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Presidential Candidates Asked to Address Great Lakes' Water

The Superior Hiking Trail, located on Minnesota’s North Shore is a 310-mile footpath that follows the ridge line overlooking Lake Superior. (
The Superior Hiking Trail, located on Minnesota’s North Shore is a 310-mile footpath that follows the ridge line overlooking Lake Superior. (
July 26, 2019

ST. PAUL, Minn. – When Democrats face off in Detroit next week for the second presidential debate, conservation groups would like to hear them commit to protecting the Great Lakes.

In a lead-up to the debates, a coalition of groups has released a five point platform that puts water at the top of the agenda for the 20 candidates. Laura Rubin, director of the Healing Our Waters Great Lakes Coalition, says the action plan would include a multibillion-dollar investment to fix drinking water and wastewater infrastructure.

"Whether it's toxic water or sewage in our water or flooding, you can't come and talk about economies and about health care without realizing that the underlying fact has to do with just access to clean drinking water," says Rubin.

The coalition is calling on candidates to support $475 million for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, a plan the Trump administration has tried trimming or eliminating for the last three years. They also want assurances that harmful lake algae will be reduced, and clean water protected.

Michigan's "Motor City" is about two hours south of Flint, where cost-cutting measures in 2012 led to a drinking water crisis that still isn't resolved. Andrew Slade with the Minnesota Environmental Partnership says more than 30 million people in nine states, including Minnesota, depend on the lakes for their drinking water.

"Even though we live right by these great big bodies of clean water, those water supplies are threatened, especially for marginalized communities,” says Slade. “So, we really are looking at the next president to take action to protect our Great Lakes."

Slade says the drinking water crisis in Flint shows that clean water isn't a partisan issue, and candidates need to address solutions for how to fix America's aging infrastructure.

"And a lot of these facilities that were built 30, 40 years ago are aging out, and also are using outdated technologies,” says Slade. “There's a dire need now for reinvesting and rebuilding that."

Like the first Democratic presidential debates, 10 candidates will share their views with a national television audience on July 30, and another 10 the following night, July 31.

Roz Brown, Public News Service - MN