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Archive for the ‘News to Us’ Category

News to Us

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New Zealand mudsnails are a new invasive species in Michigan Rivers. Photo credit: USGS

In this edition of News to Us: a new invasive affects inland waterways of Michigan, Green Oak tries to resolve flooding issues, a new report quantifies the gap between what we are spending and what we need to spend on our water infrastructure, and a new House Bill threatens to reduce Michigan’s power to protect our natural resources.

Invasive New Zealand mudsnail reaches Au Sable River
One of Michigan’s most recent aquatic invasives is on the move.  While we have not found it in the Huron River yet, we are concerned about the damage the mudsnail can cause. Your diligence can help avoid its further spread. Cleaning boats, waders and even shoes as you move from one waterbody to the next can reduce the chance of spreading the mudsnail to new rivers (especially if you have been on the Pere Marquette or Au Sable). For more information, and to report new sightings of New Zealand mudsnails to the DEQ and DNR, go to www.michigan.gov/invasives.

Flooded or forced out of their homes?
Repetitive flooding has plagued one corner of Green Oak Township for some time now.  And the problem is getting worse. The Township recently applied for funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help acquire homes at fair market value and allowing the land to function as a floodway without risk to personal property or human health.

Q&A: PSC’s Jon Beard discusses how much Michigan should be spending on its water infrastructure
This is an interesting interview about a study that estimated the amount of money Michigan needs to spend on drinking water, stormwater and wastewater in order to meet the growing demands of aging infrastructure.  The research found Michiganders should be spending between $284 and $563 million more each year on water infrastructure.  While this is a lot of money, with about 10 million residents in the state, the gap could be filled by increasing water bills by as little as $3 to $6 each month.

‘No stricter than federal’ bill aims to make Michigan mediocre again
This blog put out by the Michigan Environmental Council provides commentary on House Bill 5613 which attempts to bar Michigan from passing rules stricter than an established federal standard. Read this blogger’s opinion on the implications of the bill to Michigan’s water and other natural resources. Since the writing of the blog, the House has passed the bill.  It is awaiting a vote by the Senate.

News to Us

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DIA InsideOut exhibit in Flat Rock – Huroc Park

Our monthly news roundup provides some watershed stories covering a fun event in Flat Rock and emerging research on the dioxane groundwater contamination in the Ann Arbor area.  Bridge Magazine published an in depth article on the rising profile of County Drain Commissioners.  And two new reports provide a look at how climate change is being addressed in planning efforts nationwide and is likely to impact public health in Michigan.

InsideOut exhibit brings museum-quality artwork to Flat Rock
Check out a unique art exhibit in one of the Huron River Watershed’s Trail Towns. For the second year in a row Flat Rock is displaying replica’s of fine artworks this summer through the DIA’s InsideOut program.  This year you can see 8 paintings at locations throughout the town.

Professor says dioxane probably has reached Huron River already
Dr. Lemke of Wayne State University has been studying the Pall Gelman dioxane plume since 1998. He recently presented results of some modelling efforts that show a more nuanced range of possibilities for the movement of the contamination in Ann Arbor’s groundwater. The article illustrates further the need for better monitoring and solid planning for many potential scenarios about the path and time it will take for the dioxane to reach the river. (Note: While we think this is important news to cover, the headline here is misleading. There has been no evidence to suggest the plume has reached the Huron yet and the city of Ann Arbor regularly tests Barton Pond for dioxane.)

Why on earth is Candice Miller running for county drain commissioner?
This article discusses the role of county drain commissioners (sometimes known as water resource commissioners as they are in Washtenaw and Oakland Counties) and how this elected position is becoming higher profile in light of growing issues with water quality and water infrastructure. The Flint water crisis, combined sewer overflows, beach closings, and Great Lakes water quality are bringing much needed attention to our states aging water and sewer infrastructure.

Cities trying to plan for warmer, wetter climate
A researcher at the University of Michigan conducted a review of climate adaptation plans around the nation.  These plans are intended to determine what is necessary to create a town or city that is prepared for the impacts of climate change and able to bounce back quickly from these impacts.  While more communities are completing plans, they are falling short on implementation. How these strategies will be funded and who is responsible for carrying them out remains an area of adaptation that needs attention.

