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Last night in Ohio the fourth Democratic debate covered issues from health care, gun control and abortion to the Turkish invasion of Syria. What's clear: Sen. Elizabeth Warren has replaced former VP Joe Biden as the centerstage target.

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Great Lakes Advocates Press Democratic Candidates on Clean Water

Algal blooms, like this one in Monroe in 2011, are one example of water quality problems in the Great Lakes region. (NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory/Wikimedia Commons)
Algal blooms, like this one in Monroe in 2011, are one example of water quality problems in the Great Lakes region. (NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory/Wikimedia Commons)
July 26, 2019

DETROIT – As the Democratic candidates gather in Detroit next week for the second round of debates, the Healing Our Waters Great Lakes Coalition is pressing them to make clean water a top priority.

Some 30 million Americans depend on the Great Lakes for drinking water – and yet massive problems plague multiple cities, from lead in Flint to P-FAS contamination in Grand Rapids, to widespread harmful algal blooms and sewage overflows.

Monica Lewis-Patrick, president and CEO of We The People Detroit, says the next administration must make sure Americans can trust the water coming out of their taps.

"And mothers are making bottles with that toxic water, pregnant mothers are digesting that toxic water, and seniors are drinking that toxic water? Then I say we've already failed as a country, in terms of meeting our obligation to the American people," says Lewis-Patrick.

The coalition of 160 local groups wants each candidate to support a budget of $475 million a year for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. And they want the U.S. President to uphold, enforce and strengthen clean water protections.

The groups also are calling on Congress to triple funding to fix drinking water and wastewater infrastructure. Laura Rubin, director of the Healing Our Waters Great Lakes Coalition, says clean water is a basic human right.

"There is not a single issue in this election that is more important than the fact that in 2019 in the United States of America, there are millions of people who do not have access to clean, safe, and affordable water for themselves, their families and their children,” says Rubin. “That is unacceptable."

The group says in recent years, many local water agencies have doubled and tripled people's monthly bills, which has led to water shutoffs for thousands of low-income families. A study from the U.S. Water Alliance found that as of 2014, the federal government is paying only 9% of water infrastructure costs – leaving local communities to shoulder the rest.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - MI