Bill from Rep. Darin LaHood could help offset cost of Peoria CSO fixes
PEORIA — Peoria, and other cities with combined sewer overflow problems, could get a bigger slice of federal funding to help fix those issues under legislation introduced Wednesday by U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood.
The Peoria Republican, partnering with Massachusetts Rep. Lori Trahan, a Democrat, is calling for an expansion of a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency program that gives federal grants to communities trying to address those issues.
“It’s been frustrating to watch it unfold,” LaHood said by phone from Capitol Hill about first the EPA’s mandate that Peoria fix its combined sewer overflow problem and then of the costs city leaders have had to pass along to property owners to fund those fixes.
That burden fell disproportionately on business owners, he said, given their larger properties and greater amounts of impermeable space for which they are charged a fee by the city that funds the implementation of a green solution for the overflows.
“This legislation will not only help ease the financial burden placed on communities like Peoria who are working to solve CSO issues, but it will also open up more avenues to resources and cost-sharing opportunities as projects move forward,” Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis said in a prepared statement. “I applaud Rep. LaHood and Rep. Trahan on their bipartisan approach to help communities like Peoria who are working to navigate solutions to improve CSO systems while keeping the local taxpayer in mind.”
LaHood said they’ve started to sign on co-sponsors to the Stop Sewage Overflow Act, with an aim of being geographically diverse and bipartisan, and hope to have a committee hearing set on the measure soon.
Lowell, Mass., through which the Merrimack and Concord rivers flow, has similar issues, LaHood said. When he and Trahan discussed the measure, they agreed it was a natural fit for both communities.
“If it’s enacted into law, I think Peoria will benefit from the grant process,” he said.
The measure would both increase to $500 million the annual pool of money available for grants to communities implementing solutions and extend the program through 2030. It would prioritize communities that have more sewage overflows.