Congress Takes Big Step Forward to Protect Clean Water, Public Health
Sewage 'Right-to-Know' included in Clean Water State Revolving FundMarch 5th, 2009
Katherine Baer, American Rivers, (202) 347-7550 x3053
Angela Dicianno, American Rivers, (202) 243-7077
Washington, DC — Every year, more than 860 billion gallons of raw and partially treated sewage foul America’s waters and threaten public health, but most people have no idea that these spills occur in their local rivers and streams. Today, lawmakers in the House took an important step towards changing that. The Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure included sewage right-to-know notification provisions in the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (SRF) reauthorization (H.R. 1262) that passed the Committee today. The Clean Water SRF helps pay for critical stormwater, wastewater, and drinking water needs across the country. The sewage right-to-know provisions require public notification when a sewer spill has the potential to affect public health. These safeguards were originally introduced as separate legislation in the 110th Congress by Representatives Timothy Bishop (D-NY) and Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ).
“What we don’t know can hurt us,” said Katherine Baer, senior director of the clean water program for American Rivers, “Taking a swim, or going fishing or boating, should never be a guessing game. Sewage right-to-know is about protecting public health and shining a light on a rather odious problem so that we can build support for lasting clean water solutions.”
Since its inception in 1987, the Clean Water SRF has provided $63 billion to over 20,000 projects, serving almost 95 million people. However, funding for this successful national program has not kept pace with the estimated $390 billion backlog in clean water infrastructure projects. The Committee-passed bill authorizes $13.8 billion over five years and will help close the gap, though the program must still be updated to fund sustainable and cost-effective 21st century infrastructure.
American Rivers looks forward to continuing to work with Congress to address these issues as the legislation moves forward.