Summer Edition | September 1, 2020
Great Lakes-St. Lawrence News for Legislators
GLLC Member News
#2020GLLC Virtual Meetings

The members of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Legislative Caucus will be gathering virtually during four Zoom meetings starting September 11 at 9 am CDT/10 am EDT. All four meetings are free and open to GLLC members, staff, and anyone else with an interest in the Great Lakes and water quality. Registration is free but required to receive the link to join the meetings.

The series will kick off with "Four Years After Flint - Assuring Access to Safe, Affordable Drinking Water." The session will feature Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha (right), renowned pediatrician from Flint, Michigan, and Elin Betanzo of Safe Water Engineering. Attendees will hear from Dr. Hanna-Attisha about her research and what the implications might be for state and provincial policies to assist children and their families. In addition, Ms. Betanzo will share information on how states and provinces are acting on the lessons learned from Flint to develop policies and to make critical investments to assure that their citizens have access to clean, safe, affordable drinking water. This session will examine what more needs to be done to reduce the population’s exposure to lead in drinking water — and how GLLC members can help.

Other sessions in the #2020GLLC Virtual Meetings series include:
  • September 21: Meeting Binational Goals - Improving the Management of Nutrients in the Region;
  • October 2: Forever Chemicals - Responding to the Contamination of Drinking Water with PFAS; and
  • October 9: Regional Partnership Opportunities - Building Resilient Communities, Coastal Priorities, and the Great Lakes Investment Platform.

Each session will start at 9 am CDT/10 am EDT. In addition to the featured presentation, the meetings will include GLLC business such as resolutions and the election of a new leadership team for 2021-2022. To learn more about the virtual meetings, visit the GLLC website. To register for any or all of the virtual meetings, an online registration form is available.
Call for Resolutions

The GLLC will consider member-sponsored resolutions during the October 9 virtual meeting. In accordance with the GLLC's procedures, all proposed resolutions should have regional significance, address an issue that is timely and/or of pressing concern to the Great Lakes region, delineate desired outcomes, and include specific directions for follow-up action by GLLC staff. The GLLC Executive Committee must approve all resolutions before they are forwarded to the full membership for consideration. Approved resolutions will be shared with GLLC members for review on October 2. Unless otherwise specified, all resolutions adopted by the GLLC automatically sunset three years after their adoption.

Any duly enrolled member of the GLLC may propose a resolution for consideration. The deadline for submitting draft resolutions is Friday, September 18. Submit resolutions and/or relay all questions to GLLC Director Lisa Janairo.
2020 Election of GLLC Officers, Executive Committee

The GLLC Executive Committee has received and accepted the Nominating Committee's recommendation of a slate of candidates for election as GLLC officers and members of the Executive Committee to serve in 2021-2022. GLLC members will vote on the new leadership team during the virtual meeting on October 9. The newly elected officers and Executive Committee members will begin their two-year terms of office on January 1, 2021.

The Executive Committee consists of elected members representing each of the 10 jurisdictions in the region, the GLLC chair and vice chair, past chairs, and the chairs of all GLLC task forces and committees. Information on the current Executive Committee is available on the GLLC website.
Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Appreciation Day

On September 7, the GLLC will once again observe Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Appreciation Day — a practice begun by the Caucus in 2019. The date marks the anniversary of the U.S. and Canada signing the revised Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, which set out “a shared vision for a healthy and prosperous Great Lakes region, in which the waters of the Great Lakes enhance the livelihoods of present and future generations of Americans and Canadians." Members of the GLLC Executive Committee are working to pass joint resolutions and/or coordinating with their governors' offices on proclamations acknowledging the occasion. The Caucus also is coordinating with other Great Lakes groups to join in the celebration. This year, September 7 falls on Labor Day in both the U.S. and Canada, so it'll be a great opportunity for people throughout the region to celebrate the lakes.

On September 7, or leading up to the day, GLLC members are encouraged to use social media to call attention to the importance and value of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River to the region's people, economy, and environment. Members who take part in the social media campaign are encouraged to use #GLSLAD and #GLSLAppreciation Day and to mention @GLLCaucus.
Developments Related to GLLC Policy Agenda
Water Consumption
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer released the 2019 State of the Great Lakes report in August, touting the state’s myriad actions, including efforts to ensure safe drinking water by regulating PFAS chemicals and actions on lead removal.

Among those efforts, the report noted the Department of Environment, Great Lakes & Energy “became the first state department in the nation to implement a statewide program to test all public water supplies across several phases of sampling” and was in the process of finalizing rules to establish maximum contaminant levels (MCLs) for seven PFAS compounds in approximately 2,700 water supplies.

