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Clean-Water Advocates Encouraged by State-Level Activity

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers and legislative leaders have made clean water a priority for the Badger State. (Steve Johnson/Flickr)
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers and legislative leaders have made clean water a priority for the Badger State. (Steve Johnson/Flickr)
January 14, 2020

MADISON, Wis. -- More states might make clean water a priority in 2020, and Wisconsin is among them as lawmakers seek to protect residents from harmful chemicals and other contaminants.

A group of state lawmakers say they plan to seek approval of legislation that would invest millions of dollars in programs to help ensure Wisconsin has clean drinking water. The bipartisan panel made the announcement after gathering information in 2019.

Michael Kelly, director of commutations for the group Clean Water Action, said it's encouraging to see states take action in light of regulatory rollbacks at the federal level.

"At the federal level, [they've] really been implementing an agenda that in the end, if implemented, will put our water at risk, will put drinking water at risk," Kelly said.

Last fall, the Trump administration announced a repeal of a major Obama-era clean water regulation that limited the amount of pollution and chemicals in the nation's rivers, lakes, streams and wetlands. Environmentalists say that will substantially harm drinking-water sources.

In neighboring Minnesota, Gov. Tim Walz recently announced plans to spend $300 million in infrastructure upgrades for clean water. Kelly said while details still need to be worked out in a lot of these states, it provides hope that some policymakers are wanting to fill the void left at the federal level.

"Just to make that stance, make that statement and speak out and say 'we are actually going to act on this; we are gonna fill a void that has been left by the federal government' is really important," he said.

In Wisconsin, some of the proposals include increasing state funding for county land and water conservation workers, and increasing grants for rebuilding or replacing wells contaminated with nitrates.

Mike Moen, Public News Service - WI