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E-M:/ Michigan Reps screwing up on Sewer Overflow Bill

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

To: cleanwaterinfo@igc.topica.com
From: Ami Grace <cleanwaternt@igc.org>
Subject: Help Stop Harmful CSO Legislation
Date: Thu, 06 Jul 2000 12:17:17 -0700
Reply-To: cleanwaternt@igc.org
X-Topica-Loop: 1300002526

Please help stop legislation that would delay implementation of CSO
controls and allow more raw sewage into our waters!

More and more members of Congress are signing on to HR 828, legislation
that would delay implementation of CSO controls because it is being
portrayed to them as just a bill to fund water quality improvements.
Instead, it would result in delay of water quality controls, more
litigation, and lowered water quality standards.

What you can do:

(1) Sign on to the letter included below to go to every representative
in Congress warning them against signing on to this bad legislation. To
sign on, please send your name, organization, city, and state to Ami
Grace at cleanwaternt@igc.org by JULY 11.

(2) Write to your member of Congress expressing your opposition to this
legislation because it will undermine effective CSO controls. Be sure
to include the points made in the letter below.
Listed below are the 63 representatives who are currently co-sponsoring
HR 828. More are being added all the time, so please get out there and
voice your concerns!

The following Michigan U.S. Reps are screwing up
on combined sewer overflow legislation in the Congress
by co-sponsoring HR 828....

Rep Camp, Dave - 6/20/2000

Rep Dingell, John D. - 2/24/1999

Rep Ehlers, Vernon J. - 3/14/2000

Rep Hoekstra, Peter - 5/12/1999

Rep Upton, Fred - 4/28/1999


July, 2000

Dear Representative:

On behalf of our organizations' members, we are writing to encourage you
to oppose H.R. 828, the Combined Sewer Overflow Control and Partnership
Act . " H.R. 828 would undermine efforts to clean up our nation's
waterways and delay implementation of effective combined sewer overflow
programs. While some communities are making investments and adopting
programs to control raw sewage discharges from CSOs, others are lagging
behind in their efforts to ensure that raw sewage discharges are reduced
or eliminated so that local waters are clean enough to support fishing,
swimming, and can serve as safe drinking water supplies. H.R. 828 would
allow communities to beat retreats in their combined sewer overflow
control programs, providing less protection for communities and the
environment from sewer overflows, not more.

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, known as combined sewer
overflows (CSOs). 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, which was supported by the environmental
community as a good approach to begin to address the CSO problem
nationwide. It provides that all systems should implement "nine minimum
controls (NMC)", which are control steps that do not require extensive
engineering (maximizing use of the existing sewer system's capacity,
eliminating dry weather overflows, proper operation and maintenance,
etc.) by January 1, 1997. It also requires systems to develop long term
control plans (to take not more than 15 years) to attain water quality
standards (WQS). Meeting WQS assures that waters are safe for fishing
and swimming. 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 EPA, only 58% of CSO communities are implementing NMC,
despite the January 1997 deadline. Only 26% are implementing long term
control plans. The states have been slow to impose enforceable
obligations on CSO communities: approximately 42% are under no current
obligation to implement the NMC and more than 60% lack an enforceable
obligation to implement 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 government. Unfortunately, this bill would
undermine the progress that these suits have spurred by re-opening
judicially approved consent decrees.

In particular, the bill:

1. Would undermine fishable/swimmable standards for CSO receiving
waters. This bill would require cities to delay implementation of
programs to end raw sewage discharges until the city first goes through
a formal process to decide whether to lower water quality standards.

Most cities are now working to reduce discharges of untreated sewage
enough so that surface waters can be used for fishing, swimming, and
other purposes. This bill would not even allow a city to design CSO
controls so that they would meet existing standards, but would instead
require that they first consider lowering those standards.

2. Would give cities unlimited time in which to implement CSO controls.
While the bill is phrased to looks as if it supports the 15-year time
frame offered in the CSO policy, it actually allows unlimited exceptions
for almost any reason. This bill would authorize compliance schedules
of virtually any length so long as the community is "making further
progress" (which is undefined) and either compliance within 15 years "is
not within the economic capacity" of the community or delay" is
otherwise appropriate (also undefined terms).

3. Would generate unnecesary litigation. The bill contains lots of
vague terms and will almost certainly invite communities to litigate CSO
obligations with the states. It will even allow municipalities that are
already subject to fully negotiated administrative or judicial decrees
to reopen them and argue about their terms.

The bill's sponsors do provide increased federal dollars to help
communities address combined sewer overflows. However, we believe the
bill would stall crucial efforts to CSOs and would lower water quality
standards for urban streams, lakes, and coastal waters. We encourage
you to respect the public's desires for cleaner waters and not support
H. R. 828.


Alex J. Sagady & Associates        Email:  ajs@sagady.com

Environmental Enforcement, Permits/Technical Review, Public Policy and
Communications on Air, Water and Waste Issues
and Community Environmental Protection

PO Box 39  East Lansing, MI  48826-0039
(517) 332-6971 (voice); (517) 332-8987 (fax)

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