August 2006, Vol. 18, No.8

Briefs

Briefs - U.S. Invests $53 Billion in Wastewater Infrastructure

Figures released in March by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reveal that the federal government and the states have invested nearly $53 billion in the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (SRF) program to rebuild and refurbish the nation’s wastewater infrastructure during the last 18 years. The figures are published in the Clean Water State Revolving Fund Programs 2005 Annual Report.
The report also highlights the innovative ideas of state SRF programs and includes an update on the financial performance of the Clean Water SRF program, the largest federal funding program for wastewater infrastructure projects. The program has granted nearly 17,000 loans since its inception in 1988.

The SRF includes annual EPA contributions matched with at least an additional 20% from the states. The states, in turn, make low-interest loans to local utilities. The interest income and repayments derived from the loans help fund future projects. Many states also issue bonds, which added $940 million to the fund last year. Annual assistance under the program has averaged about $4.5 billion. Borrowers save an average of 21% on financing costs over the life of the loan.

Each SRF project is linked to a river, lake, or stream and to beneficial uses of that waterbody, such as fishing and swimming. More than 60% of the total funding reported goes to projects that protect drinking water, preserve fish habitat, and provide for water recreation.

To request a copy of the report, send e-mail to water-resource@epa.gov. Refer to document No. EPA-832-R-06-001. The report also is available at www.epa.gov/owm/cwfinance/cwsrf/annreport2005.htm.  

USGS Report Compares Past, Present, and Future Water Quality

The good old days of clean water may not have been so good after all, according to a news release issued by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

A USGS research report, prepared in cooperation with the City of Boulder, Colo., includes an overview of the current water quality in the Boulder Creek Watershed and how it has changed in the past 160 years. The 30-page report, “State of the Watershed: Water Quality of Boulder Creek, Colorado,” uses historical data from gold-mining records, typhoid cases, and newspapers, such as a 1905 news item claiming that drinking Boulder Creek water “gave the sensation of swallowing rope.”

The report includes photographs and maps, and addresses the impacts of land use change, water diversions, urban runoff, and wastewater effluent on water quality throughout the watershed. It also addresses potential water quality issues of the future.

The report is accessible at pubs.water.usgs.gov/circ1284. Print copies may be obtained for $4 by calling (888) 275-8747.  

Great Lakes Cleanup Projects Get New Direction

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on May 1 (71 FR 25504) issued a new rule designating how and where contaminated sediment in the Great Lakes will be cleaned up. Named the Great Lakes Legacy Rule, the new regulation implements the 2002 Great Lakes Legacy Act. EPA outlines in the rule how projects will be identified, selected, and evaluated to clean up the sediment and reverse the environmental harm done to Great Lakes’ rivers and harbors, according to an agency news release. 

Contaminated sediment is a significant problem in the Great Lakes basin, with 41 areas of concern named in the United States and Canada, the news release says. In recent years, state and federal agencies have worked with local communities to clean up sediment through dredging and disposal, capping the contaminated material with clean material, allowing natural recovery of the materials in place, or using a combination of these methods. From 1997 to 2004, approximately 2.8 million m3 (3.7 million yd3) of contaminated sediment were remediated from the Great Lakes Basin.

The cleanup of areas containing contaminated sediment has been a priority of the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration in an effort to improve the health of the aquatic habitat and provide cleaner water for fish, wildlife, and the 35 million residents of the Great Lakes region, according to the news release.

Proposed funding for this effort has quintupled in 4 years. The U.S. Congress appropriated $9.9 million in fiscal year 2004, and President George W. Bush has requested $49.6 million in his proposed 2007 budget. Additional funding comes from state and local partners, who contribute at least a 35% match for each project.

For more information on the contaminated sediments program, see www.epa.gov/glnpo/sediments.html.