit but also be an anchor institution in our neighborhood. many utilities across the country are stepping up to do. the need for greater investments in our aging infrastructure has been discussed today and i agree regarding the d-plus grade. it is a very serious challenge. there is a very significant gap right now. ni in addition, we in new jersey can speak about climate history. hurricane sandy in 2012. as a result billions of gallons of raw sewage went into our
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waterways. of there is -- therefore, there is a gap today and that will only widen so there's a lot we have to do however on the good news side there are solutions and i'll propose five solutions of clean water utilities can and want to be part of. first, we have to take it on ourselves increased efficiency for our own utilities. we have to be as efficient as possible and harness the private sector notion of efficiency and harness that to the public good. that's one thing. second, the state revolving fund so crucial for us in new jersey, very lucky to have a robust program -- -- helping us with financing. third, the additional funding if possible above and beyond the existing appropriation. fourth, innovation and lastly an affordability program for low-income customers will really be helpful.
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those are the five things, increased efficiency in ourselves, additional funding, additional reg la tore flexibility and an affordability program. in our own agency, we've been working very hard with regard to inefficiency. we implemented a system very aggressive active management program to improve our efficiency and use the state revolving fund to rebuild our entire wastewater plant and odor control systems to make sure we not having an adverse impact on the community only a hundred yards away. we did all these things -- -- held our user fees for 17 years. our use fee in 1996, $336 per household per year, today only 15 dollars higher in 21 years. if given the tools plus our own efficiencies, we can do the job and often in a way without adversely affecting the rates of
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our customers and also making a positive difference from our community as well. this could never have happened without the use of new jersey state revolving fund that was really critical. we could not have done it on our own or if we inefficient wouldn't have been able to do it, either. -- it is the combination that enabled to improve our performance and hold our rates. so, throughout my role as a board member i know our situation is not unique. clean water across the country relies heavily on the state revolving fund essential for our mission. we know the era of grants is past. and the federal grants would always be welcome. the low-interest fund is very, very helpful. in new jersey we're able to get interest rates less than one percent. the way it works for us, if we're making an improvement to our wastewater treatment plant, new equipment uses lower maintenance, lower electricity because of newer technology, our
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annual debt service is not so great because of the low interest rates and the 30-year time frame to pay back the loan. borrowing the money we're able to have an annual debt service lower than the om savings on improvements. so, with the help of the federal government, state revolving funds have really been essential to helping us meet our environmental and public service mission. in addition, we're hoping there will be other opportunities for funding as you've all mentioned already today the issue is really a crisis. more funding is needed. i think the state revolving fund is a terrific way -- other utilities can follow the approach we took to utilize, to improve the performance and reduce their costs. we're also supportive of other opportunities like epa's water infrastructure financing,
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tax-free municipal bonds are appropriate. the public-private partnership which we used to build a solar panel array reducing our electricity costs by $350,000 a year but also our carbon footfrifoo footprint. we did it at no cost, the panels paid by the private investor. it's a win for the ratepayor and more resiliency because of the solar panels instead of relying on public electricity and also reduces our carbon footprint. this can be a win-win, larger utilities can share resources and with the private sector and also within our sector, the national association of clean water agencies, working on a initiative in which larger
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utilities can assist those with lower resources in a peer-to-peer effort. -- chicago is a great leader in that effort, senator duckworth. >> before the senator or chairman interrupts you i don't want you to be interrupted by a non-new jerseyn. you might want to wrap up your testimony. >> oh, thank you. in closing, thank you, i want to thank the subcommittee and congress holding this important hearing. our clean water industry must close our infrastructure gap for the sake of our children and future generations. we can do this work, we can do this work but need help. thank you very much for holding this hearing and the opportunity to speak before you and look forward to any questions you may have. thank you. >> thank you. so that people know what's going on here, senator bozman had to do kind of an emergency thing at the appropriations committee and
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will be right back. so, we'll see people rotating, our staffs are here. we appreciate your testimony very much. mr. ellis? >> thanks for having me today, i am vice president of -- -- the greater chicago region certainly the city of chicago but seven other counties a total of about 280 independent municipalities. illinois leads units of government. we have about 8,000 in the state. we are not proud to lead the nation on that but we have a lot. within thousands municipalities in northeast illinois we actually have about 400 independent water utilities so you can imagine the issues andy and mike described in 400 different communities some of very different demographics, very different income and economic strata and that's the heart of several of the issues i want to talk about today.
