Stopping Sewage Overflows


Don’t you just hate it when… there’s raw sewage in your local rivers? Unfortunately, this is the case all too often with over 850 billion gallons of raw or partially treated sewage flowing into our streams, rivers and lakes every year.

The Healing Our Waters Great Lakes Coalition, of which American Rivers is a member, recently published a report, Solving Region’s Sewage Crisis Will Create Jobs, Restore Great Lakes, highlighting the sewage overflows that plague Great Lakes Communities – and will only get worse given the increased storms associated with climate change predicted for the region. The report recommends both increasing investment in water infrastructure funding and using green infrastructure to cost effectively reduce stormwater runoff that triggers sewer overflows in many older cities in the Great Lakes and across the country.

Some good news – the Environmental Protection Agency is considering new rules to reduce certain sewer overflows. American Rivers has long advocated for better public right to know provisions – to ensure that people can avoid swimming when conditions pose a risk to public health, and this is one of the items that EPA is considering. American Rivers submitted comments with NRDC recommending among other things:

  • Better monitoring and reporting of sewer overflows;
  • Required notification of the public, public health officials and drinking water treatment operators of spills that threaten public health;
  • Integrated management of stormwater and sewage to reduce pollution from both sources.

We’ll continue to advocate that EPA makes some of these changes – the sooner the better.

For a humorous take on sewage in rivers, check out The Onion (note – includes coarse language).