DEQ Receives US EPA's PISCES award for providing innovative financial assistance
Tuesday, November 19, 2019
BOISE — The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) received the prestigious Performance and Innovation in the State Revolving Fund (SRF) Creating Environmental Success (PISCES) award for providing expedited financial assistance to address lead contamination in Boise public schools.
The US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) PISCES program recognizes exceptional infrastructure projects funded though the SRF that provide creative, innovative, or cost-effective solutions to pressing water quality issues.
“We structured our approach to fund lead cleanups so that communities could receive the money quickly, thereby reducing the threat to health quickly enough to make a difference,” said Tim Wendland, DEQ's SRF manager.
In 2019, DEQ conducted extensive drinking water sampling in Boise schools built before 1986 and found that that drinking water in 20 schools contained lead above EPA’s allowable limit. DEQ worked with the district to quickly leverage $500,000 in grant funding to upgrade the district’s water infrastructure and remove the threat of lead exposure. The grant prioritized the following:
- Efficiency—A simple application and approval process. DEQ recognized that serious public health concern and significant water waste could be avoided through efficient water fixture upgrades.
- Innovative financing—DEQ provided the funding without any repayment obligation to avoid time-consuming loan underwriting.
- Streamlined planning—DEQ excluded the class of lead cleanup activities from environmental review as long as the remediation efforts replaced old infrastructure with new, lead-free parts.
- Water conservation—The project saves over two million gallons per year through efficient fixtures and eliminating daily flushing out of school lines. It also decreases the burden on the city’s wastewater treatment plant.
This is the fourth consecutive year of expedited financial assistance to public water systems and schools to help remove the risk of lead contamination in drinking water supplies.
“We will continue to make available $500,000 a year for lead risk reduction. In partnership with public water systems, schools, and other funding providers, we will continue to fix this legacy of the past,” said Wendland.