PFAS News Roundup: PFAS in Lake Superior fish, two Michigan locations could land on Superfund list

PFAS, short for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are a group of widespread man-made chemicals that don’t break down in the environment or the human body and have been flagged as a major contaminant in sources of water across the country.

Keep up with PFAS-related developments in the Great Lakes area.

Read Now at Great Lakes Now.

Original Article

Great Lakes Now

Great Lakes Now

https://www.greatlakesnow.org/2022/01/pfas-news-lake-superior-fish-michigan-superfund-list/

Natasha Blakely

Environmental justice in spotlight as WH official departs

By Drew Costley, Associated Press

The White House’s top official on environmental justice is stepping down a year after President Joe Biden took office with an ambitious plan to help disadvantaged communities and overhaul policies that have historically hurt them.

The departure Friday of Cecilia Martinez, senior director for environmental justice at the Council for Environmental Quality, puts a spotlight on both the administration’s successes and promises yet to be fulfilled.

Read Now at Great Lakes Now.

Original Article

Great Lakes Now

Great Lakes Now

https://www.greatlakesnow.org/2022/01/ap-environmental-justice-official/

The Associated Press

by Stephanie Smith

I arrived at COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland from my home in the Great Lakes region, and was heartened by the global community working to tackle climate change from many different angles. And yet, while there are many positive outcomes from COP26, they do not hit the mark for the accelerated pace of change we need. As I was reminded again and again, the people and countries that have done the least to create climate change issues are the most deeply impacted, with the fewest resources to create adaptive solutions. In my time at the conference, the voices of youth, island dwellers and indigenous people were loud, clear and absolutely urgent – their survival is threatened. But the outcomes of COP26 do not reflect the extent of change needed for the Great Lakes region and the planet as a whole.

While climate change impacts are inequitable, they are felt pretty much everywhere to varying degrees. The Great Lakes and their communities are being impacted by climate change through more severe storms, more extreme higher and lower lake levels, and changing temperatures, which affect the lake ecosystems and also the surrounding communities. Urban centers with aging infrastructure, areas with fewer resources and BIPOC communities are disproportionately impacted.

While some look to the Great Lakes as a climate refuge for those who can no longer live in their own communities due to fire, floods and droughts, this region also needs a more coordinated and accelerated approach to adapt to the changes we are amidst. Climate change is a threat multiplier and exacerbates existing issues, so we must have strategic, intersectional solutions that create, multiply and scale positive change. We’re not there yet, by a longshot, so what do we need to do?

Start with an inclusive vision for where we want to be. The people of the Great Lakes region in their diversity are not represented at our decision-making tables. As we hasten to develop the strategies we actually need for systemic change, the voices of youth and BIPOC leaders must be central to deciding upon, and guiding the journey. Yes, this is about regional preparation and action for the well-being of current Great Lakes residents. More critically, it’s about our future inhabitants – youth growing into adults here, and the incoming people that climate migration will lead here, seeking out the Great Lakes region as home.

Get better connected for bigger impact. With the Great Lakes at the heart of our region, we are already connected through these vital waters. Our current restoration and action agendas give us a strong base to stand on. But we need to embrace new voices – the same thinking and thinkers that have led us to this present moment will not get us to the change needed, in the relatively rapid timeframe needed. It’s imperative that we build stronger relationships and opportunities to share knowledge and solutions with the global water and climate change community

Integrate opportunities for engagement into all levels of our communities and schools. Because our vision should be about everyone, we need everyone engaged at varying levels. For a start, let’s mandate statewide, regional and national climate and water education that centers healthy people and a vibrant planet, with equity and justice for all. Youth leaders were at COP26 calling out for change, with a fantastic contingent from the Great Lakes region among them. But our young adults struggle with eco-anxiety and climate grief – and most of their peers are not adequately taught about climate change issues. This leaves them feeling isolated and frankly, tired. We must do better to support these leaders, who at age 25 have been doing this work for more than a quarter of their lives.

The calls to action at COP26 were crystal clear in their urgency. And while these aspects influenced the decisions made to reflect many global needs, they do not tap into the electric undercurrent of accelerated change truly needed. Let’s work within the Great Lakes region and connect with national and global partners to lead the change that’s needed now.

stephanie-smith-board-chair-freshwater-future-environmental-organization

Stephanie Smith is a Freshwater Future board member and runs Zephyr Mangata, a consultancy accelerating positive change for people and the planet.

 

Original Article

Blog – Freshwater Future

Blog – Freshwater Future

https://freshwaterfuture.org/call-to-action/cop26-and-the-great-lakes-region/

Freshwater Future

Late Friday night on November 5th, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the bi-partisan $1 trillion Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act. It had been lingering in the House as House leadership awaited the Senate’s passage of a package called the Build Back Better (BBB) Act, a $3.5 trillion spending plan. House leadership had wanted to pass both bills in the House together. 

Together the Infrastructure and BBB Acts would provide a substantial amount of funding for water projects, including grants to environmental justice and disadvantaged communities. The BBB also includes policy language to develop a permanent Low Income Housing Water Assistance Program in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, while also providing an additional $225 million for the program, ensuring financial assistance for people who are struggling to pay their water utility bill while the nation figures out how to make water rates affordable for everyone. Together these bills may provide the largest amount of water funding in U.S. history, but they fall short of some of the Biden administration’s promises, like $45 billion to replace all the lead lines in the U.S.  So what are in the Infrastructure and BBB Acts? See the table below to see some important water programs and their funding levels within the two Acts. Be sure to stay tuned though, BBB is still being negotiated, as you can see from the differences in the Sept and today columns, and hopefully will be passed before the end of November. 

 

Original Article

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Blog – Freshwater Future

https://freshwaterfuture.org/call-to-action/bi-partisan-infrastructure-bill-and-build-back-better-act-what-does-this-mean-for-water-funding/

Freshwater Future

Billions in environmental justice funds hang in the balance

By Drew Costley, AP Science Writer

Tens of billions of dollars for U.S. environmental justice initiatives originally proposed in a $3.5 trillion domestic spending package now hang in the balance as Democrats decide how to trim the bill down to $2 trillion.

Investments in a wide range of these projects were proposed in the Build Back Better plan, but Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona demanded that the bill be reduced, with Manchin asking for it to be cut by as much as half.

Read Now at Great Lakes Now.

Original Article

Great Lakes Now

Great Lakes Now

https://www.greatlakesnow.org/2021/10/ap-environmental-justice-funds-balance/

The Associated Press

Biden appoints Debra Shore to lead EPA Midwestern office

By John Flesher, Associated Press

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — President Joe Biden on Tuesday appointed Debra Shore, a wastewater treatment official in Chicago, to direct the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Midwestern office.

Shore will oversee EPA’s Region 5, which includes Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin, along with 35 indigenous tribes.

Read Now at Great Lakes Now.

Original Article

Great Lakes Now

Great Lakes Now

https://www.greatlakesnow.org/2021/10/ap-biden-debra-shore-epa-midwestern-office/

Mila Murray

Excerpts from American River’s “Water Justice Toolkit: A Guide to Address Environmental Inequities in Frontline Communities”

CLEAN AND SAFE WATER GUIDE (Page 30)

COMMUNITY CASE STUDY: WORKING WITH RESIDENTS TO ENSURESAFE DRINKING WATER

When a municipality issues an advisory on elevated lead levels in drinking water, residents are alarmed and looking for answers. Is my water undrinkable? Do I need a filter? Do I buy bottled water?

Freshwater Future partners community groups to make sure residents understand the advisory. Volunteers train neighbors on how to flush their water and install filters. Freshwater Future has even provided grants to pay volunteer stipends, share educational materials, and complete water testing for lead and other metals. And once the results come in, Freshwater Future is there to help analyze the data and communicate to communities and to the Health Department. Alexis Smith, Community Program and Technical Associate explains, “If you’ve ever seen a water analysis, you can imagine how overwhelmed these residents must feel. Environmental chemistry is not my background, so even for me, it was a learning curve. You have to learn the acronyms and the contaminants and what they can do. We translate and communicate what the data is actually saying.”

When it comes to drinking water, says Smith, “zero amount of lead is safe.” Freshwater Future remains engaged until all lead service lines are replaced or tests prove that the water is safe. “The residents tell us how they would like to move forward, and we support them every step of the way,” she says. “Whether that is through strategy for taking actions or funding to support their initiatives.” Freshwater Future offers a great example of how to follow the lead of the community.


PUBLIC PARTICIPATION GUIDE (Page 102)

COMMUNITY CASE STUDY: ORGANIZING FOR WATER SECURITY DURING COVID-19 TOLEDO COMMUNITY WATER COUNCIL

Through robust public participation, the Toledo Community Water Council provides oversight and community support to the city of Toledo. The Council’s collective knowledge and insight have been key to developing the city’s water bill assistance program. Reliable access to water is becoming more expensive, and during COVID, water disconnection can have a devastating public health impact. For years, Freshwater Future has been working with the Toledo Community Water Council to address water issues throughout the City.

