Regional Leaders Tell the EPA “We Need Clean Water, Green Infrastructure Now”

With the deadline to sign our region’s EPA Consent Decree fast approaching, eighty five local municipal and elected officials, organizational leaders, and faith leaders from all over the region have signed a letter to the EPA asking that the Consent Decree to fix our sewer system rely on up-to-date technology that will immediately begin to clean our water while maximizing solutions that meet the needs of our community. The letter calls on the EPA to allow our region to pursue a fundamentally different approach – one which focuses on upgrading and maintaining the sewer system we have, expanding treatment capacity, maximizing investment in comprehensive and strategic green infrastructure that captures rainwater before it enters the system, and then right-sizing gray infrastructure – all while creating jobs and community benefits.

With this approach, authorities and municipalities could begin to immediately invest in strategic projects that clean the rivers. “It is past time to use green solutions for managing stormwater and sewer overflows,” said Patricia DeMarco, of the Forest Hills Borough Council. “Watersheds cross many communities, so we need regional leadership to pull plans together. Using green infrastructure for watershed management prevents problems and is cost-effective. It is the most responsible way to meet the needs of our communities now, and for the future. Further delay is not justified.”

Signatories also note the huge opportunity for local, long-term job creation and the benefit of addressing multiple problems and community needs with strategic regional investment that can begin immediately. “Many effective green infrastructure solutions can be planned, implemented, and become operational in a fraction of the time and cost it takes to replace traditional underground pipes,” noted Aurora Sharrard Executive Director and Vice President of Innovation of the Green Building Alliance. “Applying green stormwater infrastructure solutions first creates an immediate opportunity for a myriad of benefits, including job creation, more green space, improved air and water quality, and more vibrant and resilient communities.”

ALCOSAN has been negotiating and planning for almost two decades, but now newer technology is available and customer municipalities and other authorities are thinking about sustainability, resilience, and regional cooperation. Now our region must coalesce around a single, effective plan. We need the EPA to regulate our region in a way that allows municipalities and residents to see above-ground benefits like flood control, parks and green spaces, and good paying jobs all while achieving clean water.“People like me are paying for this. We’re going to see our rates triple and quadruple in the next few years. We can’t spend that much money and not see benefits in our neighborhoods. I want the money I pay to be spent wisely,” said Janice Brown, resident and ratepayer in the East End.

The letter, spearheaded by the Clean Rivers Campaign, is intended to show the EPA that there is widespread, diverse support for getting started immediately with a sustainable approach that maintains and upgrades our current system and maximizes strategic green infrastructure. According to Campaign Director, Jennifer Rafanan Kennedy, “We need clean water and transformational neighborhood investment now, and with an investment this large we should choose a plan that solves multiple problems. If we can coalesce around one strategic and cost-effective plan that brings multiple solutions and benefits to our region, that’s the right way to go. Leaders across our region are telling the EPA that they want to get started right away – but we want it to be the right plan – and we hope the EPA will listen.”

Read the Letter to the EPA with 85 Signatures

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