The Mass. Legislature has pass final legislation that combines reform with increased commitments to improve existing partnerships with cities and towns, grow municipal options while incentivizing best management practices and responsibly address water and wastewater infrastructure challenges in the Commonwealth.
“In Massachusetts, we remain dedicated to addressing the water and wastewater infrastructure challenges affecting our communities,” Senate President Therese Murray (D-Plymouth) said. “A commitment to improving our water is a commitment to improving our economic strengths, and through this legislation, we are taking the first steps to ensure that our future is not limited by our access to clean drinking water.”
“As Speaker and representative of a coastal community, I’m keenly aware of the burden cities and towns have of in disposing wastewater,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D-Winthrop). “I thank Senate President and my colleagues for helping to develop legislation that builds on the strides we have made in the area of clean water in recent years, including strengthening the Massachusetts Clean Water Trust. Measures, such as improving the process for towns handling of wastewater, and providing aid to those seeking to join the Massachusetts Water Resource Authority, and others, will help keep our waters clean in a responsible, efficient manner while putting resources into water technology innovation will place Massachusetts at the cutting edge of such technology and create jobs.“
“Clean water is a precious commodity,” said Representative Anne Gobi (D-Spencer), Chair of the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture. “This bill helps to strengthen important partnerships with our towns to make sure that water is delivered safely and waste is dealt with effectively while instituting new technologies and approaches for more cost effective water infrastructure.”
The bill significantly expands the spending capacity of the Massachusetts Clean Water Trust, formerly the Water Pollution Abatement Trust, with an increase from $88 million to $138 million and imposes a spending floor of 80 percent. To allow for more flexibility, the bill creates a sliding scale interest rate from 0 to 2 percent and establishes a principal forgiveness program for qualifying projects.
The Massachusetts Clean Water Trust currently holds a “AAA” rating from Moody’s, Fitch and Standard & Poor’s and is the only statewide municipal bond issuer to maintain a “AAA” from all three major rating agencies.
The bill also creates and allocates $3 million to a technical assistance program to be used for the development of asset management plans and to identify green infrastructure opportunities in the Commonwealth. Additionally, the legislation provides $1.5 million for a water technology innovation grant program administered by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center to promote the water technology industry in Massachusetts.
To aid coastal towns in developing alternative wastewater disposal options, the bill amends the Ocean Sanctuaries Act to create an approval process through DEP for discharging municipally treated wastewater into ocean sanctuaries.
The bill also does the following:
Gives the Public-Private Partnership Oversight Commission authority to assist in evaluating proposal for public-private partnerships received by cities and towns;
Simplifies the regulatory burden of complying with Title V
Encourages regional projects by allowing public entities to jointly apply for planning grants to develop water pollution abatement plans;
Requires DEP to disseminate regulations requiring interruption devices on newly installed or renovated irrigation systems; and
Requires the Massachusetts Clean Water Trust to consult with the Division of Local Services to establish and publish guidelines for best management practices in water management.
The bill now goes to the Governor for his final approval.