"Sewage Blending Policy"
EPA seeks to loosen restrictions on Sewage Dumping
Members of Congress can oppose this policy
Americas lakes, rivers, and streams and peoples health are threatened by the toxic and microbial contamination from large flows of raw and inadequately treated sewage. According to EPA, 1.3 trillion gallons of raw sewage are dumped into America's lakes and streams each year. Instead of increasing funding to fix sewer systems, the Administration-- - at the behest of some local governments and some sewer providers-- - is proposing to allow more dumping of sewage that has not been through critical steps in the treatment process.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) hasd proposed a policy that will make routine sewage dumping a practice that has been seen as a stopgap measure to be used only during extreme wet weather events. This policy, sometimes referred to as blending, will allow sewer operators to bypass secondary treatment, employing only the primary stage of treatment and disinfection when mandated by the state or by discharge permit during any size rainfall or snow melt. Under the new policy, treatment facilities will be allowed to dump more partially-treated sewage into waters than is currently allowed.
What is Secondary Bypass?
Currently, sewage dumping policy allows partially-treated sewage to be discharged into receiving waters during extreme precipitation events. This gives sewer operators a way to avoid large-scale sewer backups when their capacity has been surpassed. But under the new secondary bypass policy, treatment facilities would be able to discharge partially-treated sewage during ANY rain event, regardless of size or intensity. While secondary bypass can be a useful tool during the most extreme precipitation events, the new proposal would allow the practice to be performed wholesale as a permanent alternative to regular maintenance, conservation and reuse, the construction of building additional capacity, targeted storm water separation and at least full secondary treatment as mandated by the Clean Water Act..
Why Secondary Sewage Bypass The Proposed Policy is Bad for Public Health & the Environment
The proposed policy is directly contradictory to numerous sections of the Clean Water Act directly. The Clean Water Act states that a bypass can only be approved on a case-by-case basis and only after an analysis of feasible alternatives has been conducted. The proposed policy eliminates the requirement for analysis to determine whether the bypass is unavoidable.
Furthermore, the Clean Water Act requires secondary treatment. In the EPA report Progress in Water Quality: An Evaluation of the National Investment in Municipal Wastewater Treatment, the EPA recognized that secondary treatment is the minimum acceptable technology procedure for treating sewage. The proposed policy eliminates that vital secondary treatment requirement during any precipitation event, violating the EPAs own standard for minimum treatment.
Who Would Want the Secondary Bypass Policy?
Some municipalities, sewer operators, industrial and commercial polluters and sprawl developers may benefit if the policy is finalized. Under the Bush EPAs sewage dumping policy, industrial and commercial polluters could save money at the publics expense.
Likewise, Municipalities and sewer operators could dump this a mix of partially-treated sewage and industrial toxins into their important rivers and lakes, avoiding the need for adequate sewage capacity or to fix old, leaky sewers or combined sewer/storm water systems.
Finally, this policy encourages sprawl by creating a cheap way to dispose of new hookups in the suburbs and exurbs and eliminating the need to treat the new expanded loads of sewage.
This policy is a quick fix to structural problems. The proposed policy weakens an important pillar of public health and environmental protection instead of dealing with the deficiencies of the nations sewer systems. Health care costs and lost economic productivity will cost more than investing now in conservation and sanitation.
Sewage and Public Health
Partially- treated sewage is responsible for numerous waterborne diseases:
Each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control, almost 8 million people get sick and over 900 die from drinking water that is contaminated by human and animal sewage waste..
The administrations policy puts more e-coli, giardia, cryptosporidium, and other deadly parasites, viruses, and bacteria into the waters that hundreds of millions of Americans swim in, boat on, and drink.
According to Dr. Joan Rose of Michigan State University there is just over a 50% chance that people will get sick from swimming immediately adjacent to a sewage out fall where only primary treatment and disinfection is used. The risk of sickness is less than 0.1% where secondary sewage treatment and disinfection is employed.
Clean Water Action recommends that US EPA:
Enforce current sewage collection and treatment management, operation and maintenance requirements; and
Drop the secondary sewage bypass or the so-called "blending" proposal that would to allow sewage to skip treatment processes and enter our waterways during any size rain event.
Clean Water Action recommends that the Congress:
Pass H.R. 1126 - the "Save our Waters From Sewage Act"
Restore full funding to the Clean Water State Revolving Fund for fiscal year 2005, and increase it for 2006;
Create a Clean and Safe Water Trust Fund similar to those that exist for highways and airports; and
Pass the Raw Sewage Overflow Community Right-to-Know Act (Introduced as HR 2215 in the 108th Congress).
Clean Water Action recommends that you:
Write your US Representative to cosponsor the "Save our Waters From Sewage Act" restricting the overflows. Take Action.