Durbin, Kirk Push End to Dumping Sewage in Great Lakes
Lake County News-Sun
January 27, 2011
In a display of bipartisanship, Illinois’ two U.S. senators — Republican Mark Kirk and Democrat Dick Durbin — introduced legislation in Congress late Tuesday night to protect the Great Lakes from having raw sewage dumped into them.
The Great Lakes Water Protection Act would increase fines to up to $100,000 a day per violation by 2031, providing communities 20 years to upgrade their sewage treatment facilities. Currently, fines are capped at $37,500 a day.
Money collected from fines would flow to a Great Lakes Cleanup Fund created by the legislation to generate financial resources for the Great Lakes states to improve wastewater treatment options, habitat protection and wastewater treatment systems.
U.S. Reps. Robert Dold, R-Kenilworth, and Dan Lipinski, D-Western Springs, plan to introduce the same bipartisan measure in the House. Kirk and Lipinski sponsored a similar bipartisan bill in the House four years ago.
“With this new bipartisan push in both the Senate and the House, we believe we can make real progress toward protecting our Great Lakes, the crown jewel of the Midwest’s ecosystem,” Kirk said. “Polluters need to know that dumping toxic waste into a source of drinking water for 30 million people will not be tolerated.”
Durbin said he looked forward to taking on Great Lakes polluters.
“Three and a half years ago, when we learned that BP was planning to increase the pollutants it puts into Lake Michigan, the people of Illinois stood up and said no. Polluting our lake further is not an option,” said Durbin. “This legislation tackles another significant threat to the water system — municipal sewage.”
“More than 30 million people use the Great Lakes for drinking water and recreational purposes such as swimming, boating and fishing each year,” Dold said. “We can’t allow the dumping of billions of gallons of raw sewage into those same waters. This legislation will help ensure that we can continue to enjoy the benefits of this area’s most treasured natural resource.”
Besides increasing fines for sewage dumping, the legislation would make it easier to assess fines at existing levels, beginning a year after the bill’s passage. Researchers estimate 24 billion gallons of sewage get dumped into the Great Lakes each year.
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