Bustos-led effort results in preliminary approval of $4 million in federally funded assistance for lead service line replacement in Galesburg

City of Galesburg working on finalizing their application for funding through Drinking Water State Revolving Fund

WASHINGTON – Today, Congresswoman Cheri Bustos announced that the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) has given preliminary approval for the City of Galesburg to receive up to $4 million in forgivable loans from the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, which receives its source funding from the Federal Government.

When Bustos first spoke with City officials, she urged them to begin the process of applying for these funds. Many officials expressed legitimate concerns about the potential impact a loan could have on the City’s budget, so Bustos reached out to the IEPA to discuss the possibility of providing forgivable loans. In response to her request, IEPA officials agreed to conduct a financial analysis of the City of Galesburg to determine whether these loans could be forgiven. Two weeks ago, in a conference call between Bustos and Galesburg City officials, Mayor John Pritchard confirmed that the city would move ahead with the IEPA’s financial analysis to determine loan forgivability.

And by working in partnership toward this shared goal, today the city of Galesburg has the opportunity to secure $4 million in funding to replace lead service lines in the community. Once the city completes their application and receives formal approval from the IEPA, they will receive these funds so we can get to work on a long-term solution to reduce lead content levels in the affected homes.

“All communities face challenges, but what makes a community great is whether its leaders are willing to work together to solve problems,” said Congresswoman Cheri Bustos. “That’s why I’m so proud to have helped the City of Galesburg receive preliminary approval for up to $4 million in federally funded assistance to replace lead service lines. Since the start, my focus has been on reducing lead exposure from all sources, including lead service lines. Once the city receives final approval, these funds will go a long way toward addressing this challenge. Our work isn't finished, but I'm very pleased that the City was open to our suggestion to do a financial analysis with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency so we can deliver these federal dollars to Galesburg. I look forward to the City completing their formal application so that we can start breaking ground to replace lead service lines across the community.”

Bustos also spoke on the floor of the House today to announce this news:

Background:

On April 13th, Bustos wrote an op-ed in the Galesburg Register-Mail where she urged the city to apply for low interest, and potentially forgivable, loans through the Safe Drinking Water State Revolving Fund.

“I joined nearly 100 members of Congress in requesting $2 billion in next year's budget for a program called the Safe Drinking Water Revolving Fund. This program provides extremely low interest rate loans to cities to help them replace lead pipes or other critically important water infrastructure materials. While members of Congress cannot direct spending to their district because of the ban on earmarks, I can fight for critically important federal programs and then work to connect stakeholders in our communities to federal resources like this. I have urged the city to apply for assistance through this program.”

In response to concerns from the city about the cost associated with these loans, Bustos contacted the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency to seek their assistance in determining whether the loans could be forgiven. In an April 22 letter from Bustos to Mayor Pritchard, Bustos informed the City that the IEPA could determine forgivability if they were able to conduct a financial analysis of the city:

“Third, when we met on Friday, April 8, 2016, I urged you to begin the process of applying for low interest federally funded loans through the Safe Drinking Water State Revolving Fund. I understand your financial concern centers around whether these loans could potentially be forgiven. To determine whether the loans can be forgiven, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency must conduct a financial analysis of the city. This can be done, and they have offered to do so, before the City of Galesburg would need to make a formal application for these funds. As we continue working together to develop a long-term solution, I believe this is a logical next step so that the city is in position to take advantage of this potential opportunity.”

In a May 4 article in the Galesburg Register-Mail, it was confirmed that the City was moving ahead with the IEPA financial analysis to determine whether the loans could be forgiven, and at what level.

Bustos, D-East Moline, held a conference call with local officials this week about other federal resources and programs that can help the city and health department tackle the lead issue in Galesburg and Knox County.

“I think it was pretty well received,” Bustos said. “They gave me assurances just yesterday that they are beginning the paperwork so we can process whether Galesburg would be eligible for not only low-interest loans or no-interest loans but for forgivable grants and loans.”

Mayor John Pritchard said the city has started to apply for a number of grants and loans through various agencies to abate lead in paint and dust as well as in the drinking water in residents’ homes.

“That’s particularly what we’re interested in and we’re looking at options for both (water and paint),” Pritchard said.

The congresswoman has urged the city to consider a federal loan to replace lead service lines for weeks and on Wednesday Bustos also said loans and grants through agencies like the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development could be used to abate lead in the home environment in lead dust and paint. Bustos said it was part of a packet provided to the city last month.

The City of Galesburg previously estimated that it would cost about $10 million to replace the estimated 4,700 lead service lines in the city.

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