News Feature | April 1, 2014

Massachusetts Considers Major Water Infrastructure Bill

By Sara Jerome
@sarmje

massstatehousereg

The Massachusetts Senate recently cleared a major water infrastructure bill. 

The bill targets government funding shortfalls, which have plagued the water sector in Massachusetts for years. The state is facing a gap of $10.2 billion over the next two decades when it comes to drinking water infrastructure, and $11.2 billion for wastewater infrastructure, according to an editorial by Senate President Terry Murray. 

The legislation, which now heads to the House, aims to make up some of the gap. 

It "authorizes low-interest loans for water infrastructure projects and establishes criteria for the loan process. It requires the Massachusetts Clean Water Trust — the new name for the Massachusetts Water Pollution Abatement Trust — to create a sliding scale interest rate, from 0 to 2 percent on loans for qualifying projects," according to WBJournal

"The bill also significantly expands the spending capacity of the Massachusetts Clean Water Trust, formerly the Water Pollution Abatement Trust, with an increase from $88 million to $138 million and imposes a spending floor of 80 percent. To allow for more flexibility, the bill creates a sliding scale interest rate from 0 to 2 percent and establishes a principal forgiveness program for qualifying projects," the Daily Times Chronicle reported.  

Murray, a major supporter of the bill, described some additional goals of the legislation. She said it aims to "improve existing partnerships with cities and towns, grow municipal options while incentivizing best-management practices and responsibly address water and wastewater infrastructure challenges in the commonwealth." 

Environmentalists are concerned about how the bill would affect ocean health. They argue that "tucked into the bill is a provision that rolls back protections for ocean sanctuaries that have been in place for four decades," New England Public Radio reported

According to the report, "the bill would allow the dumping of treated wastewater into state ocean waters, a practice that has been banned."

But some supporters say there is no viable alternative. 

"The problem is – there may be nowhere else for the waste to go. Towns on Cape Cod, in particular, can’t dump it in the ground, because the ground water is used for drinking. And they’re surrounded by ocean sanctuaries." the report said. 

For more on government oversight, check out Water Online's Regulations & Legislation Solution Center.

Image credit: "Massachusetts State House in Winter," jimcintosh © 2007, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

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