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Public Health Experts, EJ Orgs. Gather to Urge Michigan Mayors To Turn Water On ASAP

Statewide #TurnWaterOn Collaborative Responds to Governor Gretchen’s Executive Order


Detroit, MI (April 2, 2020) – Michigan residents and public health experts are calling on Governor Gretchen Whitmer to work with her newly created Michigan Advisory Council for Environmental Justice (MAC EJ) to enforce the executive order she issued on March 28, 2020 to have water restored for all residences that were previously turned off. Michigan mayors and water service providers must ensure that residential water services are restored timely, transparently, and equitably. To remain in compliance with the order all residences’ must have water restored by April 12, 2020.

Detroit and Michigan have become national epicenters for the Coronavirus in the U.S. and the Governor and her administration must work quickly to restore life-saving resources, such as clean water. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as of Monday afternoon, the state ranked fourth in the nation in the number of confirmed cases per capita with 6,498 cases and 183 deaths.

“We thank Governor Whitmer for her leadership through the Executive Order to turn water on to all homes,” said Nick Leonard, Executive Director of the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center. “We also thank Governor Whitmer for the $2 million in grant funding for utilities to restore life-saving residential water services. Now we ask the Governor to use her own MAC EJ to ensure water is turned on right away to those suffering and unable to wash their hands.”

The MAC EJ was created to address ongoing environmental justice issues and was set up to have people that are impacted daily at the table to advise on critical environmental issues, like drinking water. MAC EJ was strategically crafted to provide opportunities for those on the frontlines to weigh in on environmental protections, regulations, and policies in Michigan that will be fair and meaningful to all Michiganders, regardless of geography, race, color, origin, or income.

“Without water to wash hands and food entering homes, COVID-19 will continue to spread,” said Nadia Gaber, MD/PhD Candidate at the University of California San Francisco. “One only need to look at a map of COVID-19 cases in Michigan to understand how vital access to clean, safe water is to public health.”

“While mayors of some Michigan cities put into place a moratorium on water shut offs and called for the restoration of residential water services over the last month; said Jill Ryan, Freshwater Future Executive Director, “turning on water to residents’ homes has been slow and the process unclear. Meanwhile, community members continue to suffer without access to clean, safe water in their homes.”

“I did not create the phrase DO NO HARM, but I took an oath upon graduating medical school to uphold it forever more. From a public health standpoint, depriving people of water is both deplorable and dangerous under the best of circumstances. In the face of this COVID19 pandemic it rises to the level of a criminal act. Not only does it put the affected person or family in grave danger, it also enables the contagion to spread like a wildfire endangering everyone in the community and country, like gasoline on a forest fire. Only when all of us fully comprehend our interrelatedness and interdependence, and act accordingly, will we have a bright future for all people – one wherein human compassion, decency, dignity, health and safety prevail,” said Wendy Sternberg, MD, Physician and Medical Strategist, Public Health Institute Ad Hoc Team and Founder and Executive Director, Genesis at the Crossroads.


Social Media

Sample Tweets: @GovWhitmer Thank you for ordering the water back on across Michigan, due to the urgency, please utilize the MACEJ to assist with transparency and reporting. #TurnWaterOn #KeepWaterOn #MakeWaterAffordable #CleanWaterSavesLives

{Your City’s Twitter Handle} #TurnWaterOn now so my neighbors can wash their hands and save lives. @GovWhitmer use the #MACEJ to ensure accountability and transparency, as #CleanWaterSavesLives. #KeepWaterOn #MakeWaterAffordable

Michigan water systems, both rural and urban, please ensure residents have water. Ensure people have water across Michigan. Please donate to local efforts at #TurnWaterOn #KeepWaterOn #MakeWaterAffordable #CleanWaterSavesLives

The faster water service is restored, the more lives can be saved! Thank you@GovWhitmer. #TurnWaterOn #KeepWaterOn #MakeWaterAffordable #CleanWaterSavesLives

{Your City’s Twitter Handle} The faster water service is restored, the more lives can be saved! @GovWhitmer use the MACEJ to track progress. #TurnWaterOn #KeepWaterOn #MakeWaterAffordable #CleanWaterSavesLives

Thank you @GovWhitmer for ordering water service restored. Municipalities, please move fast to save lives. Donate to local efforts at #TurnWaterOn #KeepWaterOn #MakeWaterAffordable #CleanWaterSavesLives

