Lipinski Introduces Legislation to Improve Great Lakes Water Quality and End Sewage Dumping

Congressman Dan Lipinski (IL-3) this week introduced H.R. 3894, the Great Lakes Water Protection Act, which will improve water quality in the Great Lakes Basin by working with wastewater treatment plants to end a practice called “blending.”  Blending happens when there is more water coming into a treatment plant than it can process, resulting in partially-treated or untreated wastewater being mixed with fully-treated water before it is discharged.

“My bill will improve water quality in the Great Lakes by making sure that wastewater discharged into the lakes is fully-treated,” said Rep. Lipinski.  “I am 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 local residents are not stuck with the entire bill. It’s critical that we do all we can to help protect the health of the Great Lakes.”

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 Green Infrastructure Grant Program authorized by the bill will provide up to $250 million per year to support green infrastructures projects while prioritizing those that lead to reductions in wastewater blending, such as rain gardens and retention ponds.

In a bicameral show of support, Senators Tammy Duckworth and Dick Durbin introduced a companion bill in the Senate.

“The Great Lakes are the source of drinking water for tens of millions of Americans and support 1.5 million jobs,” said Senator Duckworth. “Yet, under the current rules, roughly 22 billion gallons of untreated sewage and storm water 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.”

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

Lipinski has been a longtime supporter of protecting the Great Lakes from pollution and ensuring access to clean water. He previously introduced the Great Lakes Water Protection Act last Congress.

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