Wednesday, March 18, 2009


Washington, DC – The U.S. House of Representatives today voted overwhelmingly to pass the Water Quality Investment Act of 2009, major legislation that invests $18.7 billion over five years in strengthening America’s wastewater infrastructure. Included in the bill were amendments authored by Congressman Henry Cuellar that call for new studies of wastewater discharge into the Rio Grande and of colonias’ water infrastructure needs.
“A clean and plentiful water supply is critical to public health, and it is the foundation of economic success for every household, every business, and every farm in Texas,” said Congressman Cuellar. “This bill, and the amendments I authored, will help build and maintain the water infrastructure that the Texas economy depends on. Just as importantly, the bill will create 480,000 jobs over the next five years, helping to strengthen today’s economy even as it improves tomorrow’s water supply.”
The first of Congressman Cuellar’s amendments would require the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in consultation with the State Department, the Mexican government, the International Boundary Waters Commission, and state and local governments, to study wastewater treatment facilities that discharge into the Rio Grande River and provide recommendations to improve monitoring, information sharing, and cooperation between the U.S. and Mexico.
“Families and communities living on the Rio Grande depend on the river for their health and livelihood,” Congressman Cuellar said. “Especially in the midst of an ongoing drought, the quality of the Rio Grande is of critical importance to Texas communities.”
Pollution from both sides of the border poses a significant threat to the Rio Grande’s water quality. According to the Congressional Research Service, pollution on the Mexican side mainly consists of raw sewage from urban areas pouring directly into the river, while pollution from the American side includes industrial and agricultural waste products.
Congressman Cuellar’s second amendment would require the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to study rural water infrastructure in colonias along the U.S.-Mexico border, specifically examining the colonias’ comprehensive planning needs relating to water and wastewater infrastructure.
“This study will provide a blueprint for future Congressional action to provide basic utility service to colonias,” Congressman Cuellar said. “It is the first step toward helping colonias develop into more modern and economically viable communities.”
During his time as a state legislator, Congressman Cuellar passed the landmark H.B. 1001 to help stop the growth of colonias in Texas.
Congressman Cuellar’s amendments were incorporated into a broader package of amendments offered on the floor by Congressman James Oberstar of Minnesota. The amendment passed without opposition, and the broader legislation later passed by 317-101. The bill now goes to the Senate for further action.

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