LOWELL — Congresswoman Lori Trahan testified before the House Appropriations Committee Tuesday about the need for federal investments in preventing combined sewage overflows that pollute waterways like the Merrimack River.
Combined sewer overflows are a product of combined sewer systems, which are in use by more than 800 communities across the nation, including many along the Merrimack River like Lowell, Lawrence and Haverhill.
The Merrimack River Watershed Council estimates that hundreds of millions of gallons of untreated sewage are released into the Merrimack from urban treatment plants each year. A recent discharge of 84 million gallons of wastewater and stormwater was reported from Lowell’s combined sewage system in April.
“Each time CSO events occur, we gamble with exposing our constituents to a toxic stew,” Trahan testified. “We can be certain that, as the climate warms and storms increase in frequency and intensity, our CSO challenge will grow worse. Please build upon the progress of the last two years and include the highest possible funding for the Sewer Overflow Control grants program.”
Earlier this year, Trahan reintroduced the Stop Sewage Overflow Act, her bipartisan legislation to expand and improve the Environmental Protection Agency’s Stormwater Reuse Municipal Grant program, which is used to award federal grants to states and municipalities for the planning, design, and construction for combined sewer overflows. She has also successfully pushed alongside fellow federal elected officials representing communities along the Merrimack River for increased EPA investments in the grant program.
During the hearing, Trahan also spoke to the importance of increased federal funding for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Fusion Energy Sciences, which invests in breakthrough fusion research that has proven especially promising in recent years. The tremendous potential benefits of fusion energy led the National Academy of Sciences to recommend the creation of a pilot fusion plant necessary for the United States to foster the research and development of the prospective renewable energy source.