Representatives Lori Trahan and Darin LaHood Introduce New Legislation to Support Clean Up and Prevention of Waterway CSO Contamination
The Bipartisan ‘Stop Sewage Overflow Act’ dramatically expands the EPA’s Stormwater Reuse Municipal Grant Program to help clean up rivers like the Merrimack River
Washington, May 15, 2019
Washington, DC – Today, Congresswoman Lori Trahan (D-MA) and Congressman Darin LaHood (R-IL) introduced new legislation to support the cleanup of CSO contamination in rivers across the United States, including the Merrimack River. The Stop Sewage Overflow Act dramatically expands and improves the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Stormwater Reuse Municipal Grant program (Section 221), which is used to award federal grants to states and municipalities for the planning, design, and construction for combined sewer overflows, sanitary sewer overflows, or stormwater management.
Combined sewer overflows are a product of combined sewer systems, which are in use by more than 800 communities across the nation. These systems are particularly common in the Northeast and Midwest, where they trigger harmful releases of raw sewage when precipitation exceeds manageable levels. This is especially the case for the Merrimack River, where last year alone 800 million gallons of sewage and untreated stormwater were released into the river as a result of these outdated systems.
“The Merrimack River is a vital resource for residents of Massachusetts’ 3rd Congressional District, supplying drinking water to hundreds of thousands of people across the region. That is why the current state of contamination is so concerning,” said Rep. Trahan. “The federal government has an obligation to help municipalities like Lowell, Lawrence, Haverhill, and Manchester make urgently needed upgrades to their sewer infrastructure to help prevent this sort of pollution from jeopardizing the health and economic wellbeing of residents who depend on the river. I am proud to introduce the Stop Sewage Overflow Act to give municipalities the help they’ve been asking for, and happy that the legislation has bipartisan support. This problem afflicts towns and cities across the US. I’m proud to work with Rep. LaHood on this urgent issue.”
“In Peoria, outdated and overwhelmed sewage systems have caused overflow at times into the Illinois River, allowing untreated and contaminated sewage to be released into the water. As cities with CSOs, like Peoria, have worked to address compliance issues, dealing with federal agencies has been a challenge and our legislation aims to ease the burdensome pressure placed on these communities. Investing in the cleanup of sewage infrastructure will expand access to cleaner water and our bill ensures local municipalities across the country have access to the resources they need to update outdated sewage systems,” said Rep. LaHood. “I am proud to join Congresswoman Trahan in this effort and I’ll continue to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to provide Peoria and communities across central and west-central Illinois the proper infrastructure resources they need to keep our communities clean.”
Specifically, the Stop Sewage Overflow Act increases the authorization of the Sewer Overflow and Stormwater Reuse Municipal Grant program to $500 million annually, extends the authorization of the program through 2030, prioritizes communities that have endured the most sewage overflows, and raises the federal cost-share based upon a community’s ability to fund improvements. This legislation is endorsed by the American Society of Civil Engineers, National Association of Clean Water Agencies, American Public Works Association, and Plumbing Manufacturers International.
Congresswoman Trahan first unveiled this legislation at the end of April during a Merrimack River stakeholders’ meeting she convened at the Lowell Regional Wastewater Utility (LRWWU). This meeting was attended by local business, advocacy, and elected leaders from Merrimack River watershed communities. A representative from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was also in attendance. The attendees of this event also joined together to send an invitation to the Acting Regional EPA Administrator, Deborah Szaro. The invitation encourages her to tour the watershed region and hear from local stakeholders about the importance of federal support for Merrimack River clean-up efforts. A copy of that signed letter can be found HERE:
Also in April, Congresswoman Trahan, along with Representatives Seth Moulton (D-MA), Annie Kuster (D-NH), and Chris Pappas (D-NH) sent a letter to the Chairwoman and Ranking Member of the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Subcommittee of Appropriations requesting $500 million be allocated for the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Sewer Overflow and Stormwater Reuse Municipal Grant Program (section 221) for fiscal year 2020.
Congresswoman Trahan continues to be a champion for river cleanup and preservation across the Commonwealth. Earlier this year as a part of a broader public lands package, President Trump signed into law legislation sponsored by Rep. Trahan and Sen. Markey to designate the Nashua River and its tributaries as scenic rivers under the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. This designation will help preserve the rivers for generations to come.