CN May 10 2018

Scott Pruitt, upon assuming command of the EPA, apparently didn’t consider asking Cameron Davis to stay on. Davis had served nearly eight years as President Obama’s point person on Great Lakes issues, including coordinating the compact between the eight Great Lakes bordering states and the Lakes provinces of Canada. It was an agreement to preserve, protect and restore the greatest fresh-water resource on Planet Earth. But the new president attempted to de-fund it.

“We hear code words for how things should be like cooperative federalism,” Davis explains. That might sound kind of nice. Well cooperation is good, but what it essentially means is let’s push the obligation back to municipalities like the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, like the City of Chicago, like Cook County and the States. But the environment doesn’t really respect those jurisdictions does it?”

Davis proudly proclaims that the reduction or removal of deadly chemicals from the Great Lakes is well under way.

“I think in some ways the reduction in our toxic burden to the Great Lakes is one of our emerging success stories,” he asserts. “Over time we have reduced some of the toughest toxics out there like PCBs, sometimes by banning them, sometimes by regulating them very stiffly, but either way, for the most part we’ve seen toxic levels go down. Where we have work to do is on emerging contaminants, things like PBDEs, which are flame-retardants. We are seeing this new generation of contaminants show up in the Great Lakes and flame-retardants are built into furniture, they can be built into clothing and things like that, and those escape and get out there.”

But the newest threat, Davis explains, is tiny plastic fibers, sometimes called mirofibers, which seem to be everywhere in our water, including our drinking water.

“Yeah, so what we wear, we are wearing – fleece these days and nylon-based clothing. Whenever you do the wash that stuff doesn’t dissolve, it just breaks down into smaller and smaller bits… Just like you may see plastic bottles along the lakefront or in a river or something like that on a very microscopic scale this is the same issue. The plastics that we use in life don’t really break down for a long long time, they just go somewhere else…what goes on out there in the lakes and in our rivers is often a function of what we do on the land and how we live our lives.”

No longer a federal official, Cameron Davis has set his sights on the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District. He ran for, and won, a nomination to a Board seat in the election last March. Caused by the unforeseen death of a board member, the hurried election had to be conducted a s a write-in. Using skillful social media and some clever commercials, Davis and his friends convinced 54,183 people to write in his name.

“So the vote that just happened was for the primary and I’ve been certified by the County Clerk’s office now as the Democratic nominee for November, so I’m running in November. That’s the mission and I’m heading straight for it,” he exclaims.

There is an interesting wrinkle, however, because after a months-long delay Governor Rauner exercised his right to appoint an ally to the seat at almost the same time. So it isn’t clear if there actually will be a vacancy in November for Davis to fill.

He says that doesn’t faze him, however, because he beleives the MWRD is a critical institution. “MWRD is one of the, as other people have said least known most important agencies we have in this region,” Davis claims. “I actually think it’s one of the most important municipal water agencies anywhere in the world. It’s got a budget of 1.3-billion, which is maybe a fifth of what the entire USEPA budget is on an annual basis just for the Chicago metro region.”

Listen to the show in your earbuds at SoundCloud here.

Read the full transcript of this show here: CN transcript May 10 2018



About Ken

Ken's the host of Chicago Newsroom. A former news director, reporter and radio program host, he's also a past Vice President of the Chicago Headline Club.
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