Changing climate conditions in Michigan pose an emerging public health threat
Additional new climate change research coming out of Michigan focuses on the human health impacts. “Michigan Climate and Health Profile Report 2015: Building resilience against climate effects on Michigan’s health” chronicles the many ways that more heat and more heavy rain events can affect our health.  Respiratory diseases, heat related illnesses and water and vector borne diseases are areas of concern.

News to Us

High water on the Huron

High water on the Huron

Oops, we goofed. Find our most recent News to Us, May 16, HERE.

Each of the articles highlighted in this edition of News to Us touch on the conflicts that can arise between development and water resources. From piping our rivers underground, to living with legacy pollution. From building in floodways to problems associated with aging infrastructure. There is much to be done, and there is much we are doing.

Great Lakes cities swallow streams
A recently published study set out to identify buried streams in cities throughout the Great Lakes.  In our urban areas, rivers and streams were commonly buried and constrained in pipes. The practice of daylighting is bringing some of these streams back but this is a costly endeavor. Look at maps from Detroit and Ann Arbor to see how much of our rivers are now lost beneath the pavement.

Gov. Rick Snyder makes appointments to new 21stCentury Infrastructure Commission
Several representatives from the Huron River watershed have been appointed to a commission tasked with developing strategies to insure Michigan’s infrastructure remains safe and efficient.  The group will serve in an advisory role to the Executive Office and will put forward recommendations by November, 2016.

Cleaning up the past for a brighter, ‘bluer’ economic future in Michigan
This article discusses how we are cleaning up the pollution legacy left in the Great Lakes left behind from an era of industry where not much thought was given to toxins and waste.  Learn about the role of the Clean Water Act, Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement Areas of Concern designations and the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative that have helped restore some of the most polluted areas in the State.

City releases new details about sewage spill in Malletts Creek
Last week, Ann Arbor city staff found a leaking sewer pipe in the Malletts Creek area of the city. The pipe had a relatively slow leak with volumes that could be diluted significantly by flow in the creek. A crew was able to fix the pipe immediately.  The water remained safe for recreation and no drinking water is taken below where the spill occurred.

Green Oak Township To Apply For FEMA Grant
Sometimes water and development don’t mix.  This is the case for a neighborhood in Green Oak Township where 19 homes along Nichwagh Lake experience flooding every year.  The Federal Emergency Management Agency provides funding to help property owners get out of harm’s way. If funding is received, these homes can be purchased and demolished, restoring this area to serve as open space and a floodway in high water times.

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Smart planning helps protect beautiful places in the watershed.

This edition of News to Us shares updates on Ann Arbor’s Dioxane contamination, climate change and coal tar sealcoat advocacy in the watershed. Also see the Huron making headlines as a retreat from the city and how one township is taking stock of its natural resources.

DEQ proposes tougher cleanup standard to protect residents from dioxane A large plume of groundwater under Ann Arbor and Scio Township is contaminated with 1,4-dioxane originating from the Pall Corporation. After years of pressure and mounting attention over the past few months, DEQ announced a proposed change to the dioxane drinking water standard in Michigan from 85 parts per billion to 7.2 ppb. There is still a 6 to 9 month process ahead of the proposed standard where it could change or be vetoed.  Read more about the decades-long story in this piece from The Ann; Bearing Witness: Decades of dioxane. Or hear more from the acting director of the MDEQ at a Town Hall Meeting, April 18, 6-8:30pm at Eberwhite Elementary, Ann Arbor.

City and country: How metro Detroiters enjoy the best of both worlds We are blessed in southeast Michigan to have incredible natural resources nearby. The Huron River is cited as a destination for Detroit area residents to get away from it all.  Four interviews show the diverse ways metro Detroiters access nature to relax and recreate.

Freedom Township Takes First Steps Toward Shaping Future Development to Protect Watershed Freedom Township is the most recent of several communities in the watershed to participate in HRWC’s Green Infrastructure project to map and prioritize natural areas. The Township intends to use the map to help inform future growth and development.

