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Tonight, 12 candidates will take the fourth Democratic debate stage in Westerville, Ohio. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard will be there, despite considering a boycott of the event.

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Chesapeake Bay Foundation: Don't Stimulate Pollution

March 4, 2009

Harrisburg, PA - Highway building and repair is a major feature of the new national stimulus plan coming out of Washington, but at least one organization is concerned about unintended consequences; the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) says highway runoff in Pennsylvania is a major threat to groundwater.

The Foundation says water runoff from roads contains mercury, toxic metals and nitrogen, which can make people sick and degrade local waterways. Doug Siglin, the organization's federal affairs director, says that when new highways are built using federal tax dollars, or older ones like the Pennsylvania Turnpike and I-81 are repaired, they must incorporate appropriate technologies to reduce pollution.

"Those highways are polluters 24 hours a day, and Chesapeake Bay Foundation and some other groups think that we need to try to put an end to that."

He says all federal highway spending needs to provide for the protection of waterways.

"It should be incorporated into every mile of the national highway system, either as it's built, or as they go back and repair and rebuild old highways."

Siglin says taking care of the runoff problem on the federal level would have a major impact on Pennsylvania's waterways.

"Forty percent of all miles are driven on federal-aid highways and about 75 percent of all truck-miles, so there's a lot of pollution there."

Siglin says the new highway bill that will be introduced in Congress this spring needs to make sure any surge in highway building includes provisions for either water retention or filtering technology that protects against polluted runoff.

Glen Gardner, Public News Service - PA