Washington, DC—Today the House of Representatives passed H.R. 569, the Water Quality Investment Act of 2007, which authorizes $1.8 billion over the next five years for grants to prevent dangerous sewer overflows. This bill passed the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Water Resources Subcommittee, of which Congressman Brian Higgins’ (NY-27) is a member, at the end of January 2007. This bill will particularly help Buffalo because of the significant sewer overflow problem that exists there which pollutes waterways with untreated sewage.
“This critical bill for Buffalo has finally been passed in our new Democratic House,” said Higgins, who is a cosponsor of the legislation. “Buffalo cannot afford to pay the hundreds of millions it could cost to address our serious sewer overflow problem. Our sewer infrastructure is one of the oldest in the country, and the grants that will result from the passage of this bill will help alleviate our City’s costs.”
Similar grants were authorized in FY 2002 and FY 2003, but no funds were ever appropriated and the authorization was allowed to expire. The bill aids cities and states that find building or improving sewer infrastructure financially impossible without help from the federal government. The antiquated sewer infrastructure in Buffalo is deteriorating, and can no longer always stop untreated waste from flowing into public waterways. Combined sewer systems, which provide partially separated channels for sewage and storm water runoff and are vulnerable to sewer overflows during periods of peak rainfall, are one source of these dangerous sewer overflows. Most combined sewer systems are located in communities in the Northeast and the Great Lakes region, where much of the oldest water infrastructure in the nation is found.
Despite the enormous need to help struggling local communities deal with the dangerous problem of sewer overflow, the Republican Leadership failed to bring this bipartisan bill to the Floor in the 108th and 109th Congresses.