Washington D.C. - For far too long, Americans have been kept in the dark about the steady stream of untreated sewage that pollutes our rivers and lakes. Today, thanks to Congressman Tim Bishop (D-NY) and Congressman Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ), that could change. Lawmakers in the House of Representatives passed a landmark bill requiring sewage treatment plants to notify Americans in the event of a sewage spill.
“The safety of our water should never be a guessing game,” said Rebecca Wodder, President of American Rivers. “Thanks to the Sewage Overflow Community Right-to-Know Act, people will know when their local rivers have been contaminated by sewage. When contaminated tomatoes were discovered in supermarkets, they were pulled from the shelf. We need the same warning when our waterways are polluted. Knowledge is power, and in this case, knowledge can mean the difference between staying healthy or falling ill.”
The Sewage Overflow Community Right-to-Know Act (H.R. 2452) received widespread support on both sides of the aisle, passing the House unanimously. The legislation enjoys broad support from more than 150 groups including numerous public health groups. The bill requires sewage treatment plant operators to monitor their systems and notify the public when an overflow has the potential to affect public health. Currently, the public is only occasionally notified of sewage spills.
By requiring public notification, H.R. 2452 will protect millions of Americans from exposure to untreated sewage spills that could make them sick. This first line of defense is critical, as 860 billion gallons of raw and partially treated sewage are dumped into our rivers, lakes and coastal waters every year. The bacteria, viruses and parasites found in untreated sewage can cause severe symptoms including gastrointestinal problems, infections and fever, as well as heart, liver or kidney failure, arthritis and even cancer. Public notification will help Americans continue to safely enjoy the rivers they love by avoiding contaminated areas until the threat has passed.
American Rivers is the leading organization working to protect and restore the nation’s rivers and streams. Rivers connect us to each other, nature, and future generations. Since 1973, American Rivers has fought to preserve these connections, helping protect and restore more than 150,000 miles of rivers through advocacy efforts, on-the-ground projects, and the annual release of America’s Most Endangered Rivers®.
Headquartered in Washington, DC, American Rivers has offices across the country and more than 100,000 supporters, members, and volunteers nationwide. Visit www.americanrivers.org, www.facebook.com/americanrivers and www.twitter.com/americanrivers.