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Lipinski Introduces Legislation to End Dumping of Untreated Sewage Into Great Lakes

Congressman Dan Lipinski (IL-3) has introduced H.R. 6967, the Great Lakes Water Protection Act, which will improve water quality in the Great Lakes Basin by working with wastewater treatment plants to end the dumping of untreated sewage during rain events.  Through a process called blending, which happens when there is more water coming into a treatment plant than it can process, untreated or partially-treated sewage is mixed with fully-treated water before it is discharged.  This bill will ban blending and provide financial assistance to help municipalities comply.  Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) will be introducing a Senate version of the bill in the coming weeks.

“My bill and the legislation Senator Duckworth will be introducing in the Senate will improve water quality in the Great Lakes by ending the practice of blending and making sure that wastewater discharged into the lakes is fully-treated,” said Rep. Lipinski.  “We are also creating a Great Lakes Cleanup Fund that will provide federal dollars to offset the cost of infrastructure improvements needed to end wastewater blending, and make sure that an undue burden is not placed on local residents.”

“The Great Lakes is the source of drinking water for tens of millions of Americans and supports 1.5 million jobs,” said Senator Duckworth.  “Yet, under the current rules, roughly 22 billion gallons of untreated sewage and stormwater are discharged into the Great Lakes each year, threatening the health and livelihoods of millions.  Our legislation will help fix this problem by banning discharges of untreated sewage into the Great Lakes to protect local economies and ensure our water is clean for families in Illinois and throughout the Great Lakes region.”

Because of a 2013 federal court decision, current blending policies are enforced differently in different states across the Great Lakes region.  This bill will create a consistent, basin-wide policy and lead to improved water quality across the world’s largest freshwater ecosystem.  The Great Lakes Cleanup Fund authorized by the bill will provide up to $250 million per year to support projects that lead to reductions in wastewater blending.

The Great Lakes Water Protection Act has been endorsed by the Alliance for the Great Lakes, the National Wildlife Federation Great Lakes Regional Center, American Rivers, Environment Illinois, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Environmental Law and Policy Center.