King County Wins First-Ever Loan Under Fed’s New WIFIA Program
By PureBlue Staff
Big storms often mean big messes of untreated sewage and industrial waste pouring into Puget Sound. During heavy rains, sewer pipes throughout the Duwamish Valley fill to overflowing and send millions of gallons of polluted runoff and untreated sewage into the Duwamish River, which then drains into Puget Sound. Now, with help from a $134.5 million loan from the EPA’s Water Infrastructure and Innovation Act (WIFIA), King County will be able to construct a new wet-weather treatment station, with related pipes and a new outfall structure to release treated water into the Duwamish River.
King County was the first-ever recipient of a WIFIA loan, which will cover about half of the estimated $275 million cost of the Georgetown Wet Weather Station located at the corner of Fourth Avenue South and South Michigan Street and slated for completion in 2022. The treatment station will use high-rate clarification conveyance pipelines and outfall structure to treat and move combined sewer overflows before they go into the river. The station will collect and treat up to 70 million gallons of wastewater and stormwater per day—water that otherwise would overflow into the Duwamish and into Puget Sound during heavy rains, threatening both aquatic species and human health.
The project is expected to create an estimated 1,400 jobs and will provide education, job training and apprenticeship opportunities during its design, construction and operation through King County’s Priority Hire program and partnership with South Seattle College’s Georgetown Campus. Established by the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act of 2014, the EPA’s WIFIA program is a federal loan and guarantee program that aims to accelerate investment in US water infrastructure by providing long-term, low-cost supplemental loans for projects of regional and national significance. It can offer up to 49 percent of the financing for a project, which can be supplemented by state Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds (SRF) for additional financing. The loan for the Georgetown treatment station is expected to save King County up to $32 million.
Water Infrastructure Needs Massive Investment
Though it's substantial and needed, the King County loan is a drop in the bucket of funding needed to update and improve US water infrastructure. According to an EPA estimate, more than $743 billion is needed for improvements to meet drinking water and wastewater needs. The $93 million WIFIA loan appropriations will be combined with other public and private funding to eventually leverage approximately $16 billion in infrastructure needs. President Trump’s Infrastructure Plan calls for increasing the program’s funding authorization and expanding project eligibility.
Using funding provided in 2017, WIFIA’s loans will finance approximately $2 billion in infrastructure costs, including the King County loan. The EPA recently announced the availability of additional WIFIA funding that could provide as much as $5.5 billion in loans, which could leverage over $11 billion in water infrastructure projects. The EPA’s Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) for WIFIA funding stresses protecting public health, including reducing exposure to lead and other contaminants in drinking water systems and updating the nation’s aging infrastructure.
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced in May that the agency has extended the deadline to submit letters of interest for WIFIA loans until July 31, 2018. Pruitt sent a letter informing governors of all US states and territories of the extension.
For more information about the WIFIA program and the Georgetown Wet Weather Treatment Station, visit: https://www.epa.gov/wifia
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