EPA's clean beach initiative focuses on sewage overflows at WWTPs

To protect public health and the nation's waterways, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today took action to reduce the sewer overflows from all wastewater treatment plants.

Jan. 5, 2001 — To protect public health and the nation's waterways, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today took action to reduce the sewer overflows from all wastewater treatment plants.

The agency estimated in a public announcement that 40,000 raw sewage overflows occur each year.

EPA Assistant Administrator J. Charles Fox, said, "Each year, too many beaches in America must be closed due to contamination by raw sewage that threatens public health. Overflowing sewers are the major contributors to this problem. Today's action is a step toward ensuring that sewer systems across America will be improved to help keep our beaches safe for swimming."

The proposed rule would require that the general public, health and other community officials be notified immediately of a health-threatening raw sewage overflow.

The rule also would require improved management of capacity and maintenance programs to reduce sewer overflows by strengthening current Clean Water Act permit conditions for over 19,000 sewage treatment plants around the country.

The proposal would require 4,800 "satellite" sewage collection systems to get permits for the first time.

Cities would be required to develop and implement plans to improve plant performance, encourage new investments in infrastructure, as well as perform a number of technical upgrades. EPA would clarify that communities have limited protection from enforcement in very rare circumstances.

The rule could cost municipalities $93.5 to $126.5 million per year, EPA estimated.

This cost estimate would include all costs associated with both planning and permitting. A collection system serving 7,500 people may need to spend an average of $6,000 each year to comply with this rule.

EPA will take public comment for 120 days on the proposal.

The proposal comes in response to President Clinton's May 1999 executive action to improve water quality and public health by developing stronger measures to prevent sewage spills, the major cause of beach closures.

In l999, nearly 1500 of the nation's beach closures and health advisories were due to sewage overflows, threatening public health, family vacations, recreational use of waterways and billions of tourist dollars.

Additional information including fact sheets and the Federal Register notice will be available at: http://www.epa.gov/water under "What's New."

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