Record-breaking heat shows world ‘losing battle’ against climate change, Alan Finkel tells Q&A No one in southeast Michigan would argue we have had a typical winter. Warmer temperatures and limited snow events made it a little easier on all of us.  It seems we were not alone. The climate has been making headlines again as February registered as the hottest February on record (global average) and by a huge margin. It is expected that temperatures will remain well above average for at least the next couple of months. Particularly worrisome about data from recent months is it shows the planet moving much more rapidly toward the maximum of 2.0°C warming agreed to by nations under the Paris Climate Agreement.

Watershed group wants ban on coal tar sealants HRWC Board Member Mary Bajcz has been championing efforts in Milford Township to increase awareness about the hazards of coal tar sealcoat products commonly used to maintain asphalt surfaces like driveways and parking lots. These sealcoats contain high levels of PAHs that can be harmful to people and river ecosystems. HRWC presented to Milford Township’s Board of Trustees who are now considering next steps.

News to Us

The Waukesha Plan would divert water from Lake Michigan to a location outside of the Great Lakes basin. Image: NASA via Flickr Creative Commons.

The Waukesha Plan would divert water from Lake Michigan to a location outside of the Great Lakes basin. Image: NASA via Flickr Creative Commons.

Michigan’s water has had the attention of the national news for months now.  While Flint dominates the headlines, there have been other news worthy water issues in this state including the Waukesha water withdrawal request hearing for a diversion of Great Lakes water to a location outside of the basin, and the very local issue of the spreading dioxane plume under Ann Arbor and Scio Township. The Huron also gets a nod in a national recreational magazine as a source of inspiration for one rising musician.

Dioxane in Ann Arbor’s groundwater: a slow-motion environmental disaster The dioxane contamination of the groundwater in Ann Arbor and Scio Township has been making headlines recently. The Pall Corporation is responsible for the contamination and the cleanup. The City has been pushing the Department of Environmental Quality to set stricter limits on dioxane levels for some time now without success. Current standards allow 85 parts per billion of dioxane. Ann Arbor would like to see standards require concentrations in the single digits, consistent with recent research on cancer risk.

Michigan Holds Hearing On Waukesha Plan To Divert Great Lakes Water – A hearing was held last week on what would be the first inter-basin transfer of Great Lakes water. The 2008 Great Lakes Compact is an agreement among Great Lakes states and Canadian provinces that requires strict criteria be met before permitting a diversion. HRWC’s Laura Rubin was on hand to provide comment along with several other water and policy experts from throughout the state. This will be a precedent setting ruling as it has the potential to open the door to more requests for Great Lakes water outside of the Great Lakes basin.

Why didn’t state officials heed the warnings in Flint? The Flint water crisis is all over the news. One storyline HRWC has been shining a light on is highlighted in this piece. The state’s environmental regulatory agency, the Department of Environmental Quality, has seen a steady decline in political support. The agency, along with other regulatory agencies, suffers under a culture that discourages staff from speaking up when issues are identified. Financial support, political backing and a culture that promotes adherence to regulations and transparency are necessary to avoid future Flints. Read more about Laura Rubin’s thoughts on this issue in her recent blog.

Chris Bathgate Goes Back to Nature Huron River watershed native Chris Bathgate is featured in Outside magazine. The acclaimed musician named the Huron River as one of his sources of inspiration. Imagine that! Bathgate talks about the importance of nature and quiet to his wellbeing and creative process. You may even “hear” the Huron on his latest album.

News to Us

Steelhead Trout Credit: flickr/surrealis_uk under Creative Commons license.

Steelhead Trout Credit: flickr/surrealis_uk under Creative Commons license.

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.  

 

News to Us

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Eiffel Tower during Paris Climate Convention. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

News to Us covers a diversity of topics this month including articles that chronicle two significant threats to local water resources – stormwater runoff and coal tar pavement sealcoat, and three (yea!) bright spots highlighting solutions to – wastewater treatment, microbead contamination and global climate change.