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so, as the senator pointed out we have lots of tools in the toolbox for water infrastructure financing. a lot of them work very well. and like any tool if you use the wrong tool at the wrong time trying to put a screw in with a tape measure doesn't work very well, right? the reality, instead of focusing on innovative financing we need to figure out effective financing first. we did a survey several years ago of water utilities and their experience using the s.r.f., actually 30% of the respondents told us they had never heard of it. that could be problem one. those your va responssurvey resy short to read. -- there are plenty of improvements to make to existing tools. but there's a huge divergence between communities not only in the suburbs of chicago but
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throughout the united states in practices, rate setting how communities deal with affordability issues, financial management, asset management. communities like chicago with the staff capacity and know-how to employ best practices are doing so, right. in chicago we are replacing water mains when president roosevelt was in office, that's theodore roosevelt. i have is sections of wooden pipe in my office taken out of the ground the last couple of years. served us well those trees depend. many other communities don't have the capacity and technical know-how to use the programs aren't and falling further and further behind. it is not uncommon in our region to lose 25, 30, 40% of their water through leaks of their system. if every time you went to the store 40% of your groceries went out the went or mike, 40% of his water poured out on the way home
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you would realize that problem. but that's common in our system. a lot of communities have no dedicate the revenue stream for storm water management. in addition a lot of communities fail to update their rates on any sort of regular schedule so fall further behind. the federal government can do many things whether through incentives in scoring or grants made available or basic requirements of the program to encourage full-cost pricing, encourage asset management plans, consistency in reporting and budgeting. in my estimation it works pretty well just that a lot of communities don't have access to it. communities struggle to do some of the pre-engineering planning you have to do to get a loan you have to submit your inf infrastructure or engineering plan. if you don't have the resources to do that, you can't do some of the preliminary work to apply for the program. i'm fully cognizant of the needs
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differences tbetween the states. -- we haven't figured how to put them all together in one package in any one state and may be time for greater consistency between state to state, the use of the programs now that we figured out things that have worked in these different states. at the heart of it, though, with the experience we saw in the survey that went out statewide the srf program at least in illinois is very slow and cumbersome to use, different than trying to go for a bond or even to a private bank for a loan. application times are very long, it can screw up construction schedules. if you a low-income community and need to retain a private consultant for 18, 24 months over multiple schedules not getting a response from the state on it, that drives up cost and can delay your project. this is not just an illinois issue. however, for all the things we can do just to make the funding tools work better and have
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better access to them, i don't think the money is necessarily the fix-all of these things. an infusion of funding for cities like chicago, oklahoma city, little rock, some of the bigger places with the capacity to take that money in and use it for infra structure projects makes a lot of sense. -- many communities do not have technical capacity or staffing to be able to receive federal funding, to apply for it. and the issue there is government and fragmentation of the system, right. we have a handful of water resources in illinois. and yet, we have 400 utilities managing these different systems, right. many areas of the country are just like this. when every mun palt has its own utility and operates essentially as the public works department, a lot of the decisions made are wrapped up in the other political decisions that that municipality has to make. if you are looking at adjusting water rates but also providing fire service and schooling and
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things you have to make the decisions with all these other calculations in mind and as a result hard choices like rate increases get delayed, infrastructure projects delayed and you have 25, 40% of your water dripping out your pipe. the fragmentation compounds underlying issues, right. if a community like we have in many of our suburbs across the country has lost population, 10,000 people the last 20 years, 30 years, 40 years, when people move to the suburbs they don't take pipes and pumps with them when they exit time. you have a smaller community often a smaller base paying for the same infrastructure system squeezing water for a stone here to pay for it. rates increase often rates will have to increase to pay for the system while increases are decreasing. we have communities in illinois, a small suburban community on the outside medial household
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income is about $13,000 so clearly have other problems going on, too. they may 12.50 per a thousand gallons of water a family of four would consume in three days. lake forest where michael jordan used to leave, median income closer to 80,000 and they pay -- >> -- ask you to try to wrap up. >> absolutely. a lot is the size and scale of the water utilities. as we think about new funding, it is great but the structural issues encouraging the utilities to start to consider consolidation to get to bigger economies of scale, to think differently how the money goes out so we are not just putting it into the ground and fixing pipes -- -- i'm happy to talk more in the q & a session.
