House passes groundbreaking Sewage Right To Know Act

Apr 20th, 2012 | By | Category: Water

Citizens Campaign for the Environment is applauding the CT House for passing the Sewage Right to Know Act (SB 88) today, which would require the state to notify the public whenever sewage overflows contaminate local waterways and communities.  The House vote comes just days after the bill was passed by the CT Senate.  The bill will have to be signed by the Governor to become law.

“Connecticut has received an early Earth Day gift this year—providing residents with the right to know about dangerous sewage overflows is major victory for public health and safety,” said Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director for Citizens Campaign for the Environment.  “CCE applauds the House for passing this groundbreaking public health legislation, and looks forward to the Governor signing this bill into law.”

Raw sewage overflows contaminate ground and surface waters, flood our streets, and can back up into homes or other buildings. Members of the public can often be seen in areas that have recently been contaminated with sewage.

“Timely notification about sewage overflows will allow families to take precautions and avoid swimming in sewage, boating in bacteria, or fishing in filth,” continued Esposito.

The public has demonstrated overwhelming support for passage of this important legislation.  Nearly 2000 letters have been sent to elected officials and over 5,800 signatures have been collected in support of the public’s right to know when sewage overflows contaminate Connecticut’s waterways and communities.

The bill was developed in cooperation with the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), and could serve as a national model for other states to follow.  The law would require the agency to design a map of Connecticut detailing areas of the state that are plagued by chronic sewage overflows.  The map would be made available to the public via the DEEP website, along with updated information about unanticipated sewage overflows as they are reported.

“We are delighted with the role DEEP has played in crafting this legislation, and look forward to working with the agency to ensure effective implementation,” said Louis Burch, Connecticut Program Coordinator for Citizens Campaign for the Environment.

Public notification about sewage overflows will also increase public awareness about the scope of Connecticut’s sewage problems.   Increased awareness can spur increased investment in eliminating the problem.

“Sewage will go from out of sight, out of mind, in to the public realm. Admitting that we have a problem with sewage pollution is the first step in recovery,” concluded Burch.

Sewage contaminates waterways with disease-causing microorganisms, human waste, pesticides, and a long list of toxic pollutants.  According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, between 1.8 and 3.5 million Americans become ill annually from contact with recreational waters contaminated by sewage.  Potential health impacts from pathogens found in raw sewage include short-term gastrointestinal problems, infections and fevers; and long-term chronic conditions such as liver, kidney, and heart failure.

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