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Candidates Pressed for Clean Water Policies

by Andrea Sears, Keystone State News Connection

Aug 01, 2019

Pennsylvania’s Lake Erie shore includes parks and natural areas that need protection to ensure water quality and preserve wildlife habitat.

HARRISBURG, Pa. – Environmental groups want the presidential candidates to lay out what they’ll do to clean up the Great Lakes and protect drinking water for 30 million Americans.

More than 160 local, state and national environmental organizations have joined together in the Healing Our Waters Great Lakes Coalition. They’ve sent a five-point platform to every major party candidate now running for president.

Jacquelyn Bonomo, president and CEO of the group PennFuture, notes that while Pennsylvania has only 63 miles of shoreline along Lake Erie, that shoreline has restoration projects that need funding, abandoned industrial sites that need remediation and natural areas that need protection.

“These are multimillion-dollar undertakings,” says Bonomo. “It’s essential that the presidential candidates pay very close attention to clean water in all of our great waters, and that includes Lake Erie.”

The coalition is calling on candidates to pledge to restore funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, currently set at $300 million, to its original $475 million level.

According to Kyle Rorah, acting director of public policy with the group Ducks Unlimited, over the past decade the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative has directed more than $2.4 billion to some 4,700 projects throughout the region. But much more needs to be done.

“There still remain 31 identified areas of concern in need of accelerated restoration work, 10 million acres of cropland in need of technical and financial assistance to improve nutrient management practices, and 210,000 acres of coastal wetland in need of protection or restoration actions,” says Rorah.

Other threats to water quality and human health include harmful algal blooms, and contamination by toxic chemicals, sewage and lead.

Another plank in the coalition’s presidential platform calls for tripling funding to fix drinking water and wastewater infrastructure. Coalition Director Laura Rubin points out that many Great Lakes cities and towns are living with unsafe drinking water.

“We need strong water protections and enforcement as well as federal funding, to ensure that every person has access to clean, safe and affordable drinking water,” says Rubin.

The full Healing Our Waters Great Lakes Coalition platform is online at ‘healthylakes.org.’

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