Neal, EPA announces $250M water infrastructure funding

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AGAWAM, Mass. (WWLP) – The Springfield Water and Sewer Commission announced major funding for infrastructure renewal Thursday.

EPA Assistant Administrator Radhika Fox and Congressman Richard Neal joined local officials to announce $500 million in funding for Springfield’s water investment program. The funding comes from the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act. That program is meant to help economically-stressed communities update their water infrastructure for economic and environmental benefit.

“These types of investments in water infrastructure are one of the best bets we can make a nation to both support the environment but also to create jobs for long-term economic development,” said Fox.

What is that barge in the Connecticut River?

The announcement was made at 3 p.m. at Bondi’s Island in Agawam; the site of Springfield’s ongoing Connecticut River Crossing project, which will help the city pump more wastewater from the east side of the river to the treatment plant at Bondi’s Island. The project enables the water treatment plant to be powered by 100 percent renewable self-generated energy by rehabilitating the hydropower facility, providing a green power source for the system.

According to a news release sent to 22News from the EPA, the Springfield Water and Sewer Commission will save approximately $60 million from financing with a WIFIA loan, which enables the Commission to continue to support residents in need through its customer assistance programs. Project construction and operation are expected to create more than 1,700 jobs.

“EPA is proud to partner on this project that will support a cleaner, safer, and greener Springfield while creating more than 1,700 jobs. With EPA’s WIFIA funding, these benefits will be realized years sooner than otherwise possible,” said EPA Assistant Administrator for Water Radhika Fox. “These wins for water quality, air quality, public health, and the local economy illustrate how the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal will accelerate needed upgrades to revitalize communities across the country.”

“An investment in infrastructure is an investment in our future and today’s announcement reinforces that,” said U.S. Representative Richard Neal. “I am proud that the Springfield region is the first in the state to benefit from the highly competitive federal Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act, receiving one of the largest awards from the EPA in the nation. This unprecedented investment will help build back our region’s drinking water and wastewater systems to be more sustainable and resilient in the face of climate change, protect public health and our environment from the risk of infrastructure failure, and maintain the long-term affordability of these critical services.”

“We are facing an unprecedented and unavoidable need for reinvestment in our century-old drinking water and wastewater systems,” said Commission Executive Director Josh Schimmel. “We view the WIFIA program as an innovative means to renew and adapt our utility to 21st century challenges in an affordable and sustainable manner. The unique and flexible terms of the WIFIA program offer a once-in-a-generation opportunity to modernize all of our water infrastructure on an accelerated basis in order to reduce risks presented by 21st century challenges such as climate change and regulatory compliance.”

“I am proud of the strategic project and financial planning the Commission has undertaken to secure these competitive financing opportunities,” said Springfield Water and Sewer Commission Chairwoman Vanessa Otero. “We are now able to advance more than 20 years of capital improvement projects in as little as six years and save customers in Springfield, Ludlow, and surrounding communities approximately $60 million in borrowing costs, while stabilizing rates in the future.”

“I want to commend Springfield Water and Sewer Commission Executive Director Josh Schimmel and his team for their continued efforts in identifying and securing this much needed investment. This $250 million EPA Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act Loan will support the Commission’s $500 million investment to improving vital and essential infrastructure for our residents and business community,” said Mayor Domenic J. Sarno. “I want to also thank Congressman Richard Neal and the EPA for their continued advocacy and initiatives in support of our local infrastructure projects. My Administration will continue to work with all of our local, state and federal partners to assure that our local infrastructure projects receive the investment and funding needed to maintain their reliability for our population well into the future.”   

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