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$1 Billion Needed for Clean Water in Region

(Fort Wayne-WANE, June 28, 2004) A report released by the Maumee River Basin Partnership for Local Governments (MRBPLG) says local communities along in the river basin will need to spend a combined total of $1 billion over the next 15 years to meet federal clean water mandates.

Combined sewage overflow is the main issue for all of the communities in the Maumee River Basin hoping to improve water quality. Bigger, newer pipes, and separate ones for storm and sewage overflow is where the costs come from, along with improved treatment plants -- and this new report calls for the federal government to step up with more money.

"What we're seeking through this report is some kind of federal assistance, or at least federal awareness that this is a national problem that should have national solutions, including some funding," Greg Meszaros, Fort Wayne's Director of City Utilities, said today.

Fort Wayne's plans alone call for $250 million to be spent on sewer infrastructure -- but the Mayor Graham Richard says the problem is that federal mandates for cleaner water now often come without federal assistance.

"The problem is the federal government may be forcing communities like ours to accelerate the timetable and increase expense," Richard said. "And that will place a burden on the sewer rate payers."

New Haven is nearly ready to begin over $8 million of improvement on its sewer system. Mayor Terry McDonald said he doesn't enjoy the costs, but people shouldn't forget about the importance of waste water, which can overflow into the drinking water of communities farther down the river.

"We send it down the pipe, we don't care about it--it's somebody else's problem," McDonald said. "No, it's everyone's problem. It's from the business owner to the household to the municipality, it's everyone's problem, and we all need to work on it."

Mayor Richard said this report should encourage citizens to show their support for federal assistance as well. The Great Lakes Restoration Act is currently making its way through Congress, and calls for $600 million a year in federal money to be given to state and local government over the next 10 years.

Mayor Richard and Meszaros also said if that legislation doesn't make it through Congress, Fort Wayne residents can expect another major sewer rate increase in the next couple of years.

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