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Congresswoman Ann McLane Kuster

Representing the 2nd District of New Hampshire

Kuster Joins Call for Additional Funds for Programs to Clean Up Merrimack River

Feb 13, 2020
Press Release

Washington, DC – Today, Congresswoman Annie Kuster (D-NH) along with Representatives Lori Trahan (D-MA), Seth Moulton (D-MA), and Chris Pappas (D-NH) sent a letter to the Chairwoman and Ranking Member of the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Subcommittee of Appropriations requesting additional funding be allocated for the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Sewer Overflow and Stormwater Reuse Municipal Grant Program (section 221) for fiscal year 2021.

The Appropriations request letter seeks $500 million for the program to award federal grants to states and municipalities for the planning, design, and construction for combined sewer overflows, sanitary sewer overflows, or stormwater management. Combined sewer overflows are a product of combined sewer systems, which are in use by more than 800 communities across the nation. These systems are particularly common in the Northeast and Midwest, where they trigger harmful releases of raw sewage when precipitation exceeds manageable levels. 

“The Merrimack River supplies water to hundreds of thousands of people in Northern New England, and it is imperative that we work to ensure Granite Staters and all who depend on this resource have access to safe, clean drinking water,” said Rep. Kuster. “These federal funds are vital to safeguarding and improving the quality of water in the Merrimack River. I urge my colleagues to grant our request and help protect access to sanitary drinking water for every community that utilizes the Merrimack River.”

“Every American has a right to clean, safe drinking water. For those who depend on the Merrimack River, that right is threatened by the 800 million gallons of sewage and untreated stormwater that ran into the river last year alone because of outdated sewer infrastructure,” said Congresswoman Trahan. “The federal government has an obligation to help cities like Lowell, Lawrence, and Haverhill make necessary sewer upgrades to prevent this sort of pollution. I am proud to stand alongside Representatives Moulton, Kuster, and Pappas to push for this funding to help get it done.”

“There’s a saying in the Marines, that I’ll paraphrase here: sewage flows downhill. In this case, it is flowing downstream into the Merrimack from Massachusetts and New Hampshire,” Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA) said. “Everyone deserves clean water. We need to stop the flow of sewage into the Merrimack, and until we do that, we should at least be able to warn people when it happens."

“It is incomprehensible that in the year 2020 untreated sewage still flows into America’s waterways,” said Congressman Pappas. “We can’t effectively address these sewage overflows without adequate federal support. These funds are essential to modernize our infrastructure and protect our rivers and drinking water. I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues to ensure the Merrimack River, and all our nation’s waterways, will thrive for generations to come.”

“However, the scale of need to protect the Merrimack and the communities in its watershed requires a major investment of federal grant support.  Indeed, according to the latest EPA Clean Water Needs Survey, nearly $50 billion is needed. In our states alone, nearly $1.6 billion is required,” the Members Wrote.  

The full text of the letter can be found below, and an image of the signed letter can be found HERE:

February 13, 2020

 

The Honorable Betty McCollum                         

Chairwoman 

Interior, Environment & Related Agencies

2007 Rayburn House Office Building   

U.S. House of Representatives

Washington, DC 20515

 

The Honorable David Joyce,

Ranking Member

Interior, Environment & Related Agencies    

1016 Longworth House Office Building

U.S. House of Representatives

Washington, DC 20515                                       

Dear Chairwoman McCollum and Ranking Member Joyce:

We are writing to respectfully request that the Committee provide $500 million for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Sewer Overflow and Stormwater Reuse Municipal Grant program (“Section 221”). 

As you know, the Section 221 grant program authorizes federal grant funding to States and municipalities for the planning, design, and construction of treatment works and other measures for combined sewer overflows, sanitary sewer overflows, or stormwater management.  Combined sewer overflows are a product of combined sewer systems, which serve more than 800 communities across the nation.  These systems are particularly common in the Northeast and Midwest, where they trigger harmful releases of raw sewage when precipitation exceeds manageable levels. 

This is a particularly urgent challenge for communities along the Merrimack River, which supplies drinking water for nearly 600,000 people.  In 2018, 800 million gallons of sewage and untreated stormwater were released into the river, which runs more than 100 miles from central New Hampshire, through northeastern Massachusetts, and then out to sea.  Combined sewer overflow discharges in Manchester and Lowell accounted for more than half of the volume. 

The Clean Water State Revolving Fund has been a useful tool to make improvements to the region’s wastewater infrastructure.  However, the scale of need to protect the Merrimack and the communities in its watershed requires a major investment of federal grant support.  Indeed, according to the latest EPA Clean Water Needs Survey, nearly $50 billion is needed.  In our states alone, nearly $1.6 billion is required. 

Again, the Section 221 grants should be funded at the $500 million level.  This would allow cities with combined sewer systems, like those along the Merrimack River, to finally make the major infrastructure changes needed to prevent CSO releases.

Thank you for your consideration of our request. 

Sincerely,

 

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