State gets stimulus funds to upgrade water, sewer systems

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Pennsylvania has received $93 million in federal Recovery Act money for repairs and upgrades to deteriorating water and sewer systems, the first installment of an expected $220 million in federal stimulus funds that will be available this year for such projects.

At a news conference in Harrisburg yesterday, Gov. Ed Rendell said that by leveraging and matching the federal stimulus money, the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority will be able to quadruple its annual budget of $280 million for drinking water and wastewater projects to more than $1 billion this year.

"This nearly four-fold increase allows us to address some of the most pressing problems where failing systems are threatening public health and safety and driving away opportunities for economic growth and investment," Mr. Rendell said.

Infrastructure deterioration is one of the state's most serious problems. A November 2008 report by the Sustainable Infrastructure Task Force estimated needed water and sewer repairs during the next 20 years to be $36.5 billion.

The authority, known as PENNVEST, approved grants and loans for 191 projects in June and July and about half of those are already under way, said Teresa Candori, a state Department of Environmental Protection spokeswoman. Eventually the projects will provide more than 5,600 construction jobs.

Among the projects already approved by PENNVEST are a $10.8 million loan to the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority to bring the water treatment plant and storage facilities into compliance with county, state and federal requirements; a $11.8 million loan to the Allegheny County Sanitary Authority to upgrade its McKees Rocks pump station and install a mile of storm sewers to divert water from sanitary sewer interceptors.

About $155 million of the recovery money is earmarked for wastewater projects and $65 million for repairs to drinking water systems. The money is being directed to projects that utilize "green" stormwater controls, energy efficiency, water conservation and other innovative approaches to reduce pollution and lower operating costs. The PENNVEST funding is paid as reimbursements for completed projects.

But none of the recovery money can be released, Ms. Candori said, until the state's budget is approved and the Legislature approves money for the projects.


Don Hopey can be reached at dhopey@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1983.


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