For residents experiencing water shutoffs due to nonpayment or leaks, this work has become even more urgent during the pandemic. “Utilities are run by engineers; often they don’t think about the social impact of these shutoffs on people working check to check,” says Alexis Smith, Community Program and Technical Associate for Freshwater Future. “When we organize to find solutions, our goal is—turn the water on, keep the water on.” Members of the Toledo Community Water Council organized to respond to rising water rates and the inequity and harm that results when city governments and utilities are not proactive and transparent. Freshwater Future has helped individual residents request assessments to identify water leaks driving up their water bills and file a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to understand why water rates continue to increase. They also helped the municipality identify funding for full lead service line replacement in order to lower the cost burden on residents.


To view the  full report by American Rivers:  Water Justice Toolkit: A Guide to Address Environmental Inequities in Frontline Communities

Original Article

Blog – Freshwater Future

Blog – Freshwater Future

https://freshwaterfuture.org/environmental-justice/water_justice_sections/

Ann Baughman

Great Lakes Moment: Ecosystem restoration needs more environmental justice

Great Lakes Moment is a monthly column written by Great Lakes Now Contributor John Hartig. Publishing the author’s views and assertions does not represent endorsement by Great Lakes Now or Detroit Public Television.

In southwest Detroit, evidence of environmental injustice can be found nearly everywhere, and communities of color and low wealth feel that polluting companies and government officials are not doing enough to address many long-standing environmental problems.

Read Now at Great Lakes Now.

Original Article

Great Lakes Now

Great Lakes Now

https://www.greatlakesnow.org/2021/07/ecosystem-restoration-environmental-justice-southwest-detroit/

John Hartig

Michigan’s climate-ready future: wetland parks, less cement, roomy shores

What does Michigan’s future look like if we adequately prepare the state’s water resources for climate change? Goodbye to septics and shore-hugging homes. Hello to more diversified crops on Michigan farms.

Read Now at Great Lakes Now.

Original Article

Great Lakes Now

Great Lakes Now

https://www.greatlakesnow.org/2021/06/michigan-climate-future-wetland-parks-infrastructure-agriculture/

Bridge Michigan

Great Lakes Moment: The US-Canada ecosystem-focused approach to restoration

Great Lakes Moment is a monthly column written by Great Lakes Now Contributor John Hartig. Publishing the author’s views and assertions does not represent endorsement by Great Lakes Now or Detroit Public Television.

The United States and Canada now have over 40 years of collaborative history in use of an ecosystem approach to protect and restore the Great Lakes.

Read Now at Great Lakes Now.

Original Article

Great Lakes Now

Great Lakes Now

https://www.greatlakesnow.org/2021/06/international-ecoystem-approach-restoration-great-lakes/

John Hartig

Environmental Justice: Michigan’s goal is to be a national leader

President Joe Biden has put a spotlight on environmental justice like no president before him, and that’s good news for Regina Strong.

“I feel like environmental justice is having a moment,” Strong told Great Lakes Now last week. She was referring to a recent indication that U.S. EPA Administrator Michael Regan may be willing to engage more than his predecessors with state and local governments on issues important to communities.

Read Now at Great Lakes Now.

Original Article

Great Lakes Now

Great Lakes Now

https://www.greatlakesnow.org/2021/05/environmental-justice-michigan-goal-national-leader/

Gary Wilson

Jeff Whitelow has been known for his profound ability to walk in the shoes of those in the most vulnerable communities and help bring vital information to those who need it most, in language they best understand. Taking a vow of poverty to personally assess the life of those most vulnerable in Chicago, enabled him to identify that water shutoffs from unaffordable rates and lead exposure are serious problems. 

Through the Chicago Water Council, Jeff has championed the search for residents eligible for the new drinking water Utility Billing Relief (UBR) program in Southside Chicago neighborhoods and assisting them in enrolling into the program that forgives 100% of residents debts after one year of consistent payment. 

The Chicago Water Council has been working diligently to promote the awareness of the UBR program, boots are on the ground identifying residents, qualifying them according to the UBR criteria, and lastly, assisting them in becoming a UBR member of the program. To date the Chicago Water Council  has identified over 50 residents eligible for the program and helped enroll 20 residents while establishing partnerships with food pantries to meet our targeted members in generous volumes. Work is underway to reach out to other nearby neighborhoods, in the Southside of Chicago to further aid those in need and ensure public health for all Chicagoans. 

Freshwater Future honored Jeff Whitelow for his commitment with a Freshwater Hero Award, read more here or listen to Jeff accept his award.

Author: Brandon Tyus, Community Programming & Policy Associate

Original Article

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Blog – Freshwater Future

https://freshwaterfuture.org/uncategorized/debt-relief-helps-keep-water-flowing/

Alexis Smith

A variety of Ohio, Regional, and National organizations, representing medical, environmental, housing, and community interests, are requesting $1 billion of the proposed more than $5 billion the state will receive in federal funding from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 to be dedicated to residential full lead service line replacements. Ohio is second in the nation for lead service lines at an estimated 650,000 lines. The American Medical Association and CDC have determined there is no safe level of lead in humans. Impacts to children exposed to lead include: neurological disorders, decreased cognitive behaviors, lower IQ, ADHD, and kidney disease. If you are involved in an organization that would like to support this request, please contact Kristy Meyer at kristy@freshwaterfuture.org.


TO: Members of the General Assembly, Governor Mike DeWine, OBM
RE: American Rescue Plan Act Funding and Lead Service Line Replacements

Our organizations respectfully request that $1B of the proposed more than $5B the state will receive in federal funding for state and local aid from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, U.S. HB 1319, be dedicated to residential full lead service line replacements, both the public and private lead lines, across the State of Ohio. The $1B to replace full lead service lines should prioritize low-income neighborhoods within cities and rural communities in financial need. These funds would supplement H2Ohio funding that is being used to replace lead service lines and fixtures in daycares and schools, as well as any other water infrastructure funding from the American Rescue Plan Act.

A lead service line is a pipe made of lead that is used to distribute potable water, connecting a water main to a user’s residence. The United States used lead pipes as service lines for more than a century with most communities stopping the use of lead pipes in the 1950s. Unfortunately many of these pipes still are used today to deliver drinking water to residents across Ohio.

The American Medical Association and CDC has determined there is no safe level of lead in humans and unfortunately in 2019 approximately 3,500 children in Ohio had elevated levels of lead in their blood. Impacts to children exposed to lead include neurological disorders, decreased cognitive behaviors, lower IQ, ADHD, and kidney disease and failure later in life to name a few. A number of studies have also linked lead poisoning to behavioral issues, such as aggression in children and teens, and criminal behavior as adults. In a study undertaken by Princeton and Brown Universities, the researchers found that a one-unit increase in blood levels raised the probability of incarceration of boys by 47 percentage points, starting at 27 percent and rising to 74 percent.

Ohio is second in the nation for lead service lines at an estimated 650,000 lines. While the exact amount of funding needed for complete removal of lead service lines in Ohio is unclear, on the low end it can run approximately $2,400 a line and on the high end approximately $7,100 a line. Using these figures, full replacement could range from $1.56 B to $4.62 B over the next 20 years. In addition, Ohio has more than a $28 billion need in drinking water and wastewater infrastructure upgrades. Utilizing $1 B could replace hundreds of thousands of full lead service lines, ensure communities in Ohio are upgrading their antiquated water infrastructure, and create thousands of jobs.

Industry studies have indicated that every $1 billion invested in drinking water and wastewater infrastructure creates up to approximately 28,000 new jobs with average annual earnings of more than $50,000 and increases demand for products and services in other industries by more than $3 billion.

One billion dollars could make a big impact in Ohioans’ health and our economy by: Providing grants for full lead service line replacement, prioritizing low-income neighborhoods in cities and rural communities; Education and outreach funding for a local community group to educate residents about lead service lines and how to protect themselves from lead in water exposure, including providing an on-tap filter; and Supporting communities to inventory water service lines for lead.

In an effort to quantify impact and accountability, any locality receiving these funds should also report to the state how many lead service lines were replaced; geographic information detailing where lines were replaced and validating that areas with the greatest need were prioritized; the number of people educated on lead and how to protect themselves; and,the number of filters provided to residents.

Ohio can no longer afford to delay the removal and replacement of lead service lines. The longer we wait to replace these pipes the more costly it will become to our health and our economy. The cost of doing nothing is expensive and will impact social and health costs. Lead affects children’s development and IQ which potentially avails them to lower economic productivity and greater costs to the criminal justice system. In addition, according to the Environmental Defense Fund, every lead service line replaced yields an estimated $22,000 in reduced cardiovascular disease deaths. Given Ohio’s estimated 650,000 lead service lines, Ohio could save $14.3 billion due to reduced cardiovascular disease deaths.

For the health of Ohioans, particularly Ohio’s children and their future, and the future of our economy, we must be proactive to replace every lead line in Ohio.


