June 18, 2018
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Replenishing water fund is good for environment, public safety

Mario Moretto | BDN
Mario Moretto | BDN
Dave Hardy, project inspector for Portland engineering firm Woodard & Curran (left) and Ellsworth Wastewater Superintendent Mike Harris look over an aeration tank at Ellsworth's new wastewater treatment plant in July 2012.


Question 5: Do you favor a $7,925,000 bond issue to be expended over two years for revolving loan funds for drinking water systems and for wastewater treatment facilities, which will make the state eligible to secure $39,625,000 in federal grants?

Approval of Question 5 would provide bridge funding for badly needed upgrades and required maintenance on local drinking and wastewater systems in Maine, some of which have pipes and components that have been in use for more than a century.

A little more than $3.5 million of the Question 5 bond money would go to drinking water facilities, with the balance dedicated to anti-pollution measures and wastewater treatment system upgrades.

Passage of Question 5 would yield a 5-to-1 return in federal dollars on Maine’s expenditure to replenish the Drinking Water State Revolving Loan Fund, which was established in 1997 as a financing tool to minimize the effect on ratepayers of public water system capital projects, and a similar Clean Water Revolving Loan Fund created in 1987 for wastewater treatment. Even for those with reservations about government bonding, the deal is too good to pass up.

This bond should be the last time for the foreseeable future that Maine voters will have to decide whether to borrow to provide funding for the revolving loan funds. In 2011, the Legislature approved a proposal to tap revenue from the state’s wholesale liquor contract to pay the state match for federal water system improvement funding between 2014 and 2023.

Replenishing the revolving loan funds represents an investment in public safety. The funds allow municipalities and water districts to plan major maintenance work and avoid delays that increase the risk of service disruption or system failures requiring expensive, emergency repairs.

The system upgrade projects also create construction jobs and add protections against contamination of shellfish flats downriver from wastewater treatment plants.

Voting yes on Question 5 will yield economic, environmental and public safety benefits throughout Maine.

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