#TurnWaterOn quickly to save lives. @GovWhitmer, please use the MAC EJ to push for speedy response of municipalities. #KeepWaterOn #MakeWaterAffordable #CleanWaterSavesLives

#CleanWaterSavesLives donate to provide water until all water services are restored, #TurnWaterOn #KeepWaterOn #MakeWaterAffordable

Organization and Resource Links

We The People of Detroit -

Freshwater Future – htps://

Great Lakes Environmental Law Center -

Links from Teleconference participants


Jill M Ryan, Executive Director, Freshwater Future -

Jill Ryan received her bachelor's degree in biology from Grand Valley State University in Michigan, her master's degree in zoology from the University of Maine, and her law degree from Case Western Reserve University in Ohio. She has a background in nonprofit management and capacity building, environmental toxicology, and human services, and has taught environmental law and legal research. Jill has held positions with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and is now the Executive Director of Freshwater Future, where she has been since 2000. In addition to building Freshwater Future, Jill’s passion focuses on increasing grassroots capacity to protect waters in the Great Lakes region, including assisting with a variety of planning processes, board development, facilitation and bi-national collaborative efforts.

Monica Lewis-Patrick, President & CEO, We The People of Detroit -

Monica Lewis-Patrick (aka The Water Warrior) is an educator, entrepreneur, and human rights activist/advocate. She has served as Director of Community Outreach & Engagement since 2009. She was unanimously elected by the Board to become the President & CEO

Wendy Sternberg, MD -

Sternberg currently serves as a physician public health consultant and medical strategist now focused on the COVID19 pandemic. She independently holds a provisional patent for a combined anti-COVID19 vaccine and therapeutic.   She was a Chicagoland primary care internal medicine physician for close to 20 years and served as teaching faculty at Northwestern University Medical School for 14 years.  Sternberg created and directed Northwestern's offsite travel clinic.  Her interest in infectious disease took her to India for extended studies in pediatric infectious disease and developing world healthcare delivery.  She completed her Internal Medicine Residency at the University of Chicago after receiving her Doctor of Medicine from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. Among original publications include:  For the Sake of Humanity; Research on Cross-Cultural Collaborative Arts for Public Health, Chapter in The Oxford Handbook of Methods for Public Scholarship, Oxford Press (2019)

She proudly serves as executive/artistic director of Genesis at the Crossroads, the Chicago-based non-profit organization she founded in 1999, which builds peaceful communities at the intersection of human rights, social justice, education and the arts.  The Genesis Peace Hub which includes a Social Entrepreneurship Center, a teaching farm and a sports and social change program will begin virtually until the physical space opens on Chicago’s south side in 2021.  It will also feature the Genesis Academy for Global Leadership, a boarding high school and peacebuilding education model with plans to offer K-12 transformational education of this kind over the ensuing decade.  A Rotary Peace Fellow and a Salzburg Global Seminar Fellow, Sternberg was featured as a Woman to Watch in Today’s Chicago Woman Magazine, named one of the 10 Jewish Chicagoans of the Year and was a 2011 Charles Bronfman Prize Nominee.

Wendy Johnson, MD MPH -

Dr. Johnson is an activist, clinician, and writer whose career includes stints scaling up HIV treatment in Mozambique, serving as Medical Director of the Cleveland, Ohio Department of Public Health and, most recently, directing a community clinic in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She currently holds Clinical Assistant Professor positions at both University of Washington and University of New Mexico. She completed her medical education at Ohio State University and her masters in public health at Johns Hopkins University.

Nadia Gaber, MD, PhD -

Nadia Gaber received her PhD from the joint program in medical anthropology from UCSF and UC Berkeley, and is obtaining her MD at UCSF with support from the National Institutes of Health and Medical Scientist Training Program. Her research examines water as a social force through which contemporary biopolitics of race, economy and environment are being reworked. Aligned with grassroots struggles for safe and affordable water, she is a proud member of We the People of Detroit's Community Research Collective and the People's Water Board Coalition in Michigan.

Nick Leonard, Executive Director, Great Lakes Environmental Law Center -

Nick Leonard is the executive director of the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center. He joined the organization in 2014 after graduating from University of Michigan Law School. From 2014 until 2016, he worked as an Equal Justice Works fellow. His fellowship project focused on providing transactional legal services to individuals, nonprofit corporations, and for-profit businesses engaged in urban agriculture in Detroit. Specifically, Nick focuses his work on Clean Air Act permitting, drinking water quality and affordability, and local environmental policy.

Media Contact:

Tiana Starks

(248) 633-8620


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