BEACON OPINION: Whitmer Budget Makes Clean Water a Priority

Fixing the damn roads isn’t the only item on the agenda in Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s FY 2020 budget—her proposal also requests funding for several projects aimed at protecting Michiganders’ access to clean, safe drinking water.

Since she took office in January, Whitmer has made it clear that cleaning up Michigan’s water will be a major priority in her administration. On her first day as governor, she issued an executive order requiring state employees to immediately report any perceived threat to the public health, which many interpreted as a response to the Snyder administration’s botched response to lead contamination in Flint.

Whitmer followed that order up with a move to restructure the Michigan DEQ to focus more on clean water and an attempt to do away with “polluter panels” that allow business groups to undermine environmental protections, which was overturned by Republicans in the legislature. She has also urged the DEQ to start developing standards for PFAS in our drinking water. Now, she’s working to ensure this year’s budget will take steps toward cleaning up our water.

One of those steps is to help water suppliers replace pipes that violate the lead and copper regulations enacted under the Snyder administration, a goal for which Whitmer requests $375. million in funding. Companies are expected to comply with new standards by 2040, but directing state funds to these replacements could speed up the process.

The budget also includes $30 million in funding to prevent and study PFAS contamination, $40 million for grants to companies taking on infrastructure projects, and $60 million to install “hydration stations” to offer filtered water in schools across Michigan.

It’s no secret that our state has struggled with water issues in recent years. From the Snyder administration’s mishandling of Flint to the PFAS chemicals contaminating water sources across the state to lead pipes in Detroit’s public school buildings, too many Michiganders’ access to clean water has been threatened. The proposals in Whitmer’s budget would be a good first step toward fixing that.


Dana Sutton