Archive for the ‘News to Us’ Category
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.
- Grotesque cancers plaguing Lake Michigan tributary fish
- Widespread Plastic Pollution Found in Great Lakes Tributaries
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 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.