LoBiondo's "Right-to-Know" Legislation Approved by House
Legislation introduced by U.S. Representative Frank A. LoBiondo (NJ-02) was approved by the full House of Representatives today. H.R. 753, 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 joined with Representative Tim Bishop (NY-01) to introduce the bipartisan legislation. The legislation was incorporated into H.R. 1262, the "Water Quality Investment Act," which passed the House 317 to 101.
"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. Furthermore, overflows on our beaches could have disastrous affects for our state's tourism-based economy, causing financial harm to nearby businesses due to a beach closure," said LoBiondo, a member of the House Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee. "The legislation introduced by Representative Bishop and myself is a common-sense practice that should be enacted in all communities across the country."
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 2009" 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.
Furthermore, the "Water Quality Investment Act" provides a total investment of $18.7 billion over five years for various programs including federal grants from the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, low-interest loans to communities for wastewater infrastructure projects, and the authorization of $1.8 billion over five years in grants to municipalities and states to control sewer overflows. The bill now moves on to the Senate for consideration.