The Biden administration announced plans on Tuesday to leverage financial and technical tools to ensure that historically underserved communities can access wastewater sanitation resources.
The pilot initiative, a joint effort between the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), will focus on 11 rural communities across the country where residents lack basic wastewater management.
“The America that we all believe in is a land of opportunity,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in a statement. “But, for historically marginalized communities from Alabama to Alaska, that opportunity is stolen when basic sanitation doesn’t work — exposing adults and children to backyard sewage and disease.”
Through the Closing America’s Wastewater Access Gap Community Initiative, the EPA and USDA will be working with Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, West Virginia and tribal nations to help communities take advantage of relevant federal funding opportunities.
One such resource comes from last year’s bipartisan infrastructure bill, which provides $11.7 billion in loans and grants for water infrastructure initiatives, including wastewater management projects, the initiative’s partners said.
“President Biden has been clear — we cannot leave any community behind as we rebuild America’s infrastructure with the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law,” White House infrastructure coordinator Mitch Landrieu said.
“This includes rural and Tribal communities who for too long have felt forgotten,” he added.
About 2.2 million people in the U.S. lack basic running water and indoor plumbing, while even more live with inadequate sewage infrastructure that endangers the health of residents, according to the groups.
The new collaboration, the agencies said, will help communities access the financing and technical assistance that is available to improve wastewater infrastructure — aiming to “close the gap” for underserved populations.
The 11 communities included in the pilot program are Bolivar County, Miss.; Doña Ana County, N.M.; Duplin County, N.C.; Greene County, Ala.; Halifax County, N.C.; Harlan County, Ky.; Lowndes County, Ala.; McDowell County, W.Va.; Raleigh County, W.Va.; San Carlos Apache Tribe, Ariz.; and Santo Domingo Pueblo, N.M.
Read more here from The Hill’s Sharon Udasin.