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>> thank you. >> -- i just want to say we've come a long way. i served on the house oversight committee during the flint water crisis and really there the issue they switched their water source to using the flint river where the water was a different composition. i remember the first time i took a chicago architectural book tour, wonderful, if you are there take it. they are proudly said to me on that boat tour about 25 years ago, you know know we're really proud this river used to be labeled toxic, it is just polluted now. [ laughter ] >> that's the source of water for many communities. and that was an improvement and i thought, oh, my goodness. many of us would agree addressing these needs we must tackle our most pressing challenges, full-steam ahead. also something to be said about low-hanging fruit. to me, compiling best practices
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and establishing policy -- -- common-sense approaches to improving critical relationship between taxpayerers and decision making in making a case for this investment. hard-working families in illinois want to know before a single dollar of their money is spent, everything is being done to maximize the effectiveness of those dollars and i want to follow up on what we talked about. what else can we do to improve the relationship between the decision makers and taxpayers as it relates to funding opportunities? >> sure. so, one -- increasing awareness and through all communication channels about the tools out there, right. with all of these municipalities we have we, you know, i know one mayor in the suburban area who actually has a water infrastructure background, right. a lot of folks come into office running at the municipal level don't have a background in these sorts of things and need to
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learn on the job, which is a tough way to do it. increasing awareness of the tools out there, how to be used, step one. one of the other issues this is not water infrastructure until a crisis like flint not something a whole lot of the average citizens pay a whole lot of attention to. if they see rate increases being proposed, if they see it, maybe then they pay attention. but we don't have -- we have environmental commissions at the local level and things like that you don't have many public works commissions of citizens participating in some of the decision making. that seems like a best practice that also could be encouraged through the s.r.f. for the people paying more attention to it, and the other i think is starting to find ways to decouple local political decisions from rate setting and somehow make it more comfortable for people to adjust water rates on a more frequent basis to keep up with infrastructure backload not getting a 30, 40 rate increase every ten years but seeing more modest increases or
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in some cases decreases on a more regular basis so that it's not so inflammatory when the big rate deal happens. might improve trust, might improve the ability to get things done. a lot of it is just communication. this is frankly not something -- not an issue we talk about very much. >> so, given that and touching on what you just said about many municipal leaders especially mayors come in without this water background, many small communities in illinois and elsewhere may not have that capacity. >> yeah. >> expertise or resources to deal with the technical challenges and financing challenges reliably providing good clean drinking water and water services. what suggestions do you have to address the resource issue, technical expertise or even just resources to apply for an -- >> sure. within the program there are something called set-aside programs each state is allowed to use, take some of the capitalization money every year and use it for different grants.
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some states use those to fund grants specifically for looking at things like consolidation. some use them for just sort of technical assistance and staff building at local level. the states use these set-asides in very different ways and the reality is one in one state might be a program to encourage consolidation and others there might not be. getting greater consistency across the program might be time to do that. i think the point i was trying to make about starting to consider consolidation and lumping some of the utilities together to do things in a larger economy of scale, afford larger projects maybe better bondsing ratings to incentive people to think differently would be helpful, too. that's not necessarily a rural or urban thing. that could apply throughout the spectrum. >> thank you. i have ten seconds. if you want to add to anything in your experience especially
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with s.r.f. >> yes. >> use your mic, please. >> sorry, senator. a peer-to-peer initiative is really important. so, lining up utilities willing to share information with utilities that need resources and information would really be important. epa and others work on this program to connect people with resources those that need it. i think that would really be of great help to do that in advance. >> thank you very much, senator duckworth. let me ask you a question, you seem to have spent a lot of time talking about the s.r.f. program, mr. ellis. what do you think we could do from here to change this program to make it work more efficiently because you've all agreed there are some obstacles out there. maybe we can overcome those. can you tell us about that? >> sure. one of the big differences between states and you actually heard andy mention i think some
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states have decoupled the managements of the program from whoever their state regulatory agency is, right. and so, the lone program is managed by someone more like each state has a different one but more like a finance authority, someone in the business of issuing loans. and is able to operate faster, further, whatever. some states someone who is in te business of issuing loans and is able to operate faster, further whatever. some states have the s.r.f. program in the equivalent of the epa. and that in my estimation can slow things down. having professional financial management staff working on these loan programs and probably other loan programs not related to water infrastructure is one of the things that can speed things up. and again establishing best practices and encouraging states to look at the program over to what it should be, which is a
