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House Passes Clean Water Bill

WASHINGTON, DC, March 8, 2007 (ENS) - The House of Representatives Wednesday approved legislation that would authorize a $1.5 billion program for cities to repair and upgrade aging and outdated sewage systems that often overflow during wet weather events.

The Water Quality Investment Act of 2007 (H.R. 569) had broad bipartisan support, passing the House with a vote of 367 to 58.
H.R. 569 provides $1.5 billion over five years for EPA sewer overflow control grants to states and municipalities. Combined sewer systems, which carry both stormwater and sanitary flows, and separate sanitary sewer systems can overflow with untreated waste during heavy rainfall or snow melts.

Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Congressman Jim Oberstar, a Minnesota Democrat who sponsored the bill, says cities and towns across the nation are faced with making massive repairs to infrastructure that is often more than 100 years old.

"Duluth is a prime example of a city that would benefit from this legislation," said Oberstar. "They have a sewer system that is more than a century old. It gets flooded every time there is a heavy rain and raw sewage to flow into Lake Superior."

"We have spent more money repairing and upgrading water and sewer treatment plants in Iraq than we have spent in the United States," said Oberstar. "Itís time to invest in a legacy of clean water for our children," Oberstar said.

"Combined sewer overflows and sanitary sewer overflows create a huge pollution problem in America. This bill will help provide cleaner water in our communities, and will require EPA to distribute grant money to those communities most in need of assistance," said Congressman John Mica, of Florida, Republican leader on the Committee.

Today, the House of Representatives considered a companion clean water bill from the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
The Water Quality Financing Act of 2007 (H.R. 720) will provide $14 billion in federal loan guarantees to help cities and towns finance water and sewer improvements. The measure would reauthorize the Clean Water State Revolving Fund to provide low interest loans to government entities for clean water and nonpoint source pollution control projects.

Leaders from groups representing the nationís municipal, engineering, contracting, labor, environmental, and conservation organizations today held a press briefing sponsored by the Water Infrastructure Network, WIN, in support of the legislation.
This year marks the 35th anniversary of the passage of the Clean Water Act, providing an ideal opportunity for a federal recommitment to the nationís waters, the proponents said.

Federal dollars in the form of loans and grants are the only way America can address clean water infrastructure funding gap estimated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Government Accountability Office, and WIN at between $300 and $500 billion.

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