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E-M:/ Michigan Delegation Members on Bad Combined Sewer Overflow Bill

Enviro-Mich message from "Alex J. Sagady & Associates" <ajs@sagady.com>

Here is a portion of a communication from Clean Water Network
concerning bad legislation introduced by Rep. James Barcia
of Bay City that undermines combined sewer overflow control
programs previously enacted.

Dingell, Hoekstra, Kilpatrick and Upton have signed on in the 
House and Spencer Abraham has co-sponsored a 
similar measure in the Senate.

....so much for great lakes "leadership" from key members of 
the Michigan Delegation!!!   .....more interested in currying
favor with local mayors who want to continue to get away with 
dumping human waste in surface waters than in the public's
interest in human health and environmental protection.


6) The Combined Sewer Overflow Control and Partnership Act of 1999 — One
Bad Bill

In February 1999 Rep. James Barcia of Michigan introduced H.R. 828, the
Combined Sewer Overflow Control and Partnership Act of 1999 (CSOCPA).
The bill, which has 34 co-sponsors, was drafted by the CSO Partnership,
a consortium of cities with combined sewer systems. A very similar bill,
S. 914, was introduced in the Senate in April by Sen. Robert Smith of
New Hampshire, with nine co-sponsors. While the House bill tackles an
important and difficult environmental issue, it has many highly
objectionable provisions. The Senate bill, while somewhat less
problematic, is similarly flawed.  

The Problem of Combined Sewer Overflows  

Combined sewers carry both domestic ‘sanitary’ sewage and industrial
wastes, as well as runoff from city streets. In dry weather, combined
systems generally carry sewage wastes to wastewater treatment plants.
But when it rains, these systems become overloaded and overflow, with no
treatment, directly into nearby waterways. CSO discharges contain raw
sewage, floatable garbage, industrial waste, oil and grease pollution
from autos and trucks, and many other pollutants. They are a principal
cause of shellfish bed closures, beach advisories, odor, and other
aesthetic problems in many cities with combined sewer systems.  

Combined sewers exist in approximately 1,000 communities, most in the
Northeast, Midwest, and Northwest (older cities), and many with
populations under 10,000. EPA estimates the cost to address their
pollution impacts is about $44.7 billion over 20 years. CSOs can be
difficult to control because rainwater runoff introduces huge volumes of
polluted water into combined sewer systems. Community solutions to the
problem may include separation of storm and ‘sanitary’ sewers,
construction of holding tanks, expansion of sewage treatment plant
capacity, or other means to provide high rate treatment to the
overflows. Solutions often also include repair of old, leaky sewer pipes
and better maintenance of existing systems.  

The CSO Policy of April 1994

Because so little progress was made on CSO discharges in the 1970’s and
1980’s, a negotiated solution was sought by EPA. The result was the CSO
Policy, signed in April 1994. The environmental community supports that
policy. It provides that all systems should implement "nine minimum
controls" (NMC), which are control steps that do not require extensive
engineering by January 1, 1997. It also requires systems to develop long
term control plans (to take not more than15 years) to attain water
quality standards (WQS). Where meeting WQS is simply impossible, the CSO
policy leaves room for WQS to be adjusted at the same time that CSO
cleanup plans are written.  

Despite the adoption of the CSO Policy, progress has been slow. 
According to a recent memo issued by EPA, only 52% of CSO communities
are implementing NMC, despite the January 1997 deadline.  Only 33% are
implementing long term control plans. The states have been slow to
impose enforceable obligations on CSO communities:  approximately 23%
are under no enforceable obligation to implement the NMC and almost 50%
lack enforceable obligations for a long term plan. In communities where
progress has been made, often it is because enforcement action has been
taken by either a state agency, a citizen organization or the Federal

What the CSOCPA Bills Would Do

The bills would have the following provisions:
- Require all permits, orders, and decrees to follow the CSO Policy;
- Authorize compliance schedules of virtually any length so long as the
community is making "reasonable further progress" and either compliance
within 15 years "is not within the economic capacity" of the community
or delay "is other wise appropriate";
- Allow any community unilaterally to extend the time frames established
in existing consent decrees or judicial decrees using the same vague
standards as in section 2 (this is called a "savings clause" although it
does the opposite) (note: this provision is not in the Senate bill);
- Prohibit states from requiring a city to comply with WQS or long term
CSO plans unless the state has completed a WQS review and adopted "any
refinements needed to reflect site-specific wet weather impacts" of CSOs
(note: this provision is not in the Senate bill); and
- Authorize federal grants to CSO controls, with at most a 45%
non-federal cost share, and authorizes $2.25 billion over the next three

