Knoxville/ Weather & Environment
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Published on May 21, 2024
Gov. Bill Lee and TDEC Announce $20 Million Water Infrastructure Loan for Oak Ridge, TNSource: Facebook/Gov. Bill Lee

In a move to reinforce Oak Ridge's vital waterworks, Tennessee's top brass, Gov. Bill Lee and TDEC Commissioner David Salyers, have announced a hefty $20 million loan earmarked for water infrastructure enhancements in the City of Oak Ridge, as part of a broader $24.7 million financial package that also boosts water systems in Tullahoma, Winchester, and Woodbury.

"This program addresses water infrastructure in communities across our state," Lee declared, eyeing fresh results from the funds and tipping his hat to local leaders for their forward-thinking environmental conservation efforts, according to an announcement obtained by TDEC; the move underscores a statewide initiative to modernize aging utilities and enhance drinking water quality for Tennesseans, plowing cash into the construction of a state-of-the-art membrane filtration water treatment plant for Oak Ridge.

Snagged at an agreeable 3.33 percent interest rate over 30 years, the loan comes from the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund Loan Program which, as Salyers highlighted, carries a vital mantle of environmental responsibility, ensuring communities across Tennessee can tackle water infrastructure challenges head-on; since 1987, Tennessee has doled out upward of $2 billion in such low-interest loans through its Clean Water State Revolving Fund Loan Program, complemented by $300 million pumped into the Drinking Water counterpart starting from 1996.

The program's cornerstone is the provision of below-market interest rates, a financial boon for communities, utility districts, and water and wastewater authorities that could otherwise be wading through the turbulent waters of high-cost private loans, in FY 2023, TDEC awarded a cool $47,345,000 in drinking water loans and punched in another $64,095,945 for clean water loans, grand total of $111,440,945 blazed across the state's water infrastructure battlefield.

Collectively, for the current fiscal year, TDEC has marshaled a war chest of $48,608,182 for drinking water improvements and an additional $84,050,843 for the clean water cause—a clear sign of Tennessee's unwavering commitment to fostering resilient, safe, and sustainable water systems for its people.