Champions of Change
By Bob Perciasepe
Yesterday I participated in a ceremony at the White House honoring 11 community leaders as Champions of Change. With the help of grants and loans from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the honorees created jobs in their communities and used innovative techniques to develop projects aimed at improving America’s infrastructure and creating an economy built to last.
When most people think about infrastructure, the first things that come to mind are the roads and bridges that keep people and products moving across our country. But in today’s economy, infrastructure is also the broadband pathways that allow a mother in Memphis to talk online with her daughter in New York. It’s the grid that carries our energy to homes and businesses. It’s also the pipes that bring clean water in and take wastewater out of homes and businesses in urban and rural communities.
For the EPA, our country’s aging water infrastructure is of particular concern. Some American communities have water treatment facilities that haven’t been upgraded in half a century, and others have worn-out pipes working harder than ever before to deliver water to growing numbers of people. Our communities deserve better than that.
EPA’s largest investment in the Recovery Act went towards improving aging clean water and drinking water infrastructure, and many of the men and women honored yesterday as Champions of Change were part of the effort to improve this critical part of our communities. Philip Guerin led a team that used Recovery Act funds to bring photovoltaic power to a Water Filtration Plant in Worcester, MA, helping 200,000 people get safe drinking water. Mayor Dave Norris of West Monroe, LA oversaw the development of a recycling plant that guarantees a safe and sustainable water source for his city and surrounding communities – while simultaneously protecting jobs and the environment. And Dr. Jana Davis, Chief Scientist of the Chesapeake Bay Trust, oversaw a number of successful grant programs that helped restore and protect a water body that touches the lives and livelihoods of millions of Americans.
Each of yesterday’s winners has earned this great honor. They saw that infrastructure problems were holding back their communities, and they used Recovery Act funds to creatively and collaboratively develop solutions. Some of them made water safer and cleaner. Some of them made the Internet more accessible. And some of them made transportation easier. They all improved their communities, and they’re all Champions of Change.
Bob Perciasepe is the deputy administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.