Wastewater Pollutes Four of America's Ten Most Endangered Rivers
WASHINGTON, DC, April 13, 2005 (ENS) - Hundreds of outfall pipes dump raw sewage directly into the Susquehanna River, making it the most polluted river in the United States, according to the annual ranking of the country's 10 most endangered rivers released today by the conservation group American Rivers. The sewage problem is not limited to the Susquehanna; it affects four of the 10 endangered rivers, but Washington is cutting the financial assistance needed to remedy the problem, the group warns.
"All across America, rivers link one town's toilets to the next town's faucets," said Rebecca Wodder, president of American Rivers. "And when it rains, sewage pours into those rivers, billions of gallons of it every year."
Flowing through three states - New York, Pennsylvania, and Maryland - to empty into the Chesapeake Bay, the Susquehanna River receives "enormous volumes of raw or poorly treated sewage," American Rivers says in its report. "Unless local, state and federal lawmakers invest in prevention and cleanup, the Susquehanna will remain among the nation's dirtiest rivers and more and more of Chesapeake Bay will become a dead zone."
The group called on federal lawmakers to reject the cuts in clean water investment proposed by the Bush administration in its budget for Fiscal Year 2006. In 2005, Congress cut funding for wastewater management for the first time in eight years. The Bush administration has proposed a further 33 percent reduction, to $730 million, for FY06. If passed by Congress, this would be a low water mark for federal clean water assistance.
As a first step towards rectifying this situation, American Rivers called on Congress to reject further cuts and invest more in the Clean Water State Revolving Fund to $3.2 billion in 2006 and beyond.
"Kids in America should be able to enjoy their neighborhood creeks and rivers without playmates like salmonella, hepatitis, and dysentery," Wodder said.
American Rivers supports establishment of a dedicated Federal Trust Fund to disperse aid to water utilities on a consistent basis - something Congress has already done for airports, barges, and federal highways.
More than eight in 10 American voters are more likely to vote for Members of Congress who support legislation to create a Federal Trust Fund for clean and safe water, and more likely to vote against those who do not, according to a March poll conducted jointly by Republican and Democratic polling firms.
There are 600,000 miles of sewer pipes across the country. In March, The American Society of Civil Engineers gave America's wastewater infrastructure a "D-" grade, down from a grade of "D" four years ago.
"Overdevelopment contributes to the problem. As urban areas sprawl into the countryside, more stormwater surges into sewers - and more pollution spews out," American Rivers points out.
As a second step, "Congress should invest federal dollars smarter - encouraging reforestation and wetlands restoration, and reforming road construction practices to effectively expand the capacity and extend the life of existing systems by reducing the volume of stormwater they have to handle," the group said.
Sewer spills, poor sewage treatment, and other symptoms of a failing wastewater system can be found across the country, including three more of the rivers on American Rivers list of endangered rivers.
Colorado's Fraser River is Number Three on the list. If Denver succeeds in withdrawing more water from the Fraser, says American Rivers, there will not be enough flow left over to dilute treated sewage to safe levels for swimming and fishing.
Tennessee's Roan Creek is Number Five on the list. The sewage treatment plant in Mountain City, Tennessee, is so outdated that treatment plant operators have been caught spreading sludge along Roan Creek in the middle of the night.
Ohio's Little Miami River is Number Seven on the American Rivers list. The group says sewage treatment plants along the Little Miami cannot handle their current volumes of wastewater, but new roads and development threaten to make the problem worse.
America's Most Endangered Rivers of 2005:
View the American Rivers Most Endangered Rivers of 2005 online at: http://www.americanrivers.org
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