By Andrea LaFontaine, State Representative
Clean, safe, drinking water seems to be something that we, as Americans, often take for granted. We live in a country that enjoys some of the safest drinking water in the world. However, what if tomorrow all of that changed, and without any prior detection, your drinking water was threatened by toxic solvent spills and chemical pollutants? If we keep continuing down our current path, that question could soon become reality. Here in this community, a problem that was once a water quality issue could grow into a disastrous quality of life issue.
It was seven years ago that this hypothetical situation actually happened in St. Clair County. One day, the drinking water was clean, safe and pure. The next day, 42,000 gallons of toxic solvents had leaked into the St. Clair River. The spill went undetected for some time and became a potential danger for millions of residents. Fortunately, in this case, the spill did not seep its way into our drinking water.
Since that toxic spill in 2004, state and federal grants totaling nearly $3.5 million have contributed to start up and operations costs for a water quality system that currently protects us. This system is state-of-the-art, not only significant to Michigan, but also one of a kind in the nation. I have to believe everyone understands the need for a system of this caliber protecting us from possible threats on the other side of the river.
Although $3.5 million in grants sounds great, we must keep in mind that those funds were awarded with the expectation that a long-term funding solution would be found. That is where our problem lies today, and we owe it to our children, grandchildren and future generations to ensure their quality of life and water quality are maintained.
Currently, the only solution offered at the state level is House Bill 4133, introduced by Rep. Kurt Heise, to allow the establishment of a Water Quality Alliance that would permit areas in Southeast Michigan to act as the administrator of the current monitoring system. The decision to participate in this alliance would be solely up to the municipalities.
We all know that sometimes government waits to address an issue until it is a full-blown crisis, and we may not be far from that. On this issue it is imperative that we work together to find a solution before time runs out and the monitors are shut off.
It’s estimated that for as little as $1 per year from every household that benefits from the monitors, the costs of this system could sustained. I’m curious to what local residents would think of a $1 surcharge on their water bill if it were guaranteed to be directly funding the functioning and operations of the water monitoring system. I am open and listening to all solutions, however not many have been offered. Please contact my office by e-mail at AndreaLaFontaine@house.mi.gov or call 1-866-DIST-032 with your thoughts.
Andrea LaFontaine (R-Columbus Township) represents Michigan House of Representatives District 32, which includes portions of northern Macomb and St. Clair counties.