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Wisconsin to receive $850 million in federal funds for water infrastructure

Gov. Tony Evers praised the act as a “Win for Wisconsin.”
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers made a stop at Visit Eau Claire on Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021 to...
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers made a stop at Visit Eau Claire on Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021 to announce the awards from the governor's Destination Marketing Organization Grant Program.(Jeff Ralph / WEAU)
Published: Dec. 8, 2021 at 8:52 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - With the passage of President Joe Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure bill, Gov. Tony Evers announced Wednesday that Wisconsin will receive more than $800 million to invest in safe drinking water for people across the state over the next five years.

The funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act—including more than $142 million allocated to Wisconsin for 2022—will help provide clean water to millions of families nationwide, including Wisconsin. The bill makes history as the largest investment in water infrastructure in U.S. history to date, Gov. Tony Evers’ office noted.

Wisconsin will receive $347 million in clean water funding and an additional $522 million in revolving loan funds for safe drinking water over a five year period, according to the Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau.

Gov. Evers praised President Biden’s bill last month, and emphasized its importance for the state, calling it a “Win for Wisconsin.” In 2019, Gov. Evers prioritized water infrastructure, calling it the “Year of Clean Drinking Water.” The Wisconsin State Legislature also played a role, holding a number of sessions across the state as part of the Task Force on Water Quality, a bipartisan committee created by Speaker Robin Vos.

“Clean drinking water is critically important for keeping our kids, our families, and our communities healthy and safe,” Gov. Evers said. “Folks should be able to trust the water coming out of their tap, and that’s why making sure every Wisconsinite has access to safe, clean drinking water has been a top priority for my administration.”

Wisconsin has 11,451 public water systems—more than any other state in the country. About three-quarters of Wisconsinites get their water from public water systems, compared to about 800,000 people who rely on private wells in the state, the Department of Natural Resources reported.

The Evers administration will prioritize three main safety concerns with drinking water in Wisconsin: PFAS, lead and nitrates.

Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances, or PFAS, are a group of widely used manufactured chemicals that can be found in many common household, commercial and industrial products—but studies from scientists show that exposure to PFAS can be linked to harmful health effects like an increased risk for certain types of cancer, reduced immune system response and developmental delays, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. PFAS can spread through soil, groundwater, or be carried through air in the environment.

Lead, another common contaminant, can leak into water through lead pipes, and is widely known to be a health threat in particular causing brain damage to young children. According to a press release from Gov. Evers’ office, Wisconsin has more than 170,000 lead pipes that need replacing.

Nitrates are the most prevalent groundwater contaminant, according to the Wisconsin Groundwater Coordinating Council, and the nitrate contamination is at a concerning level in 74 public drinking water systems, as well as an estimated 10 percent of private wells.

The bill would also allow the EPA to award additional grants s on a needs-based criteria for disadvantaged communities including low-income areas, communities with less than 10,000 people and other communities that wouldn’t be able to otherwise finance such infrastructure projects.

Led by Gov. Evers’ administration, the DNR has already begun the process of creating and enforcing standards for safe drinking water for families across Wisconsin, something DNR Secretary designee Preston Cole said is crucial for all Wisconsinites.

“We cannot live without clean drinking water,” Cole said. “Water is live-giving.”

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