Last night, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer delivered her first State of the State address. It was a sobering speech that made one thing very clear: Michigan has a lot of work to do. While true on many fronts, nowhere are these sentiments more prevalent than in the areas of protecting the health and well-being of Michigan residents and the environment. As Governor Whitmer noted in her speech, there are numerous steps that she and the Michigan State Legislature can take to advance public and environmental health; however, it must begin with cleaning drinking water.
As we approach the 5-year anniversary of the ill-advised water source switch which triggered the Flint Water Crisis, getting lead out of drinking water across the entire state should be priority #1. With Michigan’s adoption of the most protective Lead and Copper Rule in the country, the state must charge full speed ahead in implementing and enforcing the rule with public water suppliers while also finding new ways to protect its most susceptible population—children—from drinking lead-contaminated water while at their schools and daycares. And while lead has dominated the headlines in the state these past few years, Michigan also needs to take swift, bold action to regulate per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances—dangerous man-made chemical toxins more commonly known as PFAS which has shown up in surface water, ground water, soil, and local drinking water systems across the state.
Yet cleaning up Michigan’s most precious, life sustaining resource means nothing if consumers can’t afford to pay their water bills. That’s why it’s imperative that Governor Whitmer pursue a comprehensive plan that not only keeps the water clean, but invests in infrastructure upgrades that make drinking water more affordable for all communities. Providing safe, affordable drinking water and protecting human health and the environment must be paramount in state decision-making moving forward. This means that the time has come to return decision-making to the experts who possess the actual knowledge and technical skills necessary to make informed decisions instead of Polluter Panels stacked with industry executives. This means that the time has come to acknowledge the power and voices of frontline communities who are most impacted by environmental policies instead of corporate special interests. The time has come for Michigan to turn the page on the environmental pitfalls that have plagued the state for years and finally become the national leader that it is now primed to be.
This originally appeared as a guest post in Cyndi Roper's blog.