EPA withdraws sewage blending policy

Congress moved on an anti-sewage dumping amendment on May 19, even after EPA announced the same day that it had halted the sewage blending policy, first proposed in November 2003. This policy would have allowed sewage treatment plants to bypass full sewage treatment -- the required standard since passage of the Clean Water Act in 1972 -- any time it rains.

Members of the U.S. House of Representatives lead by Congressmen Bart Stupak (D-MI), Clay Shaw (R-FL), Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Jeff Miller (R-NJ) championed an amendment to the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill to stop EPA's "sewage blending" policy as the House considered the bill. The anti-sewage dumping amendment was adopted by a voice vote after Rep. Charles Taylor (R-NC), chairman of the appropriations committee, said he was willing to accept the amendment.

"The overwhelming support for this amendment in the House shows that keeping sewage out of our waters is a no-brainer," said Betsy Otto, senior policy advisor for American Rivers. "Congress now needs to fill in the other half of the equation and provide adequate financial resources to communities to assure clean water for everyone."

Before Congress even voted, U.S. EPA Assistant Administrator for Water Ben Grumbles announced earlier that day in a letter to Congressman John Duncan (R-TN), chair of the House Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment, that EPA would not move forward with the proposed policy.

"Blending is not a long-term solution," said Grumbles. "Our goal is to reduce overflows and increase treatment of wastewater to protect human health and the environment."

EPA's statement said that "after receiving more than 98,000 public comments, the agency is now in the process of determining other options to address pollutant discharges during wet weather conditions."

For more information, visit http://www.epa.gov/npdes/blending

This article originally appeared in the 05/01/2005 issue of Environmental Protection.

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