Congresswoman Katherine Clark visited the Watertown Department of Public Works Facility Tuesday to talk about how the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) benefits local communities. Some of the money sent to Massachusetts will pay for replacing lead pipes and improving drainage in an area of Watertown prone to flooding during major rain storms.
The City will receive $400,000 in ARPA funds allocated by the State Legislature, in addition to its share that came directly from the Federal level.
Providing safer drinking water is one of the goals of ARPA and another major spending bill passed by Congress.
“The American Rescue Plan Act and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act eliminates lead pipes across America and ensures that every household, school, and childcare center has clean, safe drinking water,” Clark said. “It is the largest investment in water infrastructure in American history.”
Lead pipes do not pose a problem for most of the City’s water system, but some remain in the service pipes that link the water mains to homes and other buildings, said Watertown Public Works Superintendent Greg St. Louis.
“We have no lead in our distribution system and there is no lead coming from the MWRA to us,” St. Louis said. “The water is very safe and clean. We have been testing it for years.”
St. Louis recommends that people living in homes with lead pipes should run the water for 30 seconds in the morning to clear the system of impurities, including lead.
Over the years, some of the lead service pipes have been replaced when they break, or during targeted projects on streets where utilities will be replaced. The City received $150,000 in ARPA funds for lead pipe replacement.
The rest of the money will go toward improving drainage along part of the Watertown-Cambridge Greenway between Arlington Street and the Cambridge line.
“One of the areas that is adjacent to Cottage Street receives a lot of the storm water from surrounding streets, backs up, and floods our streets,” St. Louis said. “We are trying to remove the water from your bike/ped trail so that you actually use your bike/ped trail.”
The money will go toward putting in drainage systems, such as subsurface filtration pipes and tree pits that filter water. St. Louis said the project will also help reduce the amount of water draining into the Charles River, and keep the river clean.
Directing the funds to water infrastructure improvements in Watertown is an example of the federal government reaching the local level, Clark said.
“We find that the best policy comes from listening to our local partners,” Clark said. “You and your community know what work needs to be done to improve lives snd and build a stronger and more sustainable tomorrow.”
Watertown was approached by State Sen. Will Brownsberger, who asked where the funds could be best used, and St. Louis suggested the two projects. Brownsberger called it a team effort.
“It takes everyone. I look out and see the members of the City Council, the acting City Manager (Tom Tracy), and we are all one big team,” Brownsberger said. “And the only way things get done is that we are all working as a team.”
State Rep. Steve Owens said that Clark has made infrastructure a priority, and has also expanded what is considered infrastructure, and noted that ARPA includes money for environmental infrastructure, housing, education, and health and human services.
“She has really been one of the leading voices, reminding us to take an expansive view of what infrastructure means,” Owens said. “Infrastructure is not just roads and bridges and pipes — it’s housing, it’s health care, it’s childcare, its’ all the background things that allows us to live and thrive in our daily lives.”