116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Gov. Kim Reynolds’ administration will be “very strategic” in developing a plan to spend the $110 million of federal funds allocated for water and wastewater that was included in the bipartisan infrastructure package President Joe Biden signed into law last month.
No plans have been announced for the money, with administration officials saying they’re reviewing the criteria outlined for the allocation.
“We want to make sure that we’re using it correctly,” Reynolds said.
In November before the funding was announced, Reynolds told reporters she was concerned about the level of federal spending.
“At some point the amount of money that is coming out of Washington, D.C., is unconscionable,” said Reynolds, who previously turned down about $95 million in pandemic relief funds she said the state did not need.
The Iowa Department of Natural Resources said Friday afternoon it is waiting for further guidance from the Environmental Protection Agency on how the funding can be used.
However, it estimates that $46.4 million will be used to remove lead from drinking water.
National studies have found that nearly 2 percent of U.S. children and 3.6 percent of Iowa children had elevated levels of lead in their blood — at least 5 micrograms per deciliter, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Another study found that 76 percent of Iowa children younger than 6 had detectable levels of lead. That’s higher than all but three states. In Iowa, a 2017 University of Iowa study found that one in five infants is born with elevated lead levels.
Exposure to lead can seriously harm a child's health, including damage to the brain and nervous system, slowed growth and development, learning and behavior problems, and hearing and speech problems, according to the CDC.
The DNR anticipates more than half the federal dollars going into the state revolving loans funds that provide low-interest loans to cities, counties and utilities for investments in water and sanitation infrastructure.
It estimates $29.4 million will be earmarked for improvements to drinking water infrastructure and $24.9 million for clean water — wastewater or traditional water quality projects not intended for drinking.
The remainder will be used to address per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS,) with $12.3 million to address PFAS in drinking water and $1.3 million to address PFAS in clean water, the DNR said.
The $110 million water quality funding is just a fraction of the $5 billion Iowa is expected to receive through the bipartisan infrastructure package.
The federal government cannot dictate how that money is spent, but the EPA is urging state and locals governments to prioritize spending on historically underserved communities that face challenges in accessing clean water.
In the EPA’s Midwest region that includes Iowa, half the communities with water or sewer utilities have fewer than 425 residents making the cost of providing safe water and sewage treatment burdensome.
The legislation commits $50 billion for water and wastewater infrastructure nationwide over five years with $15 billion for removing lead pipes and $10 billion to address contamination from toxic chemicals frequently used in cookware, carpets, firefighting foams and other products.
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