Mayor: cost of removing lead pipes will increase water rate by 70%

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The mayor of Evanston told a recent water summit that without more help from the federal government, the city will have to raise water rates by 70% to pay for the cost of pipe removal. lead water.

Mayor Daniel Biss said at Thursday’s One Water Summit that the city was working to replace its 11,471 lead service lines, but could not afford it without additional federal funding.

“Without additional external funding, this would translate to our retail customers increasing their water rate by more than 70 percent,” Biss said in a speech at the Mayors’ Committee event on the water equity.

“What this essentially imposes on us, in the absence of significant external support, is a choice between two competing water equity goals: the lead service line replacement goal and the manageable retail rates. So we are simply in a situation where this is unachievable without significant external support, much of which will have to come from the federal government.

Previous Roundtable reports have shown that nearly 80% of the city’s utility lines are lead. Drinking water circulating in lead pipes can expose people to traces of lead, which children are particularly vulnerable to.

According to the Safe Drinking Water Foundation, lead exposure can cause a variety of health problems, including developmental delays in children and nervous system effects in children and adults “including forgetfulness, fatigue, headaches, mood and behavior changes, lowered IQ, decreased hand dexterity, and weakness in the arms, legs, wrists, fingers, or ankles.

A Roundtable survey found that 94% of the 1,602 Evanston children aged 6 and under who were tested for blood lead levels in 2018 were above the blood lead reference value. CDC blood.

A still from Lion Birnecker’s award-winning film ‘Take Action Against Lead’ about lead water pipes.

The Mayors Commission on Water Equity is made up of a group of mayors from the communities that surround the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River Basin. It was created in 2020 with the aim of advocating for water equity. The commission works with the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, which is a coalition of nearly 100 mayors from the United States and Canada working to restore the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence basin.

At Thursday’s meeting, the mayors of Illinois, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin met in Milwaukee with representatives of the Environmental Protection Agency. The mayors discussed, for five minutes each, their progress and the challenges of replacing lead pipes in their cities.

Evanston intends to replace all of its lead service lines over the next 20 years, and Biss estimates that undertaking will cost $168 million in 2021 dollars.

Since 2021, the City has been working to gradually replace 600 lead service lines in low- and low-income neighborhoods. This project will cost the city about $4 million, the mayor said.

As of September 1, he said, 92 lead service lines had been replaced. The mayor expects 162 lines to be replaced this year, which will cost $1.5 million.

The city intends to pay for the project using loans from the Illinois EPA, the EPA’s Clean Water State Revolving Fund, and the Illinois Public Water Supply Loan program, as well as using a grant from the Department of Commerce. and economic opportunities in Illinois.

But that funding still won’t be enough, the mayor told the commission.

President Biden’s bipartisan Infrastructure Act gave the EPA $50 billion to improve drinking water and sanitation systems.

The majority of the $50 billion will go to the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund and the EPA’s Clean Water State Revolving Fund, Karen Dettmer of the EPA’s Office of Water explained at the meeting.

The new law also requires 49% of working capital will be given to “disadvantaged communities” in the form of grants and forgivable loans. But the definition of “disadvantaged communities” varies from state to state, so Dettmer urged states to review how their definitions compare to the APE so that the communities that need help the most can get it.

The EPA has launched an initiative to help communities complete their applications for state revolving funds.

Its technical assistance program helps communities write their application, identify who needs help and even help with construction management for communities that lack the capacity, Dettmer said.

A total of $100 million of the $50 billion infrastructure act will go to the technical assistance program.

Another effort Biss presented to the commission is the Stormwater Improvement Plan. He blamed climate change and aging infrastructure for deteriorating the city’s stormwater system.

The city is using a series of studies to develop a high-level stormwater capital improvement plan for future consideration. The city is using $3 million from the American Rescue Plan Act to fund this program.

“The city needs continued support from the federal government to eliminate lead throughout the water supply system, build resilience to the effects of climate change, and continue to support equity in matter of water,” Biss said.

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