It took lead contaminating the water in Flint and destroying the dreams of several generations now facing neurological disorders, learning disabilities, heart and kidney disease, and reduced fertility . . .
It took Michigan-specified testing, adopted in 2019 and more rigorous than the EPA, to discover that lead, which is not safe at any level, exists in communities like Birmingham, Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids, and Detroit . . .
It took the discovery of “Forever Chemicals”, like PFAS, contaminating the water in 138 Michigan communities and potentially triggering cancer, liver damage, decreased fertility, asthma, and thyroid disease . . .
It took climate change, the force behind the more frequent and intense storm events that overwhelmed antiquated water treatment facilities and spilled thousands of gallons of raw sewage into Michigan’s rivers and lakes in cities like Traverse City, Muskegon, Whitehall, Ann Arbor . . .
It took unprecedented rain triggered by climate change to overpower outdated dams in mid-Michigan damaging 3,700 properties with a cost estimated at over $190 million . . .
It took climate change threatening to increase the number of “Do Not Drink/Do Not Boil” notices because of nutrient runoff into warmer water, fueling the growth of harmful algal blooms . . .
It took President Trump’s efforts to rollback 100 environmental rules to include scaling back pollution protections for tributaries and wetlands; giving the okay for coal companies to dump mining debris into local streams; exempting power plants from a rule limiting toxic discharge into public waterways; proposing to double the time allowed to remove lead pipes from water systems with elevated levels . . .
And it took a pandemic, where washing hands is critical to limiting its spread, to alert people in this Great Lakes state that 2,477 Michigan residents were living without water because of the unaffordable price and utility decisions to shut off service.
It took all these things for candidates wooing Michigan voters to finally make access to affordable, safe drinking water a priority this election.
And that’s a good thing. But “talk” is easy. How does it compare to reality? Translate into action? Results? I asked Lisa Wozniak, executive director for the Michigan League of Conservation Voters, a nonpartisan organization that elects, educates, and holds accountable elected officials working on behalf of Michigan’s land, air, water, and Great Lakes to share her thoughts as we head into the 2020 election season.
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