Eunice Burns Made a Difference

Eunice enjoying a paddle on her river.

Eunice enjoying a paddle on her river.

HRWC’s longtime Board Member, Eunice L. Burns, peacefully passed away on October 20, 2016 at the age of 93. Eunice is the longest serving member of the HRWC board and the co-founder of Ann Arbor’s Huron River Day with her friend Shirley Axon. Eunice’s commitment to clean water and a healthy Huron River began with her service on the Ann Arbor City Council in 1962.  She became involved with HRWC in the early 1970s and served as Chairwoman 3 times.  “Eunice cared deeply about the Huron River and the Watershed Council” said Laura Rubin, HRWC’s Executive Director, “She was always there to help out, stand up and let her opinion be known, and offer a big smile of encouragement”.

Eunice was the embodiment of a good citizen. She never backed away from what she thought was right no matter the opposition and was courageous and dedicated in her actions.  Her love for her community has stood as a shining example for her children, grandchildren, and those who knew her, of a vibrant, purposeful life rich in impact and meaning. Eunice liked to say that she had multiple careers, starting as a physical education teacher, and then entering political life in 1962 as a member of Ann Arbor City Council from the First Ward. She served three terms and went on to run for Mayor in 1965, the second woman in the city’s history to do so. In 1971, she began working for the University of Michigan as Executive Assistant to the Dean in the School of Education, and Chair of the Commission for Women. After ten years at the university, she became Manager of the historic Kerrytown Market, and in 1983, obtained her real estate license and worked as a realtor with Charles Reinhart Company until she was 85.

Her family asks for donations in her memory to the Huron River Watershed Council or the Eunice Burns Fund for Water Policy Education in the University of Michigan Ford School of Public Policy.

HRWC Membership – Why Should You Join?

Greetings from the Membership Department and your friendly HRWC Membership Coordinator!

Did you know that membership support is critical to HRWC’s ongoing research and education efforts? Our membership has been growing each year, with most members contributing at the $35-$100 “invertebrate” levels (Mayfly, Crayfish, Dragonfly).  Just like in the watershed, the invertebrates are leading indicators of the health of HRWC and contributions at these levels provide over 60% of our annual membership income.

And what do we do with your money? The steady income from memberships allows HRWC to launch new programs in response to issues in the watershed – programs that do not initially have identified funding sources. When our efforts to ban the use of coal tar pavement sealants were just beginning, it was membership dollars that supported the initial research into the problem and how best to address it, which then led to our coal tar campaign to fund a broader effort to help local municipalities implement ordinance restrictions to reduce the use of this toxic material.

Some of our Green Infrastructure planning and Natural Rivers District work is also funded through membership support, which allows HRWC to send key staff members to local governments to assist in land use planning, ordinances and policies designed to protect the natural stretches of the Huron through several of our townships.

Membership also funds the little things, like when you call to let us know about an issue in the watershed. It might not seem like it takes much to respond to a call about clear-cutting property all the way to the riverbank, but once we get off the phone with you, we are making calls and sending emails to make sure the proper agencies are notified, and that they respond (so, yeah, members are funding our pestering abilities!). Often, one of our staff members will travel out to the property in question.

As a member, you can be proud of your connection to HRWC and your role in the important work we do every day in support of the Huron River and its watershed. Not a member? Consider getting in touch with your inner Mayfly and join our hundreds of other membership invertebrates! It’s easy to join online today.

Roundup Roundup


photo credit: Ellen Rambo


To the nearly 150 volunteers that braved the wonderful weather at our October 8 River Roundup, as well as the 40 volunteers who joined us on Sunday’s bug ID Day. A special thanks to groups from Eastern Michigan University, University of Michigan, Notre Dame Alumni Club, Huron River Fly Fishing Club, Fowlerville High School, and Huron High. Joining us were also a record number of families. Because when you volunteer with HRWC it’s fun, the work benefits our local communities, and we nearly always have good weather!

Honey, We Got the Grant!

Breaking news here at HRWC headquarters: we have been awarded a grant to implement our Honey Creek Watershed Management Plan! In 2012 -2013 we researched within the Honey Creek watershed to identify problems. Primarily, we scoured the watershed looking at bacteria levels and fingerprinting their sources. Honey Creek’s poor water quality is due to high bacteria levels, which can threaten human health.

Target areas for reducing bacteria contamination in Honey Creek

Target areas for reducing bacteria contamination in Honey Creek

Our research led us to some recommendations on how to protect and restore the area in ways that address the most critical issues. We are pleased to report that the Department of Environmental Quality has provided funding for this work within the Honey Creek watershed. Our Honey Creek project starts this autumn and will end in autumn 2019.

