By Ill. Dem. Rep. Dan Lipinski
Increasingly beachgoers are being turned away from our Great Lakes beaches during the summer because of health hazards caused by water pollution. Often times this pollution comes from the dumping of sewage into the lakes by local municipalities. This practice must come to an end. That is why on June 29th, I introduced The Great Lakes Water Protection Act, H.R. 5734, along with Congressman Mark Kirk.Right now, many communities in the region allow untreated sewage flow into our rivers and lakes during heavy rainstorms because their sewage treatment infrastructure does not have the capacity to treat it. This pollution damages our environment and puts the public at risk from the heavy levels of bacteria in the water. The EPA recently determined that in 2003, 10 to 14 percent of swimmers at beaches in the Great Lakes suffered from gastroenteritis, leading to diarrhea, vomiting, and possibly serious illness for at-risk populations. And this is after more than 1,800 beach closings or advisories in that same year.
H.R. 5734 will impose large fines on municipalities that dump sewage into waterways after 2026 - ensuring that our beaches will be cleaner while giving localities time to upgrade their infrastructure. The fines would be paid into each state's Clean Water Revolving Fund that promotes the construction of sewer infrastructure to help prevent dumping problems in the future. Furthermore, the bill also has a reporting requirement, so that the public can monitor what their local communities are doing to address this problem.
The Great Lakes are the largest freshwater system in the world and hold 90% of the fresh water in the United States. They are a vital resource in need of greater protection, and The Great Lakes Water Protection Act will help provide this.