WASHINGTON, D.C., July 21, 2017 — Rural northwest Arkansas resident Mike Frazee provided emotional testimony yesterday before a Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Fisheries, Water and Wildlife hearing on what it’s like to live in America with no access to safe drinking water.
Frazee, whose family lacked access to safe drinking water for decades before they were provided with a low interest loan through the Water Systems Council’s Water Well Trust to drill a water well in 2014, testified during the subcommittee’s hearing on “Innovative Financing and Funding: Addressing America’s Crumbling Water Infrastructure.”
During his introduction of Frazee, Subcommittee Chairman John Boozman (R-AR) noted: “Mr. Frazee has lived in Rogers Arkansas since 1990. Since moving to Rogers to be closer to his family, he has not had running water. In 2014, Mr. Frazee’s mother contacted my office and we discussed the problem her community was facing.
“I must admit I was surprised to hear that lack of running and clean drinking water was still a problem in our country, let alone in my home state. After talking to Mrs. Frazee, I got her in touch with the Water Systems Council, who was able to drill wells that brought fresh reliable drinking water directly to her home as well as the homes of her neighbors…. Given Mr. Frazee’s personal experience, I cannot think of anyone better to testify.”
The Environmental Protection Agency’s most recent Needs Survey placed the shortfall in drinking water infrastructure funding for small communities (3,300 or fewer persons) at $64.5 billion. There are 52,000 community water systems in the United States, of which 41,801 are small community water systems, and 27,500 of those serve populations of fewer than 500 people.
“Usually when we imagine life without clean and efficient drinking water and wastewater we picture communities that do not resemble our own. We picture far off countries that do not have all of the blessings America has. Sadly, this cannot be further from the truth,” said Sen. Boozman. “Currently, an estimated 1.7 million Americans live without access to clean, running drinking water in their homes. There are tremendous infrastructure needs in rural America. We are in a position to address this problem. We have an Administration that has made infrastructure investment a top priority, coupled with bipartisan support in both the Senate and House. We have an incredible opportunity to work across the aisle and get back on track to making America’s water infrastructure the best in the world.”
Arkansas resident Mike Frazee (right) talks with Senator John Boozman (R-AR) about living in America without access to safe drinking water. Frazee testified before a U.S. Senate subcommittee on “Innovative Financing and Funding: Addressing America’s Crumbling Water Infrastructure” on behalf of the Water Systems Council.
Below are excerpts from Frazee’s testimony on July 20:
“I live in rural, northwest Arkansas – an area of great natural beauty, but where access to basic services like drinking water can be extremely difficult. Life without drinking water can be strenuous and stressful. You are constantly worried about how much water you have and how much water will be consumed in simple day-to-day activities. In my part of the world, people drive every day, thousands of miles a year, to haul water from a coin operated water machine to their homes. And, if that water machine is broken or you have a snow or ice storm, you might have to go several days without water.
“Hauling water consumes many hours a week, puts tremendous wear and tear on your vehicle and has resulted in a number of deadly accidents. My dad, who is a disabled veteran, spent much of his life hauling water to our home. My mother was constantly stressed about the water level in the tank outside our home.
“Many people in our area (veterans, disabled, single parents) are down on their luck, just trying to do right and survive. These folks can’t go to a bank and ask for loan to pay for a well. We don’t have an opportunity to tap into city or rural water systems. Many of our neighbors struggle to have water. We have seen single moms taking their children to haul water in buckets. One also worries about the quality of the water being hauled. The water machine I used has a sign that states – “We cannot insure the quality of the water.” How awful is that?
“Wells and well systems are a God-send to rural communities like mine. We were never going to have the resources to pay for a drinking water treatment facility or run water lines many miles. However, wells proved to be a very cost effective alternative for me and my neighbors. The Water Systems Council, through its Water Well Trust, has provided my mom, myself and families across Arkansas quality drinking water at a reasonable price through wells.
“And last year, Senator Boozman worked with Senator Cardin on legislation requiring the USDA and the EPA to set up a Clearinghouse of information with data on the use of wells and well systems to meet rural drinking water challenges. The Water Systems Council has proven that wells can reduce the cost of providing drinking water to many rural communities by over 75 percent.
“As we’ve seen in Arkansas, wells can significantly reduce the cost of providing drinking water to many small rural communities and Congress should do everything it can to promote the use of wells in these rural areas. I know firsthand the importance of safe, affordable drinking water and wells are a part of the solution.”
The Water Systems Council (WSC) was the sole drinking water organization invited to testify before the U.S. Senate on water wells as a cost effective solution to America’s rural water infrastructure crisis. WSC established the Water Well Trust in 2010 and it continues to be the only national nonprofit organization helping Americans get access to a clean, safe water supply. To date, the Water Well Trust has completed water well projects in Arkansas, Delaware, Georgia, Pennsylvania and Texas and has pending projects in Georgia, New York and South Carolina.
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