Archive for the ‘Pollution’ Category

News to US

30158738441_16b87bda57_oNews 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.

News to Us

Photo credit: John Lloyd

Photo credit: John Lloyd

HRWC and EPA have taken action recently pertaining to 1,4 dioxane – the chemical contaminating groundwater in the Huron River watershed.  During road salt season, consider alternatives to reduce impacts to our lakes and rivers. Huron River residents and the Great Lakes received good news this week on funding for natural resource protection and recreation. All in this edition of News to Us.

Dioxane makes list of 10 toxic chemicals EPA giving closer look  This past summer the act that governs the regulation of chemicals in the US underwent major reform which arguably reduced barriers to regulate toxic substances. The 30 year old act had made it notoriously difficult to regulate chemicals. Under the reformed act, EPA was tasked with selecting ten substances to evaluate first. 1,4-dioxane is on that list, meaning the chemical that is contaminating groundwater under Scio Township and Ann Arbor will undergo a thorough risk evaluation over the next three years.

Huron River Watershed Council and county take legal action on dioxane Last week, HRWC filed a motion to intervene in the Gelman case that would amend the consent judgement that put cleanup of the 1,4 dioxane plume contaminating local groundwater in the hands of MDEQ and Gelman Sciences.  HRWC and Washtenaw County, who also filed a motion to intervene, argue that cleanup efforts have failed. Should the court choose to open the case again, HRWC would provide a voice for the river, aquatic life and river recreation.

Road Salt Sex Change: How Deicing Messes with Tadpole Biology  In the season of ice and snow, Huron River residents will be bringing out the road salt. There is mounting evidence of negative impacts to rivers and lakes due to high salt concentrations. This article discusses new research findings that implicate road salt in developmental issues in tadpoles, particularly by altering sex ratios. For some alternative practices for safe sidewalks visit our tips page.

Coalition Applauds Great Lakes Investments in Bill Great news for the Great Lakes. The federal government has authorized another round of Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) Funding. GLRI will provide $1.5 billion in funding over the next five years for projects that help restore our water resources. GLRI has funded projects in the Huron and throughout Southeast Michigan to the benefit of people, businesses and the natural resources.

Gov. Rick Snyder applauds Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund board recommendations Several projects in the watershed were awarded grants from the Michigan Natural Resource Trust fund.  These projects will advance trail systems in our area including the Washtenaw County Border-to-Border (B2B) trail segment from Dexter to Ann Arbor.  Trail projects also build out the Huron Waterloo loop in Lyndon Township and a segment of the Iron Belle trail in Ypsilanti Township.

Water Quality Monitoring Program Allows Active Involvement

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The 2016 Water Quality Monitoring Program season wrapped up at the end of September, and now I spend time compiling the data for analysis.  With the help of 60 volunteers between April and September, we gathered water samples for chemistry analysis at 37 sites throughout Washtenaw, Wayne, and Livingston Counties.  Flow measurements were also taken at several of those sites.  Monitoring sites are visited up to 12 times during the season, and it would be impossible to gather this much information, or visit as many sites, without the help of volunteers.  We are able to gather critical watershed data, as well as keep eyes on the Huron River and its tributaries for potential problems and risks such as erosion and pollution.  I am proud of this program, it allows citizens to become actively involved in protecting the Huron River watershed and the water we rely on for so much.  Thank you, volunteers, for helping us.

Mark your calendar for January 19, 2017 at 6:00pm and come to our Volunteer Appreciation and 2016 Field Season Results Presentation.

Find out more about the Water Quality Monitoring Program and sign up to volunteer in 2017.

News to Us

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Mulching fall leaves is a river friendly practice. Photo credit: Dean Hochman via Flickr Creative Commons license.

HRWC’s commitment to compiling and sharing noteworthy water-related news continues. This month’s News to Us covers the recent listing of Lake Erie as impaired waters, problems associated with low density development, a great river recovery story and some tips on good river “housekeeping” for autumn leaves.

 

Conservation Groups Applaud Michigan’s Inclusion of Lake Erie in Impaired Waters Report
Last week the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality listed western Lake Erie as impaired waters under the Clean Water Act. Environmental groups have been advocating for this for some time now as it will allow for further research, funding and action to address the nutrient pollution that leads to toxic algal blooms in Lake Erie. This is very good news for this Great Lake. Many are pushing for Ohio to follow suit.

Is the Infrastructure ‘Time Bomb’ Beginning to Blow?
It may not be immediately obvious, but low density development—what we see in suburban and rural areas where homes are built on large lots far from city centers—is not good for waters and watersheds. Here at HRWC we prefer high density development in a few areas as opposed to low density development everywhere. This article highlights one of the problems associated with sprawling development. “Low density housing cannot pay the bills.”  The tax revenue is too low to cover the cost of infrastructure maintenance like roads, sewer and water necessary to serve these developments. When this infrastructure fails, the environment suffers. Check out our Smart Growth publications to learn more.

Taking Down Dams and Letting the Fish Flow
Last issue we shared an article about the human safety benefits of dam removal. This heartening story shows how quickly an ecosystem can rebound after dam removals. Three dams were removed on the Penobscot River in Maine in 2012 and 2013. Just three years later, huge numbers of native migratory fish have resumed their migration up the river—a trip they have not been able to make for nearly 200 years!

Leave The Leaves–Putting Organic Waste To Work
Leaves and grass that make their way into waterways add excess nutrients and use up valuable oxygen as they decompose. Local Master Composter Nancy Stone gives advice on how to utilize fall yard waste to maximize the benefits of fallen leaves. Leaves can be used in your yard to improve your soil and reduce weed growth. Nancy recommends mowing the leaves into your lawn. Mulching leaves can also reduce the greenhouse gas methane. Give this interview a listen as you are getting ready to clean up fall leaves. For more tips on river friendly home care visit our pollution prevention page.

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.

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.

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.

News to Us

crayfishA 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.

News to Us

Tubing at Argo Cascades. Photo credit: Andy Piper via Flickr Creative Commons License.

Tubing at Argo Cascades. Photo credit: Andy Piper via Flickr Creative Commons License.

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.

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.


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