This edition of News to Us is full of state and regional news that piques our interest here at HRWC. We have seen two significant events in our area make national headlines recently – last week’s record rainfall in Southeast Michigan and the toxic algal bloom in Lake Erie that left many in Ohio and Michigan without drinking water for days. We’ve selected two articles to share that focus on solutions. Read also about efforts to halt the spread of aquatic invasives, commentary on the implications to Michigan’s energy infrastructure of the recent EPA regulations limiting carbon emissions and a research report on the status of diversity represented within environmental groups.
Ohio offers no-interest loans in water toxin fight Initial steps are being taken in Ohio to safeguard the region from further drinking water issues. Actions include free drinking water testing, funding to reduce phosphorus runoff from farms, and loans available for water treatment upgrades.
Editorial: Re-envision infrastructure in wake of historic rainfall This is a solid editorial piece on the status of Michigan’s aging infrastructure in the wake of Detroit’s record breaking rainfall this week. Our ability to manage stormwater from significant rains throughout the state is challenged by old, inadequate pipes, lack of funding and more frequent large precipitation events. The author calls for legislative action and the use of more green and blue infrastructure solutions.
Stopping the spread of aquatic invasive species in Michigan The Michigan Department of Fisheries and Wildlife is taking action this summer to slow the spread of invasive species between water bodies in Michigan. A small crew is visiting popular boat launches throughout the state with a trailer mounted boat washer meant to scrub the boat before it moves to another lake potentially carrying a nuisance species and to educate boat owners about the issue. Aquatic invasives cause many problems from harmful algal blooms to weed mats and the loss of native diversity. Learn more about how you can help stop the spread of aquatic invasives.
A $15B upgrade for utilities: New EPA rules stoke Consumers, DTE move to wind and gas The CEO of DTE Energy estimates about $15 billion will be spent on Michigan’s power infrastructure over the coming decades to meet EPA’s rules on carbon emissions. Experts expect to see a significant shift in the source of our power from coal to natural gas and wind. Read more about how this industry is expecting to change in the coming years.
New Findings: The State of Diversity in Environmental Organizations Through a survey of 243 environmental non-profits in the Great Lakes Region, a University of Michigan researcher concluded that within this sector, gender, race and class diversity is low. The author recommends more inclusive recruitment and active mentoring to help bridge the diversity gap.
Many people like to use driveway sealants to prolong the life of their asphalt driveways and to give them an attractive, shiny glow. However, in recent years there have been a number of scientific studies that indicate using coal tar sealants have significant environmental and health effects. Coal tar sealants contain very high levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), many of which are suspected or known carcinogens.
- Coal tar pitch from sealcoat reaches streams and lakes via runoff as the sealcoat erodes. Coal tar sealcoat was determined in a study to be the largest source of PAH contamination to urban lakes.
- PAHs are toxic to mammals, birds, fish, amphibians, invertebrates and plants. Invertebrates that live in the bottom sediment where PAHs accumulate are particularly susceptible to PAH contamination. Possible effects include reduced reproduction, forcing creatures from their habitat, and death.
- The routine wear and tear of coal tar sealcoated pavements produces dust and particles contaminated with PAHs that can be breathed and accidentally ingested by people living by the pavements. For someone who spends their entire lifetime living adjacent to coal tar sealcoated pavement, the average excess lifetime cancer risk is estimated to be 38 times higher than the urban background exposure. More than one-half of the risk occurs during the first 18 years of life.
- Much of the scientific argument against coal tar comes from the USGS, and you can learn more here: Studies and information from the United States Geological Survey.
There is a safer alternative if sealants are needed. Asphalt based sealcoats are safer, readily available, and very affordable according to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency website. (The state of Minnesota has banned coal tar sealcoats and provides information on alternatives.) The most common and least expensive alternative to coal tar sealcoat now on the market is petroleum asphalt based sealcoat. Asphalt sealcoats contain PAHs, but at far lower levels than coal tar sealcoats—about 1/1000th the PAH level of coal tar sealcoats.
HRWC is currently investigating how wide-spread the use of coal tar sealants is in our communities. We are not sure if this is a minor problem here, or a serious issue. We will release more information as more is learned over the coming month. However, one thing seems undeniable- you do not want this material used at your house, at your neighbors’ houses, or on parking lots that you and your children walk on.
This June 20, 2013 USA Today article gives some pertinent advice. “Before sealing your driveway, hire only a contractor who provides a MSDS (material data safety sheet) for the intended product. Check to see if it contains this CAS number for coal tar: 65996-93-2. If doing the work yourself, buy only products with a “coal tar free” logo.”
