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Bill in Congress to Stop EPA from Dumping Sewage into Rivers & Lakes

From: Environmental News Service <>

Bill Would Stop EPA Plan to Discharge Partly Treated Sewage
WASHINGTON, DC, March 3, 2005 (ENS)
- A bill to protect the public from
waterborne diseases by prohibiting publicly owned sewage treatment works
from dumping partially treated sewage was introduced in the House of
Representatives this morning by two Republican and two Democratic

The Save Our Waters from Sewage Act follows a bipartisan letter to the
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Acting Administrator Stephen Johnson
signed by 135 Representatives on February 22. It asks the agency to withdraw
a draft guidance issued in 2003 that would expand and legalize the practice
of dumping partially treated sewage.

The Representatives objected to the EPA guidance which would divert sewage
around secondary treatment units, then combine the filtered but untreated
sewage with fully treated wastewater before discharge in a process known as

It would lift the current prohibition on bypassing the biological treatment
of sewage to remove most of the pathogens from wastewater, which the
Representatives called "a crucial second treatment step used during periods
of wet weather."

"We understand the nature of the problem of excessive solids losses and
disruption of the biological treatment stage during periods of heavy inflow
of water into the collection system," the Representatives wrote. But they
called it "unacceptable" to use sewage blending during rainstorms "as a
bandage to cover these infrastructure shortfalls."

They wrote that the EPA should enforce the Clean Water Act "instead of
attempting to change the law so that more sewage would enter the environment
where it will make people ill, sicken our wildlife and contaminate our

The Save Our Waters from Sewage Act would prohibit EPA from finalizing the
draft guidance.

Republican Congressmen Mark Kirk of Illinois and Clay Shaw of Florida
together with Democrats Frank Pallone of New Jersey and Bart Stupak of
Michigan introduced the legisation.

Conservation groups call the bill an important step in reinvigorating the
federal commitment to partner with state and local governments and ensure
that rivers, streams, and lakes are safe for fishing, swimming, and

"Congress and the President cannot afford to whistle past the graveyard
while sewage fills our public waters," said Betsy Otto, senior policy
director at American Rivers. "The Save Our Waters from Sewage Act is a
reminder that our government's responsibility is to make our water safer and
cleaner. This bill reaffirms our commitment to protect drinking water
sources, human health, and all of the life that depends on healthy water."

Partially treated sewage contains viruses and bacteria that cause serious
and potentially deadly diseases - cryptosporidium, hepatitis, dysentery, and
others, Otto points out. The young, old, and sick are at greatest risk, she

"The chemicals, such as chlorine, used by some drinking water utilities to
try to kill disease-causing germs, when normal treatment is bypassed, have
been linked to cancer and other health problems. In many areas of the
country, drinking water intakes can be found downstream of sewer outfalls,
increasing the health risks of relaxed sewage treatment," Otto said today.

American Rivers and other conservation groups strongly oppose the practice
of partially treating sewage and support giving the public the right to know
if these releases do occur.

Nancy Stoner of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) said at a news
conference in Washington today, "The Save our Waters from Sewage Act
provides the right answer for the American people. This bill would prevent
sewage dumping from becoming the standard method of disposal for industrial,
commercial and human waste across the country. In effect, this legislation
would force EPA to dump its reckless sewage dumping policy."

Conservation and, city, county, and industry groups continue to request
that the federal government increase the amount of assistance it provides to
states, cities, and towns to improve their sewage treatment infrastructure
to prevent dangerous releases from happening in the first place.

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