The federal government has announced an additional $139.7 million in federal funds to help modernize drinking water infrastructure in Illinois communities.
U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth’s Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act (DWWIA) in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will provide grants to help municipalities remove lead pipes and contaminants from drinking water.
Nidnan Singh, deputy manager for the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) State Revolving Fund (SRF), said the money is needed for outdated and deteriorating water plants across the state.
“We welcomed these dollars with both hands because we need these dollars to address some of the issues that we see,” Singh said.
Singh encouraged small municipalities and communities that don’t have the experience and staff to apply for EPA grants to contact the Illinois EPA for help with applications.
“We always tell folks, ‘Please come to us as soon as possible. We have the funding today. We are comfortable giving you a certain amount of your project as principal forgiveness. Don’t wait until next year,’” Singh said.
From the 1930s through 1986, buildings all across the country used lead pipe service lines to connect buildings to municipal water systems. “We did not know at the time that it could be harmful to humans…It is a problem that accumulated over 50 years and it is a monster,” Singh said.
In 1986, Congress banned the use of lead pipe service lines, but hundreds of thousands of lead service lines – some in need of repair – remain in use in Illinois. Chicago alone has more than 100,000 lead pipe service lines that will take 50 years to remove and replace, Singh said.
“The estimates range from $6 billion to $10 billion for how much funding is needed in Illinois,” Singh said.
In a news release announcing the new funding, Duckworth said that improving water infrastructure in Illinois and across the country is one of her top priorities. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which included Senator Duckworth’s DWWIA, is the most significant federal investment in water infrastructure in history. It includes $15 billion to replace lead service lines across the nation.
Singh said the additional $139,698,000 that Duckworth announced for Illinois at the end of September will also be used to remove PFAS and other contaminants like manganese from drinking water.
“There’s lead service line funding that is the main funding in terms of dollar amounts. We also have funding to address emerging contaminants. And on top of that, there is additional supplemental funding to fund the regular projects that we historically would fund,” Singh said.