By Ana Martinez-Ortiz
Milwaukee is a city filled with historic and aging elements, from its buildings to its infrastructure. While historic landmarks can add a bit of charm, aging infrastructure, like its water system, is more likely to cause damage. But a recent announcement could change that.
Earlier this week, the US Environmental Protection Agency announced that the city of Milwaukee would receive one of its loans under the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act. Milwaukee is expected to receive $42 million, while the city of Baltimore will receive $396 million and the Union Sanitary District of California will receive $250 million.
“We chose Milwaukee because we felt it was a strong candidate not only in terms of what it needed from a water infrastructure perspective, but also a city that could manage the resource and investing in aging infrastructure while creating lots of jobs,” Michael Regan said in an interview with the Milwaukee Courier.
Regan is the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. He will join Vice President Kamala Harris and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff in Milwaukee on Monday, January 24.
The Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District is expected to use the WIFIA loan to expand its stormwater management capacity, which will reduce flood risk in communities that have been historically underserved.
It’s a zero-interest loan, Regan said, and the city will save $5.5 million. As an added benefit, the necessary works are expected to create around 130 jobs, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
“We knew there was a need there, but we also knew there was a leadership team in Milwaukee that knew what to do with those resources,” Regan said.
The bipartisan Infrastructure Act also invests in water infrastructure and the Environmental Protection Agency receives $50 billion, which it will use to replace lead pipes, protect water bodies, improve the water system. sanitation and ensuring drinking water for all.
The bipartisan Infrastructure Act is a once-in-a-lifetime investment that will be used to address water infrastructure across the country that is in need of repair, Regan noted.
Regan recently addressed the United States Conference of Mayors on Monday, Jan. 19, where he discussed the agency’s plan to improve the nation’s water systems. In his remarks, he noted that investing in water infrastructure is a win for public health and economic development.
In the interview, he explained that aging water systems do not operate at their peak, which negatively affects water quality.
“If we can invest in our aging infrastructure, we know not only will communities get good quality drinking water, but we know businesses and investors will want to come and invest in these areas,” Regan said. “A solid water infrastructure is essential for any city or town that wants to continue to grow.”
These improvements will impact schools, local economies, commercial spaces and more. Good drinking water and a strong sewage treatment system are necessary for this to happen, he said. He added that improving aging infrastructure is part of flood mitigation efforts, which will also lead to improved health.
“Economic development and water quality go hand in hand with these investments,” Regan said.