Reps. Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Edward Markey (D-MA) released legislation on May 10 that would authorize nearly $13 billion over the next five years for the state drinking water revolving fund (DWSRF) program and make other changes to the Safe Drinking Water Act. In addition to authorizing increased funding, Assistance, Quality, and Affordability Act of 2010 would put in place new provisions to help communities afford compliance with federal drinking water standards and clarify what activities can be funded with revolving fund money. The legislation would also beef up EPA's Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program, by requiring the agency to test substances found in drinking water to determine whether they disrupt the endocrine system and setting up a time frame for the agency to develop a transparent process for selecting substances to be tested. In addition, the bill would require payment of prevailing wages to laborers and mechanics on projects paid for with money from the state revolving funds. This legislation was also the subject of a May 13 hearing before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and the Environment.
The bill would authorize $1.5 billion in fiscal year 2011, $2 billion in each of FY 2012 and 2013, $3.2 billion in FY 2014, and $6 billion FY 2015. The authorization would be subject to appropriations each year, and Congress has been appropriating far less than those amounts in recent years. The drinking water SRF was funded at $1.387 billion in the current fiscal year. According to an analysis provided by Waxman and Markey, the bill would require EPA to regularly update and supplement the list of technologies that are affordable for different classes of systems to drive innovation and provide information for small systems. Also, any state that finds a new drinking water standard poses an affordability problem for disadvantaged communities would be required to prioritize projects for those water systems under the SRF. The bill would amend the list of activities for which revolving funds could be used to clarify that preconstruction activities, rehabilitation and replacement of aging infrastructure, and “production or capture of sustainable energy” would be eligible. The measure also would alter procedures for prioritizing applications for use of SRF funds. Under current law, funds should be used for three priority areas: to address the most serious risks to human health, to ensure compliance with Safe Drinking Water Act requirements, and to assist systems most in need.