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E-M:/ "Swimming in Sewage" Report Release

Enviro-Mich message from Cyndi Roper <croper@cleanwater.org>

February 19, 2004

Cyndi Roper, Clean Water Action:  517-490-1394
Megan Owens, PIRGIM:  734-730-5725
James Clift, Michigan Environmental Council: 517-487-9539
Nancy Stoner, NRDC:  202-289-2394
Michelle Merkel, EIP:  202-263-4452



Harrison Township, MI While many Southeast Michigan communities are working 
to stop dumping sewage into Lake St. Clair, the Great Lakes and other 
Michigan waterways, the Bush Administration is proposing to let other 
communities off the hook by slashing funding and proposing to allow sewage 
to keep pouring into the nation's waters indefinitely.

According to a report released today, sewage pollution costs Americans 
billions of dollars every year in medical treatment, lost productivity and 
property damage, and Bush administration policies are compounding the 
problem. "Swimming in Sewage" reports that the nation faces an emerging 
environmental and public health crisis resulting from our failure to 
effectively treat sewage. The report's authors, the Natural Resources 
Defense Council (NRDC) and the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP), found 
that sewage from homes, businesses and factories often never reaches a 
treatment plant and, when it does, too often it is not treated adequately 
to protect public health.

According to a national report released today, Michigan officials reported 
that more than 31 billion gallons of sewage entered the state's waterways 
in 2001, which endangers drinking water and causes the majority of the 
state's beach closings and advisories every year. Research conducted by 
Clean Water Action for roughly the same timeframe pegged the volume at more 
than 50 billion gallons.

"Michigan has more at stake than virtually any other state because we are 
so heavily reliant on our beaches for tourism and recreation," said Bethany 
Renfer, Clean Water Action's Michigan Program Coordinator. "Sewage 
overflows matter in Michigan. People are disgusted by the thought of sewage 
flowing into our water. They also know there are health threats posed by 
this sewage and that sewage in the state's waters harms our tourism industry."

"What Bush is trying to do is remove the finish line; he's taking away the 
hope that some day the sewage overflows will stop," said Renfer.

"We have a looming public health crisis on our hands, made worse by 
President Bush's new budget proposal which dramatically slashes funding for 
wastewater infrastructure. At nearly $500 million, it's his biggest cut for 
any environmental program, and it's indefensible," said Megan Owen, PIRGIM 
Field Director. "The result will be more beach closings, more polluted 
drinking water supplies, and more waterborne disease, which now sickens 
nearly 8 million Americans every year."

The NRDC-EIP report also identifies a number of Bush administration 
policies in addition to the new Bush budget cuts that exacerbate sewage 
pollution. Those policies include shelving a Clinton administration 
proposal that would have required controls to prevent raw sewage 
discharges, and a new proposal to allow sewer operators to discharge 
inadequately treated sewage in waterways when it rains.

The EPA calls this latest proposal "blending" because it involves mixing 
treated and untreated sewage. NRDC and EIP say it is a radical departure 
from current treatment standards, which require full treatment for sewage 
except in emergency conditions such as hurricanes, and would violate the 
Clean Water Act. It also would threaten the health of millions of 
Americans. According to a recent study by Joan Rose, a microbiologist at 
Michigan State University and an expert on waterborne illness, the risk of 
contracting giardiasis from untreated parasites in blended wastewater is a 
thousand times higher than from fully treated wastewater. (Dr. Rose can be 
contacted at 517-432-4412 or rosejo@msu.edu.)

  "Waterborne disease outbreaks are on the rise across the country," said 
Michele Merkel of EIP. "Most often, Americans get diarrhea, skin rashes or 
respiratory infections, but waterborne illness can also threaten the lives 
of seniors, young children, cancer patients, and others with impaired 
immune systems. Now is the time to boost funding to protect Americans, not 
cut it."

The report concludes with recommendations to address America's sewage 
problem. NRDC and EIP urge the Bush administration to drop its new blending 
policy, establish a national clean water trust fund to assist communities 
to provide effective sewage treatment, set standards for Cryptosporidium 
and Giardia and other currently unregulated water pollutants that make 
people sick, and enforce Clean Water Act requirements that would prevent 
raw sewage discharges.

"Swimming in Sewage" features seven case studies from around the country 
that illustrate how exposure to sewage pollution has killed or seriously 
injured people and harmed local economies. The case studies are from 
Michigan, California, Florida, Indiana, Ohio, Wisconsin and Washington, 
D.C.  . The full report is available at 

Maps showing the concentration of CSO and SSO releases in Michigan as 
reported by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to the 
U.S.E.P.A. can be found on the Michigan Environmental Council's website at 

Clean Water Action is a national citizens' organization working for clean, 
safe and affordable water, prevention of health-threatening pollution, 
creation of environmentally-safe jobs and businesses, and empowerment of 
people to make democracy work. Michigan Clean Water Action is headquartered 
in East Lansing,Grand Rapids and Clinton Township in Macomb County. 

PIRGIM is a non-profit, non-partisan public interest advocacy organization, 
working throughout Michigan to preserve the environment, protect consumers 
and promote good government. www.pirgim.org.

The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, nonprofit organization 
of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to 
protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has 
more than 1 million members and e-activists nationwide, served from offices 
in New York, Washington, Santa Monica and San Francisco. www.nrdc.org

The Environmental Integrity Project is a nonpartisan, nonprofit 
organization established in March 2002 to advocate for more effective 
enforcement of environmental laws. The organization was founded by Eric 
Schaeffer, former director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's 
Office of Regulatory Enforcement, with support from the Rockefeller Family 
Fund and other foundations. http://www.environmentalintegrity.org.

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