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Great Lakes Article:

Lawmakers attempt to block EPA from adopting sewage rule
By Bruce Geiselman
Published March 7th, 2005

March 7 -- Four Congressmen introduced a bill March 3 that would block federal regulators from adopting guidelines specifically allowing wastewater plant operators to blend and discharge partially treated sewage with fully treated sewage during periods of unusually heavy rain or snowmelt.

Reps. Bart Stupak, D-Mich.; Mark Steven Kirk, R-Ill.; Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J.; and E. Clay Shaw Jr., R-Fla., introduced the legislation one week after 135 bipartisan members of Congress sent a letter to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Stephen Johnson asking the agency to abandon the proposal.

Stupak expressed concern about future outbreaks of waterborne illnesses if the blending rule goes into effect. "Billions of gallons of human waste are dumped into our Great Lakes and other water resources each year," Stupak said. "This sort of outbreak can happen again if we don´t act now to prevent the EPA from rolling back our clean water standards."

Kirk said a rule legitimizing the dumping of partially treated sewage into the Great Lakes would result in more beach closings.

While the congressmen and environmentalists contend that the rule change would endanger the environment and public health, proponents, including the Association of Metropolitan Sewerage Agencies, say the opposite is true.

Blending effluent, which already takes place, meets Clean Water Act permit requirements and protects the public health, according to the association. The new guidance would clarify the federal government´s policy, according to the sewerage association.

Blending effluent prevents a sewer system from "washout," a condition in which the sewer system is overwhelmed by volume and untreated sewage is released, according to the association. Blending protects the nation´s waterways, according to the association.

While environmentalists and the sewerage association disagree on the sewage blending proposal, they agree that the federal government should increase funding to help communities upgrade their wastewater treatment plants in order to handle greater volumes during periods of heavy rain or snowmelt.

Contact Waste News government affairs editor Bruce Geiselman at (330) 865-6172 or


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