EPA Stimulus Sewer/Water Infrastructure Funds Flow Slowly

By Stephen Barlas, Washington Editor | December 2009 Vol. 64 No. 12

That "green" requirement may have stood in the way of towns getting either stimulus funds or even conventional, regular SRF funds for long delayed shovel ready wastewater projects. Pueblo, CO, had been waiting for a number of years to get CWSRF funding for a $22 million wastewater project. Gene Michael, director of wastewater in Pueblo, says Pueblo's$22 million project was always an SRF project and never eligible for ARRA funding. "But we were in line to receive at least partial SRF funding in 2009, and lost that opportunity because SRF funds were siphoned off for projects that could show a green component," he explains. "I'm told that without using that strategy, Colorado likely could not have met its 20 percent green reserve and might have had to give back some or most of the ARRA funds."

In the end, Pueblo received $1.5 million to fund a solar photovoltaic array located at the Water Reclamation Facility. Michael notes that besides the $22 million project, the city also wanted to upgrade its chlorine disinfection system to UV radiation. The conversion would have made it possible to end the bulk storage of toxic gasses, improve safety for the public and eliminate the potential for a chlorine gas release. That high priority project was not funded either."Limiting ARRA eligibility almost exclusively to solar or wind projects made the qualification process very difficult," he states.

Rep. John Boozman (R AR), top Republican on the Johnson subcommittee, asked Gelb whether red tape was the reason local projects were moving to construction too slowly. Boozman had a particular reason for concern. His state, as of the end of October, had no construction contracts signed. Sara Lasure, Boozman's spokeswoman, when queried, did some checking and reported back that Arkansas's problems stemmed from the state's painstaking writing of its applications. She said that when Arkansas reports its wastewater and drinking water statistics at the end of November, it will show considerable activity in terms of contracts let.