News Feature | February 21, 2018

Will Treatment Costs Rise Under Trump Plan?

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,
@sarmje

white house reg new

Water experts say Trump’s new infrastructure plan could usher in a new era of dirty water in the U.S.

The White House released its long-awaited plan this month by means of a 53-page document pledging to “rebuild American infrastructure.” The centerpiece of the proposal is $200 billion in federal funding over the next decade, Business Insider reported. The plan also aims to raise $1.5 trillion by incentivizing investment from private firms and state and local governments.

But water experts say the proposal could pose a threat to the nation’s waterways and increase treatment costs for utilities.

“In the plan, the Trump administration outlines proposals for how to reduce the number of federal agencies that need to sign off on permits for dumping ‘dredged or fill material’ into the nation's waterways. Such sites include fisheries, wetlands, and tap-water supplies. If the plan gets the green light, it will undo the U.S. EPA’s authority to veto building permits that affect U.S. waterways, and cut back on environmental reviews,” Business Insider reported.

“Deregulation could quite literally dump a huge additional burden of waste onto municipal water systems around the U.S. Water experts are worried that the change could make it easier for local water sources to get contaminated with runoff or pollution from new highways, dams, and pipelines,” the report continued.

The Natural Resources Defense Council is among the groups speaking out against the plan. NRDC acknowledges that the water sector is in need of investment.

“The administration could have put forward an infrastructure plan that addressed both of these problems: one that provided more funding for water infrastructure, while maintaining safeguards to protect rivers, streams, and wetlands,” NRDC stated.

“But it didn’t. It gave us a plan that falls far short of the investment needed. And it proposes to eviscerate the protections that keep our water clean and safe,” it continued.

Major voices in the water utility community have also raised concerns about Trump’s proposal. 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.

Image credit: "white house," matt wade © 2009, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/