Recently, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a $20.7M Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) loan to the City of Oak Ridge, Tennessee to help finance a new drinking water treatment plant. This loan highlights how WIFIA financing can help smaller communities upgrade aging water infrastructure.
“This WIFIA loan will improve drinking water quality and support the economies of Oak Ridge and eastern Tennessee while delivering on President Trump’s commitment to upgrade our nation’s infrastructure, create jobs and safeguard public health and the environment,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “With this loan closing, EPA has now issued 14 WIFIA loans totaling more than $3.5B in credit assistance to help finance more than $8B for water infrastructure projects while creating more than 15,000 jobs.”
The City of Oak Ridge will design and construct a new ultrafiltration membrane drinking water treatment plant to replace the existing 80-year old conventional drinking water treatment plant, which is currently at capacity and beyond its useful life. The project also includes construction of raw water intake pumps, traveling screens, a finished water pump station, and water pipelines as well as the rehabilitation of the existing finished water tanks. When complete, this project will reliably and efficiently deliver high-quality water to meet the critical water needs of Oak Ridge.
“Replacing the City of Oak Ridge’s existing 80-year old water treatment plant is crucial to 30,000 residents and the local and regional economy,” said Senator Lamar Alexander.
“Modernized water infrastructure is central to a healthy and vibrant community,” said Congressman Fleischmann. “I greatly appreciate Administrator Wheeler and the team at EPA for their multi-million dollar investment to make necessary updates to Oak Ridge’s water infrastructure while also providing funding for the construction of a new water treatment plant. In addition to ensuring the Oak Ridge community has sustained access to quality water, this endeavor will also boost the local economy by creating over 100 new jobs. This is great news all around for the City of Oak Ridge!”
“Utility infrastructure upgrades are absolutely essential for Oak Ridge,” added City Mayor Warren Gooch. “Shortly after becoming Mayor, I recognized that our City needed a new water plant. The WIFIA loan was awarded as a result of the hard work of the City Manager and his staff, and it provides our community the most affordable option possible for long-term funding of a new plant. The quality of water for our citizens will improve even more, and the new technology will provide efficient, reliable, and long-term utility operations. This is a major step forward in addressing a critical need for the future of Oak Ridge.”
“After three years of application and planning, the City of Oak Ridge has reached a significant milestone in the funding needed for a new replacement water plant,” explained Oak Ridge City Manager Mark Watson. “WIFIA has helped Oak Ridge with a low interest federal loan for 35 years, allowing us to avoid potential failures in a system originally designed for a different Oak Ridge. The financial terms will allow Oak Ridge to afford these much-needed improvements to serve not only our residents, but the national security and U.S. Department of Energy facilities located here.”
The drinking water treatment plant design and construction project will cost $42.2M. EPA’s WIFIA loan will finance nearly half of that figure—up to $20.7M. Additionally, the Tennessee Drinking Water State Revolving Fund will support a portion of the project costs. The WIFIA loan will save the City of Oak Ridge an estimated $7 million compared to typical bond financing. Project construction and operation are expected to create 135 jobs.
Background On WIFIA
Established by the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act of 2014, the WIFIA program is a federal loan and guarantee program administered by EPA. WIFIA’s aim is to accelerate investment in the nation’s water infrastructure by providing long-term and low-cost supplemental credit assistance for regionally and nationally significant projects. EPA’s WIFIA program plays an important part in President Trump’s infrastructure plan, which calls for expanding project eligibility. With this loan closing, EPA has now issued 14 WIFIA loans totaling over $3.5B in credit assistance to help finance over $8B for water infrastructure projects and create over 15,000 jobs. The WIFIA program has an active pipeline of pending applications for projects that will result in billions of dollars in water infrastructure investment and thousands of jobs.
For more information, visit https://www.epa.gov/wifia.