Original Article

Blog – Freshwater Future

Blog – Freshwater Future

https://freshwaterfuture.org/call-to-action/ohio-organizations-seeking-endorsements-for-1-billion-request-for-safer-water/

Freshwater Future

Serious health problems like increasing asthma rates among children in Detroit’s Black and Hispanic communities have been linked to what local organizations call environmental injustices as a result of low air quality and polluted neighborhoods.

The post Chronic health problems linked to pollution fuels environmental justice movement first appeared on Great Lakes Echo.

Original Article

Great Lakes Echo

Great Lakes Echo

http://greatlakesecho.org/2021/04/30/chronic-health-problems-linked-to-pollution-fuels-environmental-justice-movement/

Guest Contributor

Spotlight on Infrastructure: Policy executive talks new Biden plan, definitions of infrastructure

While President Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan, officially the American Jobs Plan, emanates from the White House, a veteran Chicago policy executive says we should consider its genesis as broader than top down.

“It is something that cities and regions have requested – full partnership with the federal government – for quite some time,” said MarySue Barrett, president of the non-profit Metropolitan Planning Council.

Read Now at Great Lakes Now.

Original Article

Great Lakes Now

Great Lakes Now

https://www.greatlakesnow.org/2021/04/infrastructure-biden-administration-policy-qna/

Gary Wilson

It takes energy, commitment, and stamina to be a leader of community based and grassroots organizations and this is additionally challenging during COVID-19.  For over 25 years, Freshwater Future, through our consulting services, has helped leaders to run their organizations.  This year we are conducting a special program to help our partners with self-care and nonprofit management including bookkeeping, financing, communications and so much more. Many organizations have indicated that the support from FWF is paramount during these challenging times in our nation’s history. Here are the testimonies of some of our partners

Brittany McClinton – Director of Finance for Junction Coalition said “The Women Water and Wellness program is such a hidden gem for community organizations like mine. In my role, I’m challenged with tedious tasks to ensure the long-term health of our mission and programs. Without this program, I don’t think it would be so easy to navigate through the complexities of leading a nonprofit organization as stress-free as the team has made it for me.

Aaron Miner – Global Freedom Enterprises Corporation CEO in Flint, Michigan said as a one of the men engaged in the cohort,The spirit of Women Water and Wellness is fluid and nurturing of the mind, body and soul. I feel that it is capacity for our vessels both organizational and personal. A true blessing of God’s Grace”

Gwendolyn Winston – Not only am I updating skills, learning new processes and protocols for nonprofits, the richness of the exchange between cohort members breathes life into the many “real time” ways that are open to us to build relationships and to recognize and experience the power of collective knowing.  What an awesome surprise it is that Freshwater Future had the forethought to have woven space for us to be intentionally guided in mindfulness practices.”

Women, Water & Wellness is not just about women, wellness and water but a connection to the amazing work that women have done throughout our history. 

Original Article

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Blog – Freshwater Future

https://freshwaterfuture.org/uncategorized/women-water-wellness-provides-support-to-nonprofits/

Alexis Smith

Priority Shift: Great Lakes exec moves environmental justice to top of list

Chicago’s Joel Brammeier came of age advocating for the Great Lakes in an era when federal programs that are widely accepted today like the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative were barely on the drawing board.

Brammeier started his advocacy work in 2001 when he managed habitat programs for the Lake Michigan Federation, which later became the Alliance for the Great Lakes as its mission expanded.

Read Now at Great Lakes Now.

Original Article

Great Lakes Now

Great Lakes Now

https://www.greatlakesnow.org/2021/03/great-lakes-environmental-justice-priority/

Gary Wilson

Air, Wind, Solar: In the Great Lakes region, energy stands out in President Biden’s efforts

If you have the good fortune to gaze at a Great Lake – any Great Lake – sometime in this strange year, you’re not likely to spot a glaring example of President Joseph R. Biden’s new emphasis on protecting the environment.

But that doesn’t mean they aren’t coming.

Read Now at Great Lakes Now.

Original Article

Great Lakes Now

Great Lakes Now

https://www.greatlakesnow.org/2021/03/air-wind-solar-great-lakes-energy-president-biden/

Dave Spratt

Senate confirms Fudge to lead housing agency, Regan for EPA

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate on Wednesday confirmed Ohio Rep. Marcia Fudge to head the Department of Housing and Urban Development and North Carolina regulator Michael Regan to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, picking up the pace for confirmations in President Joe Biden’s Cabinet.

Read Now at Great Lakes Now.

Original Article

Great Lakes Now

Great Lakes Now

https://www.greatlakesnow.org/2021/03/ap-senate-confirms-fudge-regan-epa/

The Associated Press

Speaking of Water: How Can the Biden Administration Deliver on Environmental Justice Pledges?

By Brett Walton, Circle of Blue

The Great Lakes News Collaborative includes Bridge Michigan; Circle of Blue; Great Lakes Now at Detroit Public Television; and Michigan Radio, Michigan’s NPR News Leader; who work together to bring audiences news and information about the impact of climate change, pollution, and aging infrastructure on the Great Lakes and drinking water.

Read Now at Great Lakes Now.

Original Article

Great Lakes Now

Great Lakes Now

https://www.greatlakesnow.org/2021/02/water-biden-administration-deliver-environmental-justice-pledges/

Circle of Blue

Excited about Biden: Detroit advocate hopeful on environmental justice progress after decades of inertia

Detroit’s Michelle Martinez is acutely aware of the patience needed when your profession is advocating for environmental justice, the fair and meaningful involvement of all people related to environmental laws and policies.

Martinez is acting executive director and statewide coordinator for the grassroots Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition.

It was 1994, almost three decades ago, that President Bill Clinton signed Executive Order 12898 putting the federal spotlight on environmental justice.

Read Now at Great Lakes Now.

Original Article

Great Lakes Now

Great Lakes Now

https://www.greatlakesnow.org/2021/02/detroit-advocate-hopeful-environmental-justice-progress-decades-inertia/

Gary Wilson

What Doesn’t Happen at Scientific Meetings (But Should)

Stephanie Smith, Freshwater Future’s Board Chair, talks about her recent collaborative work with scientists and groups in the African Great Lakes region. (Photo: Stephanie pictured with her family at Murchison Falls in Uganda.)

I looked out at the expanse of 90+ scientists from 17 different countries, most located around the seven African Great Lakes. They were seated around tables as relative strangers. I knew that once I asked my question, I couldn’t predict the range of responses, but I asked it anyway. “If we’re successful with this transboundary collaboration across the African Great Lakes region, what will the news headlines say in 5 years?”

I think a lot about big questions related to water. There’s an expression that says: “Water is life.” This is true, and water is also my life. After 17 years working on the North American Great Lakes, I now work as a global consultant facilitating collaboration for the health of people and the planet. My work emphasizes equity and justice that results in clean, accessible, affordable water and mitigates climate change impacts. I maintain my Great Lakes roots by serving on Freshwater Future’s board of directors.

For this event, I was in Entebbe, Uganda, working with the African Center for Aquatic Research and Education. We were laying groundwork for the first transboundary lake advisory groups for the African Great Lakes – a big step towards healthier lakes that many communities rely on for drinking water and fish.

Our event was a 10 minute walk to Lake Victoria, the second largest lake in the world by surface area – second only to Lake Superior. There are six other African Great Lakes (Albert, Edward, Kivu, Malawi/Niassa/Nyasa, Tanganyika, and Turkana), bordered by 10 countries. Every lake has at least 2 bordering countries, which brings an added geopolitical dimension. They comprise 25% of the world’s surface freshwater, even more than the North American Great Lakes. Fifty million lives depend on these lakes for their welfare and their livelihoods every day. The future of a lot of freshwater – and the people who depend on it – was at stake in this workshop.

Returning to my question about news headlines in 5 years, here’s what was unpredictable. I was asking meeting attendees to focus on the big picture of a future, multi-national vision. Many researchers and lake managers habitually focus solely on one part of their lake, within their country. And, they often focused on very specific aspects of that lake – that’s their job. The political relationships between some bordering countries are not always easy to navigate. My job was to help attendees develop what I hoped would become a shared future vision for all of the African Great Lakes. A successful collaboration depended on this perspective.

Researchers later told me that my “activity” wasn’t “what usually happens” at scientific meetings. But many saw the point. Because here’s what happened: despite their differences in perspective, geography, and focus, what they composed had consistently clear, cross-border unity with a collective vision.

Here are some of the headlines we saw emerge:

  • African Great Lakes Water Now Fishable, Swimmable and Drinkable
  • Eureka! Fish stocks in African Great Lakes Increasing
  • Researchers Team up to Influence Policy for Healthy African Great Lakes
  • Harmonized African Great Lakes Collaboration Optimizes Economic Benefits and Ecosystem Health

The next day, attendees began working together in groups that did not know each other, although these groups shared a common lake. What we all were beginning to realize was that they collectively held very common hopes and a shared vision for healthy lakes and communities.

