Raw Human Sewage Pouring Into America's Lakes And Streams
By Tom Vanden Brook, USAToday
SSO 700 is an unremarkable spot. Just a pipe, hidden by trees and brush, emptying into Mill Creek near downtown Cincinnati.
''It just gushes, even in dry weather,'' says Mike Fremont, president of the Ohio environmental group Rivers Unlimited. ''If you know what it is, you keep your distance.''
What it is, is human waste -- hundreds of gallons of it at a time flowing untreated from toilets into the creek. Sanitary Sewer Overflow 700 is not only disgusting, it is illegal. But the city won't shut it off because plugging SSO 700 and more than 100 pipes like it all over Cincinnati would require raising sewer rates about 1,500%.
''It would bankrupt us,'' says Patrick Karney, director of the Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati. ''It would be, last one out, turn out the lights. Cincinnati would just be another wide spot on I-75.''
Dozens of cities like Cincinnati, some with sewer pipes laid in the 1800s, are dumping raw human waste into streams and lakes. The practice is generally illegal under the 1972 Clean Water Act. Yet it continues an estimated 40,000 times every year because cities balk at the enormous expense of modernizing and expanding their sewage systems.
But if taking care of the problem is costly, so, too, is doing nothing, environmental activists say. Raw sewage in the water is a primary factor in the sickening of 1 million people a year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It poisons shellfish, closes beaches and endangers supplies of drinking water.
''Raw sewage is a health concern,'' says Mike Cook, director of wastewater management for the Environmental Protection Agency. ''Beach contamination is a concern. Human exposure to harmful microorganisms is a concern.''
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