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loan program first and foremost, would be one of the ways we could -- you could start to encourage some greater speed and get these loan programs to function more like going to the bank to get a loan for a project at your house. faster review times, faster times to get the money out the door would be huge for some of these communities, again, because if you're applying for a loan and have to retain insqun earring consulitants, the costs build up and you're paying someone to wait. the best practices are known in the state revolving loan fund. but maybe maryland has got a couple and south dakota has a couple and texas has a couple. >> you know the different states that are represented here. and in my state of oklahoma it's not unlike than the state of
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arizona, our big problem has always been way back in the state the big thing was transferring water to other parts of the state. so and it happens that this problem has been going on for a long time. because my wife and i have been married 57 years and her father is the chairman of the board of the water problems. i'm pretty close to your home area. and i was fascinated by the fact that you took the time to go out and locate people and help them because you needed help at one time. you were fortunate in having senator bozeman come and be of assistance to you. you want to give us any live examples of what you have been
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able to do, just one man out helping others, neighbors resolve these problems? >> any time i see somebody, you know, hauling water, i take my time to stop, talk to them, explain my story, you know, give them some insight what they need to do, how they need to speak with senator bozeman and get the word out. but i think pushing this saving act forward, you know what i mean? and getting the financing to get people help. >> so you're finding most of the people you talk to, i'm familiar with rogers. it's a major city. it doesn't take five minutes outside of rogers to be out in some pretty remote areas. and those are the ones people have problems. i was shocked to find out you did not have a water system when you were within how many miles of rogers? >> we're probably five minutes
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from downtown rogers. and what's ridiculous is i drive past a water treatment plant every day. and on that sign where they treat the water, they're shipping it to the washington county, which is county south of us that has no impact on our little community there. >> and yet you live in a part of the state of arkansas that has an abundance of water. >> yeah. i leave right by beaver lake. over 120 miles of shorefront. >> yeah, i'm very familiar with that. senator booker. >> creely your story is heroic and you're showing what it means to be an american, what it means to be a citizen and be there for each other. so i'm really moved by that.
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i know we're all in this fight together. and as much i'm making jokes about being jersey, this is united states of america. so i recently decided to go outside of your state to try to draw attention to these services. we have many countries who lack access to hot or cold-water running. they don't have water running to a bathtub or a shower or working, flushing toilet. this is included 11,000 homes in new jersey. but, again, this is a national problem we're all in together. and the federal government, we form this government for the common defense, for the common security. for us to be a developed nation and not have this is astonishing to me. so i went a few weekends ago to rural alabama to visit low income african-american communities. and i found out that less than
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half the population is connect to a municipal water system. famous counties like going across edman pet s bridge marched through. it was stunning to me many of the families there had no septic systems, no sewage systems. and they had septic systems that failed because of the type of soil they had. so they just had raw sewage. i was stunned to sue just raw sewage running behind people's homes. so in addition to obtaining the water supply and harming the local environment what most people don't know -- and i found this out when i sat down to talk about neglected tropical diseases -- and a scientist told me do you know we still have these diseases in america? ask i said, no.
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so you have diseases like hookworm developing. so this is an ought rajs environmental injust s that no child should be growing up in a situation. and i saw in alabama so many of these historical african-american communities. so your advocacy is profoundly important. really what you're doing is bringing light to a problem that's critically important to our nation as whole. i just wanted your comment on something that we almost got to the finish line. i was going to heap praise upon him for being such a good partner of mine on so many issues. many people confuse us because we look so much alike in the senate. because i am the robin to his batman.
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so last year with his help i was able to get the water infrastructure trust fund built and the water utility work force into the bill. it was a strong bipartisan support. but fortunately those provisions were struck out-of-the final bill by house republicans. as i continue to work with my colleagues to move these important programs across the finish line, i was wondering if you could describe briefly and could have helped our country. >> thank you, senator. >> yes, there's no doubt -- first of all, in our industry there's what we call a tsunami, 50% to 60% are eligible. and most of our wastewater treatment plants are in economic
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distress kmupts. that's why the treatment plant was put there, and it became that way. yet we often have to look beyond our neighboring communities because they don't have the skills or the training. so if we could develop the work force training program, it might be a tremendous opportunity to actually have people who live in our neighborhoods, work in our water treatment plants. i think it's a tremendous opportunity and that's urban or rural, i think tremendous opportunity. because wastewater, drinking water are good solid jobs and are real scarce. and yet we're often in communities where people need jobs the most. and the infrastructure trust program is absolutely necessary as well. it's only going to get worse with time. so i strongly support your efforts and the bipartisan efforts and hope that you're successful this time, senator.
