The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is developing a new regulation to require public notices of combined sewer overflow discharges into the Great Lakes.
Michigan Congresswoman Candice Miller is in favor of such a regulation, but she says it won't be enough.
Combined sewer overflows happen when heavy rains overwhelm a city's combined sanitary and stormwater system, sending untreated or partially treated sewage into rivers and lakes.
"The public can't have too much information about it," says Miller. "I'm suggesting that you have dates and times of discharge, and where the discharge is happening, and how much volume of discharge. You have all kinds of health implications, you've got beach closures, and impact on our water supply."
But Miller, in a letter to the EPA, also urged the agency to do more to prevent the discharges from happening in the first place.
What is even better (than public notification) is preventing CSOs from occurring altogether. One way to do this is to work harder to separate municipal wastewater from surface run-off. The separate collection prevents the overflow of sewer systems and treatment stations during rainy periods.
Currently, there are 184 communities with combined sewer systems in the Great Lakes region. There needs to be a common goal and political will to have a plan of action to address and eventually eliminate CSOs, which foul our drinking water, cause beach closures, generate muck build-up along our shorelines, and leave a pungent odor in its (sic) wake.
Miller says the EPA should be tougher on repeat offenders who fail to separate their collection systems, perhaps by making them ineligible for federal grants.
Miller is currently running for Macomb County public works commissioner.
Incumbent Commissioner Anthony Marrocco says Miller's concern for the quality of water in the Great Lakes is hypocritical, pointing to her vote in 2011 to cut funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative in half.