Several Illinois environmental and labor groups say the state needs more workers to upgrade its aging water and sewer systems. Money to prepare these workers could come from an infrastructure plan.
Advocates want to create the Clean Water Workforce Pipeline Program to train more people to replace lead pipes and run wastewater facilities.
State Sen. Ram Villivalam, a Democrat from Chicago, said funding both would help create jobs in overlooked communities -- especially in those that have been most impacted by crumbling infrastructure, including low-income and black and brown neighborhoods.
“This is a win-win for every tax payer in the state of Illinois,” he said. “It’s hard to name two more important issues than creating jobs and making sure we have safe water for our residents.”
Jack Darin – director of the Sierra Club Illinois Chapter said water infrastructure will need a minimum investment of $1 billion to deal with pressing issues like lead contamination.
“Yes, we need good roads, good transit, but making sure that we each have access to safe and healthy water is a fundamental duty of the state of Illinois,” he said. Darin said more money would be needed down the road.
Villivalam and other lawmakers are looking to tap into money from Illinois’ upcoming infrastructure plan which still being negotiated. But the request will join a long list of crumbling roads, railways and bridges that also need attention.
In 2018, the state's water infrastructure received a C- grade for wastewater and drinking water infrastructure from the American Society of Civil Engineering.