WASHINGTON, D.C. – With local communities seeking cost-effective approaches to upgrading wastewater systems, U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Rob Portman (R-OH) introduced new legislation today that would establish a national pilot program to ensure that the most innovative and cost-efficient solutions are available to local communities when complying with Clean Water Act standards. The Clean Water Compliance and Affordability Act reflects portions of current legislation introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Steve Chabot (OH-1).

“Too many communities are struggling to afford costly, but necessary, upgrades to wastewater systems,” Brown said. “As we saw in Toledo, these upgrades are necessary to protect the safety and reliability of our drinking water. This bill will help make those upgrades more attainable for local communities.”   

“I am hearing every day from communities all across Ohio that are trying to do the right thing, but that find themselves struggling under the costs of inflexible federal clean water mandates,” Portman said. “Our legislation will encourage U.S. EPA to work with interested communities in developing innovative and cost effective solutions to comply with the Clean Water Act – solutions that can be used by other communities to provide affordable clean water to their citizens.”

Under provisions of the Clean Water Act, local communities must make upgrades to waste- and storm-water systems to ensure raw sewage and pollutants do not enter our nation’s waters. The ability for local and state governments to finance these projects has been strained during the ongoing economic recovery. By establishing pilot programs, 15 communities will work with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to craft flexible compliance guidelines and find long-term methods for funding projects.

“Hamilton County Sewer ratepayers are getting an early holiday present this year with the joint introduction of the Senate's new sewer ratepayer affordability bill being jointly introduced by Senators Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman,” Todd Portune, Hamilton County Commissioner said.  “Ohio's Senators action will generate much needed momentum toward full implementation of Clean Water Act compliance in America in a way that is affordable, economical and efficient for ratepayers.  Here in Hamilton County our ratepayers will collectively save as much as 25% of the cost of sewer upgrades - an amount that will ensure that Ohio's homeowners can pay their mortgages and stay in their homes.”

Brown and Portman continue their bipartisan effort toward establishing safe water guidelines in Ohio. In Sept. 2014, Brown and Portman and U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH-09) introduced legislation to help determine if Ohioans’ drinking water is safe for consumption. The Safe and Secure Drinking Water Act will direct the EPA to publish a health advisory and submit reports on what level of microcystins in drinking water is expected to be safe for human consumption.