On September 21, 2021, the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Governors and Premiers announced a series of actions and resolutions as part of their virtual bi-annual meeting.
The following joint statement was issued in response by: Alliance for the Great Lakes, Audubon Great Lakes, Black Environmental Leaders Association, Drink Local Drink Tap, Flint Community Water Lab, Freshwater Future, Junction Coalition, Michigan Environmental Council, The Midwest Environmental Justice Network, Milwaukee Water Commons, National Wildlife Federation, The Nature Conservancy in Ohio, Ohio Environmental Council Action Fund, Village of Healing Cleveland, We the People of Detroit.
September 23, 2021 — The Great Lakes region is facing a water infrastructure crisis. We have not invested in the maintenance of our drinking, waste, and stormwater systems. This is evidenced by lead pipes that poison drinking water, ongoing sewage contamination that closes beaches, and broken water mains that cave in streets. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that it will cost $188 billion over 20 years to upgrade the drinking and wastewater infrastructure in the Great Lakes states of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Ohio and Illinois have the unfortunate distinction of ranking #1 and #2 in the nation, respectively, for the number of lead service lines in their states. And The American Society of Civil Engineers gave our nation’s drinking water system a “C-” grade this year, reflecting the fact that much of our drinking water infrastructure is nearing the end of its useful life.
In light of this, we the undersigned organizations are disappointed that the recent announcement from the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Governors and Premiers heralding regional priorities to protect the environment and boost the economy failed to take unified action to address a water infrastructure crisis that is impacting millions of people. While the announcement contains very important environmental agreements, such as commitments to protect the lakes from invasive carp and justly transition the region toward clean energy, the omission of water justice and infrastructure action is glaring.
The governors and premiers missed a major opportunity to speak as a region for the drinking water, health, and well-being of all who live in the Great Lakes states. While investing in these infrastructure needs is undeniably expensive, kicking the can down the road does not make sense. The longer we delay, the worse the economic, environmental, and public health impacts will be for the region, taxpayers, and communities that are disproportionately affected by gaps in public spending. We encourage the governors and premiers to discuss collective commitments and actions that will position the region to lead in solving water infrastructure issues.
Media contact: Jennifer Caddick, firstname.lastname@example.org