The EPA and ARRA Fund Water Quality Projects for Ohioans in an Effort to Improve Drinking Water and Lake Erie
by Cassandra O. Lagunzad
Water is frequently equated with life. Human beings cannot live longer than three days without water. Its importance is evident in the human body’s composition, and medical professionals often stress the recommended seven glasses a day to promote such vital bodily functions as brain activity and immunity. Most of the foods we eat, require water to cultivate. Therefore, it is no surprise that the government would spend a large amount of money for the care and distribution of water.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) doled out around $7.2 billion to the EPA, with around one percent of the proposed $787 billion intended to fund projects for improving our nation’s sustainability, according to the EPA’s own literature. The ARRA invested an estimated $10.15 billion in Water Infrastructure projects alone, with the largest portions divided between three categories. An estimated $4.6 billion of that amount went to the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, $3.7 classified for Rural Drinking and Waste, and $1 billion for drinking projects in drought areas.
Brecksville, OH - Secretary Salazar walking with the Superintendent of Cuyahoga Valley National Park, John Debo. photo: Tami Heilemann, U.S. Geological Survey
The Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) and the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) are in place to aid states with funding for water infrastructure changes. In the recent EPA’s Quarterly Performance Report, $2.3 billion or 61% of CWSRF funds were under contract, with $714.7 million or 18% to be used specifically for green projects. In the same report, 56% of the DWSRF money, or $997.8 million were under contract with 21% or $391 million for green projects.
photo: Dori at Wikimedia Commons
This same report documented 863 construction projects for the CWSRF already underway, with 32 already complete. The DWSRF has a documented 678 construction projects underway, with 28 complete. The ARRA Allotment for the DWSRF reported that in the arid state of Texas alone around $160.7 million was allotted, 8.24% of the funds for the entire country. The DWSRF provided around $58.5 million for Ohio, which accounted for 3% of the funds for the entire country. No CWSRF or DWSRF projects were reported for Erie County, OH.
A large portion of government funds have been invested in these projects with the apparent end of improving water quality. However, as demonstrated in an article by the New York Times, legality and health safety are not synonymous. This article goes on to say that EPA regulations only apply to about 91 substances, but around 60,000 potentially hazardous substances may be present in drinking water. The reason being is that the Safe Drinking Water Act, enacted in 1974, has not seen a major update since the 1980s, with no new substances added since 2000. This is not to say that scientists have not found these chemicals to be detrimental to health. They are continuously finding evidence that chemicals outside the regulated 91 can have health consequences or that amounts under the EPA allowances can still effect health. Therefore, the knowledge that water conforms to EPA standards may nurture a false sense of security.
For example, scientists have linked Atrazine, a commonly used herbicide, to chemically transforming male frogs female, according to an article by Reuters. However, as of July 2009 the EPA concluded that Atrazine poses no threat to amphibians and that no further testing is needed. Not to say the EPA is convinced of the same for human beings, as the EPA’s current stance is for more testing on its effects.
Many of the answers generate more questions. Will Congress add more chemicals to the list of illegal chemicals? After spending a substantial amount in improving the Water Infrastructure, what would the cost be, should these chemicals be banned or the amounts further mitigated? Will the ARRA’s apparent goal for more accountability and transparency be met and to what extent? Hopefully, these will be answered in part two of this series on water quality.