Press Releases

Trahan, LaHood Reintroduce Bipartisan Legislation to End Wastewater and Stormwater Overflows

LOWELL, MA – Today, Representatives Lori Trahan (D-MA-03) and Darin LaHood (R-IL-18)announced the reintroduction of the Stop Sewage Overflow Act, bipartisan legislation to ensure the federal government does its part to support the cleanup and prevention of combined sewage overflows (CSOs) contamination in rivers across the nation, including the Merrimack River.

“Combined sewage overflows continue to plague communities along the Merrimack River, and the federal government’s wilting support for efforts to prevent future polluting overflows has only made matters worse,” said Congresswoman Trahan. “The Stop Sewage Overflow Act will finally put an end to decades of Washington’s determination to pass the buck for wastewater system upgrades onto state and local governments already reeling from federal infrastructure divestments. I’m grateful for the strong leadership of my colleagues who also represent the Merrimack River, Representatives Moulton, Kuster, and Pappas. Together, we will work to get this legislation across the finish line and signed into law.”

“In certain communities across the country, outdated combined sewer and storm water infrastructure has caused untreated sewage to overflow into our rivers at times during heavy rains and weather events. As cities with combined sewers, like Peoria, work hard to address compliance issues with federal agencies, using both traditional and new innovative solutions, our legislation aims to ease the financial burden placed on these communities,” said Congressman LaHood. “The Stop Sewage Overflow Act ensures that local municipalities across the country will have access to the resources they need to update their outdated combined sewage systems and will help  improve the environmental health of our waterways.”

Combined sewer overflows are a product of combined sewer systems, which are used 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 an average of 550 million gallons of sewage are released annually and reached 850 million gallons as recently as 2018.

To combat this burdensome issue, the Stop Sewage Overflow Act dramatically expands and improves the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Stormwater Reuse Municipal Grant program, 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. Specifically, the legislation:

  • Increases the authorization of the grant program to $500 million annually and extends that authorization of the program through 2030;
  • Prioritizes grant assistance to communities with high levels of sewage entering public waterways;
  • Reduces the cost-sharing burden on economically disadvantaged areas; and
  • Increases federal investment in green infrastructure projects that capture wet weather and prevent CSOs.

“We support the leadership of this bipartisan group of legislators, and their work to address this water infrastructure problem nationally,” said Julia Blatt, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Rivers Alliance. “It's long past time to get the sewage out of our waterways, and this legislation recognizes that the burden of combined sewer overflows falls disproportionately on urban areas and environmental justice communities.  We hope this Congress will prioritize water infrastructure, climate resiliency, and public health, and this would be an excellent place to start.”

Portions of the Stop Sewage Overflow Act were successfully included during the 116th Congress in H.R. 2, the Moving Forward Act, and the Representatives remain committed to securing passage of this key legislation during the 117th Congress.