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Oklahoma receives funds to update water infrastructure in disadvantaged areas

Green pipes with little control wheels in a concrete trench
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

President Joe Biden signed the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law just over a year ago, allocating over $50 billion to improve drinking water, wastewater and stormwater infrastructure across the country.

Some of those funds arrived in Oklahoma at the end of November, when the Environmental Protection Agency presented a $105 million check to the state Department of Environmental Quality and the Oklahoma Water Resources Board.

The EPA has tasked states, tribes and territories with using these funds to improve water infrastructure for disadvantaged communities. In particular, these funds are intended to reduce lead in drinking water, improve climate resiliency and address emerging contaminants, like forever chemical PFAS.

States then submitted plans for how they would use Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill funds to achieve those goals. The EPA started approving those plans in September and announced it had appointed $105 million for Oklahoma state agencies a few weeks ago.

These funds will be added to Oklahoma’s Revolving Funds for water—pools of money that communities can apply for. Oklahoma must distribute 49% of the money as either a grant or a loan forgiveness check to public water systems that need funding for water projects.

“These grants will provide much needed assistance in reducing nitrates and manganese from drinking water supplies, as well as providing targeted loan forgiveness in communities needing additional funding assistance,” said Ken McQueen, Oklahoma’s Secretary of Energy and Environment, in an EPA press release.

The EPA will continue to distribute Bipartisan Infrastructure funds for water projects over the next four years.

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Graycen Wheeler is a reporter covering water issues at KOSU as a corps member with Report for America.
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