Interior Appropriations Act Includes Great Lakes Water Protection Act, a Kirk-Advanced Ban on Sewage Dumping in the Great Lakes; Estimated 24 Billion Gallons of Untreated Sewage/Storm Water Are Dumped Straight into the Lakes Annually
WASHINGTON —(ENEWSPF)–June 18, 2015. U.S. Senator Mark Kirk today applauded the Senate Appropriations Committee’s passage of an FY 2016 Interior Appropriations bill that includes a Kirk-advanced ban on sewage dumping in the Great Lakes. The Kirk ban on Great Lakes sewage dumping would set a date certain to end dumping in order to protect the Lakes – home to 95 percent of surface fresh water in America. It now heads to the Senate floor for passage.
An estimated 24 billion gallons of combined untreated sewage and storm water are dumped into the Great Lakes each year. This sewage contributes to hundreds of beach closures, threatens the source of drinking water for more than 30 million Americans and Canadians, and endangers the entire environmental wellbeing of the Great Lakes ecosystem.
“This is the most aggressive measure ever taken to protect our nation’s most precious ecosystem, which supplies 84 percent of the surface fresh water in North America,” Senator Kirk said. “Illinois families deserve to swim in clean, safe water free from sewage this summer.”
The bill language bans sewage dumping into the Great Lakes by 2035, giving communities 20 years to make the necessary upgrades to their infrastructure before fines are increased from $37,500 to $100,000 a day per violation. The money collected from fines would flow to a Great Lakes Clean-Up Fund, generating resources for Great Lakes states to improve wastewater treatment options and systems, as well as habitat protection. The legislation also requires the the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to establish notice requirements across all Great Lakes states to ensure the public is fully notified when an illegal sewage discharge event occurs, providing families with the information they need to protect their loved ones from harmful exposure. A House companion, H.R. 2809, led by Rep. Robert Dold (R-Ill.-10) was introduced in the House yesterday.
The Kirk ban on Great Lakes sewage dumping is also endorsed by the Healing Our Waters Coalition, the Sierra Club, the National Wildlife Federation, American Rivers, and the Evangelical Environmental Network. There are more than 50 public Lake Michigan beaches in Illinois, and every year high levels of harmful pathogens, like E.coli, cause hundreds of beach closures and contamination advisories, costing the local economy millions of dollars. Between 2012 and 2013, Illinois Lake Michigan beaches experienced nearly 700 closures and advisories. Beach closures cost taxpayers an estimated $2.4 million annually, according to a University of Chicago study.
As Co-Chair of the Great Lakes Task Force, a bipartisan Senate Caucus developed to enhance the economic and environmental health of the Great Lakes, Senator Kirk has championed policies and initiatives that work to keep the Lakes clean for future generations.
Securing Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) Funding
GLRI addresses the major threats to the Great Lakes such as invasive species and pollution/toxic contamination.
Senator Kirk introduced S.1024, to formally authorize the GLRI at $300 million, $50 million more than the President’s request, annually through 2020.
After 14 years, the 150,000 cubic yard of contaminated sediment has been removed or capped from the Harbor.
In April 2012, Senator Kirk sent a letter to EPA Administrator & Secretary of State to urge negotiators share the draft text with interested stakeholders to solicit feedback and strengthen public support for the revised agreement.
Leading Opposition to Canada’s Proposal for Nuclear Waste in Great Lakes Basin
Senator Kirk urged President Obama to halt the Canadian project to store nuclear waste in a facility less than a mile from Lake Michigan.
Senator Kirk urged the President to work with the Canadian government to delay final approval of the project while calling for an environmental review by the International Joint Commission (IJC), an independent organization established by the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909 for cooperative management of our shared Great Lakes.
History of Opposition to Canadian Nuclear Waste Project:
Sent letters in 2011 and 2013 expressing concerns with Ontario Power Generation’s proposal
September 18, 2014 – Introduced a resolution of disapproval for the project (S.Res.565)
April 13, 2015 – Introduced a resolution of disapproval for the site (S.Res.134)