Four Great Lakes governors call on White House to aid in water infrastructure upgrades

Four Great Lakes governors call on White House to aid in water infrastructure upgrades
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Four governors of Great Lakes states on Tuesday called on President BidenJoe BidenSouth Africa health minister calls travel bans over new COVID variant 'unjustified' Biden attends tree lighting ceremony after day out in Nantucket Senior US diplomat visiting Southeast Asia to 'reaffirm' relations MORE to prioritize improvements to the nation's water infrastructure.

In a letter to the president, Michigan Gov. Gretchen WhitmerGretchen Whitmer44 military personnel going to Michigan to assist with COVID-19 spike Michigan hospital chiefs plead with public to do its part amid surging hospitalizations Biden must protect Great Lakes from oil spill threat MORE (D), Minnesota Gov. Tim WalzTim WalzPentagon sending medical teams to Minnesota hospitals amid surge in COVID-19 cases Minneapolis votes down measure replacing police department Minnesota Gov. Walz launches reelection bid MORE (D), Wisconsin Gov. Tony EversTony EversCities prep security plans for large holiday crowds Biden urges Americans to express their views on Rittenhouse verdict 'peacefully' Jury finds Kyle Rittenhouse not guilty on all charges MORE (D) and Illinois J.B. Pritzker (D) noted numerous issues they attributed to failure to modernize water infrastructure.

The contamination of drinking water in Flint, Mich., for instance, reflected “historic disinvestment” in nonwhite communities’ infrastructure, “which left that former automotive powerhouse with a failing, oversized system and a shrinking rate base.”


The letter also calls for improvements to wastewater and storm water infrastructure projects, noting that increasing precipitation means Great Lakes Basin residents are at risk.

In Minnesota alone, the letter states, aging infrastructure results in “more than 200 annual releases to surface waters of partially treated or untreated wastewater that impacts downstream communities and aquatic life.”

Aging infrastructure also results in increased water main breaks, which can result in service interruptions and water-boiling advisories. These are a particular concern in the Great Lakes region, which sees colder winters, the letter notes.

The letter further cites poor dam maintenance in the region, which can lead to outcomes like the flooding that occurred in May after privately operated dams on the Tittabawassee River failed.

These issues also have environmental justice implications. Illinois, the letter notes, has more than 200 so-called unsewered communities, or those that lack wastewater treatment and collection facilities. Most of these are classified as environmental justice communities due to their racial and income demographics.

Infrastructure efforts should prioritize replacing lead service lines and getting wastewater facilities up to date, upgrading water systems and taking on structural inequalities, the letter states.

“The health of our families, 21% of the world’s fresh drinking water, and 51 million jobs depend on our immediate, collective action. We ask for your partnership and prioritization of critical water infrastructure going forward,” Whitmer wrote.

“We are grateful for the American Rescue Plan’s significant aid to our communities and await the bold infrastructure elements laid out in the Build Back Better plan and proposed in the President’s budget.”

The Biden administration has stated that it will take several steps to address the racial and income inequality associated with the environment and climate change. 

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael ReganMichael ReganBiden administration takes step toward reversing Trump water regulations rollback Biden, top officials spread out to promote infrastructure package Energy & Environment — Beyond COP26 MORE has said that addressing environmental justice will be a priority under his leadership.

In addition, the White House on Monday named the members of its new Environmental Justice Advisory Council. The council, created in January by one of Biden's executive orders, will seek to address environmental racism and inequality.