Fast forward a year later – these groups now meet regularly. We are learning from each other. We are moving the needle on much needed progress for the African Great Lakes and those who rely on them. We continue asking big questions and try to address them, together:

  • Whose voices and ideas are missing from our discussion table?
  • As we break down silos, what bridges do we need to build?
  • How can we magnify strength by lifting each other up?

Water connects us all. I serve on Freshwater Future’s Board of Directors because I believe deeply in the power of communities to protect and enhance global waterways so that all can access clean, affordable drinking water and be resilient as they face climate change impacts. This is work Freshwater Future does with head and heart fully engaged, resulting in vital systemic successes on the path to water equity.

Original Article

Blog – Freshwater Future

Blog – Freshwater Future

https://freshwaterfuture.org/drinking-water/board-spotlight-stephanie-smith-board-chair/

Leslie Burk

Is Lead in Your Drinking Water?

When you turn on the faucet to get a drink of water, the last thing you want to worry about is whether the water is safe to drink. Because lead and other toxic chemicals like PFAS can’t be detected by appearance or taste, testing water is the only way to know if it is safe. Regulations require periodic testing of public water supplies for lead. 

Since the primary source of lead in the drinking water is lead pipes that bring the water to the house, (lead service lines) from the bigger water main, an improved way of testing is revealing that many public water supplies have elevated lead levels.

Currently in Michigan, at least 20 public water systems have elevated lead levels that violate state regulations (above 15 parts per billion or ppb). There is no safe amount of lead in drinking water. Lead was detected above 1 ppb in over 900 public water systems. Clearly, we have a lead problem.

Exposure to lead in drinking water, as well as other sources such as lead paint, or dust from demolition is never safe.  Lead is extremely toxic and harmful to people of all ages.  In children it affects brain development and can reduce IQ and contribute to behavioral problems. In adults it increases cardiac disease, harms kidneys, and causes reproductive problems. A recent study estimated that for each lead service line replaced it would save $22,000 by reducing cardiac health problems. Considering the average cost to replace a lead line is $5,000 that is a sizable return on investment.

Freshwater Future is here to support residents and communities with reducing lead in drinking water. We hosted two webinars to help community members understand the regulations and provide guidance on how to push for solutions for communities with elevated lead levels, based on The Lead and Copper Rule Handbook developed by our partners at the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center.  The webinars can be viewed online (No fee to view, but registration is required)

The Flint Water Crisis and the 2020 election reminded us that democracy is not a spectator sport. Our government functions best when residents are engaged, asking questions, and participating in forming solutions. If your community has elevated lead, we are here to support you.

Original Article

Blog – Freshwater Future

Blog – Freshwater Future

https://freshwaterfuture.org/uncategorized/is-lead-in-your-drinking-water/

Alexis Smith

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – December 18, 2020

Media Contact:
Jill Ryan, Executive Director, Freshwater Future
jill@freshwaterfuture.org
(231)348-8200 ext. 2

(Communities across Michigan)- The Michigan Legislature passed legislation yesterday that prohibits water utilities from shutting off water to residents due to non-payment. The legislation, spearheaded by Senator Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit), also requires the restoration of water services to families currently without running tap water. After months without protections due to a court decision removing Michigan’s Governor’s power to require water reconnections during COVID-19, this will at least temporarily fill the gap for those without running water.

“We applaud Senator Stephanie Chang’s leadership in championing legislation to eliminate the inhumane practice of water shutoffs affecting Michigan residents. Water activists have been working tirelessly for more than a decade to bring attention to the rising unaffordability of water resources in our communities and the public health crisis disproportionately affecting underrepresented communities that water shutoff practices by municipalities across Michigan create.” said Monica Lewis Patrick, President & CEO, We the People of Detroit. “We acknowledge Senator Chang’s commitment to ensuring all Michiganders have access to water and we recognize and honor the Water Warriors who have been working hard to raise awareness for years.”

Prior to COVID-19, more than 15 million Americans, or 1 out of every 20 households, had their water shut off due to being unable to pay their water bill, and it is expected that more than a third of the nation will be unable to pay their water bill by the end of 2022. These numbers will be exacerbated due to COVID-19, leaving potentially hundreds of thousands of Michiganders making hard decisions between putting food on the table and paying their water bill if the state does not take steps to work with utilities to make water affordable for everyone.

Escalating water rates are occurring in rural, suburban and urban areas alike. In rural Mancelona, a town of about 1,300 people, an average combined water and sewer rate is nearly double the United Nation’s recommended affordable amount for the median household income.

“This is the first step in protecting public health and ensuring all families across the state have access to running water to wash their hands and for drinking,” said Jill Ryan, Executive Director of Freshwater Future. “Now we must look forward and create a way to ensure the water stays on for everyone in the Great Lakes state and beyond.”

Through a community consensus process conducted by the Water Unity Table, ten principles have been developed outlining what residents want to see in policies to make water affordable for everyone. Based on these principles, a Water Affordability Pledge has been developed that organizations and individuals can endorse to show support for the need for affordable water.

The All About Water collaborative, including the Water Unity Table, We the People of Detroit, Freshwater Future, the Benton Harbor Community Water Council, and others are lifting up this pledge and are committed to securing affordable water for every resident of Michigan and the country. Reverend Edward Pinkney, President of the Benton Harbor Water Council said “he is extremely happy to hear that protections have been extended for access to water for another 90 days, but we need to take the next step and ensure permanent water connections for residents.”

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We the People of Detroit is dedicated to community coalition building and to the provision of resources that inform, train and mobilize the citizens of Detroit and beyond to improve their quality of life. Learn more at https://www.wethepeopleofdetroit.com/.

Freshwater Future builds a strong and effective environmental community working to protect and restore the waters of the Great Lakes by involving residents in civic decision-making. Learn more at https://freshwaterfuture.org/.

All About Water is a collaboration of community groups that works to further water policies by improving access, quality and affordability of water. Since 2017, the All About Water group has focused on improving water infrastructure and affordability, through regular calls and convenings to strategize, collaborate and create positive action on water issues.

Original Article

Blog – Freshwater Future

Blog – Freshwater Future

https://freshwaterfuture.org/drinking-water/michigan-legislature-passes-bill-to-keep-water-on-through-march-2021/

Leslie Burk

MEDIA STATEMENT  – Monica Lewis-Patrick, President and CEO, We the People of Detroit – 

It has been a long time coming, but We the People of Detroit is pleased that Mayor Mike Duggan is taking a step in the right direction with his announcement today regarding the creation of a water affordability plan on behalf of the residents of Detroit. This is an important first step in safeguarding public health and delivering water affordability for all Detroit residents. We must thank all of the Water Warriors who have been fighting for water equity and justice in Detroit for more than a decade. We also thank Dr. Abdul El-Sayed for his leadership in working with water justice advocates and Detroit city administrators. He has been a true champion for public health and water security. Lastly, we thank Governor Gretchen Whitmer for her bold leadership toward water equity and for implementing an Executive Order in March to end water shutoffs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

New research from We the People of Detroit Community Research Collective this year showed a strong link between the number of COVID-19 cases and the areas of our city impacted by water shutoffs. The impact of COVID-19 on Detroit’s most vulnerable populations serves as a stark reminder of how essential water access is for public health. The pandemic has made it impossible to deny that water shutoffs are a public health hazard.

We the People of Detroit continues to advocate for policies that make water affordability a reality for all. We are building a diverse coalition dedicated to training and mobilizing the citizens of Detroit and beyond to improve their quality of life. Ensuring that all communities have a seat at the table as our city combats water injustice is essential to safeguarding the future of all residents. We look forward to working with the City Council, the Administration, the Governor’s office, and other Water Warriors to usher in clean, safe, affordable access to water and sanitation for Detroiters and Michiganders.

 

Original Article

Blog – Freshwater Future

Blog – Freshwater Future

https://freshwaterfuture.org/drinking-water/mayor-duggans-detroit-water-affordability-plan-announcement/

Leslie Burk

Rollbacks, Climate, Justice: Environmental attorney on Biden’s commitments, opportunities and challenges

For President-elect Joe Biden, the environment and climate change as campaign issues weren’t tucked away in an obscure position paper. Neither was his intent to focus on environmental justice if elected.

Biden also put a spotlight on President Trump’s rollback via executive order of nearly 100 environmental protections in his four years.

Read Now at Great Lakes Now.

Original Article

Great Lakes Now

Great Lakes Now

https://www.greatlakesnow.org/2020/11/rollbacks-climate-justice-environmental-attorney-president-elect-biden/

Gary Wilson

Per- and polyflourinated substances (PFAS) can be found just about everywhere these days. Some of the first products that used PFAS were non-stick cookware.  PFAS can now be found in such items as clothes and shoes, carpets, couches, food wrappers, fire fighting foam and so much more. It also is found in our air, soil, and water. There are nearly 5,000 PFAS chemicals, some more widely studied and understood than others. 

