Congressman Bill Pascrell

Representing the 9th District of NEW JERSEY

Water Quality Investment Act of 2009

Mar 12, 2009
Floor Speech


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   Mr. PASCRELL. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I rise in support of H.R. 1262, the Water Quality Investment Act. I want to commend Chairman Oberstar and Subcommittee Chairwoman Johnson for bringing this critical legislation to the floor, and it has had bipartisan support for quite a few years. We didn't give up on it, did we?

   H.R. 1262 makes many crucial investments in our country's water infrastructure system. Section 3 of the bill contains language we originally introduced a few years ago in our Water Quality Investment Act. The language authorizes $1.8 billion in appropriations for grants to municipalities and States to control combined sewer overflows and sanitary sewer overflows. The municipalities just don't have the money to do this, yet we mandate them to do it. Figure that out.

   Funding for infrastructure projects will help create jobs and spur the economy. For every $1 billion, we create 40,000 jobs.

   My provision is very important, especially for my colleagues in the Northeast and the Great Lakes area. Many of our older cities have combined sewer systems and suffer from overflows that send sewage and untreated waste flowing into streets, basements, rivers, and lakes. All in all, a total of 772 municipalities have combined sewer systems, serving approximately 40 million people. Problems that arise during wet weather events can be devastating and are one of the most pressing issues facing urban America. Our communities must be given access to the Federal resources necessary to upgrade their systems and to upgrade the Clean Water Act.

   In its 2004 Clean Water Needs survey, the EPA estimated the cost to communities of addressing these particular problems at almost $55 billion and the cost of the SSO problems to be $88.5 billion; and here we are, $1.8 billion.

   The CHAIR. The time of the gentleman has expired.

   Mr. OBERSTAR. I yield the gentleman an additional 1 minute.

   Mr. PASCRELL. The vast majority of these costs will be borne by local communities, many with fewer than 10,000 people. As a former mayor, I know how difficult it is to keep a town going in tough economic times. These communities are struggling financially. Many are laying off critical personnel, like police officers and firefighters and teachers, because they struggle to provide even the most essential services. During our current economic crisis, upgrading these infrastructures is completely out of reach to most of these towns.

   H.R. 1262 serves many purposes financially and healthwise. I commend people on both sides of the aisle for making sure this gets done today, and we hope the folks on the other side of the building understand what this is all about. I pray for that.