RECENT UPGRADES to the wastewater treatment plant in Exeter are a testament to the public health, economic and environmental benefits of investing in our infrastructure.
After voters at a 2016 Town Meeting overwhelmingly approved this local project, I was proud to help see it through and secure state funding in Concord. Over $14 million invested through the state aid grant program is boosted by federal support from the Clean Water State Revolving Fund. Because of the town’s dedication and the hard work of the Exeter Public Works Department, the project was completed on time, ahead of schedule and under budget.
These upgrades will ensure the 55-year-old facility is more energy-efficient and protective of local waterways. Before improvements were made, nitrogen discharges in the Squamscott River were at elevated levels, harming our local ecosystems and threatening our water quality.
The new wastewater system will cut nitrogen discharge levels by more than half, employ state-of-the art UV technology and increase capacity in order to reduce overflow, keeping raw sewage out of waterways in high rainfall events.
An investment like this has transformative value for our community. It sets Exeter on a path for a durable, efficient, safe water system and a healthier environment. It also allows for businesses to relocate or grow in Exeter, as development is otherwise limited by wastewater constraints. I only wish we were seeing more investments like this in communities across the country.
The term infrastructure has become an empty cliché for many in Concord and Washington, D.C., but for New Hampshire residents, it’s the way we get to work, power businesses and connect online. It’s the safety of the water we drink and the air we breathe. And if we invest wisely, it will ensure our children and grandchildren have a climate-resilient future.
Yet, on the whole, our nation’s investments in these vital systems have not kept up with demand, leaving local and state governments to fill in funding gaps to ensure our infrastructure is running safely and efficiently.
According to the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), wastewater systems in New Hampshire require $1.7 billion in repairs. Further still, our state’s drinking water infrastructure requires approximately $857 million in upgrades. As a state we are also grappling with the threat of contamination from PFAS, “forever chemicals” that have been linked to everything from decreased immune functioning to cancer. These immense challenges are not unique to New Hampshire. They require comprehensive, national solutions.
Federal investment in programs like the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds is vital. These, in addition to other comprehensive financing for rebuilding and renewing our national infrastructure, help ensure communities are able to address basic local needs: from clean water to a safe, efficient commute.
But infrastructure is so much more than roads and pipes. Forward-looking investment in rural broadband, grid modernization and public transit would also advance our state economy. The University of New Hampshire estimates that significantly increasing broadband availability and adoption alone could create more than 11,000 jobs and make a $634 million positive statewide economic impact. Not to mention the good union jobs these investments would support.
These basic needs do not know partisan divides. Despite bipartisan agreement that we need a national infrastructure plan that rebuilds and modernizes our country for the 21st century, inaction in Washington persists. I appreciate Congressman Pappas’ recent visit to the Exeter water treatment facility, and his enduring commitment to the project and others like it. Senators Shaheen and Hassan, and Congresswoman Kuster are also fierce advocates for federal infrastructure investment that meets local needs. We need others in Washington to take note.
I for one will continue pushing for these smart, innovative, and needed investments in our state. Granite Staters deserve to live in a place where its basic structures work for them, not against them.