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Clean Water Report
Copyright 2004 Gale Group. All rights reserved.
Monday, July 26, 2004
ISSN: 0009-8620; Volume 42; Issue 15

Congress to Upgrade Sewer Systems to Avoid Overflows During Rainstorms
(Grant Authorization)

Wastewater treatment operators could get additional funding for combined sewer systems and separate sewer systems if Congress adopts legislation that would reauthorize grants for sewers. The House Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee heard testimony July 8 on H.R. 784, which would reauthorize grants to fix overflow problems. The subcommittee also heard testimony on H.R. 4470, a bill to reauthorize Lake Pontchartrain Basin Restoration; H.R. 4688, a bill to reauthorize the Chesapeake Bay Program; and H.R. 4731, a bill to reauthorize the National Estuary Program.

Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.) introduced H.R. 784 to help communities deal with the cost of repairing sewer infrastructure. Camp hopes to prevent pollution levels that were in the waterways prior to the 1970s.

"This legislation would be the first ounce of prevention well worth a pound of cure. By helping communities repair leaking and broken sewer pipes, we can sharply reduce the number of beach closures, ensure cleaner drinking water and prevent water pollution in rivers, lakes and coastal waters," Camp told CWR.

Funding Gap Grows

Proponents of the legislation hope EPA will fund the wet weather program and help defray costs of projects. A wastewater funding gap remains a challenge for sewerage agencies, said Paul Pinault, past president of Association of Metropolitan Sewerage Agencies.

EPA estimates that $50.68 billion is needed immediately to control sewer overflows in 772 combined sewer communities, Pinault told CWR.

"H.R. 784 constitutes an important statement from Congress. H.R. 784 shows that Congress understands the challenges the nation's public wastewater treatment facilities face."

Supporters of the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Restoration, the Chesapeake Bay Program and the National Estuary Program pointed to the successes of each program. The National Estuary Program provides a front-line response to the pressures on the coastal ecosystems, said Richard Ribb, vice chairman for the Organizational Affairs Committee for the Association of National Estuary Programs.

Lake Pontchartrain restoration must have full funding of $100 million, said Rep. David Vitter (RLa.). Future funding should be used to construct inflow and infiltration projects.

The Pontchartrain Restoration Program addresses increased pollution problems in growing areas, according to the Carlton Dufrechou, executive director of the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation. The program also provides technical assistance and should be funded.

Similar arguments were touted for the Chesapeake Bay Program. The subcommittee voted July 15 to pass all these bills and one to reauthorize beach cleanup of the Tijuana River Valley.

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