WEST SALEM – Clean water is the most basic of human needs, said US Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse.
“If you don’t have quality water in your community, you’re not going to be able to grow your community, and people are not going to feel safe in that community,” Kind said. “People go to war over access to water.”
Kind, along with federal Environmental Protection Agency administrator Michael Regan, Gov. Tony Evers and other elected officials, gathered Wednesday at the village of West Salem’s wastewater treatment plant to discuss the economic impact of clean water and the role of state and federal governments in funding clean water projects.
The village recently updated its wastewater facility. The $ 5.7 million project was financed by a $ 7 million loan from Wisconsin’s Clean Water Fund that allowed the village to borrow at below-market interest rates. Planning for the project dates back to 2017, and construction began in 2020.
West Salem village engineer David Sauer said the updated plant, which has been serving residents since late last year, processes wastewater more efficiently and effectively. He said the removal rate of undesirable substances has increased from 90% to 99%.
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“It’s a different technology,” Sauer said. “It’s much more advanced. It has come a long way over the past decades.”
Lawmakers said funding from the recent infrastructure law signed by President Joe Biden will assist communities across Wisconsin. Kind said Wisconsin’s share is $ 147 million in the first year.
“Under President Biden’s leadership, we’re finally able to get together in a bipartisan fashion and get this done,” Kind said. “We’re going to be able to do more projects like this. There’s such a backlog of demand out there.”
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Secretary Preston Cole said the state is ready to assist communities with “shovel-ready” projects.
“That’s what we’re working on right now – how soon can we get the money out the door,” Cole said.
Regan said projects like West Salem’s protect the environment and boost the local economy. He said most of the equipment for the projects is manufactured in the United States.
“We’re creating jobs by using American-made products, and we’re increasing a our global competitiveness by bringing our rural communities into the system,” he said.
Regan said rural communities are a focus of the infrastructure law.
“We’re looking at need – which communities need these resources the most,” Regan said. “Our rural communities and our low-income communities have often been left out.”
The West Salem stop was one of two in La Crosse County. Later in the day, the tour stopped in La Crosse to promote the city’s electric bus fleet and the transition to a “zero-tailpipe emissions future.”
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