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STATEMENT OF WALTER J. SHEA, CHIEF OF THE DIVISION OF
PURIFICATION OF WATERS, STATE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH, RHODE ISLAND
Mr. Shea. Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, in Rhode Island we have had an adequate pollution law in force for some 17 years, up to the present time; and I want to say that, so far as the municipal sewage disposal is concerned, over 90 percent of the possible sewage of the State now receives treatment and in the course of those 17 years, through the efforts of the division of purification of waters, several millions of dollars has been spent in sewage disposal.
On the other hand, we have a tremendous industrial waste disposal problem in Rhode Island. It is a highly industrialized State, with a great deal of textile finishing plants located there. The methods of treating textile waste have been pretty largely borrowed from municipal sewage treatment, and are very comprehensive when applied to this kind of waste and not, in every case, very satisfactory. So that we still have a tremendous waste disposal problem facing us.
We feel, however, that the degree of purity of our streams, especially our intrastate streams—and most of our streams are intrastateshould be left to us to decide. We feel that certain of these streams never will be again probably useful for drinking purposes, or perhaps fish of all kinds will never thrive in them again; and in some of these streams, we do not feel that the cost of restoring them to drinking water quality would provide enough usefulness of those streams to warrant it.
The CHAIRMAN. Your streams there are more or less tidal, are they not?
Mr. SHEA. They all become tidal after they pass through our State. Now, the principal thing that has kept back the waste treatment has been the cost thereof, and we feel that the Vinson bill, in providing a permanent method of helping to finance the waste-treatment projects is a step forward in accomplishing waste treatment.
There are certain cities still in our State and in neighboring States who have not the proper waste-treatment facilities; and as has been pointed out by these men here, it is not because they do not want it, they do want it, but they cannot afford it—and just as soon as some means is provided where they can support these things, I feel sure they will have them.
Now, an antipollution law is on the statute books in Rhode Island and is a fairly drastic law, and it has teeth in it, but it carries the provision that the rights of all of the individuals and the interest of all concerned must be considered. It further provides that damage by collution must be proved. This particular bill that is before the House, the Pfeifer bill, seems to lack those provisions.
In other words, it looks as though, if this bill went through, the board created thereby, could if a person discharged merely a barrel full of sewage, or something, some waste in the water, and if it could be or may be proved to be deleterious to the living fish, and so on, those people would be subject to the drastic provisions of the law. Now, it seems to me that that is going a little too far, so far as providing teeth are concerned in a law. It seems that, if the Federal Government is to have any regulation, any mandatory regulation, it should not go any further than most State laws do along that line. The CHAIRMAN. Does your law provide penalties?
Mr. SHEA. Yes, but the penalties are small and they have never been imposed, because in instances where they swear they could be imposed it would be cheaper for the municipality to pay the penalty than to erect a disposal plant. So that while we have not brought the law on anybody to its fullest extent it does provide that we can have recourse to a court of equity to enforce the orders of the division. So far it has never been applied. Really the issuance of orders has, in most instances, taken care of it. I think the board set up by this Vinson bill is in the department where it belongs. There is no question in my mind but what the Public Health Service is more capable of handling the problem of stream pollution than any other department of the Government.
In closing, I want to say that I think a Government agency could provide a wonderful stimulation, or bring about the purification in the State streams, and for that reason, it is a very desirable thing: We have streams that come from Massachusetts into Rhode Island where we need the cooperation of Massachusetts, and I think the Federal agency could go a long way in bringing about that cooperation.
The CHAIRMAN. We thank you, Mr. Shea. Mr. Vinson. Mr. Chairman, Mr. Hudson Biery, of Cincinnati, Ohio, who is the chairman of the committee on stream pollution of the Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce. I want to say that Mr. Biery has been very active and very helpful in this cause.
I thank you.
STATEMENT OF HUDSON BIERY, CHAIRMAN, CINCINNATI
COMMITTEE ON STREAM POLLUTION
Mr. BIERY. Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, in our desire to conserve time, I will not read the statement that I have prepared.
The material I have to offer the committee is more than the opinion of an individual. It represents the considered thought of perhaps a dozen men. I would like to file in the record the personnel of the committee I represent.
