Testimony: Environment America calls for major federal funding to stop sewage overflows and get the lead out of drinking water

For Immediate Release

WASHINGTON -- At a House Appropriations Committee on environmental spending this afternoon, John Rumpler, senior attorney and clean water program director for Environment America, will urge Congress to dramatically increase federal funding to protect our rivers and bays from sewage overflows and ensure safe drinking water for all Americans.

Here are excerpts from Rumpler’s written testimony submitted to the committee:

“Each year, billions of gallons of sewage overflows and stormwater runoff pollute our beaches, rivers, and other waterways with pathogens. This pollution puts the public’s health at risk. Last summer, my research team found that more than half of beach sites tested in 29 coastal and Great Lakes states had levels of fecal bacteria in the water that put swimmers at risk of getting sick in 2018.  Each year, there are an estimated 57 million instances of people getting sick from swimming in U.S. waterways - including acute gastrointestinal illness, ear infections, and skin rashes.

“Sewage and runoff pollution are likely to get worse in coming years, as climate change increases the likelihood and severity of storms and flooding.

“For all of these reasons, Environment America and 20 other organizations have urged Congress to increase funding for the Clean Water [State Revolving Fund] to $6 billion per year . . . . [and to] dedicate at least 20 percent of [this] funding to natural and green infrastructure projects that prevent water pollution.

“[W]e now have a national epidemic of lead-contaminated drinking water -- from urban neighborhoods to suburbs to rural America.  It will take an unprecedented national commitment to undo this mistake and get the lead out of our drinking water.

“Chief among the investments needed to stop lead contamination of our drinking water is the full replacement of all lead service lines.  These toxic pipes are the largest source of lead contamination wherever they exist . . . . The full cost of removing [them] likely exceeds $45 billion.

“Given how toxic lead is for our children, Congress should also dramatically increase federal funding to help schools and pre-schools get the lead out.

“The public overwhelmingly supports federal investment in clean water. . . . Clean, safe water is the hallmark of an advanced society. . . . [W]e must invest as a nation to repair our water infrastructure as wisely and rapidly as possible.”