Archive for the ‘Coal Tar’ Category
News to Us this month provides an update on the dioxane contamination case. Also, two new projects bring money to improve water quality in the Huron. Finally, read articles on two widespread water quality issues – PAH contamination due to coaltar pavement sealers and bacterial pollution from failing septic systems.
Judge grants local intervention in Ann Arbor dioxane pollution case In a precedent setting decision, Judge Connors granted intervention on legal negotiations associated with the Gelman dioxane plume to HRWC. Washtenaw County and the City of Ann Arbor were also granted intervention. As the Attorney General’s counsel stated, “…. in our experience we’ve never seen a circumstance where an environmental policy group or a public interest group basically has intervened and been a participant in the negotiation of a consent judgment, whether it’s the very first negotiation of a consent judgment, or in this case the fourth amendment to a consent judgment.” HRWC will represent the needs of the river ecosystem and recreational users.
$1.8M in federal funds to help protect Huron River watershed A significant award through a federal Farm Bill program is coming to the Huron. These funds will be used to protect natural and farmed lands and support farming practices that protect water quality. Efforts led by the Legacy Land Conservancy will be focused on the headwaters of the Huron in Oakland, Livingston and western Washtenaw counties. HRWC is one of many local groups involved in this unique partnership.
$675K design contract for new tunnel to Ann Arbor riverfront approved A major stormwater management and river access project in Ann Arbor now has the funding it needs to move forward. A tunnel will be built underneath the railroad tracks connecting pedestrians from Depot Street to the Border-to-Border trail and Argo park. This tunnel will also act as a release valve for stormwater which tends to back up and flood land and property in this low lying area where Allen Creek meets the Huron River.
Coal tar main source of toxicity in streams A recent study found that up to 94% of PAHs found in sediments in Milwaukee-area creeks and streams came from coaltar pavement sealants and that 78% of all samples had enough PAH content to be considered toxic. PAHs are a toxic class of chemicals that impact aquatic life and human health. HRWC has been working, in the face of mounting evidence, to ban the use of coaltar and other high PAH sealcoats to reduce the impacts of this unnecessary contaminant. Learn more about area bans at hrwc.org/coaltar
Aging septic systems fouling Michigan waters Did you know that Michigan is the only state that does not regulate septic systems? As many as 1.4 million of these systems exist within our state, very few are under any inspection and maintenance requirements. Sixty four rivers sampled in Michigan had bacterial contamination that was traced back to human sources. This is one of the biggest threats to Michigan waterways. HRWC has more information on this issue and how you can maintain your septic system here and will be investing in septic system education in Honey Creek, a tributary of the Huron considering impaired by the State for bacterial contamination.
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.
Reports 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.
A new livery will open in the Huron next year! This month’s roundup of water news also includes articles on three contaminants we are watching closely here that affect the Huron River watershed – blue-green algae, Dioxane and coal tar based pavement sealers.
Former Mill Creek Sports Center in Dexter to become canoe livery
Exciting news! Dexter will be home to a new canoe livery. Occupying a vacant building on Mill Creek in the heart of downtown Dexter, Michigan native Nate Pound hopes to renovate and be open for business by paddling season in 2017. Long term plans include a climbing wall and/or bike rentals.
Blue-green algae adapting easily to rising carbon dioxide levels
Climate change will challenge all species to adapt to new conditions. Some will fare better than others. New research shows that blue-green algae, the type of algae that includes Microcystis – the algae that contaminated Toledo’s water system in 2014 – are likely to be particularly good at adapting. There are implications for water quality, drinking water and aquatic ecosystems as we move to a more carbon dioxide-rich environment.
The Green Room: The Ann Arbor Area’s 1,4 Dioxane Plume
HRWC Board Member and Washtenaw County Water Resources Commissioner, Evan Pratt, shares his thoughts on pursuing Superfund designation for the Dioxane plume contaminating the groundwater in Ann Arbor. Mayor Chris Taylor discusses the City’s involvement and how he is engaging with State and Federal elected officials.
HRWC’s campaign to ban coal tar based sealcoats throughout the watershed continues to make headlines. So far Van Buren Township, Scio Township, Ann Arbor, Hamburg and Dexter have passed ordinances with many other communities reviewing potential action. WEMU’s Issues of the Environment interview discusses the issue broadly and the Detroit Local 4 News spot highlights the recent ban in Hamburg Township.
Climate change, river recreation and regulating toxics are all in this edition of News to Us – the HRWC monthly brief on water and watershed related news that catches our attention.
In hot water: Climate change is affecting North American fish
This blog summarizes the conclusions from several recent research articles on the impacts of climate change to fish. Coldwater species and those in arid environments are most vulnerable. Fisheries are already experiencing measurable change from climate change that impacts ecosystems, recreation and the economy. HRWC is wrapping up a two year project to help the Huron adapt to climate change. You can read more about this project here.
