Richmond Heights named among five winners of award to modernize Great Lakes cities’ water infrastructure

RICHMOND HEIGHTS, Ohio – Mayor Kim Thomas and the City of Richmond Heights have been named the inaugural recipients of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative’s Richard M. Daley Water Equity Community Award.

The award aims to support disadvantaged communities working to remove lead pipes and upgrade their water infrastructure.

Named after the former mayor of Chicago for his dedication to lakes and rivers, the new award offers several benefits to its winners. These benefits include:

• Professional assistance in applying for grants and accessing federal funds for mains replacement and other water infrastructure projects.

• Referrals to the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Environmental Finance Center network and other providers of technical assistance.

“Strategic Advice and Best Practices for Equitable Replacement of Lead Service Lines”

• Regular opportunities to advance water equity policy priorities and engage with other local elected leaders through the Mayors Commission on Water Equity.

“I know how important clean water is to my residents and businesses,” Thomas said in an email to “I also know that our community, like so many others, faces the challenge of aging water pipes, potential lead contamination, high PFAS levels and inefficiencies throughout our system.

“During my time as mayor and officially as a member of the City Council, I see firsthand the cost of these challenges. Richmond Heights has had many water line disruptions that have had a significant impact and inconvenience to our residents and businesses, both of whom were weary of compromising something as basic as access to water.

“We are aware of our needs, but we also know that cost is a huge barrier to progress.”

Richmond Heights has been the site of many major water breaches, notably large recent breaches on the Highland Road.

The Cities Initiative is a binational, mayor-led coalition of more than 230 Canadian and US member cities dedicated to the environmental and socioeconomic health of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River Basin. It was founded in 2003 by Daley and former Toronto Mayor David Miller.

According to a press release from the Cities Initiative, “20 years later, the Cities Initiative has grown to become the largest community-run organization in the metropolitan area focused on environmental and socio-economic issues.” Yet disadvantaged communities — the very communities that house utility lines and others Most focused on water justice issues – still underrepresented in our coalition.”

The committee that selected the inaugural honorees included Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb, a member of the Daley family, Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson, the co-chairs of the Cities Initiative’s Mayors Commission on Water Equity and the financial officers sponsors of the award. Other winning communities have not yet been named.

In a separate press release from the Cities Initiative, Daley, 81, now senior counsel at Chicago-based law firm Katten, said, “I am pleased that five communities burdened with utility line and other water equity issues are impacting the quality of residents.” Life were selected as the inaugural recipients of the Richard M. Daley Water Equity Community Award. This annual award will help ensure the Cities Initiative remains both representative and beneficial to communities across the metropolitan area for years to come.”

Other winning communities included Benton Harbor, Michigan; East Chicago, Indiana; Dunkirk, NY; and Mount Vernon, NY

“I am so grateful that this award will help Richmond Heights identify federal sources of funding for utility line replacement and water infrastructure projects, as well as technical and strategic advice,” said Thomas. “This will play a crucial role in Richmond Heights.

“We know we cannot continue to band-aid our aging water system and believe that somehow the problem will be solved. As Mayor, I am committed to doing things differently for the benefit of my residents and our long-term health.

“Northeast Ohio is fortunate to be close to Lake Erie and its 9,900 square miles of water. Think of those Great Lakes — they’re one of the largest surface freshwater ecosystems in the world, accounting for 84 percent of North America’s surface water, right on our doorstep. Think about this amazing asset and why it is so important to protect and respect the lakes.

“We at Richmond Heights will continue to do our part, and this award will help advance our work as we demand more for our communities while honoring and protecting this great asset.”

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