On Wednesday March 31 President Biden announced his American Jobs Plan, a $2 trillion domestic investment package that will “create millions of good jobs, rebuild our country’s infrastructure, and position the United States to out-compete China.”

Access to clean, safe and affordable water is a basic human right; but it is a right too often neglected by aging infrastructure. Aging infrastructure threatens our lakes, our streams, and Puget Sound. By strengthening water infrastructure, communities will be able to better protect themselves and their water from the worsening impacts of climate change.   

Puget Soundkeeper is excited that the American Jobs Plan includes $56 billion in grants and low-cost flexible loans to states, Tribes, territories, and disadvantaged communities across the country to upgrade and modernize drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater systems, to tackle new contaminants, and support clean water infrastructure across rural America. 

Soundkeeper is hopeful that the Plan will be a vehicle for much needed clean water infrastructure investments throughout Puget Sound. Targeted investments in wastewater and stormwater infrastructure in our region could help address some of the worst pollution vectors to Puget Sound, improving water quality and advancing local goals to recover Orca and salmon. 

Our municipal sewage treatment plants are causing or contributing to pollution problems in Puget Sound. Some sewage treatment plants discharge excessive amounts of nutrients as well as pharmaceuticals and toxic chemicals to the Sound. Outdated plants and plants violating water quality standards should be upgraded to advanced treatment technologies to stop these problems. As we noted in our February 26th blog, “the biggest challenge will be the cost of these necessary infrastructure upgrades at larger plants.”

Furthermore, stormwater remains the number once source of toxic pollution to Puget Sound. While most municipalities are required by Washington’s Municipal General Stormwater Permit to address discharges from new development, new construction and reconstruction, Washington’s current regulatory framework does little to control pollution from existing development. Many of our cities are already built out. To effectively control stormwater pollution, municipal investments in structural stormwater retrofits – infrastructure to treat or control runoff from existing paved surfaces – will be needed throughout the Sound.

National leadership should support critical clean water infrastructure funding, like that in the American Jobs Plan, to help tackle the pollution problems in Puget Sound.