Standing up for clean water
by Nelson Brooke and Charles Scribner
Although Black Warrior Riverkeeper, a non-profit environmental advocacy organization, is focused on protecting and restoring the Black Warrior River and its tributaries, we often identify situations where our fellow citizens can help defend not only the Black Warrior River watershed but also all the waterways of Alabama and even the United States.
By calling your U.S. Senators and asking them to support the following two bills, you can take an active role in improving water quality, public health, recreation and wildlife habitat, both locally and nationally.
In 2009, the Clean Water Restoration Act (S. 787) and the Sewage Overflow Community Right-to-Know Act (S. 937) both passed out of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. These bills have moved to the Senate floor for a vote. If you have not called your U.S. Senators in support of these bills, please take a moment to do so after reviewing the following information.
Information regarding the Clean Water Restoration Act (S. 787)
Alabama's U.S. Senator Contact Info:
Senator Jeff Sessions: (202) 224-4124
Senator Richard Shelby: (202) 224-5744
Sample text of statement to your U.S. Senators:
Please support the Clean Water Restoration Act (S. 787) in its current form, with no weakening amendments. We need to re-establish our basic water protections that were in place in 2001 and for almost three decades prior to that, so that many of our nation's waters do not lose protection.
S. 787 does not attempt to expand the Clean Water Act, but rather to restore its original intent. All original exemptions are still in place, and this act will not move beyond protecting wetlands and waterways. Despite what some detractors have claimed, there is nothing in this bill to include farm ponds or puddles. Wetlands and streams that clean our water and provide drinking water must be protected. The next step in the Senate is a full floor vote on this compromise bill.
Clean Water Restoration Act information regarding the U.S. House of Representatives:
We also need to encourage the U.S. House of Representatives’ Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to take up and vote for a strong bill. Contact the committee at (202) 225-4472. To find your U.S. Representative, visit: www.house.gov.
Additional information concerning the Clean Water Restoration Act:
To read the article “Restore the Clean Water Act: America’s Waters Hang in the Balance,” visit the web site for the National Wildlife Federation at www.nwf.org.
Information regarding the Sewage Overflow Community Right-to-Know Act (S. 937)
Sample text of statement to your U.S. Senators:
Please support the Sewage Overflow Community Right-to-Know Act (S. 937). Americans have been unknowingly subjected to raw sewage in our streams, rivers, lakes and reservoirs for too long. It is time that wastewater treatment plants be required to notify the public when a spill occurs, so that we can keep out of harm's way when swimming, fishing and boating.
Alabama currently has regulations that require wastewater treatment plant operators to notify the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM), the public and local public health authorities when a spill occurs. Unfortunately, only ADEM is being notified, and even ADEM does not get notified every time a spill occurs. There is a catch: ADEM is in charge of ensuring the regulations are followed. ADEM is knowingly allowing wastewater spills to occur without enforcing the provision requiring notification of the public and public health authorities. So, while we have vague regulations on the books, we must encourage passage of national legislation in hopes that it will encourage Alabama to protect her public health and unrivaled freshwater biodiversity with more stringent regulations.
Additional information regarding sewage in American river and waterways:
To read the report “What's In Your Water? The State of Public Notification in 11 U.S. States,” visit www.americanrivers.org/library/reports-publications.
To read the “Health Risks of Sewage,” visit www.americanrivers.org/assets/pdfs.
The Natural Resources Defense Council offers a report called “Swimming in Sewage.” It is available at www.nrdc.org/water/pollution/sewage/sewage.pdf.
Nelson Brooke and Charles Scribner are part of the staff at Black Warrior Riverkeeper, a non-profit advocacy organization whose mission is to protect and restore the Black Warrior River and its tributaries. BWRK was named the Alabama Environmental Council’s 2007 Conservation Organization of the Year and the American Canoe Association’s 2008 Green Paddle Award winner. For more information, call (205) 458-0095 or visit www.blackwarriorriver.org.
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