| Water sector urges U.S. Congress to intervene in rail strike to keep water services safe
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Water sector urges U.S. Congress to intervene in rail strike to keep water services safe

Six leading water sector organizations today urged U.S. Congress to intervene in a rail strike that would threaten the ability of water and wastewater utilities to safely provide services across the United States.

The nation’s railroads this week began to embargo shipments of hazardous materials -- including chlorine, which is critical to keep water safe for drinking – in anticipation of a potential strike.

“Unless freight rail service for chlorine returns to normal soon, communities will be unable to produce safe drinking water, resulting in many boil water advisories and the threat of waterborne disease outbreaks,” the six organizations wrote in a letter today to U.S. House and Senate leaders. “Inadequate disinfection represents a threat to public health and a significant disruption to daily life, local economies, and critical services like hospitals and schools.  Public health and environmental protection will also be placed at risk for communities that use chlorine for wastewater disinfection.”

Letter signers include the American Water Works Association, the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies, National Rural Water Association, the National Association of Water Companies, the National Association of Clean Water Agencies and the Water Environment Federation.

In an effort to avert a strike, a Presidential Emergency Board (PEB) was formed by President Biden in July 2022. The PEB issued a report on Aug. 16, 2022, that included recommendations for ending the stalemate in negotiations and prohibited work stoppages during a 30-day cooling off period. The prohibition on work stoppages ends at midnight on Friday, Sept. 16. In a precautionary move, multiple railroads started to embargo the transport of hazardous materials on Monday.

“Responding to shortfalls in water treatment chemicals like chlorine also puts additional economic strain on water systems,” the signatories wrote. “The cost of system response will ultimately be borne by individual households in the price of water service and the foregone investments in system improvements.

“Congress can ill-afford to put the nation’s public health at risk. We urge Congress to act promptly to avert any work stoppages and ensure the nation’s supply chain is maintained.”

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Established in 1881, the American Water Works Association is the largest nonprofit, scientific and educational association dedicated to managing and treating water, the world’s most important resource. With approximately 50,000 members, AWWA provides solutions to improve public health, protect the environment, strengthen the economy and enhance our quality of life.