AUGUSTA, GA (WFXG) - The U.S. Senate passed a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill earlier this week after months of negotiations. In addition to transportation, transit and broadband, the package includes $55 billion to upgrade water infrastructure. 

“I wasn’t going to let this infrastructure bill pass unless it included these resources to replace lead pipes because every single child in Augusta, every single Georgian deserves safe, healthy, clean drinking water," says Georgia Senator Jon Ossoff. "That’s why I fought so hard for this.”

Sen. Ossoff has been working to get this funding for months. In April, he wrote to Senator Tom Carper (D-DE), who serves as Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, calling for funding to replace lead pipes at public schools after Georgia was one of dozens of states to receive an "F" in a study looking at protecting students from lead in drinking waters. Later that month, the funding was secured in a bipartisan wastewater infrastructure act. 

Right now the state is reviewing which Georgia schools have lead pipes in their drinking water system. “This legislation, once the President signs it, will surge resources to the Augusta area, across the state of Georgia and nationwide," Sen. Ossoff says. "$55 billion to replace lead pipes in drinking water systems across the country.” 

According to the White House, up to 10 million American households and 400,000 schools and childcare centers lack safe drinking water. Under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, Georgia can expect to receive $913 million over the course of five years to improve water infrastructure across the state.

Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis says the city's water system is strong already, but this funding would help bolster it. “It’s going to be a real boom for the city of Augusta when these dollars start flowing back into communities," he says. “We’re continually working to address challenges to make sure that we’re providing sustainable water to all of our residents so I’m excited about it.”

Mayor Davis says the federal funding would provide an opportunity to replace some old pipes and systems in some of the city's blighted areas. "This is an opportunity for us to fix systems that are aging," he says. "We’re a city that’s 280-plus years old and so we do have some challenges around old pipes that are in the ground and this will create an opportunity for us to have federal resources that allow us to fix the challenges associated with that.”

Wes Byne is the Director of Utilities in Augusta. He says there have already been discussions about what projects would become the priority if the funding gets approved. One being the Belair Ridge area. "Probably about 1,100-1,200 residents on that ridge," he says. "We have sewer designs almost completed for the entire area and that would be a priority area and we’ve already identified Boykin Road and put it in as part of the American Rescue Plan funding.”

Byne also says they have a number of rehabilitation projects planned in the coming future. "Some out in the Rocky Creek Basin, some here and downtown towards East Augusta where we have high flows during rainfall," Byne says. "We would seek to try to identify what’s going on and go ahead and mitigate those, try to get them completely fixed, get rid of all the leaks and the old pipes, that type of thing.”

“The identified projects right now are somewhere around $45 million," Byne says. "But we could easily go out the door and start in the next six to eight to 18 months.”

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