English Calls for Congress to Create Clean-Water
By CAROLINE RUSE
After high bacteria counts closed more beaches this week at
Presque Isle State Park, U.S. Rep. Phil English of Erie said he is
backing federal legislation to help cities face water-quality
The Clean Water Trust Act of 2005, H.R. 4560, would create a fund
of $7.5 billion each year, and cities could compete for loans and
grants to upgrade their sewage systems, implement clean water
projects and improve utility management, said English, R-3rd Dist.
"The Clean Water Act's current funding mechanisms are failing,"
English said, referring to the Federal Water Pollution Control Act
Amendments of 1972. "The federal government needs to play a greater
role. This act will re-engage partnership between the federal, state
and local governments to clean up our water."
The proposed trust fund could offer assistance in the future for
residents like those of the Chapel Hill subdivision in Millcreek
Township, which is in the process of replacing septic systems with
municipal sewer lines.
The project, estimated three years ago to cost $12,000 per
household, now is estimated at a maximum of $22,000.
In addition to addressing infrastructure problems, the fund would
supply grants to keep regional bodies of water, like the Great
Lakes, clean, supporters say.
English, who appeared at a news conference with Erie County
Executive Mark DiVecchio and other local officials, said the money
would "provide adequate research, improve public access to fisheries
and create water sewage plants."
Water pollution has become a growing national problem in recent
years. A report released this month by the Natural Resources Defense
Council found the number of health advisory days and closings at
beaches nationwide is on the rise - up nearly 5 percent between 2004
Officials at Presque Isle have not yet pinpointed causes for the E.
coli bacteria closing its beaches, but English said the region's
failing water infrastructure could be at fault, and money made
available through the proposed trust fund could help.
"Clearly, there is a problem there that is needing to be identified
and taken care of," he said. "These are the kind of flexible dollars
that would be useful in devising a solution."
English said resources already were available at the federal level
for the project. He and his co-sponsors have identified $111 billion
in reduced budget deficit, and they plan to get specific revenues
earmarked, he said. They plan to push the bill for consideration by
the House of Representatives early this fall.
DiVecchio said he strongly supports the legislation because of
water's importance to Erie's growth. About 4 million people visit
Presque Isle each year.
"Our water is not only an economic asset, but a tourist
attraction as well," DiVecchio said. "To continue to have economic,
tourist growth, we feel this is very important."
Jerry Skrypzak, president of the Lake Erie fishing club S.O.N.S.
of Lake Erie, also expressed optimism about what more funding could
mean for Lake Erie.
"It will give the local and state governments a chance to look at
the sewer systems and find solutions, and also give industry a
chance to curtail their pollution," he said.
Skrypzak said there were sewage-related problems throughout Erie
County, including systems that overflowed when it rained, septic
tanks without appropriate outfall drains, and buildings whose sewage
systems were not assembled properly.
"All that human waste is going into the streams," Skrypzak said.
"Now that all has to go back and be fixed."
CAROLINE RUSE can be reached at 870-1687 or by e-mail.