Healing fractured water: How Michigan’s roadways impact our waterways. In Oakland County alone there is “nearly 2,700 miles of county roads that average 24 feet wide. With an estimated average annual rainfall of 30 inches, these roads generate over five billion gallons of stormwater runoff in just one year.” Learn more about roadway runoff, the issues and solutions (including mention of Ann Arbor’s Green Streets policy) in this article that is part of a series on the Great Lakes water cycle.

Coal tar sealants: Challenges ahead. This article provides a good overview of the issues associated with coal tar and other high PAH pavement sealcoats that residents commonly use to maintain and beautify asphalt surfaces.  This is an issue HRWC has been educating our partners and supporters about because of the significant water quality and human health impacts.  Read this article and visit our webpage www.hrwc.org/coaltar to learn what you can do.

Dexter Brewery Turning Wastewater To Energy. The City of Dexter and Northern United Brewing Company have come up with an innovative solution to a big water problem. Northern United has invested in a state of the art onsite wastewater treatment system that turns wastewater into energy and reusable water. This is allowing the company to expand its water use and treatment needs without overburdening Dexter’s municipal wastewater treatment plant.

Nations Approve Landmark Climate Accord in Paris. Reason for celebration is the agreement reached at the Paris Climate negotiations last week.  The last set of negotiations in Copenhagen 6 years ago ended in gridlock and a lot of disappointing finger pointing with nations shirking responsibility, including our own. While there are significant weaknesses to the Paris accord, nearly every country signed the commitment including the U.S. and China, the world’s leading emitters. Many are viewing the accord the beginning of a global shift away from a fossil fuel based economy.  As global citizens we need to keep up the pressure on our countries to hold to their commitments.

U.S. House approves bill to ban plastic microbeads. News to Us has been tracking the issue of plastic microbead pollution in water for some time now.  Good news on this front as well. A bill banning this ingredient used in personal care products like soaps and toothpastes has passed the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill now awaits a Senate vote.  A similar bill has be stalled in the Michigan legislature for some time now.

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This edition of News to Us shares local news on recovering Osprey populations, increasing entrance fees in our metroparks system and an examination of Livingston County drinking water issues.  At the state level, Michigan is considering banning of plastic microbeads. And in national news, aging dams are making headlines again.

Osprey population booms in Southeast Michigan Osprey populations are rebounding in the Huron River watershed. The Huron River Watershed Council helped install two new platforms for nesting sites in the river. Learn about the bird and its recovery in this article.  See more on HRWC’s role in this mini-documentary.

Microbeads and the Great Lakes We have shared stories about the issue of plastic microbeads from bath and beauty products in previous editions of News to Us.  These beads end up in our lakes and rivers as they are not captured in the wastewater treatment process. Now, the Michigan legislature is considering a ban. Michigan is the last remaining Great Lakes state without a ban.  Here’s hoping we can join the rest of the region in protecting our lakes and streams from this pollutant.

Huron-Clinton parks plan: Higher fees, bigger offices Huron Clinton Metroparks are a significant landholder in the Huron River watershed, much of it along the river itself.  The parks are wonderful amenities for our residents and play a role in protecting water quality and freshwater ecosystems. The park system is considering raising rates for entrance fees.  This article shares more.

Aging And Underfunded: America’s Dam Safety Problem, In 4 Charts  America’s dams are getting old. The nation received a D grade in a recent assessment (Michigan received a D as well). On a day to day basis, this may not be a big deal. But the flooding that occurred in South Carolina last month illustrates why we must be proactive about this issue.  During those floods, more than 20 dams collapsed, dramatically increasing the impact of already damaging rainfall.  Funding is a challenge but preventing a collapse is almost always less expensive than recovering from one.

Safe to drink? Livingston faces own water issues In response to the Flint drinking water crisis, one reporter decided to look into the potential for this kind of disaster in Livingston County.  While the Flint scenario is not a likely one, the article does share the myriad issues that can occur with drinking water and how water suppliers, the county and residents are helping to ensure safe drinking water for everyone.

News to Us

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Volunteers collecting water quality data in Swift Run

Read articles on issues with water infrastructure in our watershed and Michigan-wide. Earlier this month the US Federal Court of Appeals made a ruling on a pesticide known to kill pollinators. Our water trail continues to make headlines. And the Swift Run creekshed is getting some special attention these days.


