Clean water requires leadership in Lansing

Lisa Wozniak and Joel Brammeier

Tasked with protecting public health, clean water and natural resources, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality plays a critical role in assuring the safety and well-being of all Michigan residents.

That is why we recently joined with environmental and conservation leaders from across Michigan to call on Gov. Rick Snyder to appoint a new MDEQ director who can begin to rebuild the public’s trust in both the safety of our drinking water and the state agencies that are tasked with protecting us.

Late last year, Snyder’s Flint Water Advisory Task Force cited a culture of “technical compliance” at MDEQ leading to a “minimalist approach” that is “unacceptable and simply insufficient to the task of public protection.”

The first step to help make Michigan a national leader in guarding the health of its citizens and environment is the appointment of a permanent director who has the necessary environmental and public health expertise to put the MDEQ back on track.

The new MDEQ director must boldly commit the agency to making decisions based on human health, science and the enforcement of the law. When done right, protecting the environment and growing the economy go hand-in-hand. The new MDEQ director must put the health of Michiganders first — always.

The Michigan DEQ must become a strong defender of our most vulnerable communities. Flint is not the only community in Michigan where the health of its residents is being compromised by environmental factors beyond their control. The MDEQ must both acknowledge this chronic problem and commit to addressing it through words, actions and policy so that every Michiganian is protected.

Michigan must become a national leader in environmental protection. Bounded by nearly 20 percent of the world’s fresh surface water, Michigan ought to ensure that each drop of water in our lakes, rivers and pipes meets the highest standards of protection. Snyder has an opportunity to show that Michigan will go above and beyond what is legally required to ensure that Michigan leads the country in water stewardship.

There are no simple answers to the Flint crisis. But there is a way forward. It starts with a commitment by the governor to stand up for the health and well-being of every Michiganian. We urge Gov. Snyder to choose the right path in rebuilding leadership at MDEQ.

Lisa Wozniak is the executive director of the Michigan League of Conservation Voters.

Joel Brammeier is the president and CEO of Alliance for the Great Lakes.