Fairfax, Va., (April 18, 2011) -- Encouraging investment in the nation's decaying infrastructure at a hearing of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies as it considers fiscal-year 2012 appropriations, National Utility Contractors Assoc. Board Chairman Ryan Schmitt spoke on April 15 about the huge economic challenges faced by the underground utility construction and excavation industry. The industry continues to endure an unemployment rate of over 20%.
Describing the current climate, he gave a first-hand account of the dearth of work for the construction industry in his part of the country in particular while displaying a vivid and common example of the state of underground infrastructure nationwide -- a "tuberculated" section of pipe lined with thick hard knob-like mounds of piled-up corrosion. This kind of build-up increases friction (adding to the energy needed to pump water), reduces flow, and pollutes drinking water in the nation's water distribution system. In addition, old and dilapidated infrastructure causes a massive loss of water each year due to leaks.
Stating that he sees no evidence in Florida of any sort of economic recovery for the construction industry, Schmitt, president of Petticoat-Schmitt Civil Contractors Inc., in Jacksonville, Fla., described the irony of so much available labor and so great a need, yet a lack of funding to enable this critical work. His view mirrors the national situation NUCA observes in constant conversation with its state chapters.
Schmitt encouraged the subcommittee to include $2.1 billion for the Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Water State Revolving Fund (SRF) and $1.4 billion for the Drinking Water SRF.
Subcommittee Chairman Michael K. Simpson (R-ID) said after Schmitt's testimony, "I think this is the biggest problem our country faces in the coming years." Ranking member James P. Moran (D-VA) agreed that we "must find a better way to finance this work."