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one last thing i wanted to say was go to the poor communities across the country, rural and urban, you're absolutely right. and that's why effort is really torrent, our utilities are able to share their knowledge and resources. but the help we need is to identify the small towns or cities that lack capacity so we can be match made with them and assist them. so that's help we could really use from the federal government. >> i appreciate that. and chairman, this is one of those perfect examples whether we live in a rural community, urban community we have a common pain and we must join in a common prps. this is the united states of america. this is a shame in our nation we have these children growing up in these rural and poor communities that have such
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unconscionable realities. >> i have to agree that senator booker is correct. they look an awfully lot alike. but senator -- age shows a little bit more. but we notice the likeness there. but i'm from south dakota. we've got nine separate native-american tribes on reservations there. water quality is critical there. and yet they're in rural areas and we still struggle to provide water and high quality there. we've got a couple of projects. it's like what you've been looking in arkansas like well water and so forth. but we've got high quality water and a great efficient way of delivering high quality water if
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we can get it to locations. so i agree it's very, very important. and we've seen the ability of states when they have the resources to coordinate with rural water systems and provide individuals in local areas who really want to improve the quality of life, the opportunity to do so. we're sitting an a time where we've got really low interest rates, long-term interest rates. and it's probably the ability to lack at to bring assets together and extend in a long-term pay back period the opportunity to invest in infrastructure. and i certainly think that rural water systems along with rural and the rehabilitation of existing municipal water systems, this is a real opportunity to look at it. looking back at the story you told, i'm going to begin by saying that when i first met my
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wife, jean, they hauled water at that time. and they hauled it back through a cistern. and it meant the quality of the water was not the best. the pipes would get clogged and everything else. and i remember her dad in his early '90s was the first president of the rural water system there and coordinated in that group to put together a rural water system, which is still in existence today. they could not have done it if there weren't local people willing to put some revenue in and lay out the plans. but also going to local lenders, to borrow some money, and then go back through federal resources and state resources to borrow long-term to improve the quality of life. what it meant was you could actually have pipes that worked. what it meant you had high quality drinking water.
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it meant you had live stock that had high quality water. and it also meant you could have a thing like a dishwasher in your house besides your husband after dinner. it meant the dishwasher actually worked. so i think it's really important we talk about the need of this type of infrastructure being on the top. right along with highways, roads, and blijs. just curious, i'd really like to know in terms of how they helped to finance in your part of arkansas, was it a case they were able to come in and help with assistance? and were the folks that were recipients of water systems like you had, did they have a monthly water bill they paid as well at that stage of the game? is that kind of the way it worked the. >> yes, they funded all the projects. you have to pay back.
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veterans were discounted. and me like i just have a payment like everybody else. very minimal, low interest and it's great. >> was it organized through a state or through a local district? do you know? >> i want to say it was organized through the water well trust. >> okay. >> they found all the lending or supported all the lending. >> thank you. mr. crecum. i like the idea of the states really being in charge of the operations and then if we need the financial backing and so forth, we look at the federal level, but i like the idea of block grants. i like the idea of having access to guaranteed loans and so forth. can you talk a little bit about the financing you guys have seen and what the challenges were? >> yes, thank you, senator
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grounds. because of the operation and maintenance cost of the new equipment was lower than the old equipment, less maintenance because it's newer and also lower electricity cost because it's innovative, newer generationure cost savings were greater than the annual debt service cost. so instead of interest rates at r5% or 6%, we were 1%. as a result we built our entire wastewater treatment plant plus the combined sewer system, too while holding our rate. our rate was $337, $352 today in 2017. so the state revolving fund --
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the grants were great, but the state revolving fund really is a very successful and helpful way to help us with our mission. >> i couldn't agree more. i think it's a very important tool. i thank you. >> thank you, senator. >> my time has expired. senator whitehouse. >> thank you, chairman. and thank you for being here. i was struck by the comment, he could remember piping coming out-of-the ground. i have the same memories from my days doing water utility rate cases. it's still not so great. here's a piece of pipe that came out-of-the kingston water district. the manager henry meyersent me that to remind me what was going on. that pipe went back to the '20s.
