The "Save Our Waters From Sewage Act"
Excerpted from Grist:
By Susan Boni 10 Mar 2005
For the last year, Michigan Congressman Bart Stupak has been fighting a U.S. EPA proposal that would allow inadequately treated sewage to be "blended" with fully treated waste during rain and snow events. The messy mix would then be released into the nation's rivers, lakes, and coastal waters.
If blending is permitted, Stupak warns, people will get sick, beaches will close, and tourism and fishing will suffer. Not only that, taxpayers will bear the cost of cleanup down the road.
"It doesn't make sense," the Michigan Democrat says. He compares it to a questionable cup of water: "Three-fourths of it will be clean, but one-fourth of it is going to be dirty. But the whole glass isn't dirty; therefore, it's all right to consume."
Blending is currently allowed as an exception during extreme events like hurricanes, but is not practiced regularly across the country.
The method bypasses the second and most important step in the water-treatment process -- the step that kills bacteria, viruses, and pathogens known to cause infectious disease. Such bypasses, prohibited under the Clean Water Act under all but the most outstanding circumstances, would now be allowed in every "wet-weather" event.
Last week, in a bid to block the EPA from implementing that policy, Stupak introduced the Save Our Waters From Sewage Act.
"We're interpreting existing law and existing regulations" says Jim Hanlon, director of the agency's Office of Wastewater Management. Hanlon is confident that blended sewage can be discharged into drinking-water sources because "our fundamental concept underlying the blending policy is that if you meet your permit, it is protective of human health and the environment."
Scientist Joan Rose: "When we allow untreated or partially treated wastewater to be mixed with treated wastewater, we're loading more pathogens into the system..."
In 2003, Rose conducted a study that found swimmers were 100 times more likely to contract a waterborne illness in water where blended sewage had been discharged than in water containing fully treated sewage.
Cities have pushed for federal funding to [improve sewage systms] but the Bush administration cut nearly 40 percent from a wastewater loan program for fiscal year 2005.
When "you've cut the money and there's no money for compliance," says Stupak, "then you have to change the policy. So that's what [the EPA has] done, without taking a look at the environmental and health risks involved."
Here is a sample letter to your Congressmen.
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