Los Angeles wastewater tunnel project receives $441 million EPA loan

(UC) — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has awarded a $441 million loan to Los Angeles County to replace a pair of aging wastewater tunnels that are at risk of failure during severe storms and earthquakes.

The Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) loan will be used to combine the two aging outfall tunnels into one new 18-foot diameter, 7-mile-long tunnel designed to current seismic standards. The completed tunnel will have a greater capacity for high flows than the existing tunnels.

"Too many communities across the country rely on outdated and inefficient water infrastructure that puts public health and environmental protection at risk," EPA Assistant Administrator Radhika Fox said. "This WIFIA (Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act) investment in LA County will help ensure wastewater infrastructure reliably serves five million customers while protecting nearby waters."

The existing tunnels – built in 1937 and 1958 – are responsible for carrying effluent from the Sanitation Districts' largest wastewater treatment plant, but are beyond their useful life and do not meet current seismic standards, according to the EPA.

The agency warned that if the tunnels fail in the event of a storm or earthquake, the treatment plant might need to discharge sewage into surrounding waterways

The EPA estimates that Los Angeles County will save about $76 million by financing with the WIFIA loan. Construction is expected to be completed in 2027. The EPA expects 2,880 local jobs will be created by the project.

"Every family deserves access to clean drinking water and a healthy environment," said Rep. Linda Sánchez, D-Whittier. "Unfortunately, the tunnels that our community's main sewer system relies on to prevent wastewater from flooding our waterways are nearly a century old and at risk of failure during severe storms and earthquakes.

She continued, "This funding will be used to replace our aging infrastructure, preventing contamination of our drinking water while creating good-paying jobs right here in our region. I thank the EPA for this critical investment, and I will continue working with the Biden administration and local agencies to keep our communities safe, resilient and healthy."

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