Minnesota’s 4th Congressional district, represented by House Appropriations Interior and Environment Subcommittee Ranking Member Betty McCollum and covering Ramsey and Washington counties in the eastern part of the State, includes its share of both small rural towns and sizable cities, all of which suffer from aging and decrepit water infrastructure in critical need of federal funds for modernization.
Rural towns in Washington County such as Afton, for example, are desperate for these funds. Afton, with a population of less than 3,000, is too small to have its own municipal sewer system, so the roughly 100 homes and businesses in the city’s Old Village rely on private septic systems that pose a serious pollution threat. The pollution comes from sewage drain fields that run into a levy along the St. Croix River; when those drain fields flood during heavy rain, the drain fields are overwhelmed with water, causing sewage to flow into the St. Croix. Afton Mayor Richard Bend was recently quoted by local reporter Tim Blotz as saying, “In hot weather, in the summer, what we have instead of beautiful clear water is algae growth and algae bloom as a result of pollution.” Afton is one of many small towns in the rural parts of the 4th district, and one of hundreds of such towns all over the State, with tax bases so small that they struggle to find money to repair or replace their decrepit wastewater, stormwater and drinking water systems. Afton is hoping for State assistance toward the more than $4 million cost of building its own municipal sewer collection system but federal funds would guarantee that project’s completion.
And Minnesota’s cities, including those like St. Paul in the 4th district, are also in dire need. Eighty three percent of the sewers in the Twin Cities, for example, were built more than 50 years ago. And many Minnesota cities, including Roseville in the 4th district, are confronted with the need to spend millions of dollars on replacing aging water meters that are no longer reliable or accurate. About 1,000 residents of Roseville recently discovered that their meters had for years been failing to accurately record their water usage; when the problem was detected, consumers were faced with huge bills that they did not expect. Cities across Minnesota have requested help from the State with 564 water projects estimated to cost up to $1.8 billion during the next five years, and residents of cities like St. Paul have seen water bills increase significantly in recent years to help pay for replacing 100-year old pipes.
Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton recently unveiled a plan to spend $220 million to modernize the State’s aging water systems, but his plan will need legislative approval, and this money would merely scratch the surface of what is needed to repair and replace long outdated water systems. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency recently released a report noting that local governments identified the need for more than 1,350 wastewater infrastructure projects, costing $4.2 billion. The EPA’s periodic Needs Survey and Assessment estimates water infrastructure project needs of more than $11 billion for Minnesota over the next two decades.
Minnesota, in its 4th district and beyond, needs federal funds to help its cities and towns repair and replace their crumbling water infrastructure, and Congressman McCollum must do her part as Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Interior and Environment Subcommittee to push for increasing State Revolving Fund appropriations to help meet these needs.