News Feature | February 6, 2018

Trump's Infrastructure Plan Worries Water Utilities

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,
@sarmje

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Water utilities are concerned that cutting federal regulations for infrastructure projects could threaten water quality.

American Water Works Company CEO Susan Story warned that streamlining permitting processes for infrastructure projects could hinder the development of water quality standards. American Water Works Company is the nation’s largest water utility.

“We’ve got to make sure we maintain water quality standards and actually in some cases increase them,” she told Reuters in an interview.

Her remarks followed an announcement by President Trump in the State of the Union address that he wants to slash the time it takes to get permitted for infrastructure projects. Trump made a case for rebuilding the nation’s crumbling infrastructure in his speech, calling on Congress to pass legislation promoting infrastructure investment.

“Every Federal dollar should be leveraged by partnering with State and local governments and, where appropriate, tapping into private sector investment -- to permanently fix the infrastructure deficit. Any bill must also streamline the permitting and approval process -- getting it down to no more than two years, and perhaps even one,” Trump said in his speech, per CNN.

Story told Reuters that her utility, which owns drinking and wastewater systems in 16 states, is working with the U.S. EPA to test for emerging contaminants.

“There are 1,400 microbes alone that can affect drinking water, but the Environmental Protection Agency only regulates 90 contaminants, she said. Working with the EPA, American Water is now starting voluntary tests for 40 emerging contaminants that are not yet regulated,” Reuters reported, citing Story.

Infrastructure and water quality are both pressing problems for water utilities. The U.S. received an overall grade of “D+” on an infrastructure report card issued last year by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). Wastewater and drinking water infrastructure scored a “D+” and a “D,” respectively.

Image credit: "Donald Trump," Gage Skidmore © 2014, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/