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Pascrell Introduces Water Quality Investment Act

Legislation creates $1.8 billion grant program for water infrastructure investment

Today, U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ-09) announced that he introduced legislation that would help communities reach a higher standard of environmental health.  The bill, Water Quality Investment Act, H.R. 5826, would fund a $1.8 billion grant program for municipalities and states to invest in the modernization of aging sewer infrastructure affected by wet weather events.

”This legislation takes an important step in modernizing America’s most outdated water infrastructure without passing the burden on to local municipalities,” said Rep. Pascrell.  “Smart water infrastructure investment will mitigate public health risks and contribute to the preservation of natural resources, such as the Passaic River and Paterson’s Great Falls.  Critical investments like this in our nation’s crumbling infrastructure also creates good jobs while boosting our economy.  This is the sort of smart investment we need to rebuild many of America’s urban areas.”

As the former Mayor of Paterson, which has thirty-one combined sewer outfalls that discharge into the Passaic River, Rep. Pascrell served on the Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Water Resources and the Environment from 1997-2006, determined to improve waste water infrastructure and water quality standards.

“Federal support for clean water projects has been essential to updating our nation’s clean water infrastructure and continued support will be necessary to continue to protect the nations’ water quality,” said National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA) Executive Director Ken Kirk.  “This is why NACWA is proud to endorse the Water Quality Investment Act. I applaud Congressman Pascrell for his leadership on investment in our water infrastructure and look forward to continue working with him on this critical issue.”

To provide additional Federal assistance with this issue, Congress amended the Clean Water Act in 2000 to add section 221, which authorizes Sewer Overflow Control Grants. However, funding was never been appropriated for these grants and the authorization expired in 2002. In 2008, EPA determined it would cost $63.6 billion to prevent or control the periodic discharges of mixed stormwater and untreated wastewater that occur when the capacity of a sewer system is exceeded during a wet weather event across 31 states.  Since 2008 the need has only continued to grow.

Recognizing the additional need for funds to prevent water pollution across our nation, the Water Quality Investment Act would reauthorize section 221 of the Clean Water Act. The legislation would authorize $1.8 billion in sewer overflow control grants over the next five fiscal years.

Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs) contain stormwater, untreated human and industrial waste, toxic materials, and debris, which is a major water pollution concern for the approximately 772 cities in the United States that have combined sewer systems. Although clean water agencies have made significant progress in reducing CSOs, overflow control remains a significant cost for communities and a priority enforcement area for EPA.

Many older cities have combined stormwater and sanitary sewer systems which suffer from CSOs during wet weather that send sewage and untreated waste flowing into streets, basements, rivers, and lakes. As a result, the water quality of bodies of water are damaged and overtime become dangerous to public health.


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