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as you can see down the side, this is plastic piping. this is much more recent. but check it out. look at the size of the remaining aperture in that pipe. so these pieces of pipe are kind of touchable evidence of the problems we have and the scope of the possible infrastructure solution that we could have. so i wanted to flag that particular situation. i also wanted to flag another situation that is more a problem in our coastal states than in other states. and that is that -- let me show you what this is. this is a map of rhode island. this is the northern part of rhode island, our capital city
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province is right here. and what we have here is the latest information from our coastal resources management council about sea level rise happening along our coasts. and here is the existing bay. light blue is actually land now. right now that's land. but what we're looking at is the light blue is all these areas are expected be flooded and under water by 2100 if we don't get ahead of what's happening with sea level rise. the state of rhode island turns into a rhode island archipelago. warren and bristol becomes warn and bristol island and on and on
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you go. and behind all of this blue of flooded land, there will be a zone of potential storm flood zens and velocity zones that interfere with property ownership there as well. so we are looking at a potential economic catastrudemystiophe ift get ahead of this. and the town of warn has its treatment sewage facility. if you live near the coast, if you're building sewage treatment facilities, you're building them right along the coastline because you want that gravity and water assist. so you're starting to look at significant replacement rierpts or hardening and protection requirements for our infrastructure. and we're not even really talking about that. i know we're not talking about
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that because sea level rise is driven by climate change. squer not allowed to talk about climate change here in the effective ear meaningful way, but this is coming. and the instruct along these coastal areas needs to be a part of our conversation. if mr. -- pronounce it -- cricket or to my good old nearly filled in pipes or to the coastal predicament for water infrastructure. >> thank you, senator. with regard to the water infrastructure issue as you know the asc has a d grade for water infrastructure. and here's the thing, an emergency repair after a failure cost seven times more than a planned replacement. once it fails, it'll fail and be much more costly not to mention
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the risk to people if it happens in an emergency -- >> if you had a responsible program, you could get five time as much done rather than waiting for it to fail. >> thank you, senator. that's exactly right. in 2012 already our treatment plants on the coasts were already inundated, millions of raw sewage into the river, atlantic ocean and that's how the climate was five years ago. there's a big infrastructure gap right now we have to meet. so what we're trying to do is bring infrastructure to capture storm water, and also hardening of our plant itself to make it less vulnerable to the climate as it is. i know climate change is controversial, and i do believe the climate will worsen. >> it's not really controversial. it's just politically
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controversial. >> we should be looking for catching up the gap right now but then also looking for projections ahead to be safe and protect us for the future. >> thank you. my time has expired, so i suppose i should leave it there. i would ask one moment of privilege and that is with senator whitehouse, he has been a champion the issues occurring around rhode island, or off of rhode island. and i would suggest if there's one area of agreement for anyone whether or not we agree the current plans for how we slow down the changes in the climate, we recognize the charjs are occurring. and i think that brings about a very important discussion point which is how do we go about addressing the needs in terms of what it does in his standing, particularly along the coast. ask i think that's an area of
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agreement we will find with all of us. >> thank you, and i look forward to exploring that. >> absolutely. senator bozeman, you're up. >> thank you. and i apologize. we're in a situation where we desperately want to get this hearing done, and we had to reschedule. and all of a sudden they decided to have a vote on the appropriatations committee. so i've been down voting on energy and water. sadly, in fact the reason we've had mixed attendance on both sides is there's a commerce hearing going on as we speak. and also a number of people on this committee are also on the
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appropria appropriations committee. in your testimony you discuss the hardships of having to haul water and check water quality every day. i think the film is excellent. it really summed up. tell us a little bit how that hooz really made your life easier on a day-to-day basis? >> it gives me a lot of time to spend with my family, free time to do other things other than having to do with haul water. it's freed up a bunch of time, and i can't thank you enough or the water well trust for helping out. >> and again, just a final follow-up to that, you're able to get help in the sense, you know, finding out who the contact. how do we do a better job -- what would you suggest as far as outreach so that other people in the situation that you were in,
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how do we make it easier for them to know that there is help available? >> i think the savings act needs to be pushed by the usda and the epa. and word needs to be out and we need to get the financing to help out areas like the area i live in. you know, there's no funding there and we're kind of looked past. >> very good. now we'll turn to senator cardin, who has been a great champion on the water issues. again, i had the opportunity to sort of be -- i was his ranking member a couple -- >> i really do appreciate your commitment to water infrastructure. my staff has told me that most
