PROVIDENCE, RI — In an effort to ensure that tap water in Rhode Island remains clean and safe to drink, U.S. Senator Jack Reed today met with local, state, and federal officials at the Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank to ensure water problems like those in Flint, Michigan don’t spout up in Rhode Island.
“Investing in clean water infrastructure must be a priority and the federal government needs to be a reliable partner when it comes to maintaining healthy, safe water in our communities. I am proud to have secured federal funding to help modernize our water infrastructure, reduce pollution, and protect public health. Unfortunately, we are seeing in Flint, Michigan what can happen when water is not properly treated and we need to ensure that doesn’t happen here in Rhode Island or elsewhere,” said Reed.
Rhode Island’s drinking water system doesn’t have problems like those now facing residents of Flint because the Rhode Island Department of Health, the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM), and organizations like Providence Water continue to take steps to keep contaminants like lead in check.
In 2014, Flint temporarily switched to using water from the Flint River for its raw drinking water supply rather than water from the Detroit municipal water system. According to news reports, it appears Flint did not treat the river water to prevent it from causing corrosion in lead pipes in the city’s water distribution system, which allowed the lead to dissolve into the drinking water, exposing Flint’s population, 40% of whom live below the poverty line, to dangerous levels of lead exposure.
A member of the Appropriations Committee, Senator Reed led efforts to include $863 million for the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund in the 2016 Omnibus Appropriations bill for communities nationwide. These funds may be used to help provide clean water and support water infrastructure modernization projects. As a result, Rhode Island should receive at least $8.8 million this year through the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund to finance water quality protection projects and enhancements and protect Rhode Islanders from varying levels of toxicity.
Despite an Obama Administration budget request that would have cut clean water funds for states by about 25%, Senator Reed led efforts to restore the funding and also secured $9.4 million for Rhode Island through the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF), for a total of $18.2 million in clean water financing for water quality protection projects and enhancements throughout the state.
“Clean water is vital for the health of our families, businesses, and communities. Water is the lifeblood of our economy and clean, potable water is essential to our quality of life. I will continue working with federal, state, and local officials to ensure all Rhode Islanders have access to safe, clean drinking water and that we protect our waters from pollution,” said Reed, who has been a vocal critic of recent Republican attempts to weaken the landmark Clean Water Act by blocking implementation of the Clean Water Rule.
The Clean Water Rule restores important safeguards to shield our water sources from pollution and contamination.
After the Republican-led House voted to void the Clean Water Rule last week, President Obama vetoed the measure this week, stating: “Pollution from upstream sources ends up in the rivers, lakes, reservoirs, and coastal waters near which most Americans live and on which they depend for their drinking water, recreation, and economic development.”
Yesterday, the Senate took a vote on a resolution to override the President’s veto and Senate Democrats successfully blocked the veto override, on a 40-52 vote. Resolutions blocking federal rules are subject to a presidential veto and require a two-thirds majority for overriding.
Rhode Islanders wishing to help residents in Flint, Michigan who have been impacted by the contaminated tap water may contact the Red Cross, which has volunteers distributing water testing kits, water filters, and bottled water at several locations.