NRDC Lauds Mayor Williams' Request For Federal Assistance to Control Raw Sewage Discharges in the District of Columbia

WASHINGTON (March 28, 2001) - The $12 million in federal funds that Washington Mayor Anthony William's requested today to clean up raw sewage discharges would be an important first step to protect public health in the nation's capital, says the NRDC (the Natural Resources Defense Council). The money would help the district to control discharges from its combined sewer system, which dump more than 2 billion gallons of untreated sewage into the Anacostia River, Potomac River and Rock Creek every year.

"Congress should provide this urgently needed funding to clean up these sewage-filled waters -- especially since the waste from the Capitol goes right into the Anacostia," says Nancy Stoner, director of NRDC's Clean Water Project. "Congress should clean up after itself."

The $12 million would be used to begin to implement the district's plan for controlling combined sewer overflows that dump untreated sewage into the waters every time it rains. Sewer overflows contain trash, toxins, bacteria, viruses, and other contaminants that contaminate and kill fish, and make the water unsafe for swimming and boating. Most of the raw sewage from district sewers goes into the Anacostia River.

Stoner outlined several reasons why NRDC believes the federal government should fund a significant share of this restoration effort:

  • Washington is the nation's capital and should have waters that are the showcase of the world, not an embarrassment;

  • The federal government is the largest landowner in the district: About 40 percent of the city is federally owned; and

  • A number of U.S. cities that have voting members of Congress have received federal grants to support renovation of the sewer system. The district should not be last to receive federal funds because it has no voice in Congress. Instead, it should receive assistance because Congress and the White House are part of its community.