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of the points that i wanted to get response from witnesses have already been made. thank you. our chairman has taken the leadership on additional tools to modernize our water infrastructure. in maryland i could tell you about major water main breaks every day. i could tell you one river road in montgomery county was a river and people had to be rescued through helicopters. i could tell you about the washington beltway having to be closed downtown baltimore, having to have detours because of water main breaks. that's all since i've been in the senate. we have major, major problem. i could also tell you one day, mr. chairman, finding out from the public works in baltimore that they discovered a pipe that was still being used that was made out of wood. so we've got some really old
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systems in maryland that need attention. and of course one of the great challenges of infrastructure it's hidden until there's a break. and of course we're wasting so much water every day, so much energy every day. and there are public health risks about safe drinking water and the manner in which we deal with this. so, yes, we have existing tools resolving funds, the initiative that the chairman has taken the leadership on for additional ways we can do with the planning. all these are important programs. we've also joined together as a sense of congress to try to increase the amount of monies that are made available under these tools. we recognize the budgets are tough, but we also recognize there's a bipartisan desire to increase the amount of money we put into infrastructure in this
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country including water infrastructure. so all of those are positive signs. i just really wanted to come by and tell you we're going to look for every creative way we can to give you additional opportunities and tools in order to deal with it. and the last point i would make is thisologist involves one of my passions, which is the chesapeake bay. how we deal with a lot of the issues that also involve the environment. so there's many, many reasons why we need to look for creative ways. and there are several initiatives, none of which are partisan. we really need to continue to make that process. the water resolutions act really helped that problem. some report out in the house. and i thank our chairman because we're working together to get those provisions now moving in
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this congress that were not able to get done in the last congressthality dealed with water infrastructure. so thank the witnesses and let you know this is a extremely high priority from all of this committee. and it's great to be on this committee for many reasons. but one of the principal reasons is we have some incredible members i work with. and i thank them both for their leadership on this issue. >> thank you so much. and we do appreciate your leadership. and as you point out, we really do have a good committee that's working in a very bipartisan way to sort these things out. in the road that mike lives on, that area, it's republicans, it's democrats and who cares? it's just the idea of providing the-service that people desperately need. >> mr. chairman, i just want to point out my reasons for popping
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in and out my senate where i am ranking is -- >> and i appreciate you pointing that out. i've not been here most of the time either because of appropriations. we'll wait just a few minutes for her. but do you all have any comments that -- >> i'd like to respond to one of the questions that senator whitehouse mentioned. so one thing to just note is when those pipes fill up with sediment or whatever, you lose the original design capacity of that pipe. so when we think about infrastructure, we're often talking about building new things. but jus the basic maintenance of going in and cleaning out the pipes is also something a lot of communities can't afford, aren't doing, whatever. is so they're losing design capacity, and their solution is
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it just repair the existing solution. a lot of what we talked about today was public infrastructure with the exception of mike's situation of needing wells in public homes. in an urban environment is the lateral lines that collect your home to the municipal, the pipeline. and it's actually in those lines we have lots of older pipes full or lead pipes. and who knows what's going on in some of these homes, whether that lead is cracked. there have been a couple of communities that have used the s.r.f. program to put money into the hands of private property owners to take those pipes out. and that protect of tearing up your lawn, taking that old pipe, putting in a new pipe can be
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$20,000 per home. and if they live in an a low income community, they can't do that. whether it's well installation or fixing these lateral line issues going into the house and then sewage and storm water pipes where you have stuff flowing out onto lawns and stuff like that, figuring out how to work on private properties i think is our next big challenge. because a lot of these sfrukts out there are not publicly owned. >> thank you, senator. as we've discussed, our infrastructure needs to be improved in order to protect the public health and environment. but doing so will not only be necessary to protect the health of the environment and also
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result in job creation, not only for the construction but also for the maintenance of the new system. so i think it's definitely a win-win. i also agree with what josh said about the collection smgss. we did a study where cleaning the pipes out on a regular basis, we improved their capacity by 30%. that's a huge win. but those urban-airs sometimes lack that capacity. so that's why i think in addition to public partnerships where assisting in resources would really help to gain the most of our infrastructure. >> thank you so much for -- on a very, very busy day i've had to miss a good part of the hearing because of other committee duties. i know you're in the same situation. >> thank you, mr. chairman.
