LoBiondo's "Right-to-Know" Legislation Approved by House Committee
Congressman's Legislation Would Mandate Public Notification of Sewage Overflows in Nearby Waters
Legislation introduced last year by U.S. Representative Frank A. LoBiondo (NJ-02) was approved by the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee today. H.R. 2452, the "Sewage Overflow Community Right-to-Know Act," would mandate public notification by waste water facilities and operators when a sewer overflow occurs in public waters. LoBiondo, who joined with Representative Tim Bishop (NY-01) to introduce the bipartisan legislation, is a member of the House committee and participated in the hearing.
"Protecting the public's health and safety is the single most important function that government at any level must do. The public has a right to be notified about potential hazards in their swimming and drinking water," said LoBiondo. "The legislation introduced by Representative Bishop and myself is a common-sense practice that should be enacted in all communities across the country. As my colleagues on the committee agree, I urge the House to quickly approve this legislation."
The EPA estimates approximately 900 billion gallons of untreated sewage enter our waterways each year, sickening nearly 3.5 million people annually. Over 700 combined sewer overflow systems and other aging sewer infrastructure is the primary culprit. In 2007, nearly 250,000 gallons of partially-treated sewage leaked from the Asbury Park sewer treatment plant into the Atlantic Ocean, threatening beach goers for miles down the shore. It was the result of a broken pipe that went undetected for over 6 hours.
Specifically, the "Sewage Overflow Community Right-to-Know Act of 2007" would require sewage plant operators to:
Ø Monitor their treatment works for sewage overflows using a management program or technology that will alert them of sewer overflows in a timely manner;
Ø Notify public health officials, the general public and other affected downstream entities including drinking water suppliers of any sewer overflows that endanger human health; and,
Ø Report to the state or the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on all sewer overflows as soon as they become aware of the overflow and follow-up with a written report explaining the duration and volume of the overflow and steps taken to mitigate the overflow and prevent recurrence.
Additionally, under this legislation, sewage plant operators would be eligible for existing federal grants to assist in the installation of monitoring technology.
In September 2007, LoBiondo and Bishop were honored by American Rivers - the national organization which advocates for healthy rivers - for introducing H.R. 2452. A representative from the Healthy Waters Campaign for American Rivers has previously testified before Congress on the bill.
"Gambling should be left to the casinos in Atlantic City," said Rebecca Wodder, president of American Rivers. "We all have a fundamental right to know what's in our water; its safety should never be a roll of the dice."
Currently, LoBiondo and Bishop's bipartisan legislation has 55 co-sponsors in the House. Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) introduced a companion bill to the "Sewage Overflow Community Right-to-Know Act" in the Senate.