INDIANAPOLIS – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says Indiana will receive $127 million to improve the state’s water infrastructure.
The funding is allocated by the bipartisan infrastructure law, which was signed by President Biden last month.
Water infrastructure has been on the minds of some Indiana lawmakers for a while. The needed improvements in the Hoosier State total billions of dollars, a task force created by the Indiana General Assembly found earlier this year.
“In some corners of our state, we’re still transporting water to homes in wood lines and old infrastructure,” said State Sen. Andy Zay (R-Huntington).
And experts say the needs are different in each community.
“When there’s dozens and dozens of individual utilities, it’s just not a homogenous approach to maintenance, and the resources available to utilities vary widely,” said Sally Letsinger, associate research scientist in the geography department at Indiana University.
According to the EPA, the federal funds will be used for projects that replace or upgrade aging pipes and equipment and prevent lead and PFAS contamination.
“With our infrastructure being so old, there are areas out there that still have lead pipes,” said Brian Neilson, executive board member for the White River Alliance, calling the new funds “exciting” for Indiana.
Still, state lawmakers say there’s a lot more work that needs to be done aside from what this law will fund.
Earlier this year, the state legislature’s Task Force on Wastewater Infrastructure Investment and Service to Underserved Areas examined water infrastructure, making several recommendations to raise the funds needed and address other issues.
“A more realistic look at rates,” explained State Sen. Eric Koch (R-Bedford). “Also, whether for certain systems, different ways of operating that might include service-sharing or partnerships.”
“We don’t have enough expertise and employees across the state of Indiana to manage our wastewater plants,” said State Sen. Fady Qaddoura (D-Indianapolis).
Koch and Qaddoura said they plan to introduce legislation to address some of these issues next session. But they acknowledge they will have to wait until the budget is rewritten in 2023 to propose additional state funding.
EPA Administrator Michael Regan said he sent a letter to Gov. Eric Holcomb asking him to make sure underserved communities get priority for the funds.
We’ve reached out to the governor’s office for a response and are waiting to hear back.