Warning: Bigger, faster, and more abundant mosquitoes may be breeding in a river or stream near you. A new scientific study presented at this month’s meeting of the Ecological Society of America reaches the scary conclusion that mosquitoes–carriers of the West Nile Virus and other diseases–thrive in waterways contaminated by sewage. As if we needed even more public health reasons to clean up and prevent sewage pollution!
Sadly, untreated sewage pollution still flows regularly into many of New England’s rivers and streams as a result of sewage spills from aging or improperly maintained sewage collection and pumping systems. For example, when a rupture in a Burlington, VT city sewage collection pipe went unrepaired for 8 days in 2005, it released approximately 4 million gallons of raw sewage into the river until sewage treatment plant operators finally addressed the problem. In the wake of this high-profile incident, CLF led the effort for passage of the “spill bill”–a Vermont law that requires sewage treatment plant operators to undertake enahnced sewage spill prevention and emergency response measures and to notify the public when sewage spills occur. The public has a right to know when its waters are being contaminated with spilled sewage (this Agency of Natural Resources web site includes a report of all recent spills) and to demand that action be taken to prevent sewage overflows through regular maintenance and greater investment in clean water infrastructure.
As with so many other important environmental and public health issues, CLF’s efforts in one of the New England states are helping to lead the country toward a future with cleaner water.
Currently, Congress is debating passage of the S. 937 “Sewage Overflow Community Right to Know Act.” Like the Vermont law championed by CLF, this bill would amend the Clean Water Act to require mandatory reporting of sewer spills and the cleanup, mitigation, and prevention measures adopted as a result. According to our friends at American Rivers in D.C., the bill has passed through the House of Representatives and through the Senate’s Environment and Public Works committee. With your help, the Clean Water Act will soon ensure our collective right to know when our rivers, streams, lakes, and beaches have been contaminated by raw sewage. Ask your Senator to cosponsor S. 937 and to work for its passage this year– in the meantime be sure to stock up on citronella and bug dope…