Cardin: Se­nate help­ing Bal­ti­more wa­ter up­grades

Baltimore Sun - - MARYLAND VOICES - Ben Cardin, Wash­ing­ton, D.C. The writer, a Demo­crat, rep­re­sents Mary­land in the U.S. Se­nate and is a mem­berof the Se­nate Com­mit­tee on En­vi­ron­ment and Pub­lic Works.

“Read the bill.” It’s a com­mon re­frain di­rected at law­mak­ers, but in this case, Richard J. Dou­glas (“Blame Md.’s con­gres­sional del­e­ga­tion for Bal­ti­more’s wa­ter woes,” Oct. 19) should try read­ing the Wa­ter Re­sources Devel­op­ment Act (WRDA) be­fore mak­ing un­founded ac­cu­sa­tions about what is or is not in­cluded. What would he find in the com­pre­hen­sive 600-page bill? That the Se­nate-passed lan­guage, much of it pulled di­rectly from leg­is­la­tion I au­thored, will in­deed “put sig­nif­i­cant fed­eral money into Bal­ti­more’s storm wa­ter/sewage in­fra­struc­ture.”

Side by side with Sen. Bar­bara Mikul­ski, I fought to make sure Bal­ti­more and cities like it na­tion­wide have the fi­nanc­ing they need to up­grade their sys­tems and stop dump­ing raw sewage into our rivers — rivers we use as a source of drink­ing wa­ter and to fish and swim. And yes, it will help the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay oys­ters, which sup­port our econ­omy and help clean the bay’s wa­ters, but it also makes the re­place­ment or re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion of ag­ing treat­ment, stor­age or dis­tri­bu­tion fa­cil­i­ties and pub­lic wa­ter sys­tem se­cu­rity mea­sures el­i­gi­ble for fed­eral fund­ing — ac­tiv­i­ties which, un­til now, were solely the re­spon­si­bil­ity of a city and its tax­pay­ers. Bal­ti­more cit­i­zens are be­ing asked to pay more to up­grade our sys­tem to guar­an­tee clean, safe drink­ing wa­ter which is why, through WRDA, Mary­land’s sen­a­tors have committed the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to en­hanc­ing its role in pay­ing for th­ese up­grades. The bill also re­de­fines what it means for wa­ter to be “af­ford­able” to help more poor and mid­dle-class Mary­lan­ders strug­gling to pay their bills.

It is ap­palling that Bal­ti­more City’s pub­lic schools have had their drink­ing foun­tains turned off for nearly a decade be­cause of the lead prob­lems; WRDAwill­makead­if­fer­ence. It took hard work and some sharp el­bows to keep in­tact $300 mil­lion over five years for Bal­ti­more and other cities to re­place lead pipes, along with test­ing, plan­ning, cor­ro­sion con­trol and ed­u­ca­tion about the dan­gers of lead in drink­ing wa­ter, and it also au­tho­rizes $100 mil­lion for grants to carry out a vol­un­tary pro­gram to test the wa­ter in schools and child care cen­ters.

Mr. Dou­glas’ wild arm­chair cri­tique of WRDA fails mis­er­ably in un­der­stand­ing the re­sources this bill will bring to our state. Backed by a bi­par­ti­san 95-3 mar­gin, we are mak­ing a much-needed “na­tional in­vest­ment in Bal­ti­more’s wastew­a­ter in­fra­struc­ture.”

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