By Ana Martinez-Ortiz
Milwaukee is a city filled with historical and aging elements from its building to its infrastructures. While historical landmarks can add a bit of charm, an aging infrastructure such as its water system, is more likely to cause damage. But a recent announcement could change that.
Earlier this week, the United States Environmental Protection Agency announced that the City of Milwaukee will receive one of its Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act loans. Milwaukee is set 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 thought it was a prime candidate in terms of not only the need from a water infrastructure standpoint, but a city that can handle the resource and invest in the aging infrastructure while creating lots of jobs,” Michael Regan said in an interview with the Milwaukee Courier.
Regan is the administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency. He will be joining Vice President Kamala Harris and second gentleman Doug Emhoff in Milwaukee on Monday, Jan. 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 is a zero-interest loan, Regan said, and the city will save $5.5 million. As an added benefit, the work required is expected to create around 130 jobs, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
“We knew there was a need there, but we also knew that there was a leadership team in Milwaukee that knew what to do with those resources,” Regan said.
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is investing in water infrastructure as well and the Environmental Protection Agency is receiving $50 billion, which it will use to address replace lead pipes, protect bodies of water, improve the wastewater system and ensure drinking water for all.
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is a once-in-a-lifetime investment, that will be used to address water infrastructures across the country in need of repair, Regan noted.
Regan recently addressed the U.S. 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 investment in water infrastructure is a win for public health and economic development.
In the interview, he explained that the aging water systems are not performing at their peak, which causes the water quality to suffer.
“If we can invest in our aging infrastructure, we know, that not only will the communities get good quality drinking water, but we know that companies and investors will want to come in and invest in these areas,” Regan said. “A strong water infrastructure is critical for any city or town that wants to continue to grow.”
These improvements will impact schools, local economies, business spaces and more. Good, clean drinking water and a strong wastewater treatment system are needed for that to happen, he said. He added that improving the aging infrastructure is a 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.