Pa. OKs $72 M in Loans, Grants

The PENNVEST Board of Directors have approved $72 million in low-interest loans and grants for 19 brownfields, drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater projects in 15 counties in Pennsylvania.

"As governor and co-founder of the Building America's Future Coalition, I am committed to maintaining and improving the health of our critical infrastructure for the benefit of residents, businesses and communities," said Gov. Edward G. Rendell. "Today's actions by the PENNVEST Board take us one more step down the long, difficult but vital road to a safer, more secure and more prosperous future."

Most of the money ($64 million) is for low-interest loans. Combined with $8 million in grants, PENNVEST will fund 19 clean water projects.

The awards range from a $356,081 loan and grant for an innovative and cost-effective wastewater management system to serve a community in Tioga County to an $11 million loan to help fund a brownfield remediation project in Philadelphia that will facilitate the development of a world-class food distribution center and create 300 new jobs.

Funds for the projects are disbursed after bills for work are paid and the receipts are submitted to PENNVEST for reimbursement.

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In related state news, members of the governor's Sustainable Water Infrastructure Task Force began the work of addressing the estimated $20 billion funding shortfall needed to upgrade Pennsylvania's aging and deteriorated water-related infrastructure.

Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Kathleen A. McGinty, who serves as chair of the task force, laid out the scope of the problem and the high-level group's responsibility.

"Many of our systems—some of which date back to before World War II—suffer from overflows, chronic leaks, and a shortage of treatment capacity. Many of these issues stem from under funded operations, repair, rehabilitation and replacement work," McGinty said.

"We need to act now and address this matter because, without a reliable infrastructure, our economy and way of life will suffer. Over the next six months, we will look at how we can ensure reliable funding for our water and wastewater systems, and consider how we can utilize alternatives to costly capital upgrades that will yield a safe and dependable water supply."

According to a federal Clean Water Needs Survey, Pennsylvania is facing nearly $11 billion in unmet drinking water infrastructure needs and at least $7.2 billion in unmet wastewater infrastructure needs.

"Pennsylvania's share of the federal Clean Water State Revolving Fund has been cut in half during the last three years—down $30 million to $27 million," said McGinty. "And, the president's fiscal year 2009 budget proposal requested only $555 million for this program, which would be the lowest level of funding in its history, if enacted."

The task force must make recommendations and offer financing options by Oct. 1.

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