National lawmakers urge support for sewer overflow grant program legislation

Pennsylvania Sen. Raphael J. Musto said the winter thaw and spring rains soon will lead to more than 1,300 combined sewer overflows (CSOs) across the state polluting water and threatening public health.

HARRISBURG, Pa., Jan. 30, 2001 (PRNewswire) — Pennsylvania Sen. Raphael J. Musto said the winter thaw and spring rains soon will lead to more than 1,300 combined sewer overflows (CSOs) across the state polluting water and threatening public health.

Musto (D-Luzerne) said CSOs often contain high levels of suspended solids, pathogenic micro-organisms, toxic pollutants, floatable debris, nutrients, oil and grease, and oxygen-demanding organic compounds.

He joined state Reps. Tom Tigue and Tony DeLuca at a press conference in support of legislation which would establish a Combined Sewer Overflow Grant Program to be administered by the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority (PENNVEST), funded with a $1 billion bond, subject to voter approval.

"We are experiencing a serious problem in Pennsylvania. Raw sewage is actually flowing into our rivers," said Musto. "Unless significant state resources are devoted to the CSO problem, ratepayers will face significantly higher sewer bills as wastewater treatment plants upgrade to comply with new federal mandates."

"Municipalities are really in a bind because a tremendous amount of money needs to be spent to address this problem and they simply do not have it," said Musto. "Sewer rates in communities with CSO problems will skyrocket without financial assistance from the state and federal government.

"And while $1 billion may seem like a great deal of money, it's only the beginning."

According to a federal needs assessment, Pennsylvania would require almost $4 billion to correct all of its CSO problems.

The senator said the problem began years ago, when the infrastructure was being built. Sewage systems were designed to carry stormwater and municipal sewage in one pipe, which was acceptable technology at the time. However, increases in wastewater and stormwater in a combined system now often exceed the capacity of the sewage treatment plant. Ultimately, excess wastewater is directly discharged into rivers and streams.

"The industrial Midwest and Northeast have a concentration of CSOs, but the problem is particularly severe in Pennsylvania," said Musto.

According to Musto, PENNVEST would administer the grant program and would also have responsibility of establishing criteria for awarding the grants. Municipalities would apply for the bond money to control and eliminate CSOs in their communities.

"This legislation is absolutely essential for several reasons," said Musto. "Water quality in our rivers and streams will improve, public health will be protected, sewer rates will be lower and it will enhance recreational and economic opportunities in Pennsylvania."

SOURCE: Senate Democratic Information Office

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