Jon Allan, director of the Michigan Office of the Great Lakes, grew up in northeastern Ohio and remembers when the river near his home ran blue or orange, depending on what kinds of industrial waste were being dumped in the water that day.

Speaking as part of the Clean Water Summit, hosted by Michigan’s Great Southwest Sustainable Business Forum at Weko Beach Wednesday, Allan also recalled that 40 years ago bulldozers were removing piles of dead fish from Great Lakes shorelines.

Before the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act, there was “not much” in place to protect the environment, Allan said. When asked how many love the Great Lakes, all of Allan’s audience raised their hands.

“That’s who we are as a people,” Allan said.

One of the missions of his office is to get everyone to love – and understand – the Great Lakes, he said.

One way to accomplish that is through education. “Water Schools” are offered that inform decision-makers about the importance of maintaining this ecosystem. The next session is scheduled for Kalamazoo.