Let me welcome everyone to today’s hearing on the need to modernize our pipes and sewer systems to keep waste out of our rivers, streams and oceans.
Since 1972, we have relied on the Clean Water Act to keep our waterways safe and clean.
Part of the Clean Water Act helps us build new sewage treatment plants. First we used grants to pay for them. Since 1987, we have used loans through the State Revolving Fund, or “SRF.”
The SRF has provided $25 billion for states to improve their infrastructure and clean their water so people can swim, fish and boat in it.
But the current funding level for the SRF falls far short of what we need.
Much of the infrastructure, such as pipes and treatment plants, is simply worn out—or overwhelmed by too much water.
EPA estimates that there are between 23,000 and 75,000 sanitary sewer overflows each year.
Those spills dump between three and ten billion gallons of untreated sewage into our rivers, lakes and coastal waters.
In addition, Combined Sewer Overflows spill 850 billion gallons of contaminated stormwater into our waterways each year.
EPA estimates it will take $170 billion over the next 20 years to fix these sewer systems.
But instead of making this important investment, the Administration proposed a nearly four hundred million dollar cut to the SRF for 2008.
This is irresponsible.
Without more investment, people will get sick, beaches will close, and our marine-life will suffer.
President Bush needs to fully fund the SRF, and we must reauthorize it so that money is available to cities and towns to keep their water clean.
The federal government’s role in repairing our aging pipes, pumps and treatment plants must grow.
In addition to increased funding, our Subcommittee will examine how best to spend those funds, including what role “green infrastructure” can play in reducing the burdens on our sewer systems.
I would also note that in addition to our mission to reauthorize the SRF, Senator Voinovich and I have introduced the Water Quality Investment Act. This bill would authorize $1.8 billion in federal grants to local communities to clean up Combined Sewer and Sanitary Sewer Overflows.
I welcome any testimony from our witnesses on that legislation as well.
There is nothing partisan about keeping our waterways safe and clean, and I hope our Subcommittee will act soon to strengthen our clean water programs.
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