Sewage contamination poses a serious threat to the Great Lakes and the millions of people who depend on them. Old wastewater systems spill at least 23 billion gallons of sewage into the lakes every year – closing beaches, threatening public health, harming people’s quality of life and undermining the region’s efforts to attract businesses, industries and a talented workforce.
Fortunately, there are solutions. The federal Clean Water State Revolving Fund finances projects that stop pollutants from entering our nation’s waters. This successful program creates job opportunities, improves the water quality and helps keep the Lakes safe and clean.
The fund has provided $63 billion to more than 20,711 individual projects across the country, serving more than 94.9 million people. The program has also put a significant number of people to work. From 1987 to 2005 the federal program has created 716,000 jobs by providing low-interest loans for sewer upgrades and other projects designed to improve water quality. These investments continue to be good for the environment and economy. According to the Water Infrastructure Networkevery $1 billion investment to modernize wastewater infrastructure createsat least 20,000 jobs.
Although the fund has received $4 billion in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the program needs more money to halt sewage contamination. The EPA estimates that the nation needs to invest at least $202 billion to upgrade sewer systems. According to a 2004 report, the Great Lakes needs to spend at least $20 billion to bring the region’s sewer systems into compliance with clean water laws.
Increasingly, communities are turning to green infrastructure to help alleviate sewage contamination. Rain gardens, green roofs and restored wetlands help deal with storm water before it can overwhelm wastewater infrastructure.
We urge Congress to reauthorize the fund to reflect new, cost-effective ways to reduce pollution and reinvest in the fund by restoring appropriation levels to $2.7 billion per year.