Over the weekend HRWC hosted a Full Moon paddle. This year’s moonlight paddle brought us into the Pinckney State Recreation Area. We met at the Crooked Lake campground put-in, paddled down the scenic winding creek to Pickerel Lake. Once we arrived at Pickerel Lake we paddled around the nearby tributaries and perimeter of the lake until sundown. We were expecting a Supermoon, and definitely received just that. The Moon’s light was bright enough that some chose to not use a flashlight on our paddle back up the stream to the Crooked Lake campground launch.
A very special thanks to Barry Lonik being our guide on the trip, and Dea Armstrong for always having her eye’s and ear’s open for bird identification. Dea successfully identified 22 separate species of bird’s on this paddle.
Last week, nearly 500,000 people lost access to clean water for drinking and bathing due to a toxic algae bloom that occurred around the City of Toledo’s drinking water intake. The bloom was likely caused by excessive amounts of phosphorus (and perhaps other nutrients) in the Western Lake Erie Basin.
Although the immediate crisis in the city of Toledo has passed, the threat to drinking water supplies in Toledo and other Lake Erie communities has not. Lake Erie supplies water for 11 million people who live near the lake.
Watershed councils and environmental groups, including HRWC, have been working for years to reduce nutrients, like phosphorus, in our watersheds. It is these nutrients – from agricultural practices, lawn fertilizers, wastewater treatment plants, and polluted runoff from pavement – that are a chief cause of the algae blooms. The changing climate and alterations in invasive mussel populations also contribute to the algae blooms. On top of it all, our lakes also suffer from the cycling of nutrients deposited in the lake from years past.
Here in the Huron River watershed, HRWC and municipalities along the river have made major investments to reduce our nutrient inputs such as stronger soil erosion controls, phosphorus and buffer ordinances, streambank restoration, and wetlands and natural area protection and construction to hold and infiltrate water. As a result phosphorus levels in the middle section of the watershed entering Ford Lake have been reduced substantially. While the lakes still have occasional algae blooms, the length and size has been reduced.
Overall, the phosphorus load contributed by the Huron River watershed to Lake Erie pales in comparison to the massive load from the heavily agricultural Maumee River watershed. In response to this heavy agricultural input, the International Joint Commission has called for better nutrient management and soil erosion controls by agriculture including a ban on winter manure application. They also recommend continued reduction of urban sources and wetland restoration. Last week, a New York Times editorial called for similar action.
Nutrient pollution is a clear danger not only to drinking water, but to efforts to develop a “blue economy” for the Great Lakes, including HRWC’s RiverUp program to promote the river as a recreational, economic, and cultural resource. This new economic future cannot stand with national headlines declaring Great Lakes water unsafe to drink.
Until we stop polluting our lakes and rivers, our economy, drinking water and way of life are in jeopardy. To learn more about what you can do to reduce your impact on the Huron River Watershed and Lake Erie downstream, take a look at our tips on how to become an H2O Hero and how to be a responsible shoreline property owner.
Searching for ways to care for your waterfront?
“Waterfront Wisdom” provides helpful information regarding how to best maintain shoreline property and protect water quality at the same time. Every waterfront homeowner has a unique opportunity to help improve the health of the Huron River watershed while maintaining a beautiful shoreline and keeping waterways clean for swimming, fishing and boating.
Some of the many tips that can be found inside:
- Minimize runoff by installing a rain garden
- Use native plants to keep geese away
- Prevent soil erosion by growing a natural shoreline along the water
- Choose phosphorus-free fertilizer or avoid fertilizer altogether to help reduce algal blooms
- Prevent excess nutrients and harmful pathogens with proper septic system maintenance
You will not only provide healthy habitat for wildlife and support recreation, but also protect drinking water.
If you have any questions or would like a printed copy mailed to you, please contact Pam Labadie at email@example.com.
For Further Information:
News to Us this week finds more on local activity around recent interests in oil and gas development in our watershed in the news lately. Also, a new shop opens in Dexter catering to river and nature enthusiasts and a couple of updates on water pollution issues reminding us to keep diligent on both new and known pollutants.
Judge denies injunction against oil well in Scio Township For those keeping tabs on oil well drilling in Scio Township, an injunction filed to delay oil exploration drilling in Scio Township was denied in Washtenaw Circuit Court. The delay was sought to have more time to assess potential environmental damages associated with the drilling. The next step may be to take the issue to Ingham County Courts.