The GLLC’s Task Force on Lead is winding down its work after spending the past two years developing model policies for reducing the population's exposure to lead in drinking water. On September 11, during the Caucus's first virtual meeting, Sen. Curt VanderWall (Michigan) will report on the task force's activities, including the model policies developed by the group and plans for legislative action in 2021. As noted above, the session will feature Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha and Elin Betanzo, who discovered and called attention to the Flint Water Crisis. See information on all four sessions and register for the free meetings on the GLLC website.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, so do many water utility shutoff moratoria. Others, however, have expired. Among Great Lakes states, according to the National Energy Assistance Directors Association, New York, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin were maintaining their state-ordered moratoria at the end of August while those in Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan had expired. (Minnesota and Ohio had voluntary moratoria.) New York has the longest timeframe for suspensions, lasting 180 days after the emergency ends (March 31, 2021, at the latest). Unless they’re renewed, Pennsylvania’s and Wisconsin's moratoria will expire on September 6 and October 1, respectively.
Nutrient Pollution
2020 has finally produced some good news: Lake Erie’s annual algae bloom has not been as damaging or disruptive as in 2019, according to local news reports.

In July, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted western Lake Erie’s Harmful Algae Bloom would measure 4.5 on the agency’ severity index, compared to last year’s bloom, which measured 7.3. (The index has a scale of 1 to 10, with anything above 5 being a severe bloom.)

The Fremont (Ohio) News Messenger quoted Ottawa County Sanitary Engineer Kelly Frey citing this spring’s reduced rainfall as the probable reason: "We didn't have the high levels of phosphorus coming off the fields," Frey told the newspaper on August 7.

Last year, nutrient pollution was the focus of the GLLC's inaugural Patricia Birkholz Institute for Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Policy, which launched the Caucus's Task Force on Nutrient Management. During the #2020GLLC Virtual Meeting on September 21, Wisconsin Sen. André Jacque chairs the Task Force and will report on the model policies that the group developed over the past year, as well as plans for action in 2021. In addition, Santina Wortman from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Great Lakes National Program Office will speak about binational progress in meeting the nutrient-related goals of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. See information on all four sessions and register on the GLLC web page for the meetings.

More information on the Task Force on Nutrient Management can be found on the Nutrient Pollution page on the GLLC website.
Aquatic Invasive Species
Great Lakes advocates lauded U.S. House passage of two bills in late July that they say would help advance a project in Illinois that aims to stop the introduction and spread of Asian carp and other aquatic invasive species.

The Water Resources Development Act (H.R. 7575) provides authorization for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Brandon Road Lock and Dam project, at a cost of $863 million.

The Army Corps requires a non-federal partner to pay a portion of a project’s costs, which include feasibility studies, construction, and operation and maintenance. The share of construction costs is often 35 percent for the non-federal partner; however, the recently passed House bill provides an 80:20 split (federal vs. non-federal).

According to the Alliance for the Great Lakes, a second piece of House-passed legislation — an appropriations bill covering several spending areas — includes language urging the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers to fund the next phase of work at Brandon Road Lock and Dam. (That phase is preconstruction, engineering, and design.)

Along with federal movement on the project, progress is needed at the state level — for example, agreement on how to pay for the non-federal share. In addition, the Alliance for the Great Lakes notes that Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker must sign the Design Agreement allowing the Army Corps to proceed to the project’s next phase.

Located on the Des Plaines River in Joliet, Illinois, Brandon Road Lock and Dam is part of the Chicago Area Waterway System, a mix of natural and engineered waterways that connect the Mississippi River and Lake Michigan. This system is the most likely pathway for Asian carp to reach the Great Lakes. Members of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Legislative Caucus visited the facility last September as part of the 2019 Annual Meeting in Chicago.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has studied various options and technologies for preventing the upstream movement of aquatic invasive species, and it has identified a mix of new controls at Brandon Road: a new electric barrier, an acoustic fish deterrent, an air bubble curtain, and a flushing lock.

Toxic Substances
Indiana rebukes ArcelorMittal over lab tests

Indiana officials in August ordered Belgian steelmaker ArcelorMittal to immediately fix their water sampling and handling procedures after inspections of the company’s Burns Harbor plant found violations.

In an August 12 letter, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management said it rated as “unsatisfactory” both the company’s self-monitoring program and its “duty to provide information” to state officials following announced inspections in June and July, and ordered ArcelorMittal to respond within 15 days.

In a 2019 equipment failure, the plant spilled cyanide and ammonia-nitrogen into a ditch leading to the Little Calumet River; that spill killed 3,000 fish, closed beaches and forced the temporary closure of a nearby water treatment plant.

A Northwest Indiana PostTribune story noted that the August report is the third inspection since then on the facility’s environmental sampling program, including others that accused the company of manipulating lab results, which it denied.

ArcelorMittal was sued in December 2019 by the Environmental Law and Policy Center and Hoosier Environmental Council under the Clean Water Act, citing more than 100 other violations at Burns Harbor in recent years. The lawsuit is pending in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana.

