Watchdog pushes EPA on Great Lakes cleanup

By Kevin Bogardus | 06/04/2024 01:34 PM EDT

The inspector general found the agency didn’t always record how it would help marginalized communities while restoring the lakes’ ecosystem.

The Milwaukee city skyline is seen by Lake Michigan.

The Milwaukee city skyline is seen by Lake Michigan on Jan. 6, 2020. A new watchdog report reviews Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grants. Eric Baradat/AFP via Getty Images

EPA’s internal watchdog has pressed the agency to better incorporate the pursuit of environmental justice in its campaign to clean up the Great Lakes.

EPA’s Office of Inspector General said in a report released Tuesday that more than half of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) grants it reviewed did not identify results for disadvantaged communities that have long struggled with pollution. Those places, often of color and low-income, are a top priority for the Biden administration, which has sought to send billions of dollars in aid to relieve long-standing degradation throughout the country.

Fourteen, or nearly 47 percent, of the 30 Great Lakes grants the inspector general’s auditors assessed showed “environmental justice outputs,” the report said. In addition, only four of those 14 grants stated in their final reports that grant recipients conducted that work or achieved projected benefits.


Those outputs include partnering with community-based groups and engaging with the public by organizing volunteer events.