reports see troubled waters
lake pollution high; more water treatment needed
Oct. 1 More than a third of surveyed rivers, and
about half of all lakes and estuaries are too polluted
for swimming or fishing, the Environmental Protection
Agency said in a new report. A second EPA report projected
a gap of more than $500 billion in unmet water quality
needs over 20 years unless spending on treatment facilities
Congress has funded such projects at $1.35 billion annually
for the past five years, but President Bush sought $1.21
billion in his budget for the fiscal year starting Tuesday.
Instead, senate appropriators added $100 million, bringing
the potential total to $1.45 billion.
EPAS biennial national water quality inventory
said runoff from farmland, sewage treatment plants and
changes in the natural flow of streams and rivers is fouling
the nations waters.
From 1998 to 2000, the percentage
of polluted streams rose from 35 percent, to 39 percent;
the percentage of polluted lakes was unchanged at 45 percent;
and the percentage of polluted estuaries increased from
44 percent, to 51 percent.
The second report, a so-called
gap analysis of water infrastructure needs,
says that an increase in real spending on the nations
network of treatment plants by 3 percent above the rate
of inflation would be required for cities and towns to
keep up with pressing needs.
By 2019, systems could be
short $271 billion for wastewater and $263 billion for
drinking water money that would be badly need
to replace aging pipes, maintain existing facilities and
build new ones to meet rising demand, the agency said.
With the 3 percent spending
increases, the gaps could be held to $45 billion for drinking
water and $31 billion for wastewater, it said.
G. Tracy Mehan III, EPAs
assistant administrator for water programs, blamed deferred
maintenance, in adequate capital replacement and a generally
aging infrastructure. But he said funding gaps need not
The overall picture
is that probably compared to any country in the world,
weve had tremendous success in the past several
decades, especially given the rip-roaring growth of the
economy and the substantial growth in the population,
theres no doubt we face new challenges, and more
Environmentalists said the
reports paint a darker picture than that.
Were not making
progress in addressing the remaining sources of water
pollution, said Nancy Stoner, director of Natural
Resources Defense Councils clean water project.
Owners of water and waste treatment plants
immediately suggested that the federal government should
pick up the added costs rather than cover them through
higher local water and sewer rates.
"It bolsters the need
for Congress to act quickly on this," said Adam Krantz,
a spokesman for the Water Infrastructure Network, a trade
group for local elected officials and drinking water and
wastewater administrators. "Without immediate action,
were looking at a massive environmental and public
EPAs report made no
recommendation on who should pick up the tab.
Krantz said, however, that
it probably would add to pressure for more federal funding
"now that you have the EPA under a Bush administration,
which doesnt want to spend money, coming out and
positing a very startling high number."
Bush administration officials
have said that they opposed a bipartisan House plan to
make billions more available to help states with wastewater
projects, because defense spending must take priority.
For drinking water, senators
proposed $875 million, which is $25 million more than both
what Bush wanted in his budget and what was approved last
The reports, based on data up
to the year 2000, are online.
Gap report: www.epa.gov/owm/featinfo.htm.
Water inventory: www.epa.gov/305b/2000report.
2002 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material
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