Wisconsin panel delays approval of new PFAS regulations

The Wisconsin Natural Resources Board on August 12 voted unanimously to delay approving a rule to set guidelines on containment and disposal of PFAS chemicals, citing concerns from industry groups and Republican lawmakers objecting to the Department of Natural Resources’ proposed standards for the amount of PFAS allowed in wastewater.

With the rule now tabled until the board’s September 22 meeting, Act 101 – which restricts the use of fluorinated foams to emergency situations and testing facilities that the DNR determines to have “appropriate containment, treatment and disposal measures” – takes effect September 1 without definitions of those containment and disposal measures.

The law requires the DNR to adopt emergency rules by September 7 that will remain in effect for three years or until the agency can adopt permanent rules.

Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, Wisconsin Paper Council, Wisconsin Water Alliance, and other groups claim, however, that the DNR does not have the authority to limit the amount of PFAS in wastewater.

PFAS will be the subject of the October 2 session of the #2020GLLC Virtual Meetings, featuring Liesl Eichler Clark, director of Michigan’s Department of Environment, Great Lakes & Energy. See information on all four sessions and register on the GLLC website.

A new problem on the horizon?

As if PFAS aren’t problematic enough, micro- and nanoplastics are so pervasive that they have now been detected in human tissue, researchers announced in August at the American Chemical Society’s Fall 2020 Virtual Meeting & Expo, the website reported.

Microplastics are defined as plastic fragments less than 5 millimeters in diameter; nanoplastics are fragments with diameters less than 0.001 mm.

According to, previous studies have shown that plastics can pass through the human gastrointestinal tract, but researchers Charles Rolsky and Varun Kelkar (graduate students in the lab of Prof. Rolf Halden at Arizona State University) wondered if the tiny particles accumulate in human organs.

To find out, they examined 47 samples taken from lungs, liver, spleen, and kidneys— organs likely to be exposed to, filter, or collect microplastics. The team developed a procedure to extract plastics from the samples and analyze them by μ-Raman spectrometry; they were able to detect dozens of types of plastic components within human tissues, including Bisphenol A (BPA), polycarbonate (PC), polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and polyethylene (PE).

When paired with a previously developed mass spectrometry assay, plastic contamination was detected in every sample, the website reported.
Coastal Communities
Eroding shorelines, warming water temperatures, and more frequent, higher-intensity storm events — these are among the realities of climate change and its current and future impacts on the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence region. How can states and provinces respond to these threats and help their communities weather the storm? By collaborating on a region-wide basis to stem the tide — both figuratively and literally.

One such collaboration is led by the Great Lakes Commission's (GLC) Standing Committee on Climate Resilience. At the commission's invitation, the GLLC joined the standing committee earlier this summer. The committee brings together Great Lakes stakeholders from throughout the basin to carry out the recommendations in the "Framework for Action" developed in January 2020 by the GLC's Special Committee on Climate Resilience. Organizing the standing committee was the first of seven recommendations in the "Framework;" the standing committee has been meeting via videoconference for the past few months to carry out the remaining six recommendations. GLLC Director Lisa Janairo currently represents the GLLC on the standing committee; in addition, GLLC members Sen. Ann Rest and Sen. Carrie Ruud — both from Minnesota -— serve on the standing committee in their capacity as GLC commissioners.

To date, the standing committee has developed a definition of climate resilience and is working on refining a "Great Lakes Action Plan for Climate Resilience" to share with the commissioners. The action plan will drive the development of a suite of products to help the region withstand, adapt to, and recover from the impacts of climate change. The draft action plan prioritizes actions to protect people, property, and infrastructure, support decision-making at the local and the regional levels, engage private- and public-sector partners, and coordinate, communicate, and share knowledge throughout the basin. All deliverables are scheduled to be completed in 2020, with future action creating opportunities for the GLLC to partner on an ongoing basis with the commission as well as other Great Lakes organizations.
To learn more about the commission's work on climate resilience and the opportunities for GLLC members to get involved, tune in to the #2020GLLC Virtual Meeting on October 9.
Legislative Trackers
The GLLC monitors federal, state, and provincial legislation on issues related to water quality in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River region. Several of these pieces of legislation are referenced in this newsletter. GLLC members and other legislators are encouraged to send their bills for posting to

View the updated trackers here:

GLLC Events
Mark your calendars for these GLLC events! Unless otherwise noted, all events are open to anyone who wishes to attend. Registration is required for all events. Registration for GLLC web meetings opens one month prior to the event.
About the GLLC
The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Legislative Caucus (GLLC) is a binational, nonpartisan organization that exists solely for the purpose of engaging state and provincial legislators in the policymaking process related to the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River. Secretariat services are provided by The Council of State Governments Midwestern Office. Financial support is provided in part by The Joyce Foundation and the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation. The GLLC's work on nutrient pollution is funded in part by the Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Family Foundation.

For more information about the Caucus, visit the GLLC website or contact Lisa Janairo, GLLC Director, at or 920.458.5910.