WASHINGTON, D.C.—As Congress and the Obama administration craft an economic recovery package, U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) led a group of seven U.S. Senators in calling for $5 billion to help communities renovate outdated “combined sewage overflow” (CSO) systems. More than 100 sites across Ohio have serious sewage overflow problems.
“In addition to strengthening the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (SRF), we believe that there is also a serious need for a dedicated $5 billion combined sewage overflow (CSO) grant program,” wrote the Senators in a letter today to the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. “Making these investments now will create jobs, ensure long-term economic competitiveness, affirm our commitment to clean water, and help shield ratepayers from rapidly increasing costs.”
In addition to Brown, the group included Senators Russ Feingold (D-WI), Carl Levin (D-MI), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).
CSOs move both wastewater and storm water through the same sewage system. In the event of a storm or excessive rain, CSOs cannot handle both human wastewater and storm runoff at the same time. As a result, nearly one billion gallons of raw sewage from CSOs puts public health at risk and undermines our commitment to environmental quality.
Federal guidelines require municipalities to renovate these outdated systems to protect human health and the environment, but upgrades often prove too costly for many small communities. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) communities across the nation face an estimated $50 billion in need for CSO renovations. These projects represent more than 25 percent of all wastewater needs reported in the most recent EPA needs survey.
A 2008 Ohio EPA report showed that 86 facilities in Ohio have serious sewage overflow problems. This amounts to a needed investment of $6.3 billion, an increase of more than half since the 2000 survey. The report calculated there is an immediate need of more than $10 billion in Ohio for improvements in publicly-owned wastewater treatment facilities.
Brown has been working with mayors and community leaders across Ohio to respond to sewage upgrade needs. He has held more than 125 roundtable discussions in each of Ohio’s 88 counties, with several of them focused solely on infrastructure needs.
Studies indicate that for every $1 billion invested in infrastructure projects, anywhere from 35,000 to nearly 50,000 jobs are created. Beyond job creation, investment in water and sewer infrastructure meets public health and safety needs and helps communities attract new businesses and residents.
Last year Brown, along with Senator George V. Voinovich (R-OH), introduced “The Clean Water Affordability Act” (S.3443). This legislation is aimed at updating the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) clean water affordability policy, which puts undue strain on the budgets of local communities.
A full copy of the Senators’ letter can be found below.
Dear Chairman Inouye and Ranking Member Cochran:
We are writing to stress the need for water infrastructure funding in the economic stimulus bill.
With numerous reports detailing the expanding funding gap in water infrastructure needs, it is clear that these are investments that we can no longer ignore. In addition to strengthening the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (SRF), we believe that there is also a serious need for a dedicated $5 billion combined sewage overflow (CSO) grant program.
Over the next twenty years, the Environmental Protection Agency projects the necessary nationwide investment in combined sewage overflows at over $50 billion. These projects represent more than 25% of all wastewater needs reported in the most recent EPA needs survey.
But under the Clean Water Act SRF program, CSO projects compete with all other types of eligible projects for funding. The SRF program is already stretched to meet the competing needs for CSO and many other types of eligible wastewater projects. As a result, nearly one billion gallons of raw sewage from CSOs puts the public health at risk and undermines our commitment to environmental quality.
There are communities across the country with shovel-ready projects that would benefit tremendously from this program. Making these investments now will create jobs, ensure long-term economic competitiveness, affirm our commitment to clean water, and help shield ratepayers from rapidly increasing costs. We strongly urge you to include this important program in the economic recovery legislation.