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Report reveals economic revitalization follows investment in cleanup of polluted bodies of water

Lake Michigan photo
3bylunch via Wikimedia | CC BY 2.0

The International Association for Great Lakes Research has released its findings that cleaning up the most polluted areas of the Great Lakes has the most significant economic impact.

Our waters are for drinking, fishing and transportation. In the 1970’s, industry used and abused those waters. It got so bad, four American rivers caught fire. The Clean Waters Act was passed in 1972. Over the last 15 to 20 years, the U.S. Congress has budget roughly $20 billion for Great Lakes restoration.

“What would it mean for jobs and economic development if we spent that $20 billion dollars?”

John Austin is Director of the Michigan Economic Center and a Senior Fellow with Brookings Institution. It and others decided an economic impact study was in order investigating 25 of the most toxically fouled bodies of water.

“Whether it’s the Muskegon Lake or Cuyahoga River where it’s just dangerous. Those are the most expensive to cleanup. It’s the biggest piece of that Great Lakes restoration price tag. But when we made this economic argument that at that time said that for every dollar you spend is going to produce three dollars in economic development and new economic activity and jobs. We got the ball rolling. The federal government began, and congress passed, $2 or $3 billion has been spent since 2008 for Great Lakes cleanup. Again, the big-ticket items are these areas of concern. And there are ten that are reported on and what we’re seeing isn’t surprising. To enjoy water, to sit at a restaurant by the water, to having a hotel room overlooking the water or just a stroll along a beach or a waterfront or marina pier, the first thing the water’s got to not be toxic and dangerous and that big cleanup effort of these 10 communities has literally translated into billions of dollars in new economic development, new jobs, new activity, around those communities because they’re spectacular if you clean up the mess.”

Austin explains the growth of the Great Lakes Blue Economy is creating a region for smart water use, problem solving and technologies that grew out of the cleanup effort.

The full report can be found at iaglr.org/aocdocs/GreatLakesRevival-2019.pdf

Patrick Center, WGVU News.

Patrick joined WGVU Public Media in December, 2008 after eight years of investigative reporting at Grand Rapids' WOOD-TV8 and three years at WYTV News Channel 33 in Youngstown, Ohio. As News and Public Affairs Director, Patrick manages our daily radio news operation and public interest television programming. An award-winning reporter, Patrick has won multiple Michigan Associated Press Best Reporter/Anchor awards and is a three-time Academy of Television Arts & Sciences EMMY Award winner with 14 nominations.