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135 Members of Congress Urge Bush Administration to Reconsider Weakening Sewage Dumping Laws

February 22, 2005
Press Release

WASHINGTON - As the Bush administration prepares to proceed with a policy change that would weaken the 30-year-old Clean Water Act, 135 Members of Congress today sent a letter to Acting Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Stephen L. Johnson urging the EPA not to implement a proposal that would allow partially treated human sewage to be dumped into our waterways. The letter, which was initiated by U.S. Reps. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), E. Clay Shaw, Jr. (R-FL) and Bart Stupak (D-MI) and has strong bipartisan support, sends a strong message to the Bush administration that this policy change is not supported on Capitol Hill. (THE LETTER IS ATTACHED.)

The bipartisan letter was prompted by a November 2003 draft policy issued by the EPA that would allow publicly owned water treatment facilities to combine filtered but untreated human sewage with fully treated wastewater before discharge whenever it rains instead of only during periods of extreme weather. Implementing this policy would effectively lift the current prohibition on bypassing the critical second step in the treatment of wastewater, allowing more bacteria, pathogens, viruses and parasites into our waterways.

"We believe that there should be less sewage entering our environment, not more," the 135 members wrote in their letter to Acting Administrator Johnson. "The proposed guidance is inconsistent with sewage treatment standards required by the Clean Water Act and its implementing regulations. It would undo many of the public health and environmental gains achieved over the last 30 years under the Clean Water Act.

"Federal taxpayers have invested billions in sewage treatment infrastructure, resulting in decades of progress in reducing waterborne illness, beach closures, shellfish bed closures, and drinking water contamination. Unfortunately, whenever there is an accidental breach in sewage treatment facilities, we see the repercussions of polluted water to human health, our constituents' livelihoods, and tourism. That is why it is sound economic and environmental policy to invest in effective sewage treatment to ensure that the U.S. has healthy and vibrant aquatic ecosystems and clean water, not to allow more sewage into our environment.

The 135 lawmakers also wrote that more federal funds are needed to improve wastewater treatment infrastructure.

"We also urge the EPA to ask the Office of Management and Budget to provide substantial additional funding for sewage treatment upgrades through the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, as recommended by the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy," the lawmakers wrote. "These upgrades include the construction of additional capacity and short-term storage until the sewage can be fully treated."