Mar 12, 2007

House Approves Fix for Crumbling Sewage Systems

An infusion of $14 billion could soon be on the way to help fix the nation’s crumbling water and sewer systems. On Friday House lawmakers overwhelmingly passed The Water Quality Financing Act of 2007 (H.R. 720) by a vote of 303-108. The legislation, sponsored by Representative James Oberstar (D-Minn.), provides critical funding for communities desperately trying to fix their antiquated infrastructure.

“Few people would knowingly trust their health and safety to water and sanitation systems that are on their last legs, but millions of Americans do just that every day and don’t even know it. Every year, broken sewer pipes and overwhelmed treatment plants are dumping enough raw and partially treated sewage into our rivers and streams to cover the entire state of Pennsylvania ankle deep,” said American Rivers President Rebecca Wodder. “Millions of Americans get sick every year from sewage pollution, costing up to $4 billion dollars annually for medical care.”

The money to help communities comes as part of the reauthorization of the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (SRF). The fund was first established in 1987 for state and local governments to get low-interest loans in order to fix aging water infrastructure. States are required to match the funds they use by at least 20%. Since the inception of the fund in 1987, the federal government has distributed more than $20 billion. States have been able to leverage that money into $47 billion for improvements and pollution control projects.

“This is a problem America can’t solve with hammers and hard hats alone,” adds Eli Weissman, American Rivers director of government affairs. “H.R. 720 not only helps fix the problems of the past, but looks to the future by encouraging natural solutions that allow more storm water to sink into the ground instead of flooding our already overburdened sewage systems.”