Why is America still dumping untreated sewage?

Through the 1950s, it was not uncommon to find municipalities dumping untreated sewage into the ocean. That was back in a time when we didn't know better.

The idea was that the ocean was quite large, and that it didn't matter if a little bit of untreated sewage was dumped into it. Who could it hurt?

Supposedly, that all stopped in the 1970s. The federal government enacted the Clean Water Act, which, among other things, required that all sewage be treated before it is released into the ocean and other public bodies of water.

Here is why: untreated sewage makes all of us sick. It also harms and some times even eliminates forms of marine life. And it causes beach closings and all of the financial effects associated with beach closings.

This is all so basic that it is hard to believe we even need to discuss this in the year 2006. After all, who doesn't know that dumping untreated sewage is dangerous to all of us?

The federal EPA, interestingly, has proposed a regulation which would ease the effluent quality requirements from sanitary treatment facilities all over the United States. It proposes to allow bypasses of sewage treatment systems during periods of heavy rainfall.

These heavy rain events may over tax some systems and the idea is that bypasses will keep them in check. More to the point, the EPA believes that mixing a certain amount of untreated sewage with treated sewage would sufficiently dilute whatever is released to avoid health problems.

For good or bad -- this proposal represents what many societies do in third world nations.

While it is an axiom in this business that "dilution is not the solution to pollution" -- dilution is precisely what the EPA is now proposing.

A Congressional proposal, HR -1126, has been put written -- which would prevent the EPA from effectuating such a policy change.

The proposal is called, "Save our Waters from Sewage Act of 2005."

The proposed law would allow bypasses to occur only in the most limited of circumstances. And sewage treatment operators would be compelled to literally plan for a "rainy day."

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