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The Biden Administration Launches USDA-EPA Partnership to Provide Wastewater Sanitation to Underserved Communities

Jamie Welchjaro
Release Date

Historic Funding from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Will Help Communities in West Virginia Make Progress to Address Lack of Basic Wastewater Infrastructure

MORGANTOWN, W. Va., Aug. 2, 2022 – Today, at an event in Lowndes County, Alabama, where a significant number of residents lack access to wastewater infrastructure, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the Closing America’s Wastewater Access Gap Community Initiative. The new initiative will be piloted in 11 communities across the country where residents lack basic wastewater management that is essential to protecting their health and the environment. EPA and USDA will jointly leverage technical assistance resources to help historically underserved communities identify and pursue federal funding opportunities – including from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law – to address their wastewater needs and eliminate harmful exposure to backyard sewage.

In West Virginia, McDowell and Raleigh Counties are included in the pilot.

“Under the leadership of the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA believes hardworking people in America’s small towns and rural communities should have the infrastructure they need to be healthy and to provide for their families. We recognize that there are still people who have been going without the basics,” said Agriculture Secretary Vilsack. “Access to modern, reliable wastewater infrastructure is a necessity, and the Biden-Harris Administration is committed to doing everything we can to ensure every family and every child in America has access to these vital services. By combining USDA and EPA resources and taking advantage of the historic Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we can restore to these communities a sense of economic vitality and social dignity that the people living there deserve.”

“The America that we all believe in is a land of opportunity. But, for historically marginalized communities from Alabama to Alaska, that opportunity is stolen when basic sanitation doesn’t work—exposing adults and children to backyard sewage and disease,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “By partnering with USDA and leveraging funding through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, EPA is working to restore dignity and opportunity to rural communities here in Alabama and across the country.”

President Biden has been clear—we cannot leave any community behind as we rebuild America’s infrastructure with the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law,” said White House Infrastructure Coordinator Mitch Landrieu. “This includes rural and Tribal communities who for too long have felt forgotten. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides $11.7 billion in loans and grants to communities for a wide range of water-quality infrastructure projects, including wastewater solutions for these communities.”

“Having safe and reliable wastewater service is a necessity for all West Virginians, regardless of where they live. At Rural Development we are advocates for, investors in, and partners to rural communities and this initiative is a testament to our dedication to improve these communities,” said West Virginia State Director Ryan Thorn. “Many residents in McDowell and Raleigh counties have experienced wastewater infrastructure challenges for too long, and I’m confident this initiative will not only provide the necessary investments to overcome these infrastructure challenges but will also improve water quality in these impacted communities.”

An estimated 2.2 million people in the United States lack basic running water and indoor plumbing. Many more live with wastewater infrastructure that is ineffective and puts people’s health at risk. The Closing America’s Wastewater Access Gap Community Initiative will help communities access financing and technical assistance to improve wastewater infrastructure to “close the gap” with wealthier communities.

“To have two communities in West Virginia selected among 10 participants in this nationwide initiative is an incredibly exciting opportunity,” said West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Harold Ward. “Under the leadership of Governor Jim Justice, West Virginia has committed millions of dollars toward improving wastewater systems in several areas across the state. But now, this additional help from the EPA and the USDA will provide an even bigger boost in our efforts to modernize this critical infrastructure in McDowell and Raleigh counties. This initiative is going to make a real difference in the lives of countless people across our state and our nation.”

In addition to West Virginia, EPA and USDA—in partnership with state, Tribal, and local partners—are launching the initiative in:

  • Bolivar County, Mississippi;
  • Doña Ana County and Santo Domingo Pueblo, New Mexico;
  • Duplin County, North Carolina;
  • Greene County, Alabama;
  • Halifax County, North Carolina;
  • Harlan County, Kentucky;
  • Lowndes County, Alabama; and,
  • San Carlos Apache Tribe, Arizona.

Several of the communities chosen for this initiative are also participating in the Biden-Harris Administration’s recently announced Rural Partners Network. The USDA-led network brings together twenty federal agencies and regional commissions to help rural communities create economic opportunity by accessing resources and funding that match their unique needs and priorities.

If you are a community interested in learning more about Technical Assistance opportunities, visit https://www.epa.gov/water-infrastructure/water-technical-assistance.

Under the Biden-Harris Administration, Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities, create jobs and improve the quality of life for millions of Americans in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community facilities such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural, Tribal and high-poverty areas. For more information, visit www.rd.usda.gov. If you’d like to subscribe to USDA Rural Development updates, visit our GovDelivery subscriber page.

USDA touches the lives of all Americans each day in so many positive ways. In the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA is transforming America’s food system with a greater focus on more resilient local and regional food production, fairer markets for all producers, ensuring access to safe, healthy and nutritious food in all communities, building new markets and streams of income for farmers and producers using climate-smart food and forestry practices, making historic investments in infrastructure and clean energy capabilities in rural America, and committing to equity across the Department by removing systemic barriers and building a workforce more representative of America. To learn more, visit www.usda.gov.


USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender.