"The infrastructures in most communities in Ohio are more than a half-century old. For many of them, the maintenance has been regular and pretty good, but the infrastructure is clearly decaying in community after community," Brown said.
He points to a report released by the Environmental Protection Agency as recently as two weeks ago that estimates an investment of more than $20 billion will be needed over the next 20 years to meet the needs of Ohio's water and sewage infrastructures.
"In too many cases, the entire cost has been shifted on to local water and sewer payers. It's the only way they've been able to pay for it," he said.
Brown said the federal government makes communities meet these standards, and in the past, the federal government also used to pay half the costs.
"The priorities are simply this: We're spending $3 billion a week on the war in Iraq ... much of that directly on rebuilding infrastructure in Iraq - electricity, water, sewer, schools, that kind of thing. The president has insisted as he did in the State of Union that we do more tax cuts for the richest people in the country. While at the same time, those tax cuts are at the expense of the middle class," Brown said.
In order to help communities handle their infrastructure problems, the senator said he is working on several bills that would provide grants to areas dealing with raw sewage overflow, raise funding levels for contributions made to state water pollution control and establish a new system of financing infrastructures more effectively.
According to Sam Sutherland, director of Portsmouth Water Works, the city has invested nearly $15 million in its water system since the mid-1990s. Some of this money was grant funded, he said, but some was funded by the city itself.
He said the city's system was "good," but said it still could benefit greatly by federal grants.
"A lot of people don't believe, or don't buy into the story, that because your water rates are too low, you can't get grant money. But that's just the facts of the way it is," Sutherland said. "Maybe revisiting the rules of how grants are issued (would help)."
During a December 2005 meeting, Portsmouth City Council approved an 8 percent water rate increase as part of the 2006 budget. According to city officials, the 8 percent increase would bring the city about $3.5 million to pay to install a Magnetic Ion Exchange Process upgrade to the city water system in 2007.
The water and sewage rates in the city of Portsmouth are estimated at $84.73 for a family of two -