With this grant, we will:

  • Hire canine teams (dogs!) to sniff out sources of human sewage waste in 2 key areas of the watershed. Once the dogs help us identify specific areas with septic issues, we will work with Washtenaw County and property owners to help them address problems. We will also do homeowner outreach on ways to maintain septic systems.
  • Scoop that poop! We will raise awareness of the importance of removing pet waste from yards and parks, and install pet waste pick-up stations. Pet waste is one of the predominant sources of bacteria in Honey Creek.
  • Mark 1,000 storm drains and hand out door-to-door flyers to raise awareness of their direct connection to Honey Creek and what people can do to capture and reduce runoff pollution.
  • Identify farmers in the Middle Huron watershed for a Farmer Advisory Council (FAC). The FAC will advise HRWC and project partners on future plans to address bacteria and nutrient reduction from agriculture including innovative approaches such as “pay for performance” subsidies for nutrient and bacteria reduction practices.

For questions about our new project, contact Ric here.

This project has been funded wholly or in part through Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s Nonpoint Source Program by the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

Driveway Sealcoating Scam

freshapplication_ERiggsReports of dishonest companies indicate we need to do our homework.

There are at least four cases under investigation in Scio Township where a company allegedly applied coal tar sealcoat on driveways after telling homeowners they were applying the safer asphalt based sealcoat. Scio Township passed an ordinance banning the use of coal tar sealcoats in June, 2016. Not only is this practice deceitful, it is illegal in areas with bans. Communities in the Huron River watershed passing similar ordinances now include, Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, Dexter and the Townships of Hamburg, Scio and Van Buren.

If you are planning to seal your driveway or other asphalt surface, consider taking the following steps to ensure you are getting what you pay for.

  • Choose a local company.
  • Collect several competitive bids.
  • Be wary of anyone knocking on your door and offering to sealcoat unsolicited.
  • Check out the company you are considering on sites like the Better Business Bureau, Yelp and Angie’s List.

One homeowner described the incident:

They are operating in our area as we speak… offering no estimates, overcharging citizens by upwards of 500% of what it actually costs and using an illegal, banned and harmful product and lying about it to customers…The name that he gave me was Father and Sons Sealcoating but it’s not a real company.  The brochure that he gave me of a real and safe product is not what he used either… They were driving a green Dodge pickup with camouflage on the wheel rudders, probably a Ram.

We are nearing the end of the pavement sealing season, but if you are still hoping to seal yet this fall, do your homework and work with a reputable company.

For more information on the human and environmental health impacts of coal tar and other high PAH sealcoats visit www.hrwc.org/coaltar.


Survey Participants Needed

Please help HRWC better serve the communities of the Huron River watershed by completing this survey. Good will and possibly a $20 Amazon Gift Card are in it for you.

Click here to access survey

Ann Arbor floodingHRWC research partners are surveying residents in our watershed and the results of this research will be very helpful to HRWC. The survey is intended to help us understand how people and communities perceive their risk associated with impacts from climate change, how prepared people feel and their willingness to prepare.

Your participation in this study is voluntary and greatly appreciated. Your information will be anonymous. The findings will be shared with stakeholders to inform community planning toward resiliency and sustainability. The results of this study may be used in reports, presentations, or publications but your name will not be used.

Please take 10 to 15 minutes to complete the survey by October 31st.  Also, consider sharing this blog or survey link via community websites or other appropriate locations to help increase our response rate.

Click here to access survey

Thank you for all the ways you help to make the Huron the best it can be!

Take Back Your Prescription Medications

Help protect local water and prevent teen substance abuse!

You can make a difference.

Pain Medication Take Back Day October 8, 2016

Take Back Day, Sat Oct 8, Pioneer High School, Ann Arbor

Take your unused medications (both for people and pets) to the UM’s Pain Medication Take-Back Day
Saturday, October 8, 10am-2pm, Ann Arbor’s Pioneer High School Parking Lot
Check the link for a listing of accepted items.
(hosted by the Ann Arbor Police, the Institute for Healthcare and Policy Innovation, and the Division of Pain Research)

Unused prescription medications are both a water quality issue–(A US Geological Survey study concluded that 80% of streams sampled contained detectable levels of compounds found in common medications) and a teen substance abuse issue (Partnership for Drug Free Kids reports that prescription medicines are now the most commonly abused drugs among 12 to 13 year olds).

Disposing of medications through a take back program keeps them out of our water and gets them away from the home where teens have access.

There are lots of drug take back options (many Sheriff Stations, pharmacies, State Police) throughout the Huron River watershed. We have found the most complete information at Washtenaw County’s Don’tFlushDrugs.com. Look closely at listings for what drugs each program accepts. Some will not accept controlled/scheduled drugs (in compliance with the Controlled Substance Act (CSA), enforced by the Drug Enforcement Administration) and some will.

Quick links at HRWC’s Take Action Take Back Drugs page.


