During an event last Friday, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Assistant Administrator for Water, Radhika Fox, announced a $477 million Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) loan to the Hampton Roads Sanitation District (HRSD). This loan is the second installment of a total of $1 billion in WIFIA assistance for HRSD. The WIFIA funding will help retire an 80-year-old wastewater treatment plant in Newport News and replenish groundwater supplies that are threatened by sea level rise. This is HRSD’s second WIFIA loan to benefit the Newport News community. This $477 million dollar low-interest loan will be used to build the infrastructure necessary to allow HRSD to close the Boat Harbor Treatment Plant in the city. The Treatment Plant has served the region for nearly eight decades, but has reached the end of its useful life. Funding will support HRSD’s Sustainable Water Infrastructure for Tomorrow (SWIFT) Program, which includes more than 20 projects across the Hampton Roads service area to upgrade existing treatment works and build full-scale SWIFT facilities. These sites will ultimately replenish the overdrawn Potomac Aquifer with water treated to meet drinking water standards. By replenishing the Potomac Aquifer, the program will foster climate resilience by restoring water supplies, preventing saltwater intrusion, and mitigating land subsidence for the 1.7 million residents served by the water system. The program will also improve the water quality of the Chesapeake Bay by reducing 90% of HRSD’s wastewater discharges to the watershed. EPA has committed $1 billion over ten years to fund nearly half of the $2 billion SWIFT Program through a WIFIA master agreement. This arrangement with EPA provides HRSD quick access to long-term, committed financing at extremely attractive terms, enabling HRSD to implement the ambitious SWIFT Program at the lowest cost possible to ratepayers. The remaining project costs will be funded by State Revolving Fund funds through a similar upfront commitment as well as borrower cash. For this second portion of the master agreement, HRSD is expected to save approximately $210 million in interest costs through its WIFIA loan. The project will decommission a wastewater treatment facility in Newport News and improve local environmental conditions, including reducing odors. Construction for projects in the second part of the master agreement will occur between 2021-2029, with construction and operation expected to create an estimated 4,480 jobs. For more information on the SWIFT program, visit www.hrsd.com/swift.
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