The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Katherine Baer, American Rivers (202) 347-7550 x3053
Angela Dicianno, American Rivers, (202) 345-7550 x3103

Senate Committee Approves Sewage Legislation to Safeguard Public Health

Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works agrees we have a right to know


What's in your water? Every year, more than 860 billion gallons of raw and partially treated sewage lands in America's waters, and most people have no idea. Today, lawmakers in the Senate took an important step towards changing that. The Committee on Environment and Public Works overwhelmingly approved legislation that would require the public be notified in the event of a sewage spill.

The Sewage Overflow Right-to-Know Act of 2007 (S. 2080) was introduced by Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ). Following support between members of the environmental community, public health organizations, and wastewater treatment operators, the House of Representatives unanimously passed companion legislation (H.R. 2452) in June.

Below is a statement from Rebecca Wodder, President of American Rivers in response to today's events:

"Clean water isn't and shouldn't be a political issue. The shameful reality is that each and every year hundreds of billions of gallons of raw and partially treated sewage finds its way into our waters. Taken as a whole, it's enough to cover a state the size of Pennsylvania ankle deep. It's not only disgusting, but it's downright dangerous. Millions fall ill every year after coming in contact with sewage-contaminated waters.

What we don't know can hurt us, and taking a swim should never be a guessing game. Passing this law isn't about assigning blame, but rather protecting the public and shining a light on a rather odious problem to build support for solutions. Much of our nation's water infrastructure was built generations ago. It's overburdened and overwhelmed. The Right to Know Bill is an important first step to addressing these problems.

Once we know what kind of pollution is in our water, we can then take the steps required to get it out. As a nation, we must make the investments to bring our outdated infrastructure into the 21st century to ensure that our children will have access to clean water.

Senator Lautenberg should be thanked for introducing this common sense piece of legislation, and there's no better way to thank him than by quickly passing this bill, and having the President sign it into law."

American Rivers is the only national organization standing up for healthy rivers so our communities can thrive. Through national advocacy, innovative solutions and our growing network of strategic partners, we protect and promote our rivers as valuable assets that are vital to our health, safety and quality of life. Founded in 1973, American Rivers has more than 65,000 members and supporters nationwide, with offices in Washington, DC and the Mid-Atlantic, Northeast, Midwest, Southeast, California and Northwest regions.