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Publication date: Oct. 3, 2007

SEWAGE OVERFLOW? TWO REPS SAY PUBLIC HAS RIGHT-TO-KNOW

EPA estimates that between 1,800,000 and 3,500,000 people in the U.S. become sick every year because they swim in water contaminated by overflows of untreated sanitary sewage. Now Congress is looking at a bill giving them some right to know about the risks they face.

Currently, local sewer authorities do not have to notify the public of sewage overflows - a common occurence during heavy rains and stormwater flows.

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee will hold a hearing Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2007, on a bill (HR 2452) that would require local sewage system operators to monitor for sewer overflows and to notify the public quickly "of a sewer overflow in any area where the overflow has the potential to affect human health." They would also have to notify EPA and local public health authorities. The notification would have to be made as quickly as possible, but within 24 hours in any case.

The bill was introduced by Reps. Tim Bishop (D-NY) and Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ). A similar bill (S. 2080) was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ).


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