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Can new crop of Great Lakes politicians turn the tide on drinking water quality?

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Regardless of the reason, a new crop of Great Lakes politicians is emerging and they are putting a spotlight on drinking water quality issues(My editor, who lives very near Lake Michigan, is thrilled about this.)

  • Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers said in his State of the State speech that “7 million Wisconsinites depend on private wells for water, and 47 percent of these wells do not meet acceptable health standards.” He declared 2019 the “Year of Drinking Water Quality” in Wisconsin.1
  • In Chicago, a leading candidate for mayor announced a plan to replace the city’s 385,000 lead service lines. Candidate Toni Preckwinkle pitched her plan as an environmental justice initiative and said she’ll give priority to begin the replacement to areas of the city with dense populations of children.1

However, while bold statements and campaign pledges might make headlines, none of these issues are an easy fix. And, given that “service lines run from the main line to the property owner’s home and are the responsibility of the homeowner,”1 residents will need significant government help.


Todd Ambs, Wisconsin’s assistant deputy secretary of the Department of Natural Resources said, “Literally thousands of people in the Great Lakes basin are no longer confident that they can turn on their taps and safely drink the water. We are now nearly two decades into the 21st century and that is simply unacceptable and must get fixed.”1

For Wisconsinites, a leading source of their contaminated wells is manure runoff from CAFOs. So the issue will be whether “Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources has the authority to limit the number of animals on CAFOs.”1 (Lower courts ruled that the DNR has the authority to set farm size limits but the DNR claims that they actually don’t have that authority and granted permits that Clean Wisconsin and others are contesting.)


In Chicago, the city’s lead pipe issues are daunting; there are an estimated 385,000 service lines in need of replacement and residents will need significant help from the federal government. Michigan has a serious PFAS contamination issues and “Ohio has made little progress in reigning in farm pollution that contributed to the 2014 Toledo water crisis.”1

All in all, it’s a mess but there is hope! We will update you whenever more information becomes available.


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