For decades corporations that invented and used the chemicals in products hid documents and results showing the dangers of PFAS to humans and its persistence in the environment- it is known as the forever chemical because it does not break down in the environment. PFAS is a highly toxic man-made chemical that binds to blood plasma proteins, circulating through each organ in the body. According to the CDC 99% of Americans already have PFOA in our blood. PFOA and PFOS are two highly toxic chemicals and two of the chemicals more widely studied and understood in the PFAS family. This toxic family of chemicals can cause birth defects, reproductive and immune system problems, liver and thyroid disease, and cancer. 

The Environmental Working Group estimates that nearly 110 million Americans’ drinking water is contaminated with PFAS. Unfortunately there are no federal water quality standards restricting how much PFAS can be in our sources of water and our tap water. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a 70 ppt lifetime limit health advisory, which is like 70 grains of sand in an Olympic-size pool. This health advisory does not take into the full body burden from being exposed to PFAS through items like food wrappers, scotchguard, other items, and drinking water. 

In 2019, the U.S. EPA rolled out its PFAS Action Plan. One of the action items in the plan included establishing a drinking water maximum contamination level (MCL) or drinking water standard for PFOA and PFOS. This has yet to occur and as a result of the lack of action by the federal government, some states are developing their own water quality standards. Majority of the Great Lakes States have set standards more stringent than the U.S. EPA’s public health advisory of 70 ppt. Minnesota and Michigan go even further in setting standards for multiple PFAS chemicals. Canada has set their own standards as well, but these standards are much higher than even the U.S. EPA’s public health advisory. At the end of the day though, each Great Lakes state has the ability to set their own standards and some have failed to set standards, opting for the U.S. EPA’s public health advisory.

PFAS, however, should be regulated as a single-class which could reduce health risks and contamination, and improve clean-up efforts. The current approach of managing PFAS chemicals one-by-one has failed to control the widespread exposures, has led to insufficient public health protection, and is not cost-effective. Managing and regulating PFAS as a single-class of chemicals will, among other things, prohibit manufacturers from substituting a well-known PFAS chemical with a lesser-known PFAS chemical but equally as hazardous to the environment and humans. 

 

Author: Kristy Meyer, Freshwater Future, Director of Policy

Original Article

Blog – Freshwater Future

Blog – Freshwater Future

https://freshwaterfuture.org/uncategorized/states-lead-the-way-in-regulating-certain-pfas-due-to-lack-of-action-at-the-federal-level/

Alexis Smith

There are an estimated 6.1 to 9.3 million lead service lines – pipes carrying drinking water – across the country. Ohio is second in the nation for lead service lines at an estimated 650,000 lead service lines carrying water to families’ homes, second only to IL. While it is unclear how much money it will really take to fully remove lead service lines in Ohio, on the low end it can run approximately $2,400 a line and on the high end approximately $7,100 a line, which could mean anywhere from $1.95 B to $4.62 B over 20 years to fully replace the lead service lines. 

Recently the Ohio EPA announced up to $20 million in grant-like funding to eligible lead service line replacement projects through the state’s Drinking Water Assistance Fund for fiscal years (July 1st – June 30th) 2021 and 2022. Communities can receive up to $1 million per a year. The funding criteria does require the replacement of both the public and private lead service line. The private service line is the line that runs generally from the curb of your house inside the house. 

Is your community taking advantage of this funding? Call your local elected officials to find out. 


As a mom I worry about my children and as a scientist and environmentalist, I probably know too much to taper my worrying. I worry about the food they are eating, about their mental and social well-being, and about what is in the water they are drinking. I worry so much, that when news of Flint, MI and then Sebring, OH’s lead-in-water crisis broke, I called their school districts’ operation manager to find out the last time they tested for lead in the school system. I also made my husband watch the documentary made about the Flint water crisis – there was a lot of anger and tension that night watching the documentary and rightfully so. 

No parent should ever have to worry if their child is unbeknownst to them being poisoned by lead. When I watched and heard stories about parents unknowingly giving their children water tainted with lead, it brought me to my knees. I saw and heard their pain and I knew the lives of these families had been changed forever. This is why I work so hard with my colleagues daily to fully remove lead service lines from communities across the Great Lakes and to make sure those unable to afford to replace their private water lead service line have access to grant funding. It is also why Freshwater Future trains community members on how to take action and protect themselves, while also working to change policies. It is why I, and my colleagues, also work with partners across the Great Lakes that deal with lead in paint, because we know we must take a one-touch approach to removing lead from houses completely. 

 

Author: Kristy Meyer, Freshwater Future Director of Policy

Original Article

Blog – Freshwater Future

Blog – Freshwater Future

https://freshwaterfuture.org/uncategorized/ohio-environmental-protection-agency-provides-funding-for-lead-service-line-replacement/

Alexis Smith

Protecting our children and family from lead based products go back as far as we can remember. In 1978, the use of lead based paint was banned inside buildings. During those times, great harm was discovered when the paint began to crack and chip, due to the bumping and rubbing against walls and window sills. Breaking down into dust and contaminating the air with microscopic particles unseen to the eye and inhaled, thus elevating blood lead levels and risk of lead poisoning. Air quality within the family’s home once compromised has been corrected and readjusted for a safer and healthier home by using water-based paint. Be that as it may, lead continues to persist as an everyday challenge for people within their home, if it is not the air being compromised, it’s their drinking water.

Lead service lines (LSL) have been known to increase the lead content within our drinking water for centuries. In 1986, new LSL’s were banned to be installed though existing lines were permitted to stay. Instead of removing them completely alternative strategies were implemented such as lining the pipes with a corrosion control solution to reduce the amount of lead leaching into the water, partial lead line replacement, and a federal lead regulation disallowing lead levels in water to surpass 15 parts per billion (ppb). 

The Center of Disease Control (CDC) pronounced the partial lead line replacement could backfire and substantially increase the content of lead in water. Similar to lead paint, if the LSL is disturb it would release higher concentrations of lead than if the pipe remained static. Making full lead line replacement superior.

To be clear there is no safe level of lead in your water, and full lead line replacement is the best option to eliminate lead from our water. However, the greater the concentration of lead the greater risk of health impairments. According to the CDC, exposure to high levels of lead may cause anemia, weakness, kidney and brain damage. Very high lead exposure can cause death. Lead can cross the placental barrier, which means pregnant women who are exposed to lead also expose their unborn child. Lead can damage a developing baby’s nervous system. Children who survive severe lead poisoning may be left with mental retardation and behavioural disorders that include but are not limited to increased aggression which may lead to more violence, and a decreased IQ level. 

Equitable opportunities sit at the heart of Freshwater Future’s core values. Lead is a serious issue and all communities should be given the proper care and resources to protect themselves and their family. That is why Freshwater Future has created a slew of content regarding lead to serve as an additional resource hub for community members looking for more information on how to protect their families and their drinking water from lead exposure.

 

Author: Brandon Tyus, Freshwater Future Community Programming & Policy Associate

Original Article

Blog – Freshwater Future

Blog – Freshwater Future

https://freshwaterfuture.org/uncategorized/how-the-lead-did-we-get-here/

Alexis Smith

Minority communities question election-year push by EPA

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — Theresa Landrum lives in southwest Detroit, where residents complain frequently about dirty air. Tree-shaded neighborhoods with schools, churches and parks lie on either side of an interstate highway and in the shadow of a sprawling oil refinery that belches soot and fumes.

Read Now at Great Lakes Now.

Original Article

Great Lakes Now

Great Lakes Now

https://www.greatlakesnow.org/2020/10/ap-minority-communities-question-election-year-push-epa/

The Associated Press

Junction Coalition, a Toledo Community Organization, has partnered with Freshwater Future to tackle water related issues such as: lead service lines, harmful algae blooms (HABS), water disconnection, and many more water related disparities directly and indirectly impacting minority and low socioeconomic communities the most. 

Collaborating on the many topics threatening the community; another partner, Blue Conduit, presents themselves to Freshwater Future, pitching a focus on lead line identification utilizing artificial intelligence. Using records provided by the city and water department, assimilates the information and produces a predictive algorithm to better, and more accurately pinpoint lead lines throughout the city before a single hole has to be dug. Junction Coalition went to the city urging them to permit the strategy while demonstrating the benefits of cost effectiveness and efficiency resulting in more productive uses of their time and resources. Replacing lead lines can cost approximately $3,000 – $10,000 per home which can be expensive when using a portion of funds for trial and error locating lead lines which became very clear to the city thus making Blue Conduit the superior option.

Experts from all around the city pooled together their time, expertise, and resources from University of Toledo, Lucas County Health Department, the City, Blue Conduit, Freshwater Future, and Junction Coalition to devise a plan to appropriate the funding necessary to utilize artificial intelligence to pinpoint lead lines. Once the plan was conjured it was sent to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) with the funding request led by the city of Toledo entitled Using Artificial Intelligence to Reduce Lead Exposure proposal. This past Monday the Director of Environmental Justice Environmental Protection Agency, Matthew Tajeda, responded to the fund with an approval of $200,000 for the proposal. Granting the proposal permits Blue Conduit to generate more actionable data faster for the city of Toledo and allow them to accelerate the removal of lead lines while developing and implementing an educational campaign aimed at the most vulnerable communities to reduce the exposure to lead from residents as they replace the lines within Toledo. 