Major Problems with the Bill

- This is a recipe for delay. While states should be more active in
reviewing their WQS, this bill takes a "you-first" approach that simply
delays CSO planning and progress until the states have completed their
WQS review. It provides no incentive or mandate for the states to revise

- There are no deadlines. While the bill is phrased to look as if it
supports the 15 year time frame offered in the CSO Policy, it actually
allows unlimited exceptions for almost any reason. It allows
municipalities to re-open fully negotiated administrative or judicial
decrees whether or not the additional time is really needed.  

- It isolates the WQS review from CSO planning. The CSO Policy, which
the bill claims to support, encouraged the WQS review and CSO planning
at the same time. This makes sense because one cannot decide that
certain uses (e.g., swimming during rain storms) are unattainable
without the full review of available technologies, costs, and needs that
are conducted during the long term CSO planning.

- This is an invitation to litigation. The bill contains lots of vague
terms and will almost certainly invite communities to litigate CSO
obligations with the states.  

- Where will the money come from? If a CSO bill revives the Federal
sewage treatment grants program by up to $1 billion/year, as the bills
do, there is no real danger that the money for such a grants program
will come at the expense of adequate funding for the CWA’s State
Revolving Loan Fund from which the states finance their entire array of
sewage and stormwater treatment needs (including CSOs). The net result
would be to limit states’ flexibility to fund their highest overall
wastewater priorities.


The heart of these bills for the CSO Partnership is delay and
undermining of existing CSO agreements. While increased Federal grants
and loans to address costly CSO problems would be welcome, legislation
that results in slower rather than faster cleanup of water pollution
problems is unacceptable.

What You Can Do

Listed below are the 34 Representatives who are co-sponsoring H.R. 828
and the 9 Senators who are sponsoring S. 914. If your Congressman is
listed here as a sponsor, send them a letter expressing your discontent
with their support of a bill that substantially undermines the 1994 CSO
Policy. If your Congressman is not listed here, send them a letter as
well expressing your concerns about the ineffectiveness of these two
bills to reduce pollution due to CSOs. Be sure to include the points
made above in your letter:

To view the House version of the bill, go to: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-
bin/query/C?c106:./temp/~c106MmPGRZ.  For an on-line version of the
Senate bill go to:

34 House Co-Sponsors
Rep. Thomas H. Allen (D-ME)
Rep. John Elias Baldacci (D-ME)
Rep. Charles F. Bass (R-NH)
Rep. Pat Danner (D-MO)
Rep. Norman D. Dicks (D-WA)
Rep. John D. Dingell (D-MI)
Rep. Phil English (R-PA)
Rep. Lane Evans (D-IL)
Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA)
Rep. Paul E. Gillmor (R-OH)
Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA)
Rep. Virgil H. Goode, Jr. (D-VA)
Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-MI)
Rep. Tim Holden (D-PA)
Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH)
Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy (D-RI)
Rep. Carolyn C. Kilpatrick (D-MI)
Rep. Frank Mascara (D-PA)
Rep. Robert T. Matsui (D-CA)
Rep. Karen McCarthy (D-MO)
Rep. David M. McIntosh (R-IN)
Rep. Jack Metcalf (R-WA)
Rep. Robert W. Ney (R-OH)
Rep. Nick J. Rahall, II (D-WV)
Rep. Tim Roemer (D-IN)
Rep. Steven R. Rothman (D-NJ)
Rep. Bernard Sanders (I-VT)
Rep. Thomas C. Sawyer (D-OH)
Rep. Robert C. Scott (D-VA)
Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL)
Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE)
Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI)
Rep. Robert E. Wise, Jr. (D-WV)
Rep. David Wu (D-OR)

9 Senate Co-Sponsors
Sen. Spencer Abraham (R-MI)
Sen. Susan M. Collins (R-ME)
Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE)
Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-IN)
Sen. Charles S. Robb (D-VA)
Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA)
Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME)
Sen. George V. Voinovich (R-OH)
Sen. John W. Warner (R-VA)
Alex J. Sagady & Associates        Email:  ajs@sagady.com

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