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E-M:/ Alert from Clean Water Network on Sewage Overflow policy


Call Your Congress Member: Tell Them To Act To Keep Sewage Out of Our Water

The EPA has released a draft guidance that would allow inadequately treated sewage to be discharged into waterways when it rains. This practice leads to beach closings, algal blooms, increased incidences of pfisteria, giardia and hepatitis A outbreaks. These are just a few of the risks that result from the dangerous practice of “blending” sewage. Members of Congress have the opportunity to express their dissent on this matter by signing a newly introduced “Dear Colleague Letter” addressed to EPA Administrator Mike Leavitt. Please take a few minutes and call your member of Congress and tell them to do their part to protect public health and safety by signing onto this letter. 

Ask to speak with the Environment Legislative Aide in your Congress member’s office. Remember, this is NOT lobbying.  Tell them:
·       The practice of merely diluting sewage before releasing it into waterways was abandoned decades ago because of the dangers it poses to the health of humans, fish, wildlife and entire ecosystems.
·       Failing to treat sewage for pathogens leads to beach closures, fish kills, algal blooms and viral outbreaks such as pfisteria, giardia and cryptosporidium. 
·       EPA’s new guidance on “blending” untreated sewage is illegal. The Clean Water Act requires all wastewater to meet secondary treatment standards prior to discharge.
·       Sign onto the bi-partisan dear colleague letter sponsored by Rep. Frank Pallone and Clay Shaw (House Coastal Caucus Co-Chairs). The letter calls on EPA Administrator Mike Levitt to rescind EPA’s decision to ease contaminants standards on sewage being discharged into waterways.

(Dist. 1) Bart Stupak – (202) 225-4735  Environment LA: Chris Bouma
(Dist. 2) Peter Hoekstra - (202) 225-4401       Environment LA: Justin Wormmeester
(Dist. 3) Vernon Ehlers – (202) 225-3831        Environment LA: Matt Reiffer
(Dist. 4) Dave Camp – (202) 225-3561    Environment LA: Deidre Ozunik
(Dist. 5) Dale Kildee – (202) 225-3611  ALREADY SIGNED
(Dist. 6) Fred Upton – (202) 225-3761   Environment LA: Jane Williams
(Dist. 7) Nick Smith – (202) 225-6276   Environment LA: Brian Bowker
(Dist. 8) Mike Rogers – (202) 225-4872  Environment LA: Michael Ward
(Dist. 9) Joe Knollenberg - (202) 225-5802      Environment LA: Megan Thomson
(Dist. 10) Candice Miller – (202) 225-2106      Environment LA: Kim Bird
(Dist. 11) Thad McCotter – (202) 225-8171       Environment LA: Patrick Rothwell
(Dist. 12) Sander Levin – (202) 225-4961        Environment LA: Daniel Jourdan
(Dist. 13) Carolyn Kilpatrick (202) 225-2261  Environment LA: Gene Fisher
(Dist. 14) John Conyers – ALREADY SIGNED
(Dist. 15) John Dingell – ALREADY SIGNED

The deadline for sign-ons is Friday, January 9th.

The letter is included below.

Please forward this alert to others so we can get as many Congress members on this letter as possible.

For more information contact Josh Klein at 202-289-2421 or .

December 4, 2003

Administrator Michael Leavitt
Environmental Protection Agency
Ariel Rios Building
1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, D.C.  20460

Dear Administrator Leavitt,

        We were concerned to learn that the Environmental Protection Agency released a draft guidance on November 7 that would allow the discharge of inadequately treated sewage into waterways during rain events.  The guidance would allow publicly owned treatment works (POTWs) to divert or "bypass" sewage around secondary treatment units, and then combine the filtered but untreated sewage with fully treated wastewater before discharge, in a process called "blending".  The effect of this guidance would be to authorize the removal of the crucial second step in the process of secondary treatment during wet weather, specifically the biological treatment of the sewage.  Currently, this sort of bypass is prohibited.

        As the EPA is well aware, the biological treatment component of the process removes most of the pathogens, including viruses and parasites, from the wastewater.  Therefore, the absence of this secondary treatment stage would allow the inclusion of numerous dangerous viruses and parasites such as Hepatitis A and Giardia in the product that is released into waterways. Disinfection (usually in the form of chlorination) is commonly used as the third step in sewage treatment, but disinfection without biological treatment would require the addition of large quantities of chlorine to come close to the same effectiveness of full secondary treatment. Yet this draft guidance does not even require this disinfection stage, unless it is necessary to meet water quality standards.

        We understand the nature of the problem of excessive solids losses and disruption of the biological treatment stage during periods of heavy inflow of water into the collection system.  Our nation is inarguably faced with the critical need for a huge financial investment in improved wastewater treatment infrastructure. However, it is unacceptable to use the allowance of blended sewage during rain events as the band-aid to cover these infrastructure shortfalls.  The Federal Register notice dated November 7, 2003, specifically noted the existence of alternative measures to handle excess capacity. These measures include the construction of additional capacity and short-term storage until the sewage can be fully treated.  We find it disappointing that your agency has advocated a dangerous and environmentally harmful approach that threatens public health over these safer alternatives.

We have made great strides in the treatment of wastewater since the passage of the Clean Water Act in 1972. Accordingly, today Americans enjoy the benefit of clean drinking water supplies, clean beaches, and healthy coastal ecosystems. We see the repercussions of polluted water to health, livelihoods, and tourism anytime there is an accidental breach in sewage treatment facilities. This draft guidance would turn back the clock on clean water protections, and we urge the EPA to enforce and strengthen these protections, rather than consider actions that would increase the threat of waterborne illnesses and environmental degradation.  We should not allow this sort of bypass nor should we accept blending as a replacement for full secondary treatment when feasible alternatives exist.


Alex J. Sagady & Associates        http://www.sagady.com

Environmental Enforcement, Permit/Technical Review, Public Policy,
Evidence Review and Litigation Investigation on Air, Water and
Waste/Community Environmental and Resource Protection
Prospectus at:  http://www.sagady.com/sagady.pdf

PO Box 39,  East Lansing, MI  48826-0039 
(517) 332-6971; (517) 332-8987 (fax); ajs@sagady.com