The Great Lakes at risk

In the last decade, polluter-driven Supreme Court decisions left more than half of Michigan's streams and hundreds of acres of wetlands vulnerable to pollution and development. And it’s not just small streams and wetlands that suffer—these waterways are the same ones that feed Lake Michigan, Lake Superior, and the rest of the Great Lakes and help to keep them clean.

The Great Lakes are part of what makes life here so great. We should be able to swim, fish, boat or otherwise enjoy our waters, knowing that they are protected from toxic dumping and irresponsible development.

Polluters poke holes in Clean Water Act

For 40 years, the Clean Water Act has helped Michigan — and states across the nation — care for and clean up our waterways. Thanks in large part to this groundbreaking law, rivers are no longer so polluted that they catch fire, as Ohio’s Cuyahoga infamously did in 1969. Still, much work remains to be done. An estimated 24 billion gallons of untreated sewage have been flowing into the Great Lakes each year, causing more than 3,000 beach closings in 2009 alone. And in 2010 alone, nearly 2.2 million pounds of toxic pollution were dumped into Michigan's waterways. We need to do more to protect our waters—not less.

Unfortunately, over the past decade, polluters and irresponsible developers used the courts the put Clean Water Act protections in legal limbo, arguing that the law doesn't cover the smaller streams and wetlands that feed and clean Lake Huron, Lake Superior, and the rest of the Great Lakes. They tried to throw out nearly 40 years of Clean Water Act protection, leaving polluting industries free to dump into our streams and pave over our wetlands without asking for permission.

The biggest clean water victory in decades

Since 2006, we have been urging Congress to protect the Great Lakes by simply declaring that the Clean Water Act applies to all of Michigan's—and America’s—waters. But, stymied at every turn by industry lobbyists and powerful special interests, we turned instead to the Environmental Protection Agency for action.

Together with our allies across the country, we submitted more than 170,000 petitions to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, urging her to restore protections to all of our waters and cut sewage pollution. And in April of 2011, she announced a plan to do just that.

But polluters’ allies in Congress won’t give up—and now they’re threatening to stop the EPA from doing its job. At the same time, powerful corporate interests are preparing for battle: ExxonMobil threatened “legal warfare” if the EPA moves forward with its plan to restore Clean Water Act protections

Our plan to defend the Great Lakes

It is clear that if polluters win, the Great Lakes will be less protected. We know that we can’t compete with their lobbyists dollar for dollar. But the public is with us—and if we can prove that to our elected officials, we can win.

That's why we’re bringing together Michiganders from all walks of life to protect the Great Lakes. We all have a stake in keeping our water clean

Our citizen outreach staff has been knocking on doors across the state, educating Michiganders about what’s at stake. So far, we've joined with our sister organizations and allies to deliver more than 100,000 public comments in support of clean water.

If we’re going to push past ExxonMobil and other powerful polluters, we’re going to need everyone who cares about the Great Lakes to get involved. Join our campaign by urging our leaders to protect all our streams and wetlands here in Michigan and across the country.

Join our campaign by sending your legislators a message today.


Clean Water Updates

Report | Environment Michigan Research and Policy Center

Wasting Our Waterways: Toxic Industrial Pollution and the Unfulfilled Promise of the Clean Water Act

Industrial facilities continue to dump millions of pounds of toxic chemicals into America’s rivers, streams, lakes and ocean waters each year — threatening both the environment and human health. According to the EPA, pollution from industrial facilities is responsible for threatening or fouling water quality in more than 10,000 miles of rivers and more than 200,000 acres of lakes, ponds and estuaries nationwide.

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Report | Earthjustice, Environment America, Clean Water Action, National Wildlife Federation, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, and Southern Environmental Law Center

Courting Disaster: How the Supreme Court Has Broken the Clean Water Act and Why Congress Must Fix It

For decades, the Clean Water Act protected the Nation’s surface water bodies from unregulated pollution and rescued them from the crisis status they were in during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Now these vital protections are being lost. This report details the threat to our Nation’s waters by examining dozens of case studies, and highlights the urgent need for Congress to restore full Clean Water Act protections to our waters.

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Report | Environment America

Our Great Waters

To restore and protect our great waters, Environment Michigan is calling on Congress to pass legislation this summer that will reduce pollution, increase investments in restoration efforts, and protect our most treasured places for generations to come. This report highlights the following eight waters across the country that are in the most need of increased protections and immediate restoration efforts: Long Island Sound, Chesapeake Bay, the Gulf of Mexico, Lake Tahoe, the Puget Sound, the Columbia River, the San Francisco Bay and the Great Lakes.

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Report | Environment America Research & Policy Center

Corporate Agribusiness & America's Waterways

Pollution from agribusiness is responsible for some of America’s most intractable water quality problems – including the “dead zones” in the Chesapeake Bay, Gulf of Mexico and Lake Erie, and the pollution of countless streams and lakes with nutrients, bacteria, sediment and pesticides.

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Report | Environment Michigan Research & Policy Center

Growing Influence: The Political Power of Agribusiness and the Fouling of America's Waterways

The agribusiness lobby is well known as one of the most powerful in Washington, D.C., and many states. Less well known is the fact that big agribusiness interests are among the largest roadblocks to cleaner water for the American people.

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