Preston Cole is one step away from officially heading the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
While he awaits a State Senate vote on his assignment, the secretary-designee says there’s no time to waste when it comes to addressing Wisconsin’s drinking water concerns. Cole is optimistic solutions will be found.
Momentum began when Gov. Tony Evers declared 2019 the year of clean drinking water.
"The stars are aligning around clean water — this governor being on the landscape, me being appointed to secretary. I get to follow that mission and put things in play to make sure environmental protections around clean water are in place," Cole says. "There is a huge following to that message."
Old lead pipes that deliver drinking water into the homes of some Wisconsin communities are the source of one of the state's challenges. Cole says Milwaukee is one of 300 cities, towns and villages grappling with outdated infrastructure.
“How many families are in harm’s way from lead drinking water? That should be the driving force. We can’t allow this type of damage for our youngest, most vulnerable citizens to keep going. We just have to recognize, we have to move and act now,” he says.
While Cole spreads Evers' clean drinking water message, a bipartisan legislative task force is touring the state to gather input. The task force is holding a public hearing Tuesday, Aug. 13 in Milwaukee.
“I am extraordinarily hopeful where this will lead. When two branches of government — the governor and the Legislature — are focused on clean water, [the DNR's] responsibility is to get out of the way and advise them accordingly,” Cole says.
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