"Every year, more than 860 billion gallons of sewage are dumped into the rivers and lakes in our own backyards," says American Rivers' President Rebecca Wodder. "That's enough sewage to fill 8,400 Olympic sized swimming pools each and every day of the year."
"When it comes to water, what you don't know can hurt you. Each year, millions of Americans are sickened from swimming in contaminated water," says Congressman Tim Bishop (D-NY). "Current regulatory gaps are unacceptable. The Raw Sewage Overflow Community Right-to-Know Act would protect Americans by requiring sewage operators to monitor their systems and notify the public about hazardous sewage overflows."
The odious practice of dumping our waste into our waters is happening right under our noses. In many communities, sewer systems are designed to dump overflow of raw or partially treated sewage directly into a nearby river when the treatment plant is overwhelmed by a large storm. Global warming experts predict that these severe storms will become more frequent in some regions as the planet gets hotter, resulting in even more frequent sewage overflows.
"Each year, millions of Americans become sick as a result of swimming in water contaminated by sanitary and combined sewer overflows. Coastal communities and beach-goers have a right to know when the water quality poses a danger to public health," said Congressman Frank A. LoBiondo (NJ-02). "This legislation would ensure better monitoring, reporting, and public notification of sewer overflows which would save millions of American from getting sick every year."
Along with these intentional overflows, America's aging sewer systems are plagued with accidental spills due to broken pipes or equipment, along with human errors. There are currently no consistent reporting and public notification requirements for sewage overflows and spills.
"The dirty little secret is that every year sewage contaminated waters cause more than seven million people to get sick, but people aren't even told when they, their families, and their pets should probably stay out of the water," says Katherine Baer, Director of Healthy Waters for American Rivers.
Those seven million illnesses are placing an unhealthy burden on the nation's already taxed health care system. Conservative estimates show that we as a nation pay more than four billion dollars a year for the medical costs associated with treating infectious water born illnesses. For the most vulnerable segments of our population, children, elderly, and those with already weak immune systems, these illnesses can become deadly.
"Knowledge is power," adds Wodder. "We all have a right to know what else might be swimming in the water with us when we decide to take a dip,"
American Rivers is the only national organization standing up for healthy rivers so our communities can thrive. Through national advocacy, innovative solutions and our growing network of strategic partners, we protect and promote our rivers as valuable community assets that are vital to our health, safety and quality of life. Founded in 1973, American Rivers has more than 65,000 members and online supporters nationwide, with offices in Washington, DC and the Mid-Atlantic, Northeast, Midwest, Southeast, California and Northwest regions. www.AmericanRivers.org