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DHS news release

March 1, 2006


Contact: Jim Sellers (503) 945-5738
Technical contacts: Dave Leland, DHS (971) 673-0415
Del L. Little, OECDD, (503) 986-0125


Safe Drinking Water Loan brings more than $100 million into Oregon




An effective federal and state partnership has reached a milestone--the distribution of more than $100 million in loan funds for water system upgrades to about 60 communities across the state.


"This partnership has already benefited nearly 210,000 Oregonians by helping their public water suppliers maintain safe drinking water standards," said Susan Allan, M.D., state public health director in the Oregon Department of Human Services. "These communities could not have made these required improvements without this assistance."


Today, state and local officials marked the $100 million milestone with a briefing and tour of improvements made to the City of Woodburn's three water treatment plants using $4 million in loan funds.


"Providing healthy and good-tasting water to Oregon communities is an example of something that government should be doing and is doing well," said Woodburn Mayor Kathy Figley. "I think that is ample cause for celebration."


The partnership is the Safe Drinking​ Water Revolving Loan Fund. Authorized by Congress in 1996, it had made more than $6.5 billion available nationwide through 2004. DHS administers Oregon's share of the federal dollars through a partnership with the Oregon Economic and Community Development Department (OECDD).


Allan said complexity of loan projects varies. Examples include installing new or improved water treatment plants, constructing new wells and storage tanks and replacing miles of pipeline. Whether large or small, the improvements bring the water treatment plant into compliance with federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) drinking water quality standards.


"Our success is based on the specific expertise both we and DHS bring to the program," said W. Tom Nelson, finance officer at OECDD. "Working together, we make low-interest loans to water systems throughout the state, helping improve drinking water safety and bringing money into the community."


OECDD provides 20 percent in state matching funds and awards and manages the loans. Community water suppliers submit water improvement applications to DHS, where a priority list is developed.

 

Oregon's loan fund, available to all water systems in the state, is currently capped at $125 million. As funds are repaid, additional loans are made to other communities. Every year, Oregon applies to the EPA for its annual allotment of loan funds. Congress has routinely reauthorized the loan fund, because it has been such a successful program nationwide, according to Allan.