The City, BlueConduit, Freshwater Future, The University of Toledo, Toledo-Lucas County Health Department and local partners therefore propose this project with the goal of reducing lead exposure, through well-tested, data-driven prioritization techniques. Using a predictive model, this project will assess home-by-home water service line material probabilities based on existing parcel and neighborhood-level data and a representative sample of water service lines in the city taken by the project team. These probabilities will guide which homes should receive targeted education, water filters and ultimately the prioritization of the lead service line (LSL) replacement program. Throughout the entirety of this project, stakeholder meetings will be held and educational materials will be created with a focus on these high-risk communities, with the goal of minimizing resident lead exposure. This proposal, led by the City, combines the technical task of identifying lead lines, conducted by Blue Conduit, with a community education effort, to be implemented by the non-profit Freshwater Future.

For this project, Freshwater Future will work with grassroots community groups in Toledo to reach residents in the most vulnerable neighborhoods (6 identified residential environmental justice communities) to disseminate information and educational materials about lead in water; proper filter use and maintenance; reducing exposure during lead line replacements; and community participatory actions for water quality control. Freshwater Future is prepared to provide an online platform of education and services to ensure the safety of community members and supplement with on-the-ground when possible. Freshwater Future will work with community partners regarding public health and water quality as it relates to disenfranchised communities.  We will provide four video-trainings for communities on water filter installation, proper filter use and maintenance.  The training will provide background on health impacts of lead exposure and access to community and health department resources.  Instruction on using personal protective equipment during pandemics will be covered. These training will benefit all partners through education, navigation of resources and public health. In addition, we will provide training on collection of water samples for lead analysis and test up to 60 homes identified through the Blue Conduit mapping process. 

Freshwater Future brings extensive experience in working with grassroots community groups and environmental justice communities following a strict code of principles for collaborating with community.  As mentioned earlier, we have worked for several years on helping communities with lead in water issues.  We are also fortunate to have staff members who are Toledo residents with deep ties to several of the targeted communities, starting from a position of shared trust.  In addition, we will provide funding for the citizen science testing of resident wells.

We look forward to being a part of this innovative project to provide critical data that the City of Toledo can use to ultimately speed-up lead line replacements, reducing lead exposure to Toledo’s most vulnerable residents while engaging residents in understanding more about water threats and actions that protect public health.

Original Article

Blog – Freshwater Future

Blog – Freshwater Future

https://freshwaterfuture.org/uncategorized/city-of-toledo-receives-epa-grant-to-utilize-artificial-intelligence-to-identify-lead-water-lines/

Alexis Smith

Policy Expert Q&A: Keep advocating with elected officials for safe drinking water

The Flint water crisis that made national and international headlines was a failure on many levels, according to University of Chicago Professor Sabina Shaikh.

Particularly, it was a public policy failure, Shaikh told Great Lakes Now in an interview, and the failure in Flint put a spotlight on environmental injustices.

Read Now at Great Lakes Now.

Original Article

Great Lakes Now

Great Lakes Now

https://www.greatlakesnow.org/2020/09/policy-expert-advocating-elected-officials-safe-drinking-water/

Gary Wilson

Can the Climate Youth Tip the 2020 Election Against Trump?

By Mark Hertsgaard, The Nation

This story originally appeared in The Nation and is republished here as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.

On Monday, The Nation and other Covering Climate Now partners held a “First-Time Voter Youth Day” to highlight the voices of the generation most affected by climate change as we launch a week of joint coverage of Climate Politics 2020.

Read Now at Great Lakes Now.

Original Article

Great Lakes Now

Great Lakes Now

https://www.greatlakesnow.org/2020/09/climate-youth-2020-election-trump/

The Nation

Want the Youth Vote? Prioritize Climate Change

By Jacob Wallace, The Nation

This story originally appeared in The Nation and is republished here as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.

In the speech she gave at the People’s Climate March in Washington in 2017, Jansikwe Medina-Tayac, then 15, told a crowd of thousands, “This [climate change] is not just an environmental issue.

Read Now at Great Lakes Now.

Original Article

Great Lakes Now

Great Lakes Now

https://www.greatlakesnow.org/2020/09/election-2020-youth-vote-prioritize-climate-change/

The Nation

Freshwater Future Applauds WaterLegacy As They Continue To Tell PolyMet “No!”

Freshwater Future applauds WaterLegacy as they continue to defend Minnesota water quality standards from industry rollbacks to protect the environment and people within the community from a controversial mine project. WaterLegacy has developed a cohort of partners from indigenious tribes and food gatherers to health professionals and environmental groups, who stand in unity to protect the waters and lands for fishing, hunting, and growing wild rice located near the proposed copper-nickel sulfide mine.

In June 12, 2019, WaterLegacy sought out EPA comments that would play a critical role in allowing PolyMet the permit prepared and issued by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA). Due to the nature of PolyMet’s business, WaterLegacy knew the approval of the permit would be a direct violation of the Clean Water Act and demanded to view the public comments made by MPCA. After a year of unwavering persistence, WaterLegacy secured the comments by suing the EPA under a Freedom Of Information Act lawsuit as MPCA continued to delay and suppress the information requested by WaterLegacy. The very next day, the EPA Inspector General initiated an investigation due to the allegations toward the EPA and their process for the PolyMet water pollution permit. With WaterLegacy suspecting a breach in protocol, the issue caught the attention of Representative Rick Hansen, who sat as the chairman for the Legislative Audit Commission and Environment and Natural Resource Division, who commenced an audit on MPCA handling of the PolyMet mine permit process. 

As the investigation was underway, WaterLegacy procured a substantial amount of evidence of procedural irregularities, which were submitted for comparison to determine if MPCA’s procedure for PolyMet presented irregularities. Furthermore, WaterLegacy attorney Paula MacCabee carried the story nationally to make known this ongoing investigation was needed to ensure the permitting process was executed with integrity. Due to the sizable amount of evidence, Chief Judge Edward Cleary of the district court postponed the permitting process until the investigation was finished, which is a highly unusual act of the courts. 

On September 09, 2020, the Minnesota Court of Appeals decided to take their own look at the case after district courts declared there were no irregularities in the procedure by MPCA, indicating to WaterLegacy and the Minnesota Court of Appeals that the case was not reviewed by a neutral administrative law judge. Paula MacCabee, legal counsel for WaterLegacy, appealed the decision of the district courts with documents proving the authorization of a PolyMet mine water pollution permit would be in direct conflict with the Clean Water Act. WaterLegacy and other groups also suggest MPCA skewed the rules in their favor to suppress criticism by hiding evidence or deleting it all together. The case will now wait until the court of appeals reaches their conclusion, and may go well into 2021. 

Advocates claim PolyMet’s nickel-copper sulfide mining operations will produce toxic waste and runoff that will elevate mercury levels in fish and animals and decimate the wild rice fields, which in turn, compromise the health of the community members and their families living off the land. WaterLegacy has accomplished a long list of  successes to secure basic human rights necessary for living by upholding drinking water quality for residents and businesses along with protecting the environment for wildlife to flourish.

Freshwater Future stands as an ally to supply grassroots organizations in the Great Lakes region the needed resources to relish in the wins that change lives. Standing by the work of organizations like WateLegacy to aid those who push to sustain the quality of living we all deserve is important to Freshwater Future. If your organization needs resources to further water protection work, apply for our Fall Grant, deadline September 30th! We are here to ensure the safety of our waters, contact us for more information on grants: laurie@freshwaterfuture.org or 231.348.8200.

Original Article

Blog – Freshwater Future

Blog – Freshwater Future

https://freshwaterfuture.org/uncategorized/freshwater-future-applauds-waterlegacys-defense-for-clean-water/

Alexis Smith

Intersecting Crises: Fighting for climate justice in a pandemic

Alongside the illnesses, deaths and closures caused by COVID-19, the threat of climate change still hangs over communities across the Great Lakes region and around the world. And the people and organizations fighting against climate change and for environmental justice have found themselves caught between these two threats to public health.

Read Now at Great Lakes Now.

Original Article

Great Lakes Now

Great Lakes Now

https://www.greatlakesnow.org/2020/08/intersecting-crises-climate-change-justice-covid-19/

Emily Simroth

Illinoisans demand stricter coal ash rules, denounce state proposal

By Kari Lydersen, Energy News Network, through the Institute for Nonprofit News network

Illinoisans voiced their fears about coal ash silently contaminating their drinking water, or coal ash impoundments failing and deluging rivers with toxic sludge, during public hearings this week.

