Bill introduced to provide stable funding for vital wastewater infrastructure upgrades

Posted: February 15, 2019 | Energy, Utilities and Technology, Senator Vitelli

AUGUSTA — A bill introduced by Rep. Jen Dechant, D-Bath, and now being steered by Sen. Eloise Vitelli, D-Arrowsic, to ensure a stable funding source for vital water and wastewater infrastructure upkeep and upgrades had a public hearing before the Legislature’s Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee on Thursday.

“While the poor standards of Maine’s transportation infrastructure is well-known and visible to most anyone, the deteriorating condition of our water and wastewater infrastructure is less obvious and apparent to most of us,” said Sen. Vitelli. “Well-managed, up-to-date, and functional water and wastewater infrastructure is expensive, but it is also vitally necessary not only for Mainers’ daily lives, but for the health and wellbeing of our environment.”

The bill — LD 347 “An Act To Provide Sustainable Funding for Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure” — would deposit funds equal to the sales tax on the types of products that water and wastewater systems must process out to ensure Maine has a clean and healthy water supply: non-prescription drugs, fertilizers, residential pesticides, polishes, cleaning products, disposable diapers, and flushable wipes into the State Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Fund to finance repairs and upgrades to Maine water and wastewater systems.

According to Leonard Blanchette, General Manager of Brunswick Sewer District and Government Affairs Committee member of the Maine Water Environment Association, more than $1 billion is currently needed for wastewater infrastructure upgrades and repairs in Maine.

This number will only climb as water districts, particularly in coastal areas, work to prepare for the impacts of climate change. Additionally, rural areas that have lost much of their tax base in recent years due to mill closures do not have a customer base that can finance projects through rate increases alone. The funds available through LD 347 are a vital need for these areas.

“This bill is a high priority for us,” said Jerry Reid, Commissioner of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. “Maintaining the high quality of Maine’s water is essential to the ‘Maine brand,’ our quality of life, a healthy environment, and a strong economy.”

The Maine Department of Health and Human Services, Maine Public Advocate, Sanford Sewerage District, York Sewer District, Kennebec Water District, Town of Jay, Maine Water Environment Association, Maine Rural Water Association, and Maine Water Utilities Association also testified in favor of LD 347.

The Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee will take initial votes on LD 347 in the coming weeks.