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September 23, 2013

Officials wary of state aid for water infrastructure

BOSTON — The Patrick administration would support adding additional spending to its $911 million, five-year environmental bond bill to repair aging water infrastructure systems, but likely could not accommodate the full $2 billion request being made by some lawmakers, a top Patrick administration official says.

Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Richard Sullivan said the “water cluster” has the potential to be a great source of economic development in Massachusetts, including jobs that will come from repairing and replacing water infrastructure systems and research and development around water, delivery, filtration and security.

“We are supportive, but the questions are around how big that number can be, how fast we can address the need which is there and how it fits into our bond cap,” Sullivan told the News Service.

Asked specifically about Rep. Carolyn Dykema’s proposal to authorize $2 billion in borrowing over the next 10 years, Sullivan said, “We probably can’t fit that much that fast.”

Dykema, who chaired a commission with Sen. Jamie Eldridge that identified a $21.4 billion long-term funding gap for drinking and clean water investments, called water the “forgotten infrastructure” as she highlighted major cost and safety concerns around the state from Worcester to Cape Cod.

Among the communities that continues to advance a large-scale water infrastructure is Gloucester, which carried out $2.5 million water pipe project this last summer to ease the flow of drinking water beneath the Annisquam River near Gloucester High School and the city’s Essex Avenue water treatment plant.

The installation of new 1,200-foot PVC, or polyvinyl chloride pipeline, is designed to resolve some of Gloucester’s notorious longtime water problems, and provide a measure of safety against further water man breaks along Stacy and Boulevard and elsewhere once the new line is in full service beginning next month.

“Water (infrastructure) has been deferred to another day, but today is another day,” Dykema said.

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