Freshwater Weekly: January 22, 2021

Posted on January 22, 2021 by

January 22, 2021

This week: Toledo Artificial Intelligence Effort to Remove Lead Pipes Featured in WIRED + Biden-Harris Administration Acts to Address Public Health and Racial Equity + Wisconsin DNR Set Fish Consumption Advisory for Lake Superior Smelt + Minnesota Introduces Strict Mining Bill + Freshwater Future Grants Available-Deadline March 31 

Toledo Project Using Artificial Intelligence to Locate Lead Pipes Featured in WIRED Magazine

A partnership project with the City of Toledo, BlueConduit, Freshwater Future, and Toledo community water council to use artificial intelligence and resident input to locate lead pipes and reduce lead in drinking water was recently featured in WIRED magazine.

The price tag for upgrading water systems and removing lead piping is hefty, approximately $3,000 – $10,000 per home, with a portion of this cost attributed to the trial and error in locating lead lines. BlueConduit uses an algorithm to help municipalities better identify where lead pipes are, reducing costs and speeding up the process to ensure safe water is delivered. 

Freshwater Future’s Alexis Smith, quoted in the WIRED article states, “One appeal of Toledo’s approach is the input from residents, as well as the algorithms.”  Freshwater Future will work with community partners to get the message out about the risks of lead in water and how to properly flush and filter water.

Biden-Harris Administration Acts to Address Public Health and Racial Equity  

The newly elected Biden-Harris Administration will review over 100 Executive Orders from the previous administration related to addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, providing economic relief, tackling climate change, and advancing racial equity.  Freshwater Future Executive Director, Jill Ryan states, “We urge the administration to restore public health and environmental laws that are critical to protecting drinking water and our waterways, as well as giving our federal agencies the tools and funding to protect us.”

Wisconsin DNR Set Fish Consumption Advisory for Lake Superior Smelt 

Smelt collected in Lake Superior last spring and fall near the Apostle Islands National Park showed high levels of PFAS contamination resulting in the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources establishing a fish consumption advisory of one meal a month.  The family of toxic chemicals called PFAS have been used since the 1940s in nonstick cookware, food packaging, and firefighting foams.  Health risks from PFAS exposure include immune and reproductive impacts, kidney and bladder cancer, and many other concerns.  More must be done to address the environmental and public health impacts of these legacy pollutants. Freshwater Future will keep you posted on this issue and future solutions.

Minnesota Legislators Introduce State and Federal Mining Bills

The easy to mine copper and iron veins in the upper Great Lakes region, known as the Iron Age, are gone.  The remaining trace minerals found in sulfur-bearing rock require a more intensive and destructive process, referred to as hard-rock or sulfide mining.  When sulfur-bearing ore is exposed to water (or oxygen) a chemical reaction occurs creating sulfuric acid.  With concerns about the potential impacts from this process, Minnesota legislators introduced two strict mining bills aimed at protecting water from mining pollution.  One of the bills prohibits mining on federal lands in the Rainy River Watershed and the other forces companies to prove pollution-free mining, a “prove it first” bill. 

Working to Protect Water? Apply for a Spring Project Grant-Due March 31

The work of protecting or improving our drinking water, rivers, lakes, wetlands, shorelines, and groundwater in the Great Lakes region depends on involved community members like you. Are you working to ensure access to safe, affordable drinking water or protecting a water source? If so, check-out Freshwater Future’s 2021 grant opportunities guidelines to see if your organization is eligible.  Visit our website for additional information:


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Images courtesy of Steven Huyser-Honig,
West Grand Boulevard Collaborative, & Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve.