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St. Louis And EPA Leaders Push For Federal Funding To Update City’s Water System

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U.S. Rep. Cori Bush, D-St. Louis County, left, St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones and EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan begin their walking tour of the Chain of Rocks water treatment plant on Wednesday.

St. Louis and Environmental Protection Agency officials are calling for the passage of President Joe Biden’s jobs plan to help update the city’s water treatment system to continue to provide safe drinking water.

EPA officials and regional leaders toured the Chain of Rocks water treatment facility Wednesday. Officials have identified more than $400 million in upgrades necessary to renovate the city’s water treatment system to maintain clean drinking water. Biden’s American Jobs Plan includes $111 billion in water infrastructure upgrades across the country.

“While the needed investment is large, the investment is long term and critical,” said St. Louis Public Utilities Director Curt Skouby. “These investments will not only benefit us today, but they will benefit our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.”

The city operates the Chain of Rocks and Howard Bend water treatment facilities. The majority of the water distribution system is more than 80 years old and includes 1,300 miles of water mains and 15,000 fire hydrants, Skouby said.

Upgrades could also include the removal of lead service lines that deliver water. Skouby said that the water is still safe to use and that the city’s public utilities office has never had a water quality violation. But Skouby said the city also needs water mains replaced.

The head of the EPA said updates to the system are necessary to maintain the city’s water quality.

“Water infrastructure investments are needed in the ground and neighborhoods across the city to replace water mains and remove thousands of harmful lead pipes that can contaminate drinking water,” said EPA Administrator Michael Regan. “At EPA, we’ve demonstrated how investing in water infrastructure can improve public health, close the water equity gap and create thousands of jobs.”

Regan said changes to the city’s water treatment are also necessary to protect against cyber threats and withstand climate change.

“There are parts of this facility that are over 100 years old,” Regan said. “While those parts are being well maintained and are providing good quality drinking water, as we think about the climate crisis, as we think about the stressors on our water infrastructure, there is no doubt, we need these resources.”

U.S. Rep. Cori Bush, D-St. Louis County, who toured the Chain of Rocks plant Wednesday, said the funding in the bill is necessary to further environmental justice.

“We welcome the path that the jobs plan has laid out, and we are excited to work with the administration to commit even more,” Bush said. “We need to implement the plan as quickly as possible, and we need to build on this proposal in size and in scope to emphasize even more robust focuses on climate justice.”

Follow Chad on Twitter: @iamcdavis

Chad is a general assignment reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.

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