Upstate Congressman Paul Tonko says he is “encouraged” to see President Joe Biden touting drinking water systems as part of his infrastructure push.
Biden, as part of his $2 trillion "American Jobs Plan," is calling for spending billions of dollars to improve the nation’s water infrastructure.
Tonko recently introduced legislation he argues could help Biden fulfill some of his promises.
Like Biden’s plan, Tonko’s proposal calls for a more than $100 billion investment in the nation’s water systems.
Under Tonko’s plan, more than half of that money would go to state grant and loan programs - the so-called “Drinking Water State Revolving Fund.” Another $45 billion would be used to replace lead pipes. And additional funding would be directed to help water systems affected by chemical contamination.
Tonko, a Democrat serving the Albany area, has been calling for water infrastructure investments for years. “Out of sight cannot mean out of mind,” he said.
Old pipes and contaminated water are problems in communities nationwide, including in New York.
The city of Newburgh has seen its share of water issues. Lead service lines are corroding. Dangerous chemicals were found in the water supply. The infrastructure is old.
“We just had a water main break about a month ago. We took a piece of pipe out of the ground that was stamped 1887 on the side of a piece of pipe,” said Wayne Vradenburgh, superintendent of the Newburgh Water Department.
Vradenburgh said any additional federal funding, such as what Biden and Tonko are pitching, would be put to good use.
“At the end of the year, we have to slow down because we're running out of money. If the money's there, I don't have to slow down. I can just keep going,” he said.
The fate of President Biden’s overall infrastructure push on Capitol Hill is still very much up in the air, tied up in partisan division over the size of the plan and what counts as infrastructure.
Talks are ongoing and Biden has called for getting a bill wrapped up over the summer.