WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., and U.S. Representative Gregg Harper, R-Miss., today announced that their bipartisan legislation to help rural and small communities comply with federal “safe drinking water” regulations has been signed into law by President Obama.
Wicker and Heitkamp introduced the bill, titled the “Grassroots Rural and Small Community Water Systems Assistance Act,” S. 611, in February of this year. It received final Senate passage in June and was approved by the House in November.
“More than 90 percent of the drinking water supplied in our country comes from small and rural communities, many of which lack the resources to meet revised EPA safe drinking water standards,” Wicker said. “In order for these areas to comply with federal regulations, they need greater access to critical assistance and training programs. I am pleased that Sen. Heitkamp, Rep. Harper, and I were able to work together on a bill that helps guarantee that the nation’s rural areas will be able to provide safe, clean water for their citizens.”
“Having grown up in a small town like Matador, I know how important linking rural communities across North Dakota to vital lifelines like safe, reliable drinking water is,” said Heitkamp. “Today we are helping make that goal feasible, as the President signed the bipartisan bill I introduced with Senator Wicker to make sure families and businesses in small and rural communities have the latest technology and the training to access clean drinking water. Every farming and rural town across our state needed access to essential resources like clean drinking water to keep our statewide community connected and safe.”
S. 611 is the Senate companion to H.R. 2853 – a bill introduced subsequently in the House by Environment and the Economy Subcommittee Vice Chairman Gregg Harper, R-Miss. – that will help to alleviate the financial burden that the Environment Protection Agency’s (EPA) drinking water regulations have placed on small and rural drinking water supply systems.
“It is an exciting day for rural communities and small municipalities throughout Mississippi and across the United States,” said Harper. “This bill provides smaller communities with the necessary resources to ensure that they will continue to have safe and clean drinking water. I commend the hard work by Senators Roger Wicker and Heidi Heitkamp, as well as my House colleagues, Chairman Fred Upton, Reps. John Shimkus and Paul Tonko in helping to get this legislation signed into law.”
The legislation improves and reauthorizes the “Safe Drinking Water Act” (SDWA) program, which provides technical assistance and training provisions for $15 million per year over the next six years – the same as was previously authorized – to assist small and rural public water systems in complying with National Primary Drinking Water Regulations. The last authorization of the bill expired in 2004.