The CHAIRMAN. It may be incorporated in the record. (The matter referred to is as follows:)
COMMITTEE ON STREAM POLLUTION, CINCINNATI CHAMBER OF COMMERCE,
HUDSON BIERY, CHAIRMAN Forest J. Alvin, executive secretary, Covington Chamber of Commerce, 7 Pike
Street, Covington, Ky. Louis E. Backherms, sanitary engineering depot, Hamilton County, 549 Court
house. 0. S. Barrett, president, Ohio Valley Improvement Association, 1121 Chamber of
Commerce Building. Myers Y. Cooper, chairman, Little Miami Conservancy District, Union Trust
Building George D. Crabbs, vice president, Cincinnati Union Terminal Co., Philip Carey
Co., Lockland, Ohio. Myron Downs, engineer and secretary, city and regional planning commissions,
Dr. W. D. Haines, editor, the Journal of Medicine, 1606 Freeman Avenue.
Union Trust Building.
tion, 817 Chamber of Commerce Building. Frank H. Lamping, executive secretary, Smoke Abatement League, Union Central
Building. Frederick E. Mackentepe, Wabash and Woodlawn Avenues. Bleecker Marquette, executive secretary, Better Housing League, Public Health
Federation, Anti-Tuberculosis League. Judge George E. Mills, 1400 First National Bank Building. R. W. Nelson, vice president, First National Bank. J. S. Rafferty, sanitary engineer, Hamilton County Health Department, 404
Courthouse. Wm. J. Reardon, president, Reardon Cement Co., 836 Reedy Street. J. E. Root, Engineers Club, director, department of public works, City Hall. Walter S. Schmidt, president, National Real Estate Foundation; chairman, com
mittee on stream purification and control, National Association of Real Estate
Boards. Walter Schmitt, Bettinger, Schmitt & Kreis, Atlas Bank Building. Herbert Schroth, chairman, stream pollution committee, Cincinnatus Association;
2106 Florence Avenue. Eric L. Schulte, Federated Civic Association, Carew Tower. J. S. Shuey, chief, bureau of sanitation, City Hall. John L. Shuff, Union Central Life Insurance Co., Fourth and Vine Streets. H. B. Skinner, executive secretary, Newport Civic and Commercial Association,
35 East Fourth Street, Newport, Ky. A. F. Sommer, chairman, clean-up committee, chamber of commerce, Metropolitan
Life Insurance Co., Dixie Terminal Building. Taylor Stanley, American Laundry Machine Co., Ross and Section Avenues,
Norwood, Ohio. W. Allen Stone, county engineer, Hamilton County Courthouse. Robert A. Taft, Tast, Stettinius & Hollister, Dixie Terminal Building. Alexander Thomson, president, Ohio Chamber of Commerce; chairman of the
board, Champion Paper & Fibre Co., Hamilton, Ohio. Charles H. Urban, chairman, Metropolitan Safety Council, Mercantile Library
Building. Col. Henry M. Waite, director, Cincinnati Employment Center, 1014 Race Street. Morison R. Waite, president, board of directors, Ohio Mechanics Institute,
Union Central Building.
Alfred Bettman, chairman, district no. 5, National Resources Committee.
Public Health Service.
States Public Health Service.
Mr. BIERY. I would like to file in the record also the statement that I have prepared, resulting from the efforts of this committee, and I would ask that the statement be given the same consideration, submitting it in this fashion, as it would have been given had I given it orally before the committee.
The CHAIRMAN. We will be glad to consider it in that manner.
Mr. BIERY. I would like you to have this statement, because it covers the activities of my committee as a clearing house for information, and in arousing interest in this whole question. It outlines a study of the legislation that you are now considering.
I would like to briefly refer to the fact that we started considering the problem from three angles: First, the local situation; then we discovered that we had a regional situation; then a national problem. There were two schools of thought in the Ohio Valley: One, that the job of stream purification should be directed by the Army engineers; the other that it should be directed and guided by the United States Public Health Service. With those two plans in mind we gave very serious consideration to the development of bills that would accomplish what we sought through either channel, and last year we prevailed upon Senator Barkley, who was very friendly to the whole matter, and upon Representative Hollister, to present the original Barkley-Hollister bills. Later a bill embodying the same essential points of that legislation was presented by Mr. Vinson, who was also very much interested, and the Vinson bill advanced the legislation several steps further than our original bills had contemplated.
The CHAIRMAN. We held hearings on the Hollister bill?
