EPA announces $168M for Peninsula, East Bay water infrastructure projects

Funding will help improve public health and boost economy, officials say

By Jana Kadah

Bay City News Foundation

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan in Redwood City on Tuesday announced three water infrastructure loans that would invest $168 million for projects in the Peninsula and East Bay.

Loans from the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act are intended to upgrade infrastructure throughout the nation so water is safe to drink and processed sustainably.

“I’ve seen firsthand the urgency of modernizing our nation’s water infrastructure and ensuring that it can withstand the impacts of climate change,” Regan said. “Investing in our water infrastructure is one of the best decisions we can make to improve the health of our communities, and the health of our economy.”

Two of the loans are allocated to Silicon Valley Clean Water, a joint powers authority that recycles and treats wastewater from 220,000 residents and businesses in southern San Mateo County.

The newest loans, totaling $143 million, will help finance the Regional Environmental Sewer Conveyance Upgrade program, consisting of 11 projects for replacing and rehabilitating SVCW’s conveyance system, including the Gravity Pipeline Project, among other improvements to its treatment plant.

“This is a tremendous project for our residents,” said Silicon Valley Clean Water commission chair Alicia Aguirre.

Aguirre said the project will ensure that residents have clean water that is recycled and will not have to overpay in fees.

“That’s why loans like this are so important, because now we have a state-of-the-art infrastructure (to save costs),” Aguirre said.

“What’s most exciting for me is the jobs that it brings with and assistance to the economy … especially during COVID,” said Teresa Herrera, manager at Silicon Valley Clean Water. “That and the sustainability and innovative technologies that we use.”

Improvements to the treatment facility, which was built in 1980, will create more than 2,300 jobs. The project is expected to be completed by 2023.

The remaining loan of $25 million goes to the Oro Loma Sanitary District in Alameda County to help finance upgrades to the sewer collection system.

About 273 miles of decaying clay pipes built in the 1940s and 1950s will be reconstructed with the WIFIA loans.

“We’re really excited,” said Oro Loma board president Rita Duncan. “But the other great thing is we serve one of the underprivileged communities, so it was really wonderful to be getting this money to help our community.”

Regan said this latest round of WIFIA loans is an example of what’s to come if the infrastructure bill being considered by Congress is passed by the House of Representatives.

Under the Senate’s approved version of the bill, the EPA is poised to get $50 billion to accelerate progress on “much needed water infrastructure improvements,” including for lead service lines and lead pipes, and to improve drinking water, wastewater and stormwater infrastructure cross America, Regan said.

“Importantly, we will also be able to create good paying jobs and support the foundation for future economic vitality for all of our communities,” Regan said.

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