FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Associated General Contractors Issues Call for Action on Water and Wastewater Funding
Cites Link to Maintaining Public Health
April 30, 2009
The Associated General Contractors (AGC) of Maine today supported L.D. 650, “An Act To Create a Sustainable Funding Mechanism for Water and Wastewater Infrastructure in the State of Maine”. In testimony before the Legislature’s Committee on Utilities and Energy O’Dea highlighted the link between public health and public water and waste water systems. “The same day that we’re discussing an emerging public health threat whose antidote is good sanitation, this committee is dealing with an annual $45 million dollar funding shortfall for our water and wastewater systems.
O’Dea said “when we began the effort to find a sustainable funding stream for our water and wastewater systems, we began tracking water and sewer main breaks around the state. We were shocked at the number of disruptions that occurred on a near daily basis. The men and women who keep our municipal water and wastewater systems running are unsung heroes and we all benefit from their hard work and creativity. Despite their best efforts, these systems fail regularly do to a statewide under-investment of state resources. If nothing else, the swine flu outbreak should remind us of the importance we place on functioning water and wastewater systems” he continued. “Typically, we think of a water main break as an inconvenience which may cause local traffic jams, not as a public health threat. At a time when our state’s public health authorities are trying to grapple with an infectious disease, we are all reminded that a water or sewer main breaks resulting in a loss of service or boil order can have a catastrophic effect” he said.
AGC and representatives of the state’s water and waste water utilities were advocating an amendment to L.D. 650 that would accomplish the following:
Establishes the Maine Clean Water Infrastructure Fund within the Maine Municipal Bond Bank (MBB). The Fund can be used to fund capital improvements to public water systems, waste water treatment, and water pollution abatement.
The Fund will be used in three ways:
1. To provide state match for federal funds that provide for investment through the State Revolving Loan Fund (for waste water treatment) and the Drinking Water Revolving Loan Fund. This will avoid the need for regular general obligation bonds and expensive bond campaigns to provide this match.
2. To support revenue bonding through the MBB. Revenue bonds are the best means for funding large projects.
3. Provide funds directly to DHHS’s Drinking Water Program and DEP’s Bureau of Land and Water Quality to support specific projects.
Funding will be provided by transferring the sales tax for certain products to the Fund. Those products are ones which require treatment at waste water treatment facilities, create expensive problems at waste water facilities (such as cloth wipes), or pollute surface and groundwater. In other words, all of these products create costs that are placed upon Maine’s public water systems and waste water treatment systems or threaten the water quality. This transfer is expected to generate about $27 million a year.
Chartered in 1951, the Associated General Contractors (AGC) of Maine is the state’s largest construction industry trade association. The Association maintains an office in Augusta and has 275 members statewide. Member companies include general contractors, sub-contractors, and service and supply providers. For more information visit www.agcmaine.org.