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A wet investment ー RI gains $47 million

Kaicie Boeglin

News Editor

On Feb. 20 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced roughly $47.5 million from President Biden's Investing in America program to go towards upgrades for Rhode Island drinking water and clean water infrastructure. The Investing in America agenda encompasses a over $50 billion investment budget for water infrastructure upgrades across the country. The agenda falls under President Biden's Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and is the largest investment of its kind in American history.

The EPA states just under half "of this funding will be available as grants or principal forgiveness loans, ensuring funds reach underserved communities most in need of investments in water infrastructure.” The Rhode Island specific funds are a part of a $5.8 billion investment through the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds (SRF), an EPA's signature water investment program.

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Inadequate stormwater infrastructure has been seen across Rhode Island as evident by the mass flooding during the past month. Rhode Island College students have struggled with inadequate infrastructure within the buildings on campus; recently Penfield Residence Hall has been the most affected. Students have suffered sleepless nights and spent a fortune on dry cleaning. Grants provided by this new investment could help the college upgrade on flood prevention.

The Ocean State has 400 miles of coastline. When coastline is ratioed to acre of land, Rhode Island becomes the second state with the most coastline. In the event of heavy rainfall flooding is guaranteed but upgraded infrastructure will protect the state’s mini islands, big and local businesses as well as the individuals needing to drive through the flooding.

The recent investment is projected to reevaluate flood prevention and drainage areas but also vital clean water infrastructure to lead to safer drinking water. "Safe drinking and wastewater systems are essential to good health and the wellbeing of our environment," said U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse. "Rhode Island is able to make these kinds of generational investments in water infrastructure because of our Bipartisan Infrastructure Law." 

EPA Regional Administrator David W. Cash said "every person, every child deserves safe and clean drinking water; and together with our state and local partners, we are financing upgrades to wastewater treatment plants, replacing old and aging water mains, and developing new filtration sites to remove contaminants from drinking water to make that a reality."

Since 2010, water has been explicitly recognized as a human right. This came after the United Nations General Assembly deemed, "Everyone has the right to sufficient, continuous, safe, acceptable, physically accessible and affordable water for personal and domestic use."

The Rhode Island PFAS in Drinking Water, Groundwater, and Surface Waters Act requires public water systems in the state to regularly sample for per- and polyfluorinated substances ー otherwise known as PFAS. According to the Rhode Island Department of Health RIDOH "When people are exposed, PFAS can build up in the body. The amount of PFAS in the body can increase to the point where it can harm health. Studies have shown certain PFAS can cause negative health effects, including higher cholesterol levels, lower infant birth weights, weakened immune response and increased risk of some cancers, including kidney cancer."

Safe and readily available water is the key to sustaining residential public health. Increased water sanitation and better management of water resources will manifest economic growth and unitary happiness. 


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