It was the latest step in a years-long debate in Illinois, which has the nation’s second-highest number of contaminated coal ash sites, according to a 2011 study.

Read Now at Great Lakes Now.

Original Article

Great Lakes Now

Great Lakes Now

https://www.greatlakesnow.org/2020/08/illinois-coal-ash-rules-state-proposal/

Energy News Network

Survey analysis finds race plays role in perception, vulnerabilities to climate change in Indiana

By Enrique Saenz, Indiana Environmental Reporter

People across the U.S. are taking to the streets to protest racial inequity, saying that people of color experience a wholly different experience in the country than white Americans. New findings from a statewide survey indicate that the disparity extends to how Hoosiers of different races perceive climate change and its risks.

Read Now at Great Lakes Now.

Original Article

Great Lakes Now

Great Lakes Now

https://www.greatlakesnow.org/2020/08/race-perception-vulnerabilities-climate-change-indiana/

Indiana Environmental Reporter

Demanding Justice: Detroit activists make formal complaint over hazardous waste sites

Calling their communities sacrifice zones for being home to hazardous waste storage sites, residents in a Detroit neighborhood are taking a stand.

Last week, residents with support from the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center filed a formal complaint with Michigan’s Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy over the agency’s January decision to allow a storage site to increase capacity by nine fold.

Read Now at Great Lakes Now.

Original Article

Great Lakes Now

Great Lakes Now

https://www.greatlakesnow.org/2020/08/detroit-activists-environmental-justice-hazardous-waste-sites/

Gary Wilson

In a time of COVID-19, millions of Americans are plagued by water debt

Mass water shutoffs in Detroit following the city’s bankruptcy proceedings brought the issue of water affordability and water shutoffs into public notoriety in the U.S. in 2014.

The threat of COVID-19 brought the issue back to the forefront as the CDC urged people to wash their hands frequently.

Read Now at Great Lakes Now.

Original Article

Great Lakes Now

Great Lakes Now

https://www.greatlakesnow.org/2020/08/water-debt-environmental-justice/

GLN Editor

Across America, Five Communities in Search of Environmental Justice

By Kristoffer Tigue, Nicholas Kusnetz, Judy Fahys, Ilana Cohen and David Hasemyer, InsideClimate News

This story originally appeared in InsideClimate News and is republished here as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.

In many ways, Maleta Kimmons defines her neighborhood by what it lacks.

Read Now at Great Lakes Now.

Original Article

Great Lakes Now

Great Lakes Now

https://www.greatlakesnow.org/2020/08/communities-minnesota-new-york-environmental-justice/

InsideClimate News

Great Lakes Moment: A tribute to Guy O. Williams, environmental justice champion

Great Lakes Moment is a monthly column written by Great Lakes Now Contributor John Hartig. Publishing the author’s views and assertions does not represent endorsement by Great Lakes Now or Detroit Public Television.

Guy O. Williams knew very little about the Great Lakes growing up in Lanham, Maryland, about 10 miles northeast of Washington, D.C.

Read Now at Great Lakes Now.

Original Article

Great Lakes Now

Great Lakes Now

https://www.greatlakesnow.org/2020/08/great-lakes-moment-guy-williams-environmental-justice/

John Hartig

Court: Flint class-action can proceed over lead in water

DETROIT (AP) — Flint residents whose health and homes were harmed by lead-contaminated water scored a legal milestone Wednesday when the Michigan Supreme Court said they could proceed with a lawsuit against public officials for the disastrous decisions that caused the scandal.

Read Now at Great Lakes Now.

Original Article

Great Lakes Now

Great Lakes Now

https://www.greatlakesnow.org/2020/07/ap-court-flint-class-action-lead-water/

The Associated Press

July 24, 2020

This week: Minorities Trust In The Justice System Continues To Dwindle + DNR Captures 18 Invasive Carp From Southwest Minnesota Watershed + Waasekom Niin Embarks On A 28-day Canoe Quest + Fireflies Boom In Ideal Conditions + EPA Removes Name From Report On Glyphosate After Public Question

Minorities’ Trust In The Justice System Continues To Dwindle 

The inequities that have been deeply rooted into our environmental justice system have plagued blacks, hispanics, and indigenious communities for decades. Resulting in more distrust of their water quality and disproportionate water rates. Communities facing the discord have joined with organizations such as Freshwater Future and We The People Of Detroit to establish community organized facilities like the Flint Development Center to test the quality of their own water. Due to the current public health crisis and recent racial outcrys the systemic discrimation toward minorities have captured the attention of many including their white counterparts. Disparities have been demonstrated through the reality of these communities and statistically via highly reputable research centers displaying an undeniable truth that can no longer be undermined. Minorities do not need special treatment, they need to be treated equally.


DNR Captures 18 Invasive Carp From Southwest Minnesota Watershed

The DNR fisheries have implemented eight projects including the Illinois Lake electric barrier as a ploy to contain and capture invasive carp. Eighteen invasive carp were fished out of the water at the southwest Minnesota watershed ranging anywhere from 17-35 inches in size. The last recorded capture was in December securing 2 invasive carp, yet no breeding population has been detected in the states.


Waasekom Niin Embarks On A 28-day Canoe Quest

In an attempt to bring our waters back to the decision making table Waasekom Niin of the Saugeen Ojibway Nation (SON) embarks on a 28-day canoe quest along the shore of Lake Huron. As a way to revive the relationship between man and water. SON has been a strong proponent of preserving the water’s dignity and respect while remaining aware of the troubles that are faced both by man and water. Niin’s goal with the canoe trip is to highlight and document these occurrences to strategically share with public officials to further understand the lake’s importance.


Fireflies Boom In Ideal Conditions

There have been more fireflies flickering their luminescent lights than usual due to the ideal wet conditions. As we revel in the beauty they present at night they are in danger. We must do our part to protect them by reducing the amount of artificial light that illuminates the night. Decreasing the amount of light at night will give fireflies the opportunity to better spot their mates’ lights and reproduce allowing future generations to flourish.


EPA Removes Name From Report On Glyphosate After Public Question

The active ingredient in the herbicide Roundup, glyphosate, manufactured by chemical company Monsanto has been concluded to be a major cause for cancer. Thousands of people have been diagnosed with lymphoma after being exposed to glyphosate. Since 2015, the director of the National Center for Environmental Health and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), Dr. Breysse, validated its harmfulness on the EPA’s website which after public questioning was removed by the EPA, protecting the vested interest in Monsanto and the EPA at the expense of the public’s trust.

Original Article

Blog – Freshwater Future

Blog – Freshwater Future

https://freshwaterfuture.org/freshwater-weekly/freshwater-weekly-july-27-2020/

Alexis Smith

Priority Shift: Chicago mayor sets environmental sights on neglected communities

Since taking office in May 2019, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has emphasized that her environmental priorities are focused on the social justice issues of access to drinking water and clean air.

“The mayor is deeply committed to putting environmental justice at the forefront of her environmental agenda,” spokesperson Hali Levandoski told Great Lakes Now.

Read Now at Great Lakes Now.

Original Article

Great Lakes Now

Great Lakes Now

https://www.greatlakesnow.org/2020/07/chicago-mayor-environmental-priority-neglected-communities/

Gary Wilson

Reflecting on Juneteenth and the Environmental Movement

Crystal M.C. Davis, Alliance for the Great Lakes, Director for Policy and Strategic Engagement

July 19, 2020

The sounds of vibrant fireworks, smoky barbecues and patriotic parades make people across the nation excited about celebrating the 4th of July and our nation’s freedom from Great Britain’s rule. However for many African Americans, Juneteenth (June 19) is celebrated as Freedom Day.

On June 19, 1865, the Emancipation Proclamation, which had been issued over two years earlier on January 1, 1863, was read to enslaved African Americans in Texas who were among the last to learn of their freedom. In commemoration of that historic day, African Americans celebrate our freedom from the bondage of slavery and liberation as a people. Juneteenth is now getting attention like never before, precisely because it has never been clearer how far we have yet to go in the pursuit of true liberation.

The tragic incidents with George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Christian Cooper gave the world a glimpse of the fears, risks and struggles that people of color endure daily. These fears are front and center – even today over 150 years later – and are felt regardless of socioeconomic status. The story of Christian Cooper, the black bird watcher who was threatened by a white woman in Central Park, especially resonates with me. Not only am I an unapologetically black woman – I’m also a proud environmentalist.

I have built a career around my belief that black liberation and environmental justice are intimately tied together. I am inspired and motivated by the unique ways that communities of color practice sustainability – making full meals of food waste and passing clothes down from one generation to the next. Sustainability was a cultural practice way before it was cool.

For me, the racist threats against Christian Cooper underscored two American realities: that racial minorities are often unwelcome in white-dominated spaces, and the unspoken understanding that the “outdoors” are really only for white people in the first place.

