We all know that Michigan is a special place. Our “Pure Michigan” natural beauty has made it possible for us all to create our own fond memories of fishing with our grandparents, biking through a hidden trail or enjoying the beach with friends. It’s natural that we expect our children, and their children after them, to have the same opportunity to enjoy these natural splendors and make their own special memories like we did.
Unfortunately, over the past eight years of mismanagement and prioritizing corporate profits over the well-being of our state, that future seems increasingly untenable.
We’ve all heard of the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) — a state agency tasked with protecting Michigan’s air, land and water resources — approving a permit to allow a foreign corporation to nearly double the amount of our freshwater they pump out to sell back to us as bottled water, all for only $200 a year. The DEQ allows 130 million gallons a year to pass into the hands of a corporation who is not paying their fair share.
The state’s preference for corporations over people continued last month when the legislature voted on bills that would allow wealthy CEOs to sit on panels to oversee the rule-making and permit approval process of the DEQ. Rather than providing solutions for a department whose credibility, trustworthiness and accountability continues to plummet, we instead voted on bills that would further rig the rules in favor of corporate interests rather than the Michigan residents we represent.
The Great Lakes State simply hasn’t been living up to its name lately.
In Western and Northern Washtenaw County, part of the district I represent, we have been struggling with our own water issues for more than 40 years. In 1984 it was discovered a corporation had been dumping the toxin 1,4 dioxane into the groundwater outside of Ann Arbor for decades. It has since spread to surrounding communities, contaminating our groundwater. Households throughout Washtenaw County have had their water infected by the plume as it continues to spread, destroying wells and property values alike.
This problem is an environmental disaster moving in slow motion, and it requires robust, pro-active solutions from the DEQ to halt its progress and reverse the damage before it’s too late. Yet since its discovery, the city has been embroiled in a series of court battles in an effort to hold this corporate polluter accountable for contaminating our drinking water, and there is still no end in sight.
The time to act is now. Scio Township, Washtenaw County, Kent County, Grayling, Oscoda Township, Flint — the Great Lakes State doesn’t have any more time to waste. Working families should have the freedom they need to build the life they want, and that includes having access to safe, clean water.
I voted against the package of bills to put wealthy corporations in the driver’s seat at the DEQ. I am proud to instead support legislation that would prevent corporations from removing water from the Great Lakes watershed, and I support imposing an excise tax on corporations that bottle our groundwater to sell back to us. But until we begin holding corporate polluters accountable and strengthen our laws, our precious natural resources will continue to degrade.
It’s time to help the working people of Michigan get ahead, and that starts by ensuring they have access to water, our most basic resource.
As the Great Lakes State, water is at the core of our identity. Let’s make sure it stays that way.
State Representative Donna Lasinski (D-Scio Township) who represents Michigan’s 52nd House District. Rep. Lasinski can be reached by email at DonnaLasinski@house.mi.gov.