WASHINGTON – The House Energy & Commerce Committee voted unanimously this morning to advance major drinking water legislation spearheaded by Congressman Paul Tonko (D-NY), Ranking Member for the Environment Subcommittee, and Congressman John Shimkus (R-IL) who chairs that subcommittee, as well as Congressman Gregg Harper (R-MS) who introduced H.R. 3387, the Drinking Water System Improvement Act of 2017. Among other things, the bill (H.R. 3387) would double the U.S. federal government commitment to states to fund critical drinking water projects. This includes specific provisions to remove lead from school drinking fountains, increase funding to disadvantaged communities and increase overall system resiliency.
Rep. Tonko heralded the bill’s passage through committee: “I have said many times: every life and every job depends on water. The advance of our drinking water bill today reflects a strong bipartisan commitment to scale up federal investments in America’s collapsing water systems. While I continue to believe much more will need to be done to help states and communities shore up these critical systems, this bill takes up the most urgent aspects of my AQUA Act, including updates to a drinking water program more than two decades out-of-date, along with significant measures to get lead and other dangerous substances out of our schools and communities. ”
Many of the provisions of the bill approved today were adapted from Congressman Tonko’s AQUA Act, a visionary bill to deliver critical funds to address major concerns with community drinking water systems across the United States.
Following the bill’s advancement out of committee, Tonko added, “I want to thank my colleagues Chairman Shimkus, Chairman Walden, and Congressman Harper for their earnest and open-minded partnership, as well as our Congressional staff who have helped achieve such vital progress. The progress we are making on this issue gives us an important foundation for building future bipartisan collaboration. I remain hopeful that this drinking water bill will continue to advance toward becoming law without the late addition of poison pill amendments or other partisan gimmicks that would threaten this critical effort. I look forward to continuing our work across the aisle to bring this bill to the floor after the August district work period.”
Congressman Tonko has been a longtime champion for improving America’s drinking water systems. He received New York Rural Water Association’s 2016 Friend of Rural Water Award. Earlier this year he embarked on a national drinking water systems tour, visiting systems in major cities including Richmond, VA, Wilmington, DE, and Baltimore, MD. He launched the tour to raise awareness about the need for investment in America’s struggling public water systems and his AQUA Act that would deliver critical funds to address them.
Tonko has previously visited drinking water systems in Schenectady, Delanson, Altamont, Albany and others. He met with the Mayor of Troy, NY in early 2016 to discuss the city’s major water main break.
Drinking Water By the Numbers:
· Albany, NY alone has 317 miles of pipes, some of them as much as 135 years old
· 86% of U.S. households rely on public water supplies.
· Leaking pipes lose an estimated 7 billion gallons of clean drinking water every day.
· There are more than 700 water main breaks every day.
· There may be as many as 10 million lead service lines in use.
· In 2013, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave America’s water infrastructure a D grade.
# # #