Washington, DC—Today the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Water Resources Subcommittee reported two bills to the full Transportation committee that would help improve water quality in Western New York. Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-27) is a member of both the full Transportation committee and Water Resources Subcommittee.
H.R. 569, the Water Quality Investment Act of 2007, would authorize $3 billion over six years for sewer overflow grants nationwide. H.R. 720 would authorize $20 billion over five years to capitalize Clean Water State Revolving Loan funds nationwide. The Clean Water State Revolving Loan funds are the principal method through which the federal government supports local clean water infrastructure projects. As reported by the Buffalo News last year, Buffalo has a significant sewer overflow problem that pollutes waterways with untreated sewage, and these bills could provide grants to address the serious overflow problem.
“Sewer overflows in Buffalo are a serious problem and will cost millions to properly fix,” said Higgins. “Our community is disproportionately affected by old and decaying water infrastructure, and these bills will help alleviate some of the huge costs Buffalo will have to shoulder to repair and replace our infrastructure. I am pleased that these bills, under the new Democratic Majority in Congress and new leadership in my committee, are seeing the light of day and are on their way to being passed in the House.”
The purpose of H.R. 569, of which Higgins is a cosponsor, is to reauthorize appropriations for section 221 of the Clean Water Act, which provides grants to municipalities and states to control combined sewer overflows (CSOs) and sanitary sewer overflows (SSOs). CSOs and SSOs are overflows of untreated waste that can occur during wet weather episodes as a result of poor maintenance, deteriorating infrastructure, infiltration and inflow, and inadequate capacity, among other factors. CSOs and SSOs present significant public health and safety concerns because raw sewage can overflow into rivers, lakes, streets, and basements, adversely affecting public health and the environment. The majority of combined sewers are located in communities in the Northeast or Great Lakes regions, where much of the oldest water infrastructure in the nation is found. To eliminate combined sewer overflows, communities must redesign their sewer systems to separate sewage flows from stormwater flows or provide significant additional capacity to eliminate the possibility that combined flows will exceed the limits of the infrastructure. H.R. 720 will also help invest in water infrastructure by aiding in the funding of construction of publicly owned wastewater treatment works.