U.S. Needs Smarter Disaster Planning
Disaster planning is one way to protect human communities from the impacts of climate change. Extreme weather events are becoming more common. Municipalities each develop plans to protect their communities from, respond to and recover from natural disasters. This article discusses the importance of incorporating climate change into these plans.
Ann Arbor trying to curb alcohol, parking problems at popular tubing spot
A growing number of complaints pertaining to visitors of Argo Cascades in Ann Arbor is leading the city to consider how to address the issues. While we love to see people enjoying the river, we encourage everyone to consider appropriate safety and etiquette. Visit the Huron River Water Trail website for ways to have fun on the river without impacting other users, river neighbors and the river itself.
Editorial: Ann Arbor joins VBT, Scio in banning coal tar sealants
The Belleville Independent published an editorial highlighting progress locally to ban coal tar pavement sealers. Van Buren Township led the way on this issue in Michigan banning the toxic substance in December 2015. Recently, Scio Township and Ann Arbor have joined Van Buren on the front lines to reduce health risks to humans and aquatic communities due to PAH compounds which occur in very high amounts in a commonly used pavement sealer. You can help HRWC continue to tackle this issue in our watershed by donating to our Coal Tar Free Huron campaign.
Strange brew: How chemical reform legislation falls short
Last month, the federal government signed into law a reform of the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The new law has met with very mixed reviews from companies and groups working to reduce the number of toxic chemicals in consumer products. The chemicals ultimately end up in our bodies and environment and little is known about the thousands of chemical brought to market each year. Read this bloggers take on the good and the bad of the new law. It may have implications for our ability to regulate chemicals at the local level including coal tar pavement sealers.
Coal tar pavement sealers are much more toxic than we thought
HRWC has been advocating for the elimination of coal tar sealcoating in our watershed. This is a widely used asphalt maintenance practice in our area and coal tar sealcoats have very high levels of PAHs, many of which are known to be harmful to aquatic life and people.
New research has found that previous studies have, if anything, underestimated the toxicity of coal tar sealcoats. Researchers at Oregon State University investigated the toxicity of both coal tar and asphalt based sealcoats. Unique to this study, a much larger number of PAHs were analyzed. Researchers also assessed toxicity to zebrafish.
When a larger number of PAHs found in sealcoats were included, the indicator for carcinogenicity was 4-39% higher than had been found in previous studies.* Asphalt-based sealcoats, while still toxic, were found to be far less toxic than their coal tar counterparts.
We recommend residents, businesses and other property owners choose asphalt-based sealcoat or abstain from sealcoating altogether when considering options for asphalt pavement maintenance. The risk to our environment and communities is too high and the evidence is mounting. Learn more at hrwc.org/coaltar.
*range represents the results from two coal tar products and whether the carcinogenicity was determined using USEPA or Health Canada standards, which are more stringent.
News highlights from the last month include several articles on the amazing recreational destination the Huron River has become, an update on Ann Arbor’s progress on climate change and some wonderful successes on the path toward eliminating a harmful pollutant from the waterways and neighborhoods of the Huron.
Huron River a hidden gem for steelhead. This article gives a nod to the Huron as a solid enclave for fishing steelhead. Steelhead trout are stocked in the Huron River by the Department of Natural Resources below Flat Rock Dam. Learn a few secrets from a frequent angler of steelhead in the Huron.
(Next) Best Paddling Towns: Ann Arbor, Mich. Inside the paddling hub of the 104-mile-long Huron River Water Trail. Canoe and Kayak magazine recently highlighted the Huron River as a paddler’s destination. The article talks about the Huron’s five trail towns and how paddlers can find short or long trips in both rural and urban settings.
Ann Arbor falling short of goals to reduce carbon emissions. Members of the Ann Arbor Climate Partnership, including HRWC’s Executive Director Laura Rubin, presented to Ann Arbor City Council this month on the status of the City’s Climate Action Plan. In short, while progress on some of the recommendations in the plan has been made, Ann Arbor has not achieved reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. More support from City Council and the residents of Ann Arbor are necessary.
VBT approves ordinance banning coal tar driveway sealant. On December 17th, 2015, the Van Buren Township Board of Trustee unanimously approved the adoption of an ordinance banning the sale and use of coal tar and other high PAH sealcoat products. It is the first ban in Michigan that restricts application of these common driveway sealants anywhere in the municipality and the first ban nationwide that prohibits not only coal tar based sealants but also any sealant product with high levels of PAHs, a class of compounds linked to cancer and other health impacts in people and aquatic organisms.
Rep. Pagan introduces bill to ban coal tar sealants That same week, Representative Kristy Pagan (D-Canton) introduced a bill to ban coal tar sealants to the State Legislature. The bill had its first reading in December and was referred to the Committee on Natural Resources. Track the progress of this bill at http://legislature.mi.gov/doc.aspx?2015-HB-5174.
Both these articles share great news for Michigan’s rivers, lakes and wetlands, and the citizens of the Huron River watershed.