Whitman pledges to update combined sewer overflow regulations

Christie Todd Whitman, the new Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), has pledged that one of her priorities will be to update combined sewer overflow (CSO) regulations affecting wastewater treatment facilities.

During the hearing in front of the US Senate Environment and Public Works Committee to select the new EPA Administrator, Whitman – who is described as a moderate Republican, stated that as well as making CSOs a priority (see related story) she also favours the limiting the use of the gasoline additive methyl tertiary-butyl ether (MTBE). Committee member Barbara Boxer, a Democrat senator for California, sparred with Whitman over MTBE. When Whitman told Boxer that she was “generally in favour of limiting the use of MTBE and will review the issue,” Boxer replied that she “wanted MTBE phased out, which is much different from limiting its use.”

Committee members also queried Whitman about enforcing regulations that protect wetlands and watershed areas. “Mother Nature does a much better job at protecting the watershed than any filtration plant,” Whitman told the 18-member committee. However, “we can’t stop protecting our wetlands because they do a whole lot better job of protecting our drinking water than water filtration plants.”

Whitman told the committee it has been her experience that “people will clean up better and faster if they are not threatened with sanctions.” Whitman also told the Senate panel she was, however, “ready to use the stick” if necessary to force companies to follow the law. “We need to reach out to those who are on the receiving end of the regulations to allow them to be a part of the solution,” Whitman said.

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