WASHINGTON, DC, Mar. 12, 2009 -- U.S. Rep. Candice Miller (MI-10) today praised the Water Quality Investment Act, which passed in the House of Representatives 317 - 101. The measure authorizes $18.7 billion over five years for wastewater infrastructure projects as well as other programs to improve water quality around the country.
Miller was especially pleased with the portion of the measure that provides $13.8 billion over five years in federal grants to the Clean Water State Revolving Funds, the primary mechanism for local governments to improve their wastewater systems.
"In Michigan, we have a number of projects that are ready to go," said the Congresswoman. "This funding is necessary for our localities to finish necessary wastewater projects that will improve and upgrade antiquated systems."
The measure also authorizes $750 million for projects to clean up contaminated sediments in the Great Lakes. This has been an ongoing effort, having thus far seen 800,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediments removed; however, there are large areas that remain to be improved.
"While some great work has been done to clean up the Great Lakes so far, we have only seen one spot de-listed as an Area of Concern," said Miller, referring to thirty-one Areas of Concern that remain to be remediated in the United States. "For these Areas to be dealt with, it will take an incredible investment at the Federal level."
The Congresswoman also achieved a legislative victory when her amendment to the bill was passed in the House and included in the larger measure. The Miller Amendment would direct the Environmental Protection Agency to convene a task force to develop recommendations on the proper disposal of unused pharmaceuticals.
Currently, there is no uniform standard for health clinics, hospitals, and other medical facilities for disposing unused medicine in a responsible manner. Facilities are required by law to get rid of the medications, and have been doing so by flushing them down toilets, thus introducing levels of pollutants into waterways. The issue has garnered national attention in recent years because there is no way to completely filter out the pharmaceuticals from the water supply, and states have looked to the federal government for a solution. The Miller Amendment would be an important first step in addressing states' concerns and correcting an ineffective and possibly hazardous method of pharmaceutical disposal.
Miller came up with the idea for her amendment after a constituent named Gail St. Laurent brought the issue to her attention. The Congresswoman learned that, after assisting her mother through a long, unsuccessful battle with cancer, Mrs. St. Laurent had to sign papers stating that she watched federal officials take her mother's remaining medicine and flush them down the toilet.
"I want to thank my friend Gail St. Laurent, not only for the loving care she gave to her mother, but also for bringing this serious issue to my attention. Losing a loved one is a terrible situation, but Gail endeavored to make something good happen from that instance in her life." said Miller. "As it is now, medical facilities are required to dispose of unused medications, and the methods they must use unfortunately pollute our waterways. We can do better than that, but we have to work together to find a solution."