This realization isn’t new to me. I know the feeling of sitting in big rooms of environmentalists where I’m the only person of color, getting cold stares when I mention racial equity. I’ve had external colleagues insinuate that I am valued more for my ability to provide diversity to experts rather than as an expert myself. It is isolating. It is frustrating. But it’s also inspiring. Inspiring because my team of water warrior sisters – my beloved black women colleagues – understand that we’re in this together and insist on lifting each other up. Inspiring because my kids deserve a different world than the one I inherited and I am determined to deliver it for them.

As a first-generation college graduate from a working class family, I’m living my grandparents’ wildest dreams. Advocating for environmental justice is my passion and purpose. But fighting for change isn’t just the responsibility of people that look like me. We need everyone united in this movement for environmental and racial justice.

To my white colleagues: you’ve asked black and brown people to serve on your equity committees, to mentor you through authentic community engagement practices, and spend countless hours strategizing on ways to champion equity in environmental policies. We have obliged but now, right now, is your time to stand up and put actions behind thoughts and prayers. Equity should not be an afterthought.

For so many, the great outdoors is a symbol of freedom. On Juneteenth, Freedom Day, I am reminded that all are not free to share in nature’s gifts…free to bird watch, free to jog in their neighborhoods, free of worry about exorbitant bills for water that may or may not be safe to drink. And, I am reminded in my work each day that many are not free to enjoy the precious natural resources the Great Lakes offer. The Alliance for the Great Lakes’ leadership has designated Juneteenth as a paid annual holiday which will afford our staff the time to reflect and commit to advancing equity and justice. I’m grateful to work for an organization committed to using their privilege, voice and platforms to support marginalized communities. And, I also know that the work is not done.

As in years past, I will spend Juneteenth with family. We will dance to tunes created by our black musical legends, eat food that warms the soul, and dress the family in shirts that celebrate the pride of our people. While even being “okay” is tough these days, I still celebrate Juneteenth. I celebrate the resilience, ingenuity and brilliance of my people. I celebrate the opportunity to be a force in many movements fighting for change, understanding that they are all inextricably linked. I celebrate that the best is still yet to come.

Original Article

Blog – Freshwater Future

Blog – Freshwater Future

https://freshwaterfuture.org/uncategorized/environmental-justice-is-more-than-just-us-the-continued-quest-for-freedom/

Alexis Smith

June 12, 2020

This week: Speaking Common Threads in Our Communities Through Poetry +No Water Service Restoration Chicago+ Anishinaabe Lead on Adapting to Climate Change + Michigan Senators Introduce a Bill to Protect Waterways and Public Health


Speaking of Common Threads in Our Communities Through Poetry

Freshwater Future staff member Brandon Tyus expressed his reactions to George Floyd’s murder through poetry.  His poem titled Dear White People reflects on the personal belief system that “the game doesn’t change, but the faces do” as there is always a common thread in anything that shares fundamental commonalities such as skin color. The poem’s voice from the viewpoint of black and brown people asks white people to gain perspective, because they cannot understand what life is like with darker skin.

No Water Service Restoration in Chicago During Pandemic

The City of Chicago has yet to restore water service to a single home, leaving an untold number of families without running water during the pandemic. Many cities across the Great Lakes region have been scrambling to reconnect users so they can wash their hands to prevent the spread of Covid-19, at least temporarily.  Rising water costs in many cities in the region have led to disconnections when residents fall behind on water bills.  Even after Freshwater Future negotiated a small pilot to turn on the water for a single home, the City has not been able to find the will for reconnection.


Anishinaabe Tribes Lead on Adapting to Climate Change

Anishinaabe tribes in northern Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan are taking a holistic approach toward dealing with climate change that requires more “listening” to nature than battling it. Tribal adaptation is an approach that notices the changes in climate and experiments with what needs to be adjusted to accommodate the change. Tribes have formed a coalition, putting them in a leadership role for building resilience to climate change impacts.


Michigan Senators Introduce A Bill To Protect Waterways And Public Health

After an industrial property contaminated with uranium and other hazardous chemicals collapsed into the Detroit River as we reported in December 2019. This environmental disaster revealed inadequate enforcement by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE). In response to this and similar instances of dangerous pollutants entering waterways, State legislators introduced a bill to protect major waterways and public health. The legislation would require statewide risk assessments and an accessible database for the public to more easily identify contaminated areas throughout the state.

Original Article

Blog – Freshwater Future

Blog – Freshwater Future

https://freshwaterfuture.org/uncategorized/freshwater-weekly-june-15th-2020/

Alexis Smith

June 5, 2020

This week: Water Equity and Justice


Freshwater Future Statement

Freshwater Future mourns the death of Mr. George Floyd and all who have died due to racism in our country. We stand in solidarity with all communities of color as the forces of systemic racism have made them most vulnerable to police brutality and disproportionate impacts and harmed families suffering in silence, who would like to believe the opportunities afforded to others would be unconditionally afforded to their families and communities alike throughout the country. The scourge of racism has been plaguing our country since prior to the formation of this nation. Recognizing that it is actions, and not simply words, that will move us toward a just and equitable society, we commit to new steps within our organization to make our work more just and equitable and to ensure that work pushes for justice and equity throughout our region and the country. While we do not have all the answers of how to move forward together at this moment, we commit to listening, learning and changing in the days and years to come.

Freshwater Future’s Current Work to Address Environmental Justice

Like the rest of the nation, our community partners are strained by the unlawful acts of our justice system, and Freshwater Future has grounded itself to be there for them more than ever. Meeting our partners in their local communities and listening to their issues has been paramount in how we best serve the community on their local issues has been a crucial component in how we best serve the community. Water affordability, lead line replacement, citizen science, public education, and more are the incredibly successful results of dialing back what we think needs to happen, and following residents and community leaders toward what actually needs to happen.  Current events have amplified why on-the-ground leaders’ voices must be uplifted and be in front leading the change. Freshwater Future is reminded by the current event plaguing our nation, that it is a constantly evolving process as we continue to strive to increase our knowledge in water equity and cultural competence for our work to be most effective.


Benton Harbor Community Water Council Working Hard for Water Justice

The Benton Harbor Community Water Council (Council) has been working tirelessly to ensure equity in water safety while the City of Benton Harbor remains out of compliance with the Lead and Copper Rule for drinking water.  The Council’s work has varied as the needs of residents have changed, including:

  • Ensuring availability of water filters,

  • Training and assistance in use and installation of filters,

  • Calls with the city leadership and state regulators, and

  • Conducting outreach to find residents willing to participate in water testing at their homes to determine lead levels and whether the system is in compliance,

  • Participating in Covid-19 training for use of Personal Protective Equipment, social distancing and more so they could deliver bottles to residents and pick them up from door steps safely to aid the City in testing for safety and compliance.

We applaud the steady and courageous work of these residents that make up the Council for their ongoing efforts to ensure safe, clean and affordable water for the residents of Benton Harbor.


Take Action to Stop the assault on Clean, Safe and Affordable Water

During a global pandemic where access to clean water is vital and a time when communities are rising up against inequities faced by African-Americans and communities of color in this country, the Trump Administration once again delivers a massive blow to families and our communities across this nation. The Trump Administration has waged a full-on attack on the Clean Water Act by rolling back protections for thousands of stream miles and wetlands that are critical to keeping our drinking water clean and safe, by stripping federal protection for these streams and wetlands. Click here to learn more and take action!


County Comes Together as a Community When Michigan Sheriff Joins Protesters

Michigan officer Christopher Swanson sets the example for other officers to follow as he removes his helmet signaling the inclination to move in solidarity with the community. Engaging local residents to find what they need him to do, the protesters motion the officer to join the protest and walk with them. Humble in his approach it led to a peaceful protest, setting the bar high for other officers across the nation to observe and follow suit.


Resources for Additional Reading and Thinking for All Ages:

Beautiful Blackbird

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=45g1Ru2R-lI 

There Are No Mirrors….

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yRNfJxDNbEE  

Be Water 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6SCGckevYng 

Original Article

Blog – Freshwater Future

Blog – Freshwater Future

https://freshwaterfuture.org/call-to-action/freshwater-weekly-may-6th-2020/

Alexis Smith

Freshwater Future mourns the death of Mr. George Floyd and all who have died due to racism in our country. We stand in solidarity with all communities of color as the forces of systemic racism have made them most vulnerable to police brutality and disproportionate impacts and harmed families suffering in silence, who would like to believe the opportunities afforded to others would be unconditionally afforded to their families and communities alike throughout the country. The scourge of racism has been plaguing our country since prior to the formation of this nation. Recognizing that it is actions, and not simply words, that will move us toward a just and equitable society, we commit to new steps within our organization to make our work more just and equitable and to ensure that work pushes for justice and equity throughout our region and the country. While we do not have all the answers of how to move forward together at this moment, we commit to listening, learning and changing in the days and years to come.

Jill M. Ryan, Executive Director, and all of the Freshwater Future Staff

Original Article

Blog – Freshwater Future

Blog – Freshwater Future

https://freshwaterfuture.org/environmental-justice/we-stand-in-solidarity/

Leslie Burk