STATEWIDE — The James River has a chance of looking a little cleaner after Governor Ralph Northam announced last Tuesday that Virginia plans to allocate $411.5 million to reduce water pollution and increase access to clean water across the Commonwealth.
The proposal, with allocated funds from the federal American Rescue Plan (ARP), will make substantial investments in aging water systems and improve drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater infrastructure.
According to a July 27 news release from the Office of the Governor, the announcement is part of “Investment Week,” during which the Governor and legislative leaders will highlight proposals for distributing the $4.3 billion in ARP funding available to the Commonwealth in advance of the August 2nd special session.
“With this funding, we have a tremendous opportunity to rebuild our aging water systems and ensure every Virginia family has reliable access to safe, clean drinking water,” said Governor Northam in a released statement. “In addition to modernizing water and sewer infrastructure across the Commonwealth, these investments will go a long way towards restoring the health of our waterways and reducing pollution in our communities.”
The proposal includes $186.5 million for wastewater treatment and nutrient removal, $125 million for combined sewer overflow projects in Richmond, Alexandria, and Lynchburg, and $100 million to assist water systems in small and disadvantaged communities.
“Richmond faces the largest uphill battle to curb pollution from a combined sewer system that is more than a century old,” said Bill Street, James River Association CEO in a released statement on July 28. “We urge the General Assembly to consider the needs and challenges of each CSS community in making its final funding allocations to protect public access to clean water.”
The proposals also saw approval from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, with the organization’s Virginia Branch Executive Director Peggy Sanner saying in a released statement from July 27, “With these proposals, Governor Northam has again shown his deep commitment to Virginia’s environment and to our communities. Investing in modern wastewater, stormwater, and septic-related infrastructure will ensure cleaner rivers, streams, and the Chesapeake Bay, create green jobs, and improve Virginians’ health and well- being.
These proposed investments supplement more than $300 million in ARP funding that the Commonwealth sent to towns in June and $2.3 billion made available to Virginia’s 133 counties and cities directly from the federal government to meet local response and recovery needs, which include improving access to clean drinking water and to supporting vital wastewater and stormwater infrastructure.