Toledo has a two-pronged water problem. The first is local, and, if we are smart, regional. We need a better functioning water treatment system.
The second problem is the restoration of Lake Erie to health.
We need to look at the lake as a national resource and its restoration as a national imperative.
Here, we are lucky, because our representative to Congress — indeed, Lake Erie’s — is Marcy Kaptur. She is one of the most senior, powerful, and wise members of Congress.
And yet, she is ours. She was deeply involved in the water crisis. Involved as a Toledoan — a neighbor.
I have never known of a congressman with such an intimate connection with his or her district. Miss Kaptur took the water crisis personally. She was harshly critical of officials for not releasing the bacterial test results — safe or unsafe to drink the water — to the public. I think she was right about that, and I still haven’t heard a good explanation of why we were not given the numbers that came from the various labs at various times.
Finally, Miss Kaptur has made Lake Erie issues a focus of her work in Congress for decades. She knows the issues and knows where and how to get us help from the feds. She is uniquely positioned to help lead us through this crisis.
I spoke with Miss Kaptur twice last week — the second time, about what our next steps should be. She hesitated for about a second.
“First, short-term,” she said, “we need scientific protocols in place in all the lakefront communities.” She reminded me she represents several, not just one.
“The intermediate step is that we should be able to do our own testing and not have to send to Columbus or Cincinnati.” She favors setting up at the Stone Laboratory at the Ohio State Sea Grant facility or UT’s Lake Erie Center.
“The third step, and the real answer, is a tristate Western Lake Erie Basin Authority,” with real teeth and real funding, which she warns will must be considerable. There is a “partnership” now, but there must be an authority, like the TVA, “to set goals and implement them” for the lake in behalf of the three states bordering it. Miss Kaptur is drafting federal legislation now and is looking for help from other members of Congress from Ohio. She warns that this is no time to be trapped by ideology. We have to save the lake.
She also says it is no time for “further study.” “We’ve got the data,” she said, “we need action.”
I have a friend who is a conservative Republican. She told me: “Marcy is the only politician who came off well last week.” Miss Kaptur is uniquely positioned to help lead us through this.
Keith C. Burris is a columnist for The Blade.
Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6266.