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Harmful algal bloom

FILE - In this September 2017 photo, a harmful algae bloom inundates the water in the Owasco Lake outlet behind the Express Mart in Fleming.

U.S. Rep. John Katko is partnering with an Oregon Democrat to push for the creation of a federal trust fund to support water infrastructure projects across the country. 

Katko, R-Camillus, is the original cosponsor of a bill introduced by U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer to establish the fund that would help states repair and upgrade drinking water systems. The fund would be supported by an optional labeling program for businesses. 

Businesses that could join the voluntary program include producers of water-based beverages, pharmaceuticals and "products disposed of in wastewater." If companies participate in the program, there would be a 3-cent fee for each labeled unit. 

Half of the trust fund would be given to local governments through the Clean Water State Revolving Fund for wastewater treatment projects. The remaining 50 percent would support projects to ensure drinking water meets federal standards.

Katko thinks the bill could help municipalities, such as Auburn and Skaneateles, affected by harmful algal blooms in central New York. The blooms have been found on Owasco and Skaneateles lakes in the past. 

"While we have worked to monitor and address these threats, it remains essential that communities nationwide have access to clean drinking water. This begins by addressing outdated water infrastructure," Katko said in a statement." 

There is a nationwide need for water infrastructure repairs and upgrades. It will cost nearly $14 billion annually over the next 20 years to make the necessary improvements. But Blumenauer and Katko noted that federal funding for water infrastructure projects has averaged less than $1.5 billion a year since 2011. 

A 2017 report card issued by the American Society of Civil Engineers gave a D-plus grade to the United States' wastewater infrastructure and a D for drinking water. 

"By finally establishing a dedicated source of funding for water infrastructure investments, the Water Infrastructure Trust Fund Act will improve public health, create family wage jobs and reduce pollution in communities across the country," Blumenauer said. 

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Online producer Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or robert.harding@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.

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Online producer and politics reporter

I have been The Citizen's online producer and politics reporter since December 2009. I'm the author of the Eye on NY blog and write the weekly Eye on NY column that appears every Sunday in the print edition of The Citizen and online at auburnpub.com.