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thank you, mr. ranking member. mr. crukune. this raises an important point about the need to rethink about resilience to the impacts of climate change. we need to be thinking ahead. for example, we have water pipes in new york that are over 100 years old. and nearly half of new york city's water pipes were built during world war ii. what should we doing about infrastructure? >> onethening we need to do is make sure we're more resilient and less vulnerable to severe events. hurricane sandy occurred five years ago, and our
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infrastructure proved to be how the climate is now. so one of the things we're trying to do is implement green energy programs so we're 100% off the grid. solar panels whereby capturing gas to turn them into electricity. so reducing vulnerability -- improving the electric grid is very important. you're sucking up the storm water and preventing it from getth into the combined sewer. the infrastructure is rated a d plus. it ought to be replaced with the notion of the climate worsening and therefore being sized appropriately. >> over the past several years we have seen drinking water emergencies across the united states where many lives have
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been put at risk because of contamination from toxic chemicals. the most visible of these was, obviously, flint, michigan. but some have been experiencing nothing short of a tragedy because of the pfoa. we also ned to be talking about how we're going to keep our drinking water safe. this is for the whole panel. how can be do a better job of helping small communities test for and address contaminants like pfoa in our drinking water systems? >> i think usda and epa need to
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address those small issues like where i'm from, help our federal government. >> thank you. >> thank you, senator. for example, in the instance of lead, i think making sure the conduits from the home to the home are also subject to lead plumbing. even if the water coming from the treatment plan is safe, their water may be contaminated lead just by sitting over night in lead plumbing. so making sure they're aware of filters, running the water for 30, 40 seconds could reduce a significant portion of that led issues. with regard to contaminants and chemicals, i agree it's important to have federal and state assistance.
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even having a larger city nearby that might be able to lend resources to smaller communities, i think we need to leverage that. >> thank you. mr. ellis. >> in terms of testing that needs to occur is both source water, so rivers, ponds, streams, and also as it's coming out-of-the tap. i think this issue of water testing, point-based testing is a great opportunity for schools and citizen sciences. and that could be through programs like noa or somewhere else who can go out on a consistent basis with protocols for testing, send it in to the proper officials. one of the issues we have with planning infrastructure to be more resilient, and this is not a coastal issue or an inland
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issue, we have great divergence between states and also within states about the alcohol data they're using to project how much rainfall we might have or what climate conditions it might be. i know from illinois we had data f from the 1960s that were projecting out events. as precipitation partners change if you're using data from the 1960s, '80s, 90s, you're not sizing the infrastructure correctly. so getting greater consistency, one, we get everyone to update and use the latest data on precipitation projections in particular would be helpful. and then greater centancy so we can get better best practices out there on how we size and build infrastructure across
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states. we can't be using data from 1960. >> thank you. >> thanks so much. senator duckworth. >> well, just want to thank the chairman for having this hearing. this is incredibly useful and i think eye opening for many people. i think one of the things we've not touched on that bears further look is the public infrastructure system, especially when it comes to public schools. there are many, many public schools in this country that are built well between the 1980s. and we talk about the water that sits in the schools over night, you can actually go into the schools ask test the water -- and this has actually happened in chicago -- where you have one drinking fountain that fails the lead test and one that passes. so until you replace the piping system itself, you will never address the problem. and this will be a problem for communities who don't have the
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high tax base. i and really want to chancthe chairman for bringing this to everyone's attention. thank you. thank you and again thank you for pointing out ven the witnesses here where you've got very urban area, very rural area and essentially with the same problems. so we appreciate you very much senator duckworth and your staff for the job they've done and helping us get ready for this. i appreciate my staff. thank you all for coming and testifying. this has been just a very helpful hearing as we go forward. and with that, mentioning that the record will be open for two weeks for any addition, the meeting is adjourned.
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coming up in the morning the atlantic council latin america senator looks at the kurnlt kriesds in venezuela. we'll be there live at 11:00 eastern. and then the talk on business
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and public policy. later in the day we'll bring you our profile interview with white house press secretary sarah huckabee-sanders to talk about her involvement in politics at the daughter of governor mike huck abe, why she joined the trump for presidency campaign and how she approaches the job in the administration. watch that at 8:00 p.m. eastern an c-span. our live coverage of the commissioning of the "uss gerald ford," the navies newest nuclear powered high tech carrier. he'll deliver remark today the more than 14,000 peop to attend. saturday at 10:00 a.m. eastern on c-span and and listen live on


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