Los Angeles County is getting a $441 million loan to modernize its aged sewer system, which is at risk of failure during severe storms and earthquakes, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced this week.

“Too many communities across the country rely on outdated and inefficient water infrastructure that puts public health and environmental protection at risk,” EPA Assistant Administrator Radhika Fox said.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 EPA predicts construction will be completed in 2027, and 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 (CA-38). “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.

“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,” she continued. “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.”

The EPA said the two existing tunnels that carry effluent from the Sanitation Districts’ largest wastewater treatment plant are beyond their useful life and do not meet current seismic standards. If they fail, the treatment plant might need to discharge sewage into surrounding waterways, the agency warned.

The project will combine the two aging outfall tunnels into one new 18-foot diameter, 7-mile-long tunnel designed to current seismic standards. It will have sufficient capacity for the high flows experienced during major storms, the EPA said.

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