Statement: Bipartisan water infrastructure bill invests to prevent sewage overflows and runoff pollution

For Immediate Release

WASHINGTON — Congress advanced major bipartisan legislation today to improve America’s clean water infrastructure. The U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure approved H.R.1497, the Water Quality Protection and Job Creation Act of 2019, which would invest more than $16 billion in clean water infrastructure over the next five years.

Bart Johnsen-Harris, clean water advocate for Environment America, issued the following statement:

“Sewage overflows and runoff pollution are threatening America’s beaches. To prevent that catastrophic damage, we need policies that encourage eco-friendly development and prevent pollution from ever getting into our environment. The Water Quality Protection and Job Creation Act goes a long way toward meeting that goal, making smart investments in America’s clean water infrastructure to better protect our waterways and sources of water.

“Millions of Americans have been sickened in recent years by swimming in contaminated water. In our Safe for Swimming? report, we identified 2,580 beach sites — more than half of all sites tested — that were potentially unsafe for swimming on at least one day in 2018. H.R.1497 can keep contaminants out of the water by investing in green infrastructure such as rain barrels, rooftop gardens, permeable pavement, open space and other techniques that capture stormwater on-site.

“We applaud the committee for leading on H.R.1497. In particular, we are grateful for the work of Chairs Peter DeFazio and Grace Napolitano, and Ranking Members Sam Graves and Bruce Westerman. The bill would more than double the current funding for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF), a major clean water infrastructure program facilitated by the Environmental Protection Agency. That means a $3.2 billion annual budget by 2025 with at least 15 percent of that funding set aside for green infrastructure projects — a provision that Rep. Mucarsel-Powell has championed and for which Environment America has long advocated.

“Despite these steps forward, H.R.1497 is not perfect. It would allow some sewage treatment plants to continue dumping at unacceptable pollution levels for ten years (permits are currently reviewed every five years). While the latest version of the bill puts limits on this provision, it is still likely to hinder the Clean Water Act’s aim of making our waterways safe and clean as soon as possible. 

“We will continue working with Congress to pass the strongest possible reauthorization of the Clean Water State Revolving Fund into law. Our rivers, beaches and bays — and everyone who relies on them — are counting on it.”