State clean water building program started

Staff Writer
Chillicothe Times-Bulletin

CHICAGO – The $1 billion Illinois Clean Water Initiative, a program that will overhaul the state’s aging water infrastructure,  launched Thursday.

Gov. Pat Quinn said the initiative will create 28,500 jobs, protect public health, and drive community and business growth across Illinois.

Quinn’s announcement about the initiative comes on the 40th anniversary of the federal Clean Water Act.

“On this anniversary of the landmark Clean Water Act, we renew our commitment to ensuring that every resident in Illinois has access to safe, clean water,” Quinn said. “Illinois is defined geographically and historically by waterways. Our Clean Water Initiative will put thousands of Illinoisans back to work, protect and improve our drinking water, and preserve this precious, irreplaceable resource for future generations.”

The Clean Water Act - enacted in 1972 - fortified federal-state partnerships to tackle polluted lakes and rivers by funding construction of sewage treatment plants, toughened penalties on polluters, and provided new protections to watersheds, waterways and wetlands.

The new initiative will create 28,500 jobs, including 9,700 construction jobs; 4,600 indirect jobs in supplier industries (mining, manufacturing and services) and 14,300 jobs supported by growth in related businesses, according to Associated General Contractors.

Pipefitters, plumbers, operating engineers, carpenters, electricians, ironworkers and others will go to work replacing broken water mains, building treatment plants, upgrading sewers and cleaning up environmental threats. The Quinn Administration expects to use the winter months to drive applications into the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency so projects can begin next spring.

The Clean Water Initiative will allow the state to meet the high demand by local governments for safe drinking water and wastewater treatment infrastructure funding. The IEPA reports that more than 350 local governments have already expressed need for the program.

Currently, many Illinois residents are receiving water through aging water mains that are nearly a century old and scores of wastewater treatment facilities are in dire need of repair.

“Safe and plentiful drinking water is an absolute essential for local communities. At a time when local revenues are flat, the availability of low interest loans for critical investments in our local water infrastructure is extremely beneficial to the health and welfare of Illinois communities,” said Larry Frang, executive director of the Illinois Municipal League.

Quinn has directed the IEPA and Illinois Finance Authority to expand the State Revolving Fund program to $1 billion in long-term, low-interest loans to local governments for drinking water and wastewater systems.

Since the SRF’s inception in 1989, IEPA has lent $4.3 billion to 472 local Illinois communities. There has never been a defaulted loan during the program’s history.

To learn more about the Illinois Clean Water Initiative, visit CleanWater.Illinois.gov.