Mr. BIERY. Yes, and you also held hearings on the Vinson bill, as it was last prepared. In the Vinson bill that was considered by this committee on May 20, 1936, there was lacking one important feature for which this present act provides—that these projects are to be approved in the order of their importance. This follows the same practice that you gentlemen employ in making rivers and harbors appropriations. It has been testified here that the present bill practically lifts that whole section out of the rivers and harbors legislation and puts it in this bill you are now considering.
This statement that I am filing carries also a rather detailed exposition on the constitutionality of the measures that you are now considering, with references that I hope will be helpful to the committee.
(Statement of Mr. Biery is as follows:)
Mr. BIERY. I live at Terrace Park, Ohio, near the Little Miami River. I am in the employ of the Cincinnati Street Railway. I receive no remuneration of any kind for the work I have been doing for several years in the interest of stream purification.
In our desire to conserve your time and expense in printing we will not attempt to duplicate the record made before this committee on May 20, 1936, but we do direct your attention to all of the material presented at that time.
On all sides there is a growing demand for the abatement of stream pollution. Cities, factories and mines cannot indefinitely use our rivers as sewers. The public record of all States and at Washington reflects the great amount of talk on this subject and the small amount of accomplishment. Actual progress toward purification has been far more rapid in recent years but as the sewerage of metropolitan areas becomes more complete, it is doubtful whether corrective steps have kept pace with increasing sources of pollution.
Failure of the countless bills that have been under discussion for so many years has been largely due to differences of opinion, lack of concentrated support, lack of knowledge for dealing with pollution, and opposition from certain classes of industry. As usual when reforms are proposed, like prohibition, they are apt to be too drastic and come too fast, so a multitude of “thou shalt not” pollution bills have fallen by the wayside. The pollution of streams has been a progressive thing, as old as the country itself, and it is still progressing. Abatement of pollution must be progressive also, if we are ever to have pure streams. A condition that has been developing for a century cannot be corrected over night. Many sanitation projects have been undertaken in the last few months and much is being accomplished in correction of industrial and acid mine wastes. West Virginia alone sealed 3,644 mine outlets last year and thousands of mine openings have been sealed in Ohio and Pennsylvania.
Sentiment in the Ohio Valley began crystalizing toward a clear cut program for stream purification in the summer of 1934 when a clean-up association in Cincinnati began enlisting all kinds of organizations in the problem. Committees from many groups began to arouse interest in corrective steps. Many Ohio Valley newspapers took up the fight, also improvement associations and other regional groups. Printed reports from the Cincinnatus Association of Cincinnati, an organization representing widely diversified interests, in the fall of 1934 directed further public attention to the growing menace of stream pollution. Finally, in June 1935, the Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce established a working committee composed of some 50 men-engineers, lawyers, health experts, public officials, manufacturers, and representatives of various organizations which had indicated interest in the stream purification program. Many senators and congressmen offered their cooperation.
Holding that streams of the Ohio Valley were not intended to serve as sewers and that they should be restored to their proper use in the fields of health, conservation, commerce, and recreation, the committee adopted the following platform: that it would promote legislation to control pollution of streams of the Ohio Valley, encourage the construction of disposal plants, conduct a general program of education, and coordinate as far as possible, all local efforts to accomplish these ends. Various subcommittees were appointed, one on research and planning, another on legislation, another on Federal policies and another on sanitation surveys. All of these subcommittees have done effective work. A tremendous amount of research and investigation was undertaken, particularly into existing and proposed legislation. It did not take long for the committee on legislation to reach the conclusion that a new start was necessary and that common ground must be found on which practically all elements favorable to stream purification could be brought together. There were many meetings and much drafting and redrafting of legislation. Quickly the scope of work became regional, then national.
Two schools of thought became apparent at an early date, one that the stream purification program should be guided by the United States Engineers and the other that it should be directed by the United States Public Health Service. Without attempting to determine the particular Federal agency that should have the responsibility, the Ohio Valley organization developed bills of both types which were duly presented in Congress by Senator Barkley of Kentucky and Representative Hollister of Cincinnati. A third bill from the same authorship sought the right for States of the Ohio Valley to enter into a compact which would lead to the abatement of stream pollution. The latter bill later became an amendment to a similar bill covering a compact among States of the Connecticut River Valley, was passed by House and Senate and signed by the President. Ohio Valley States are now moving toward the accomplishment of the compact. Enabling legislation is pending in several States and a compact committee has prepared a preliminary draft for discussion.