News to Us

Microplastics issue far from solved. Image: Chesapeake Bay Program via Flickr Creative Commons

Microplastics issue far from solved. Image: Chesapeake Bay Program via Flickr Creative Commons

Stormwater management in a changing climate, buffering our rivers and lakes, emerging pollutants such as pharmaceuticals and microplastics, and drunk tubing (because, why not?) all in this edition of News to Us, HRWC’s monthly round up of noteworthy water news.

How Grand Rapids is prepping for the next big storm
Bridge Magazine takes an in-depth look at how two cities in Michigan are changing the way they build and rebuild to deal with heavier rainfall. Grand Rapids and Ann Arbor use innovative stormwater management practices to protect people and infrastructure from damage that can be caused by flooding.

Huron Natural River District One Step Closer In Webster
HRWC has been working with municipalities along the stretch of the Huron River designated a Natural River District.  Webster is strengthening protections for the river by adopting a local ordinance that requires buildings be set back a distance from lakes and rivers to minimize impacts of development to the ecological health and beauty of the Township’s water ways.

Emerging pollutants are those that are relatively new to our collective awareness of what negatively impacts our environment. Two recent articles illustrate the myriad ways that these pollutants show up and wreak havoc and how little we know about sources, impact and solutions. There is more work to be done.

And just for a little fun…

Fifteen hundred possibly drunk Americans successfully invade Canada via the St. Clair River
No this is not satire.  It is a real headline. A chuckle worthy headline.  None-the-less, a reminder to mind your manners and your neighbors when recreating in our state’s beautiful lakes and rivers. Read our Share the River Code here.

Trees, plant one!

Is fall the best time to plant trees? Good question. Seems that the answer is debatable. With the onset of fall, there are a couple of compelling reasons to plant — availability and affordability! We know of at least two upcoming tree sales here in the shed:Tree at Island Lake by Anita Daley

Washtenaw County Conservation District fall tree sale (Order by September 30)

Matthaei Botanical Gardens fall native plant and tree sale (October 1/October 2, 10am-4:30pm)

What is not up for debate is that trees are good for protecting local waterways. “Polluted stormwater runoff is the number one threat to the Huron’s health. Trees soak up stormwater with their roots and intercept rainwater in their canopies. They filter pollution such as pesticides, fertilizers, and animal wastes out of runoff; and they shade the river and its streams, keeping them cool. One tree can intercept 1,763 gallons of runoff water each year.” Huron River Report, Fall 2014, Hardworking Trees, Low-cost watershed workers.

Need more proof? Check out Trees Tame Stormwater, an interactive poster from the Arbor Day Foundation. Drag the slider from few trees to abundant trees. Notice how clean and sparkly the urban river becomes — no doubt due to less polluted stormwater coming through that stormdrain (middle right).

Want to dig deeper?  Take a look at a Review of climate impacts to tree species of the Huron River watershed, from HRWC’s Climate Resilient Communities project. As climate zones shift across the Great Lakes region, some populations of native tree species will be stressed, and habitats may become more suitable for species from outside the region. Geared toward natural resource managers in the region, the guide includes tree species change summaries. You can see general trend predictions for trees like Red Maple and White Pine.

For more how-to info see Home Trees & Shrubs from Michigan State University Extension.


Dioxane and other clean-up criteria may be delayed again!

We need your help.  The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) has issued draft revisions to cleanup criteria for public comment. If accepted, the draft revisions will strengthen the State’s clean-up criteria for various pollutants. We urge you to submit comments asking the State to immediately adopt the draft.  Business interests are opposing this draft even though they have had a seat at the table during development of the current draft revisions to 300+ toxins, including the 1,4 Dioxane.  The public comment period runs through September 13th. More information about the revision is available on their website.

Please submit your comments to DEQ-RRDCriteria@michigan.gov

Here is some suggested text for comment.

“I am writing to express my support of Michigan’s Generic Cleanup Criteria Proposed Rules Revisions. This criteria is long overdue. In the interest of public health, I urge you to adopt the criteria.  <your name, city/town, MI>”

For more information on the dioxane groundwater contamination in Washtenaw County please see these websites:

Coalition for Action on the Remediation of Dioxane

WEMU news coverage

It is important to note that these revisions are long overdue.  The State Legislature voted to complete these revisions by December 31, 2013.  This and subsequent “new deadlines” have been missed, and 2 consecutive mayors of Ann Arbor have been promised these regulations would be changed by multiple “dates certain” that have passed us by.  Please make written comment (or attend the public hearing in Lansing on September 12) urging the MDEQ to immediately adopt these public health regulations which are based on the best science agreed upon throughout the stakeholder engagement process.


Every voice counts! Please submit your comments today to DEQ-RRDCriteria@michigan.gov.

In Memory of Eunice Burns
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