Great Lakes Nutrient Removal Assistance Act Could Provide $500 Million to EPA

In April, Congressman Brian Higgins (D-N.Y.) announced legislation aimed at updating water infrastructure essential to protecting the Great Lakes and the communities that surround them.In April, Congressman Brian Higgins (D-N.Y.) announced legislation aimed at updating water infrastructure essential to protecting the Great Lakes and the communities that surround them.

?The Great Lakes are an incredible natural and economic resource for Western New York,??said Rep. Higgins. ?Restoring and preserving the integrity of the Great Lakes is critical to our waterfront economy and the vitality of our region.?

The legislation is also supported by Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.), Rep. Sander Levin (D-Mich.) and Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wisc.).

?Historic droughts and water shortages currently gripping the nation are a stark wake-up call, reminding us that we must do everything we can to preserve the largest surface freshwater system on the Earth, the Great Lakes,? said Slaughter, co-chair of the Great Lakes Task Force.??Investing in the region?s water infrastructure is a proven way to protect the drinking water for more than 30 million Americans and ensure that these lakes are here for future generations.?

The Great Lakes Nutrient Removal Assistance Act would provide the U.S. EPA with $500 million of funding to upgrade publicly-owned wastewater treatment plants in the Great Lakes basin with nutrient removal technology. Higgins introduced the bill to Congress along with his co-sponsors from districts that also represent the Great Lakes.

In August 2014, an algal bloom caused by excess nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen in Lake Erie caused half a million people living in the Great Lakes community of Toledo, Ohio to lose access to clean drinking water. As the shallowest of the five Great Lakes, Lake Erie is particularly susceptible to harmful algal blooms.
The Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, a binational agreement between the United States and Canada to restore and protect the Great Lakes, identifies inadequate wastewater treatment plants as a weak link in protecting the biological integrity of the Great Lakes.

The Buffalo River is also identified in the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement as one of 26 Areas of Concern in need of remedial action. In fall 2014,?Congressman Higgins announced $4.7 million in funding?for habitat restoration anticipated to begin during the spring and summer of 2015, complementing nearly $75 million invested by federal and non-federal partners over the past decade.

According to the EPA, approximately 35 million people live in the Great Lakes basin, which contains 95 percent of America?s fresh water and supplies drinking water to more than 30 million people in North America.?The Brookings Institute found that Buffalo would see economic gains between $600 million to $1.1 billion if the Great Lakes are restored. The Great Lakes currently promote 1.5 million jobs and $62 billion in wages.

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