Pennsylvania Takes Water Problem to the People

Members of Pennsylvania's Sustainable Water Infrastructure Task Force are setting out to gather the public's ideas on how to address the challenge.

During a recent meeting, the task force announced a series of public meetings to be held throughout the state during May.

"Safe, reliable drinking water and effective wastewater treatment systems are paramount to the health and welfare of our citizens, as well as the vibrancy of our economy," said Environmental Protection Secretary Kathleen McGinty, who chairs the task force. "With Pennsylvania facing a nearly $20-billion funding shortfall to upgrade our water-related infrastructure, we must find alternatives to expensive capital construction projects. This issue impacts every community, every business and every citizen of the commonwealth, and that's why their input is essential."

Members want to hear recommendations from the public about what issues the task force should consider; what existing statutory, regulatory, or public policy barriers prevent the long-term sustainability of Pennsylvania's water infrastructure; and possible new revenue streams that could help meet the state's infrastructure needs.

Thirteen people testified at the first meeting, including representatives of utility contractors, financial management companies, water resources groups, and municipal authorities.

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.

The task force must develop a report by October 1 that provides recommendations and financing options that may support water-related services in the fiscal year 2009-10 budget proposal.

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