Many communities throughout New York State and Connecticut are served by aging and failing sewage infrastructure. Sewage infrastructure that is overwhelmed or dilapidated can result in billions of gallons of raw or partially treated sewage being released in to the environment before reaching a treatment plant. Sewage is primarily discharged into the environment through Sanitary Sewer Overflows (SSO) and Combined Sewer Overflows (CSO). Sanitary sewer systems collect and carry storm water and sanitary waste separately. Storm water runoff is diverted back into the environment, while wastewater such as domestic sanitary waste and commercial and industrial waste go to a sewage treatment plant. SSOs occur when the wastewater system overflows, often due to broken pipes or infiltration of rainwater. Combined sewer systems are built larger than separate sanitary sewers so that they can carry two components: wastewater, carried continuously, and runoff, carried after storms. When the system is overwhelmed from rain or snowmelt, a CSO occurs. Both SSOs and CSOs contaminate our waters, resulting in serious water quality problems and threats to public health.
Aging and failing sewage treatment plants jeopardize human health, close beaches, harm fish and wildlife, and cost ratepayers and municipalities millions. Our nation’s sewage infrastructure is in disrepair, accumulating from long-overdue investments to improve sewage collection and treatment. Properly functioning sewage treatment plants are critical to keeping harmful pathogens and bacteria from polluting our environment and threatening public health.
Clean Water Infrastructure Needs
Investing in clean water infrastructure in New York, Connecticut, and across the nation can help boost our economy and environment by creating jobs and improving water quality. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) determined the U.S. needs at least $388 billion for clean water infrastructure. Our nation’s publicly owned sewage systems are often out of sight, out of mind, only gaining attention when legal action is taken or violations occur. Sewage treatment operators often lack the necessary funds for proper maintenance and improvements, causing needed repairs to pile up. The costs in Connecticut and New York continue to grow:
- The Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) estimates that $5 billion is needed to fund wastewater infrastructure projects over the next 20 years.
- The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) estimates that $36.2 billion is needed to fund wastewater infrastructure projects over the next 20 years.
Clean Water and Green Infrastructure Keep Beaches Open and Protect Fisheries
In 2010, 11% of Connecticut’s beach monitoring samples exceeded federal water quality standards, more than doubling the amount from previous years. The number of beach closings and advisory days rose from 108 in 2009 to 143 in 2010. In New York, 9% of beach monitoring samples exceeded federal water quality standards causing 956 beach closures. Stormwater runoff and sewage overflows were responsible for over 70% of contamination events in both New York and Connecticut. Addressing stormwater runoff through green infrastructure, such as green roofs, vegetated swales, permeable pavement, and curb extensions will reduce stormwater runoff and will reduce sewage contamination in areas that that have combined sewer systems.
To protect fisheries in Long Island Sound, the Great Lakes, and other treasured water bodies throughout the region, discharged nitrogen from sewage treatment plants must be reduced to ensure life-sustaining oxygen is available for aquatic life. New York and Connecticut have worked to reduce pollutants to our fragile water bodies. For example, both New York and Connecticut have worked to reduce nitrogen contributions to the Long Island Sound; however, need consistently exceeds available funding. This is true all across New York and Connecticut.
Congress Must Support the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds (SRF)
In 1987, Congress created The Clean Water State Revolving Fund (SRF) which works to provide grants and zero or low interest loans to municipalities for construction of wastewater treatment systems. SRF programs help finance non-structural projects to protect water quality by preventing and reducing stormwater pollution. In 1996, Congress passed the Safe Drinking Water Act, which created a separate SRF for drinking water treatment and the protection of surface and groundwater drinking water supplies. SRF programs are essential to providing the necessary investments to upgrade and maintain wastewater infrastructure.
In addition to protecting the quality of drinking water resources, the National Utility Contractors Association estimates that SRF programs generate 400,000 jobs annually, not including jobs dependent upon clean water and open beaches such as fishing, boating, and tourism industries. Investing in our nation’s clean water infrastructure yields significant environmental and economic benefits with every billion dollars invested generating 28,500 jobs. The US Conference of Mayors notes that each public dollar invested in water infrastructure increases private long-term GDP output by $6.35 creating more jobs than any other type of infrastructure.
The President has proposed funding the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds at $2 billion in the FY 2013 budget. This is a $359 million reduction from FY 2012, and significantly less than previous years. The SRF is critical for protecting water quality and public health as well as allowing local municipalities to invest in green infrastructure programs that reduce the burden placed on existing facilities, create jobs, and improve local aesthetics. We must ensure that the federal government is adequately funding these important programs!
How you can help:
Email your U.S. senators, your U.S. representative, and the President, and urge them to support increased funding for the SRF in the FY 2013 federal budget.
- Include your name and address in your email
- Urge your two U.S. senators, representative in the U.S. House, and the President to support funding the Clean Water SRF at $2.1 billion, and the Drinking Water SRF at 1.4 billion in the FY 2013 budget.
- Tell them that you support at least 20% of Clean Water SRF funds to support cost effective green infrastructure solutions.
Senator Lieberman and Senator Blumenthal
Find and email your representative in the U.S. House
Please forward any response to to help us track progress on the issue.
Watch the video, "Sewage in the Suburbs":
Read the report, The Case for a Clean Water Trust Fund: New Realities, New Solutions, by Food and Water Watch
Drinking Water Infrastructure Needs of New York State report issued by the New York State Department of Health in November 2008.
A Gathering Storm: New York’s Wastewater Infrastructure in Crisis, a 2008 report issued by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation.
CCE is a member of the NYS Clean Water Collaborative, a task force convened by Governor David Paterson, to help address the wastewater infrastructure needs in NYS. View the New York Clean Water Collaborative resolution calling for more federal funding for clean and safe water infrastructure.
CCE’s campaign to increase funding to the New York State Environmental Protection Fund, a major source of funding for clean water in New York State
2012 NYS Intended Use Plan, which lists wastewater infrastructure projects in NYS that are approved and ready to go.
Updated by lpetrie 3/12/12