By Keith Fusinski
Michigan’s clean water infrastructure is failing residents of our state, just as the proposed 2018 budget would dismantle safe drinking water for a few hundred-million citizens nationwide. First and foremost, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is a human health agency. As part of its mission, the Agency ensures that the infrastructure that protects both people and the environment is in working order.
When Americans turn on the faucet, the water comes out and is usable. They cook and bathe without being contaminated. This is what separates America from other countries. We have a quality of life that Congress enacted laws to preserve. A fully funded EPA can protect human health and the environment. Recently, the U.S. House of Representatives presented draft legislation to cut U.S. EPA’s budget nearly 80 percent less than White House proposed, which had threatened underfunding to $2.6 billion. Either way, the EPA will lose one in four workers, and the public will suffer.
What lessons were learned by the Flint water crisis? The whole city was deprived of clean drinking water by a series of preventable errors in management, judgment, and appropriations. One of the central problems is the pipes themselves leaching lead into the drinking water at the tap. Today, at least four million U.S. households with children have high levels of lead exposure. The Centers for Disease Control declared, “no safe blood lead level in children has been identified. Lead exposure can affect nearly every system in the body.” U.S. EPA relies on water treatment with orthophosphate under its lead and copper rule, to prevent such leaching.
In November 2016, in response to the Flint crisis, EPA came out with a Drinking Water Acton Plan, which identified that over the next 20 years, nationally, the U.S. needs $384 billion investment in drinking water infrastructure to meet our country’s needs. In Michigan alone the drinking water needs are identified at $13.8 billion. And, there’s also $2.8 billion in wastewater needs. However, President Trump’s proposed budgets provides $853 million per year nationwide in drinking water infrastructure for all 50 states. The numbers don’t add up, and our crumbling infrastructure will continue to fail and make our families sicker.
The American Society of Civil Engineers reports that there are over 240,000 water main breaks per year in the U.S. However, finding out how many water main breaks occur on average in Michigan is not an easy issue. For some unknown reason, this basic data requires a Freedom of Information Act request through the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality website. Even the Detroit Water and Sewer Department does not track this information on an ongoing basis for public review. Either way, the system is failing. Under the guise of costs savings, profits are being placed above the health and safety of future generations. We must support America’s infrastructure before it fails us again. Tell your Member of Congress to reject the White House’s inadequate budget proposal. We need to fund the U.S. EPA to meet our state’s basic clean water necessities.