May 14, 2009

Key Senate Panel Passes Gillibrand Amendment to Investigate Trace Amounts of Pharmaceuticals Found in New York Water

As A Member of Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Gillibrand Worked to Ensure Clean Water and Secure Millions to Rebuild Failing Infrastructure, Create Jobs, and Reduce Local Tax Burden in New York State

Washington, D.C. - The Environment and Public Works Committee approved U.S. Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand's amendment to study the presence of pharmaceutical drugs in drinking water and the long term health effects on children and families. Senator Gillibrand offered this amendment in response to reports of trace amounts of pharmaceuticals, including estrogen and codeine, found in New York waterways and around the country.

"As a lawmaker and mother of two young children, I expect that America's drinking water is clean and free of these kinds of pharmaceuticals," said Senator Gillibrand. "I am pleased that as we upgrade our failing water infrastructure, we will also address the safety of our drinking water. Right now the federal government does not have adequate data on the long term health effects of these trace chemicals. Parents count on the government to ensure clean, safe drinking water for all our families."

In 2007, an Associated Press investigation reported that water supplies across the United States contained a number of drugs, including antibiotics, anti-convulsants, mood stabilizers, and sex hormones. Senator Gillibrand's provision will require a study of the presence of pharmaceuticals in water, identify exactly what is found and at what level, where it's coming from, and how to control, limit, treat or prevent the dissemination of pharmaceuticals in drinking water.

As a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, Senator Gillibrand played a leading role in drafting the Water Infrastructure Financing Act. Communities across New York State are struggling with deteriorating water infrastructure and the tremendous costs to rebuild. Senator Gillibrand is working to deliver federal dollars to these communities across New York State to rebuild failing sewers and water filtration systems, creating thousands of jobs and reducing the local property tax burden.

"In my travels across the state, I've found that local officials are emphatic about the need for more federal funds to help local communities rebuild and update failing water infrastructure.  As a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, I am working hard to ensure New York gets its fair share of federal money to rebuild our sewers and water filtration systems, creating good paying jobs and reducing the property tax burden for local communities," Senator Gillibrand added.

Senator Gillibrand's other priorities for the Water Infrastructure Financing Act also passed the committee:

Increase Funding For Water Infrastructure

As Senator Gillibrand tours the state discussing the economy, community leaders express frustration about finding ways to finance expensive drinking water and wastewater infrastructure projects. Without the support from the federal government, communities could be forced to raise local taxes on residents in order to finance projects.

Today, Senator Gillibrand helped secure $20 billion nationwide for the Clean Water Revolving Fund over the next five years.  The current authorization was set at merely $600 million. The will also authorized $14.7 billion for the Drinking Water State Revolving Funds over the next five years.  The current authorization that expired in 2003 was authorized at $1 billion per year.

Last year, New York received just over $75 million from the the Clean Water Revolving Fund.  Under this legislation, New York would receive $244 million next year, an increase of more than $168 million dollars.

In addition, Senator Gillibrand worked to ensure that poor communities within larger urban areas are eligible to receive additional support reserved for disadvantaged communities, including low interest loans, loan forgiveness, negative interest rates, and increased subsidization.

Across New York, communities are burdened by antiquated water systems that do not adequately serve residents or businesses. According to reports released by the New York State Department's of Health and Environmental Conservation, New York will need at least $75 billion for repairing, replacing, and updating aging drinking water and wastewater infrastructure. Senator Gillibrand is working to ensure that local taxpayers aren't stuck footing the bill for New York's failing infrastructure.

Invest in "Green" Infrastructure

Today, Senate Gillibrand secured language that gives states the authority to provide additional incentives for green projects, like low interest loans, and gives green projects and projects that increase energy efficiency, water reuse, and innovative techniques, increased weight in the application process. It also gives states the authority to spend up to 30 percent of their funds on green projects.

"Green" infrastructure has the potential to create jobs, reduce energy costs, and protect the environment in New York and throughout the country. Communities in New York are looking to go "green" by using innovative design techniques and technologies when building or improving their water and wastewater systems.

Water treatment facilities in New York consume more than 3 billion kWh of electricity per year - enough electricity to power more than 300,000 homes in New York for a year. Senator Gillibrand pushed for funding for energy efficient upgrades to water and wastewater facilities that will reduce operating expenses and ease the local tax burden.

Invest in New York's Rural Communities

Senator Gillibrand worked to provide additional assistance for Clean Water Revolving Fund and the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund projects in low-income, rural communities including additional subsidization, low interest loans, loan forgiveness and negative interest rates.  It also provides additional assistance for rural communities by expanding the use of funds for drinking water technical assistance to rural communities to include non-profits.  This is important because often times, with small budgets, these communities do not have personnel with the technical expertise to maintain the drinking water systems.

In addition, Senator Gillibrand secured $50 million nationwide for agricultural pollution control technology grants.  New York could receive $1 million to set up their fund and assist farmers with pollution control projects.

Roughly a quarter of New York's land is farmland and almost half of its counties are classified as rural.  New York is home to 36,000 farms and agriculture is one of the primary economic drivers for the state, contributing almost $4 billion to New York's economy. Because of the low density of our rural communities, towns and villages across New York face enormous challenges financing costly water and wastewater projects with little local revenue.

Modernize Wastewater Systems to Protect Environment

Senator Gillibrand secured $1.85 billion specifically for projects that address the issue of combined sewer overflows.

Many New York communities have combined sewer systems where wastewater and rain runoff are carried by a single pipe. When there are heavy rains or snow melts, the system can easily reach capacity. To prevent flooding or damage to the treatment plant, combined sewer systems are designed to dump excess wastewater into nearby streams, rivers, or lakes. The combined sewer overflows do not just discharge excess storm water, but also untreated human and industrial waste. This threatens environmental health, human health, and the local economy.

In New York City, 27 billion gallons of raw sewage and polluted storm water are released into New York Harbor each year. Senator Gillibrand fought for federal dollars to fix these systems to prevent combined sewer overflows and protect the health and well-being of our communities and the environment.