Ten surprising facts in Michigan’s new water strategy
In July, Michigan released a draft 30-year water strategy.  Much public discussion on the strategy has occurred since then. This is a blog written by Brad Garmon at the Michigan Environmental Commission that takes a little different look at the strategy.  Brad captures some startling statistics on the water assets Michigan owns and must steward.

Supervisor: Overuse causing discolored water in system
Lyon Township residents have been experiencing trouble with their drinking water. While the water remains safe to drink, some people are finding their water discolored. The township Supervisor attributes the color to iron in the water that occurs when backup wells are used to meet increased demand. The article highlights the issue of aging infrastructure with population growth and increasing water demand common throughout our watershed.

Michigan’s top 11 water trails named
The Huron River Water Trail was named one of the top water trails in Michigan by a public vote conducted by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. But we knew that already didn’t we? Click through to see other awesome river destinations throughout the state.

Court: EPA Should Not Have Approved Bee-Killing Pesticide
A step in the right direction for the honeybee crisis. Bees and other pollinators have be in rapid decline. An agricultural chemical, sulfoxaflor, has been found to be one contributor to these declines. The lawsuit shines a spotlight on the role of federal regulators in this complex problem and will hopefully encourage more extensive testing of new chemicals before receiving EPA approval.

Swift Creek Improvements
HRWC’s Ric Lawson talks about a project we have underway to improve stormwater management and water quality in the Swift Run tributary of the Huron River.   Learn about the problems in Swift Run and the solutions HRWC, Washtenaw County and the City of Ann Arbor are supporting to improve the river.

News to Us

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Volunteers installing an osprey nesting platform in the Huron River. Photo credit: 7 Cylinders Studio

Local osprey are being outfitted with tracking devices so you and researches can monitor their travels, a new online learning opportunity will improve your knowledge of lakes, and researchers are predicting another severe algal bloom in Lake Erie this summer.  Oil and gas pipeline accountability has been in the news a lot lately.  Here we pulled together three articles that will catch you up on the latest happenings.  And that is what is News to Us.

DNR monitoring osprey chick migration with GPS. Several osprey chicks have been outfitted with backpacks to help monitor the bird’s movements and growth. Two of the four chicks that will be monitored are from a nest in Kensington Metropark in Milford. There is a site where you can track the birds too at michiganosprey.org.

Introduction to Lakes course coming soon to a computer near you. With over 11,000 inland lakes, Michigan is home to many lake enthusiasts. If that describes you and you have always wanted to know more, Michigan State University Extension is now offering an online course providing in introduction to lakes.

‘Severe’ algal blooms forecast this summer on Lake Erie. Researchers are predicting a more significant algal bloom this year than the one last summer that shutdown Toledo’s water supply for several days. The bloom won’t necessarily lead to issues with drinking water but will certainly impact recreation on Lake Erie and the organisms that live in the lake.  Phosphorus runoff and heavy rains in June are two major contributors to the severity of the bloom. Conservationists are targeting large livestock operations for phosphorus reduction.

July has been a big month for news on oil and gas pipelines in Michigan.  Here is a sampling of articles sharing pieces of the larger issue of moving oil through our state’s waterways.

  • Life 5 years after the nation’s worst inland oil spill – NPR’s Environment Report revisits the Kalamazoo River oil spill which is the largest inland oil spill in US history caused by a break in an Enbridge pipeline that traversed this waterway.
  • Report calls for heavy crude oil ban in Straits of Mackinac pipeline – The Michigan DEQ led a special task force that released a report last week on the status and future of pipelines in the state. Of particular focus is the Enbridge pipeline that runs through the Straits of Mackinac. Some say the recommendations are a big step in the right direction for safety and accountability. Others assert it does not go far enough to protect our freshwater resources.
  • National Wildlife Federation to Sue Dept. of Transportation over Oil Pipeline Oversight Failures  — On the heels of this report, the NWF announced they plan to sue the federal government for failing to uphold the Oil Pollution Act which requires approval of a safety plan for pipelines which travel in, on or under inland waters. This lawsuit comes after much scrutiny and investigation into the safety of the Enbridge pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac.

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