August 14, 2008 / 5:49 PM / in 9 years

NY needs $50 billion of clean water investments: government

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York state will have to spend more than $50 billion over the next 20 years to protect its water supply to fulfill requirements the federal government is imposing without funding, Gov. David Paterson said on Thursday.

A new task force, co-chaired by environmentalist Robert F. Kennedy, Jr, has been charged with crafting a plan to raise the money that will be needed, the Democratic governor said in a statement.

Paterson has previously urged Washington to reinvigorate the national economy with new public works projects.

The task force’s other co-chair, Ross Pepe, is the executive director of the Construction Industry Council and Builders Contractors Association.

The construction industry as well as Wall Street banks and overseas developers eager to persuade state and city governments that public-private partnerships are appealing ways to fund infrastructure, also all have big stakes in the issue.

New York’s waste water treatment plants will need more than $36 billion of repairs, while drinking water systems could need over $20 billion, Paterson estimated, blaming Washington for cutting federal aid by 70 percent over the past two decades.

This has delayed needed maintenance, causing hundreds of sewage and waste water treatment plants to deteriorate, and triggered violations of the Clean Water Act, Paterson said.

“This has been ignored for too long; water quality, public health and municipal finances are all at risk,” the governor said.

New York’s governor is not alone in pushing Washington for more dollars. Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, the newly-elected president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, said in interview on Wednesday that the group will issue a report that shows the positive economic impact of water and sewer investments.

The conference will present the next U.S. president with its findings and recommendations on infrastructure and other topics during the first 100 days of the new administration.

The mayors’ report says that every $1 spent on public water and sewer infrastructure investment increases gross domestic product by $6.35, through things such as job creation and the supplies that go into the construction.

The study also cites U.S. Department of Commerce estimates that adding one new job in water and sewer infrastructure creates 3.68 jobs in the national economy to support that job.

Reporting by Joan Gralla and Martha Graybow; editing by Gary Crosse

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