Statement by Melanie Shepherdson, NRDC staff attorney

Good morning. I'm Melanie Shepherdson, a staff attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council, and I'm pleased to be here today to celebrate this settlement. It was a long time coming, but it was well worth waiting for. The outcome could not have been more positive. Everyone is a winner today, especially the residents of Maryland and the District.

By settling this lawsuit, WSSC is making a major commitment to protect the health of area residents by upgrading its sewer system to prevent raw sewage overflows. This commitment also will help make the Anacostia River, one of the dirtiest rivers in the country, a vibrant waterway again.

We applaud WSSC for resolving this case. We also appreciate the many years of hard work that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Maryland Department of the Environment put in to make this settlement possible.

WSSC's problems with its sewer system are not unique. Old, broken, leaking sewer pipes are spewing untreated sewage into our waterways nationwide. This untreated sewage carries infectious bacteria, viruses, parasites, and toxic chemicals. These can cause waterborne illnesses, such as hepatitis and gastroenteritis, which causes vomiting and diarrhea. Sorry, but after all, we are talking about an unpleasant topic.

In any case, the sorry state of our sewer infrastructure nationwide calls for a major investment. But it looks like we are heading in the wrong direction at the federal level. As we speak here today, Congress is poised to cut federal funding for the state revolving fund for water infrastructure. That's why it's so important for states like Maryland to do what they can to protect their residents.

We look forward to working with WSSC, the state of Maryland, the EPA and our colleagues at other conservation groups to make the promise of this settlement a reality. Thank you.