Michigan focuses on safe drinking water for all
Harrison Township — Providing all residents safe drinking water topped a 30-year strategy rolled out Friday by state officials for Michigan’s stewardship of the Great Lakes and inland waters.
Gov. Rick Snyder visited the shoreline of Lake St. Clair in Harrison Township Friday to introduce the plan along with leadership from Michigan’s Office of the Great Lakes. Drinking water, due to events in Flint over the past two years, has become a hot topic and trouble spot for his administration.
“There’s a framework here for long-term success...,” Snyder said. “If there’s one thing that binds Michiganders together, as much or more than anything, it’s a love of the Great Lakes and the wonderful water resources we have in this state.”
The first segment of the state’s plan focuses on five areas that echo water issues Michigan currently faces or has faced in recent years. The plan includes:
■Providing reliable safe drinking water for all state residents.
■Stopping new invasive species from establishing populations in Michigan waters.
■Providing support for Michigan’s commercial and recreational harbors.
■Developing and promoting the state’s water trails system.
■Achieving the state’s target goal of reducing the phosphorous reaching Lake Erie by 40 percent.
Phosphorus has been a troubling problem in the region, particularly in the area of northeast Michigan and southeast Michigan. Two years ago, Toledo was without potable water for a weekend when algae contaminated the city’s drinking system, which draws from Lake Erie.
Algae growth has been linked to the amount of phosphorous that runs off the land in the region and into the lake. Michigan introduced several measures late in 2015 designed to reduce the phosphorus reaching Lake Erie from sits side of the border.
That strategy included steps that had largely already been taken such as holding the line on discharges at the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department plant as well as the Wayne County Downriver treatment plant.
Invasive species have been a constant threat to the entire Great Lakes region for decades, but concerns have ramped up with Asian carp in the northern reaches of the Mississippi River system. But even this week, Michigan residents were reminded of the danger when a new threat — the New Zealand mudsnail — appeared for the first time in branch of the Au Sable River.
To combat new invasive threats, the 30-year plan calls for increased use of new detection technologies such as eDNA and improved public education efforts.
Officials in the Office of the Great Lakes, an arm of Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality, have worked for several years to help compile and streamlining the 30-year approach.
Director Jon Allan said what his department has come up with is something beyond simply a new set of government directives — they are the result of hundreds of meetings with civilian stakeholders.
“We believe this strategy is not only the vision of, or solely the vision of, government,” he said. “But we believe it to be the vision of the people of Michigan... We’ve tried to reflect on is what the state (residents) had told us they want us to work on and what they want to work on.”
Friday’s appearance in Harrison Township came with a piece of good news for residents in the Macomb County area and all along the water way from Port Huron south to Detroit.
U.S. Rep. Candice Miller, R-Harrison Township, was on-hand Friday as well and announced the 30-year plan would include the restoration of a real-time drinking water monitoring system that used to be in place in that stretch — include checkpoints along the St. Clair River, Lake St. Clair and down the length of the Detroit River.
That system was put in place in 2006 but has since become inoperative due to a lack of funding.
“This plan is calling for it to be refurbished and upgrade and be part of an entire chain all the way down to Lake Erie,” Miller said.