By Sherrod Brown
Earlier this month, I visited Put-in-Bay to tour The Ohio State University’s Stone Laboratory. I met with Stone Lab scientists and accompanied them as they collected water samples of Lake Erie to better understand the rise in toxic algal blooms.
A high level of phosphorous in the lake is a contributing factor to the algal blooms, and I’ve recently announced funds to help farmers implement conservation practices that reduce phosphorous runoff into the lake. But we must address all contributing sources to algal blooms, including our wastewater systems.
In communities with combined sewer systems – which carry both storm water and raw sewage – every time there are heavy rains, there is a combined sewage overflow (CSO) and untreated waste and storm water is dumped straight into our rivers, creeks, and lakes. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that 850 billion gallons of untreated waste and stormwater from CSOs are released into rivers, lakes, and streams across the U.S. each year.
There are 73 Ohio communities with out-of-date sewer systems causing CSOs but many towns – and their ratepayers – struggle to fix these systems on their own.
That’s why I’ve introduced the Clean Water Affordability Act, which would help communities with CSOs to develop an infrastructure plan to update their sewer systems while keeping costs down for already stressed ratepayers and municipal budgets. It would also authorize a CSO-specific grant program, providing $1.8 billion over the next five years and prioritizing funding to communities like Toledo that are dealing with water quality issues.
Ohio families can’t afford the risk of tainted drinking water in their communities and they deserve immediate action. This legislation would lead to clean water, promote economic development, and protect local ratepayers.
I have also introduced the Safe and Secure Drinking Water Act with Senator Rob Portman and Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur. Currently, there is no federal limit for the level of microcystins – the toxic byproduct of blooming algae – allowed in drinking water. The Act would direct the EPA to determine safe levels of microcystins and issue a health advisory to inform local and state agencies and utilities of proper testing procedures and standards that protect drinking water from microcystins.
Sound wastewater infrastructure with fair rates is not only critical to ensuring our state’s health – it attracts businesses and creates jobs. The assurance of a dependable and affordable source of water attracts and retains companies.
We need swift passage of these commonsense, bipartisan bills to promote 21st century sewer systems that attract 21st century jobs, while preserving America’s promise of clean water.
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