(The Center Square) – Pennsylvania will soon have nearly $200 million to spend on water projects, enabling replacement of lead pipes, improvement of drinking water and expansion of wastewater treatment services.

The money comes from several state and federal sources, including Marcellus Legacy funds, recycled loan payments from state programs, and the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021.

“Thanks to our federal partners and the Biden administration, we are making a major investment in Pennsylvanians’ communities, ensuring that our residents have access to pure water and upholding their constitutional rights here in the commonwealth,” first-term Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro said in a release.

“Ensuring that Pennsylvania’s citizens have access to safe and secure infrastructure is a fundamental responsibility of government. My administration will continue to lead the way to protect public health and the environment across the commonwealth.”

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PENNVEST, the infrastructure investment authority, will administer $194 million for 28 projects to “not only modernize, but futurize, Pennsylvania water infrastructure to ensure it operates efficiently, effectively, and provides clean water for Pennsylvanians,” the release said.

The biggest project is a $37 million loan in Philadelphia to fix leakage issues, increase hydraulic capacity, and drive down maintenance requirements. In Allegheny County, a $14 million grant and $18 million loan will be used to replace about 2,600 lead pipes to prevent high lead exposure levels and conserve water. And in Potter County, a $9.5 million grant and $6 million loan will upgrade equipment at the treatment plant in Shinglehouse Borough.

In Armstrong County’s Ford City, a $9.5 million grant and $4.7 million loan will be used to replace cast iron pipes that have lead joints and add water service lines, 70 fire hydrants, and other equipment to lower lead exposure and prevent leakage. Chester County will get a $12.6 million loan to upgrade nitrification and aeration equipment, and Lancaster County will get a $10 million loan to replace 11,000 feet of sewer lines in Elizabethtown.

“This is a historic moment for Pennsylvania’s water and sewer systems, as the federal funding for water projects will help us make meaningful investments in communities across the Commonwealth,” PENNVEST Chairman Brian Regli said.

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., also hailed the funding as living up to constitutional guarantees.

“Pennsylvania’s state constitution affords the right to safe, pure water to every community in our Commonwealth,” Casey said in a release. “Thanks to the infrastructure law, we’re protecting people and the environment from water contamination, and ensuring the availability of clean, safe drinking water for homes and businesses.”

In the last two years, $500 million in federal funding has been disbursed for lead pipe replacement and water infrastructure upgrades. In November, Republican and Democratic lawmakers co-sponsored a bill in the Pennsylvania Senate that would provide $30 million to test school water supplies for lead, calling contamination “unacceptable” and warning of the risk in decades-old school buildings.

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