July 24, 2019

Duckworth, Durbin Re-Introduce Legislation to Improve Water Quality & End Sewage Dumping into Great Lakes

Great Lakes contain 95% of America’s fresh surface water and supply drinking water to more than 30 million people in North America


[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) re-introduced legislation to end the dumping of untreated sewage waste into Lake Michigan and the entire Great Lakes Basin and help improve water quality throughout the Great Lakes region. The Senators’ Great Lakes Water Protection Act would create a dedicated fund to help clean up sewage in the Great Lakes and require the public be immediately notified when sewage is discharged. U.S. Representative Dan Lipinski (IL-3) has introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

“The Great Lakes are the source of drinking water for tens of millions of Americans and support 1.5 million jobs,” said Duckworth. “The public health standards enshrined in this bill would help prevent untreated sewage and storm water from being discharged into the Great Lakes, which threatens the health and livelihoods of millions.  Our legislation will also help protect local economies and ensure our water is clean for families in Illinois and throughout the Great Lakes region.”

“Investing in the future of the Great Lakes is an investment in the overall success of the economies that use these resources,” Durbin said. “Our bill ensures a basic premise: that the water Illinoisans drink and use will be safe.”

“My bill and the legislation Senators Duckworth Durbin have introduced in the Senate will improve water quality in the Great Lakes by ending the practice of blending and making sure that wastewater discharged into the lakes is fully-treated,” said Lipinski.  “We are also creating a Great Lakes Cleanup Fund that will provide federal dollars to offset the cost of infrastructure improvements needed to end wastewater blending, and make sure that an undue burden is not placed on local residents.”

We thank Senator Duckworth for her leadership and commitment to protecting the Great Lakes from sewage releases that close beaches and pose a threat to public health. Ensuring that the public has immediate access to information about sewage overflows is critical,” said Molly Flanagan, Vice President, Policy at the Alliance for the Great Lakes. “We strongly support the inclusion of a new grants program to support green infrastructure across the Great Lakes region to reduce stormwater runoff that overloads wastewater treatment systems and leads to sewage releases. This funding will help states and communities install and maintain more green infrastructure and help protect the health of the Great Lakes.”

Combined sewer systems (CSS)  are designed to collect rainwater runoff, sewage and wastewater in the same pipe. During periods of heavy rainfall, untreated stormwater and wastewater can be discharges directly to nearby streams, rivers, and other water bodies. This practice has damaging impacts to the Great Lakes.  The Senators’ legislation would create a uniform policy across the entire Great Lakes Basin that ends this practice. It would also authorize The Great Lakes Cleanup Fund to provide up to $250 million each year from 2020 to 2024 to support projects that lead to reductions in wastewater blending.

The Great Lakes Water Protection Act has been endorsed by the Alliance for the Great Lakes, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the National Wildlife Federation Great Lakes Regional Center, American Rivers and Environmental Law & Policy Center.

Duckworth has been a strong advocate for protecting the Great Lakes from pollution and ensuring access to clean water. She has also been outspoken about the Trump Administration’s decision to roll back the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule, which would threaten access to clean, safe drinking water for millions of Americans, especially low income families and communities of color. Duckworth and Durbin previously introduced the Great Lakes Water Protection Act last Congress, and Duckworth highlighted the bill in a speech she gave at the Environmental Law and Policy Center Gala in May.