The Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act: Cleaning Up Narragansett Bay

The Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act Cleaning Up Narragansett Bay

Last week, the EPA announced a WIFIA loan to the Narragansett Bay Commission (NBC) to help reduce pollutant discharges into Narragansett Bay. The first of its kind in New England, the loan will help protect public health and ecosystems as a part of the Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) Phase IIIA Facilities Project.

On September 20, 2019, the EPA awarded a loan to the NBC titled the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA). The loan will contribute approximately $269 million as a part of a larger project to prevent discharged pollutants from entering communal water sources.

“This WIFIA loan will improve water quality in the Narragansett Bay, protect the health of local residents, and deliver on President Trump's commitment to upgrade our nation's infrastructure, create jobs, and safeguard public health and the environment,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “With this loan closing, EPA has now issued 12 WIFIA loans totaling over $3 billion in credit assistance to help finance over $7 billion for water infrastructure projects and create over 12,000 jobs.”

Pollutants are more likely to come into contact with water systems and local rivers in the event of heavy storms. Pollutants like sewage solids, metals, oils, grease, and bacteria can overflow current water systems if preventative systems are not in place. The CSO Phase IIIA Facilities project will head the building of a long deep rock tunnel, two work shafts, four drop shafts, a tunnel pump station, and several improvements to the wastewater collection system in the Narragansett Bay area.

The EPA’s WIFIA loan of about $269 million will finance about half of the CSO project’s total cost of $548 million. Additionally, the Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank (RIIB)—with the funding support of the Rhode Island Clean Water State Revolving Fund (RI CWSRF) and other programs—will cover another portion of the costs. The WIFIA loan will save the NBC an estimated $99.6 million compared to typical bond financing. The project is expected to create 1,755 jobs.

“EPA is very pleased that the first WIFIA loan award here in New England will result in cleaner and more healthy water in Narragansett Bay,” said EPA New England Regional Administrator Dennis Deziel.“In a major storm event, this Combined Sewer Overflow construction project will keep approximately 60 million gallons of water contaminated with raw sewage, metals, oil, grease and bacteria from being discharged directly into Narragansett Bay.”

As a main source of water for the largest estuary in the region, Narragansett Bay serves a large New England population. Ensuring its water safety is essential to both human and ecosystem health.

Read about the topic from the EPA headquarters’ news release
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