EPA Announces over $68 Million in Water Infrastructure Funding for Hawaii Through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, Calls for Prioritizing Underserved Communities
Today, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Michael S. Regan announced funding that states, Tribes, and territories will receive in 2022 through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL). This funding, provided through EPA’s State Revolving Fund (SRF) programs, will create jobs while upgrading America’s aging water infrastructure and addressing key challenges like lead in drinking water and per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contamination. In a letter sent to Governor Ige today, the Administrator encouraged Hawaii to maximize the impact of water funding from the law – an unprecedented nationwide total of $50 billion – to address disproportionate environmental burdens in historically underserved communities across the country.
“With President Biden’s leadership and congressional action, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law has created a historic opportunity to correct longstanding environmental and economic injustices across America,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “As leaders, we must seize this moment. Billions of dollars are about to start flowing to states and it is critical that EPA partners with states, Tribes, and territories to ensure the benefits of these investments are delivered in the most equitable way.”
“Water infrastructure needs are a top concern across the Pacific Southwest,” said EPA Pacific Southwest Acting Regional Administrator Deborah Jordan. “We look forward to partnering with Hawaii in its work to ensure that important infrastructure investments are made to meet the water quality and public health goals, particularly in disadvantaged communities throughout the state.”
More than 80,000 small cesspools in Hawaii are used for the disposal of untreated sanitary waste which can contaminate groundwater, streams, and the ocean by releasing disease-causing pathogens and nitrates. Pathogens found in untreated sewage can impact human health and the environment, including beaches and coral reefs. Small cesspools will need to be upgraded, converted, or closed by 2050; a recent study found that 90% of the state’s households with cesspools lack sufficient financial capacity to pay for new treatment systems or connection to centralized collection systems. The State is exploring mechanisms to use SRF resources to fund cesspool conversions; the BIL-related resources and subsidy provisions would substantially benefit lower-income households to upgrade or convert their cesspools.
In addition, cash-strapped counties who want to upgrade or rehabilitate their water collection and treatment systems face significant challenges in raising already-high sewer rates to repay SRF loans. The new BIL will increase the amount of funds available for loan forgiveness or rate subsidization.
Finally, damage to forests by invasive species is the largest source of sediment-caused water quality impairment in the state’s near-shore waters. The increased resources available through the BIL would support much needed forest land conservation, erosion control, and restoration work.
Nearly half of this funding available as grants or principal forgiveness loans that remove barriers to investing in essential water infrastructure in underserved communities across rural America and in urban centers. The 2022 allocation is the first of five years of nearly $44 billion in dedicated EPA SRF funding that states will receive through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. For more than 30 years, the SRFs have been the foundation of water infrastructure investments, providing low-cost financing for local projects across America. However, many vulnerable communities facing water challenges have not received their fair share of federal water infrastructure funding. Under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, states have a unique opportunity to correct this disparity.
Administrator Regan recently completed a “Journey to Justice” tour across the American South where he heard from families and advocates about their struggles with exposure to water pollution in their communities. For children, exposure to lead can cause irreversible and life-long health effects, including decreasing IQ, focus, and academic achievement. At the same time, families that live near high levels of contaminants such as PFAS or “forever chemicals” are at risk to develop adverse health outcomes.
The implementation of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law calls for strong partnership, and EPA stands ready to work with states to ensure that communities see the full benefits of this investment.
For more information, including state-by-state allocation of 2022 funding, and a breakdown of EPA funding by SRF program, and additional funding available through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, please visit: https://www.epa.gov/infrastructure.