Rep. Howard Nielson, R-Utah, says Amtrak's dumping of raw human waste along railroad tracks reflects an attitude of condescension toward the West, and he intends to see the practice curtailed.
"We have tried to push Amtrak on this issue. They've basically agreed to make changes but nothing has happened," Nielson told the Utah Environmental Health Association Conference."We called a hearing. They basically said they didn't really care. They were arrogant and unfeeling. So we're going to go after them with legislation," he said.
Nielson said the government-controlled rail system has an exemption that allows it to legally dump its waste at points outside the eastern corridor of Amtrak service.
The agency, in defending its actions, also cites a 1978 Health, Education and Welfare report that found the dumping does not pose a health risk.
"I am convinced that the dumping is a public health hazard. You have people riding Amtrak from all countries in the world who may carry all kinds of diseases. We have workers sprayed with liquid waste who wear it home on their clothes to their families," Nielson said.
Nielson said Amtrak needs $37 million to retrofit its coaches and to revise its system.
"I'd like to find that $37 million in the budget and force them to comply or pass legislation that demands compliance," he said.
In the East, Nielson said, Amtrak contains the sewage, treats it and disposes of it through treatment facilities.
"Why is the West treated differently?" he asked.