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Delaware lawmakers weigh capital funding for water quality issues in FY 2020 budget

Tom Byrne
Delaware Public Media

Water quality in the First State took center stage at the Delaware Department of Natural Resources’ capital budget hearing yesterday Thursday.

DNREC is asking the Bond Bill committee for nearly $27.7 million in capital funding for Fiscal Year 2020.

That includes $5 million for clean water infrastructure projects, along with wastewater and stormwater initiatives. Federal dollars match the state funding and Delaware Health and Social Services’ budget also includes $5 million.

But Senate Majority Whip Bryan Townsend (D-Newark) said his clean water task force, co-chaired with retired State Rep. Mike Mulrooney, found the state needed to spend at least $100 million dollars a year to address water quality needs.

“I’m troubled by an apparent inability or unwillingness to even acknowledge you know what many other experts stakeholders in the state have said which is a glaring and critical water infrastructure crisis,” he said.

DNREC Secretary Shawn Garvin acknowledges hundreds of millions of dollars in infrastructure work is needed.

Townsend said he’s interested in reviving Mulrooney’s legislation creating a clean water trust fund.

“There’s nothing to be said at this point frankly is putting heads in the sand and acting like infrastructure just invents itself," he said. "You want a strong economy, you have to have strong infrastructure to do that, it takes expenditures to do that. You gotta step up.”

Revenue bills must start in the House. Mulrooney’s legislation, which included a tax to pay for infrastructure projects, failed to make it out of committee.

A completed statewide needs assessment of the wastewater and drinking water quality is expected by the end of the year. Garvin said they’ve identified 91 low-income communities with inadequate wastewater or drinking water facilities.

They plan to start with a pilot program targeting 3-to-5 of those high need communities.

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