BECKLEY, W.Va. — The U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held the first of two field hearings on rural water systems Thursday with a meeting in Beckley.
Committee Chairman Tom Carper, D-Del., and Ranking Member Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., heard from witnesses about dated infrastructure and the challenges with updating systems.
“Clean water is an essential part of healthy lives, healthy economies and a healthy environment,” Carper said. “We have a moral responsibility to act to ensure that our water is clean and safe to drink, and we can do so in a way that powers our economy and creates good-paying American jobs.”
The hearing was special to Carper, a Beckley native. He spent part of the hearing talking about growing up in Raleigh County and his family’s ties to West Virginia.
“This is just very special. Very special to me,” Carper said.
Capito and Carper noted the cooperation in the Senate addressing infrastructure issues. The chamber in April overwhelmingly approved a $35 billion measure for improving drink water and wastewater systems across the country. Senators are still waiting for the House of Representatives to approve a $1.2 trillion bill addressing water systems as well as broadband, roads and bridges, and resiliency.
“We are facing critical challenges in the resilience of these systems, with many of our small and rural communities being disproportionately affected by the wide array of water infrastructure challenges,” Capito said.
“Small and rural communities are particularly strained and need additional support to ensure protection and availability of this vital resource. Many systems in this great state of West Virginia are very old, and some of our systems don’t even know where their piping is because the infrastructure predates mapping records.”
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., took part in the hearing. Manchin is not a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, but serves as chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Carper and Capito noted the collaboration between the committees on legislation.
Carper and Capito will hold a similar hearing Friday in Dover, Delaware.
This is a developing story.