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GLIN==> Sewage overflows threaten public health...

February 19, 2004

Cyndi Roper, Clean Water Action:  517-490-1394
Megan Owens, PIRGIM:  734-730-5725
James Clift, Michigan Environmental Council: 517-487-9539
Nancy Stoner, NRDC:  202-289-2394
Michelle Merkel, EIP:  202-263-4452



Harrison Township, MI While many Southeast Michigan communities are working
to stop dumping sewage into Lake St. Clair, the Great Lakes and other
Michigan waterways, the Bush Administration is proposing to let other
communities off the hook by slashing funding and proposing to allow sewage
to keep pouring into the nation's waters indefinitely.

According to a report released today, sewage pollution costs Americans
billions of dollars every year in medical treatment, lost productivity and
property damage, and Bush administration policies are compounding the
problem. "Swimming in Sewage" reports that the nation faces an emerging
environmental and public health crisis resulting from our failure to
effectively treat sewage. The report's authors, the Natural Resources
Defense Council (NRDC) and the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP), found
that sewage from homes, businesses and factories often never reaches a
treatment plant and, when it does, too often it is not treated adequately
to protect public health.

According to a national report released today, Michigan officials reported
that more than 31 billion gallons of sewage entered the state's waterways
in 2001, which endangers drinking water and causes the majority of the
state's beach closings and advisories every year. Research conducted by
Clean Water Action for roughly the same timeframe pegged the volume at more
than 50 billion gallons.

"Michigan has more at stake than virtually any other state because we are
so heavily reliant on our beaches for tourism and recreation," said Bethany
Renfer, Clean Water Action's Michigan Program Coordinator. "Sewage
overflows matter in Michigan. People are disgusted by the thought of sewage
flowing into our water. They also know there are health threats posed by
this sewage and that sewage in the state's waters harms our tourism

"What Bush is trying to do is remove the finish line; he's taking away the
hope that some day the sewage overflows will stop," said Renfer.

"We have a looming public health crisis on our hands, made worse by
President Bush's new budget proposal which dramatically slashes funding for
wastewater infrastructure. At nearly $500 million, it's his biggest cut for
any environmental program, and it's indefensible," said Megan Owen, PIRGIM
Field Director. "The result will be more beach closings, more polluted
drinking water supplies, and more waterborne disease, which now sickens
nearly 8 million Americans every year."

The NRDC-EIP report also identifies a number of Bush administration
policies in addition to the new Bush budget cuts that exacerbate sewage
pollution. Those policies include shelving a Clinton administration
proposal that would have required controls to prevent raw sewage
discharges, and a new proposal to allow sewer operators to discharge
inadequately treated sewage in waterways when it rains.

The EPA calls this latest proposal "blending" because it involves mixing
treated and untreated sewage. NRDC and EIP say it is a radical departure
from current treatment standards, which require full treatment for sewage
except in emergency conditions such as hurricanes, and would violate the
Clean Water Act. It also would threaten the health of millions of
Americans. According to a recent study by Joan Rose, a microbiologist at
Michigan State University and an expert on waterborne illness, the risk of
contracting giardiasis from untreated parasites in blended wastewater is a
thousand times higher than from fully treated wastewater. (Dr. Rose can be
contacted at 517-432-4412 or rosejo@msu.edu.)

  "Waterborne disease outbreaks are on the rise across the country," said
Michele Merkel of EIP. "Most often, Americans get diarrhea, skin rashes or
respiratory infections, but waterborne illness can also threaten the lives
of seniors, young children, cancer patients, and others with impaired
immune systems. Now is the time to boost funding to protect Americans, not
cut it."

The report concludes with recommendations to address America's sewage
problem. NRDC and EIP urge the Bush administration to drop its new blending
policy, establish a national clean water trust fund to assist communities
to provide effective sewage treatment, set standards for Cryptosporidium
and Giardia and other currently unregulated water pollutants that make
people sick, and enforce Clean Water Act requirements that would prevent
raw sewage discharges.

"Swimming in Sewage" features seven case studies from around the country
that illustrate how exposure to sewage pollution has killed or seriously
injured people and harmed local economies. The case studies are from
Michigan, California, Florida, Indiana, Ohio, Wisconsin and Washington,
D.C.  . The full report is available at

Maps showing the concentration of CSO and SSO releases in Michigan as
reported by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to the
U.S.E.P.A. can be found on the Michigan Environmental Council's website at


Clean Water Action is a national citizens' organization working for clean,
safe and affordable water, prevention of health-threatening pollution,
creation of environmentally-safe jobs and businesses, and empowerment of
people to make democracy work. Michigan Clean Water Action is headquartered
in East Lansing,Grand Rapids and Clinton Township in Macomb County.

PIRGIM is a non-profit, non-partisan public interest advocacy organization,
working throughout Michigan to preserve the environment, protect consumers
and promote good government. www.pirgim.org.

The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, nonprofit organization
of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to
protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has
more than 1 million members and e-activists nationwide, served from offices
in New York, Washington, Santa Monica and San Francisco. www.nrdc.org

The Environmental Integrity Project is a nonpartisan, nonprofit
organization established in March 2002 to advocate for more effective
enforcement of environmental laws. The organization was founded by Eric
Schaeffer, former director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's
Office of Regulatory Enforcement, with support from the Rockefeller Family
Fund and other foundations. http://www.environmentalintegrity.org

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