First came the floods. Sewer water gushed up from drains and onto the streets of Dearborn Heights. The river rose into nearby neighborhoods.
Then came the stories. Basements flooded and molded. Thousands of dollars and cherished possessions were lost—furniture, heating systems, the keepsakes of lost relatives.
And all the while, often unseen, came the pollution. Overburdened sewer systems pumped contaminated water into the open. Floodwater picked up pesticides, heavy metals, motor oils. All of it traveled through communities, emptying into lakes, streams, drinking water, and the homes of both people and wildlife.
Then, weeks later, as these places were drying out, it all began again.
But not everywhere. In the midst of recent historic flooding, hundreds of rain barrels directed heavy stormwater away from yards and basements, and scores of gardens absorbed rain to keep office cubicles and classrooms dry.
This is the work of Friends of the Rouge, a nonprofit using local, low-cost, high-impact projects to help raise the grade of our aging infrastructure in the face of climate change and pollution threats.
Stronger statewide systems
Thanks to member groups like Friends of the Rouge, communities across Michigan have better infrastructure. That, in turn, means they're better protected against flooding and pollutants.
Friends of the Rouge is helping prevent neighborhood flooding. Healthy Pine River is advocating for safer septic systems. Legacy Land Conservancy is protecting local wetlands that absorb floods and fossil fuel emissions.
The Environmental Council wants to take the impactful ideas and projects of its member groups and apply them at a statewide scale. We want to take our patchwork approach to infrastructure and make it a quilt.
Michigan, like all of the United States, has a "D" rating for its infrastructure. In this face of climate change, the Flint Water Crisis, and historic pollution spills, we need big, bold actions to raise the grade.
Member groups are doing just that at the local level. Friends of the Rouge is limiting neighborhood flooding. Healthy Pine River is advocating for safer septic systems. Legacy Land Conservancy is protecting local wetlands that absorb floods and fossil fuel emissions.
We want to take the good work of our members and adapt their policies across the state. We want to turn our effective-yet-patchwork approach to safe, protective infrastructure and make it a quilt. To do so, we advocate for:
- Spending part of Michigan's surplus budget on water infrastructure upgrades
- Creating a statewide septic code to prevent waste leaking into water
- Creating local government grants for green stormwater infrastructure and climate resilience planning
- Building out tree cover in urban areas
- Forming a member group coalition around "green" infrastructure policies
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