The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Katherine Baer, American Rivers, (202) 347-7550 x3053
Angela Dicianno, American Rivers, (202) 243-7077

Congress Takes Big Step Forward to Protect Clean Water, Public Health

Sewage notification, green infrastructure included in Clean Water State Revolving Fund


Every year, more than 860 billion gallons of raw and partially treated sewage foul America's waters and threaten public health, but most people have no idea that these spills occur in their local rivers and streams. Today, lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives took an important step towards changing that when they passed the Water Quality Investment Act of 2009 (H.R. 1262) to reauthorize the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF). CWSRF helps pay for critical stormwater and wastewater needs across the country. The sewage right-to-know provisions require public notification when a sewer spill has the potential to affect public health. These safeguards were originally introduced as separate legislation in the 110th Congress by Representatives Timothy Bishop (D-NY) and Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ).

"What we don't know can hurt us," said Katherine Baer, senior director of the clean water program for American Rivers, "Taking a swim, or going fishing or boating, should never be a guessing game. Sewage right-to-know is about protecting public health and shining a light on a rather odious problem so that we can build support for lasting clean water solutions."

American Rivers praised House Transportation & Infrastructure Chairman James Oberstar (D-MN), Congresswoman Kathy Dahlkemper (D-PA), and Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO) for their amendments to fund cost-effective 21st century green infrastructure approaches. All three amendments were adopted and included in the final House-passed bill.

Since its inception in 1987, the Clean Water SRF has provided $68 billion to over 20,000 projects, serving almost 95 million people. However, funding for this successful national program has not kept pace with the estimated $390 billion backlog in clean water infrastructure projects. The House-passed bill authorizes $13.8 billion over five years and will help close the gap. The bill now heads to the United States Senate for its consideration.

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.