Open house in Chelsea draws dozens to learn about proposed natural gas pipeline An open house was held in Chelsea to allow residents to get more information about a proposed pipeline that will run from Ohio to Canada through parts of Washtenaw, Lenawee, Livingston, Oakland, Macomb and St. Clair counties. The Rover Pipeline project is scheduled to begin as early as January 2016.
Bailiwick’s Outdoors in Dexter offers apparel for adventure sports and fly fishing gear for enthusiasts It is great to see new businesses open that grow our own local “blue economy”. A new river-based recreation shop has opened in Dexter. If you have paddling, fishing, birding, hiking or equestrian needs, consider stopping by and supporting our friends at Bailiwicks.
Big Toxic Algal Bloom Again in Forecast for Lake Erie. As a reminder that we cannot assume that once a condition improves it will stay improved – Lake Erie’s algae bloom issues from the 1960’s and ‘70’s have returned in recent years. This year is no exception. Forecasts predict the algae bloom this summer could be one of the largest in the past decade. Phosphorus from fertilizers, sewage and industrial waste is the main culprit driving the blooms.
Plastic microbeads could be banned from personal care products in the U.S. by 2018 In a previous News to Us we shared an article about an emerging pollutant to our waterways. Plastic microbeads are used in many cosmetic and personal care products. They make it through many wastewater treatment facilities and into our waters where they are ingested by wildlife and release known toxins. Look for products with natural alternatives such as almonds, sea salts and apricot pits. Legislation has been introduced at the federal level. Illinois is the first state to ban products with plastic microbeads.
Schultz Outfitters and HRWC hosted the 4th annual Single Fly tournament recently. With more participation this year than the previous year; the Single Fly tournament raised upwards of $2,220 to help RiverUp!, and a fish habitat restoration project in Ypsilanti on the Huron River. Special thanks to Rick Taylor of Reinhart Realtor’s for donating the food and drinks for the after-party. Another very special thanks goes out to all of our Single Fly participants to Mike Schultz of Schultz Outfitters. For a listing of the winner’s click here.
The Single Fly tournament is an annual event that celebrates watershed protection and a special group of folks that spends a great deal of time on the river, Anglers. Anglers are important stewards of the watershed because they are out in the field observing and monitoring the Huron River and its tributaries throughout the year. HRWC greatly values the anglers for their stewardship because they often serve as our eyes and ears out in the field when we cannot be there.
If you would like to know a little more about fly fishing on the Huron River, check out the newest posting in Aaron Rubel’s blog about kayak fishing and fly fishing.
This edition of News to Us will let you know how your legislators are doing on environmental issues, introduce a Catch-22 for water conservation, and share some research findings on the impacts of underwater pipeline failures. A recent tour of a preserve in Stockbridge got HRWC and watershed residents out to enjoy what makes our watershed special. Finally, Michigan Radio has done an excellent series on arsenic in groundwater that may be of particular interest to those of us who draw our drinking water from private wells.
Michigan League of Conservation Voters give local legislators high marks Several local legislators scored very well on the annual Environmental Scorecard completed by MLCV recently. In general, however, the report finds the State moving in the wrong direction on environmental issues that impact our land, water and air. This article shares local legislators opinions on where the State of Michigan is at on important issues such as fracking, alternative energy and biodiversity protection. A link to MLCV’s full Scorecard report is available at the end of the article. Check out how your legislators are doing.
Huron River Watershed Council naturalists visit the Beckwith Preserve Earlier this month, HRWC’s Watershed Ecologist, Kris Olsson, led a walk at the Beckwith Preserve near downtown Stockbridge. This 30 acre property was donated to Legacy Land Conservancy and has frontage on Portage Creek, a lovely tributary to the Huron River. Private land donations like this play an important role in preserving lands that keep our forests, air and water in good condition.
Drought-Plagued Regions Struggle to Conserve Water and Make Money As infrastructure ages and water availability fluctuates, water utilities struggle with a catch-22. Utilities have operating expenses they need to recoup from consumers and demand they need to meet. During periods of lower water availability (peak use time, drought) encouraging water conservation is a strategy for prolonging supply and minimizing the burden on water resources. However, if they are successful and customers use less, less revenue is generated or rates may need to be raised. This article explores this issue in depth and discusses some innovative ways to promote water conservation while keeping the business of drinking water production viable.
Study: Pipeline break would devastate Great Lakes We have seen a lot of news lately about oil and gas development, pipelines, waste products from fuel production, and spills in our rivers and lakes. One issue getting a lot of attention is an aging pipeline that transports oil under water in the Straights of Mackinac. This article shares the outcomes of a recently released study on the impacts of a pipeline failure. HRWC is urging the US Department of Transportation to evaluate the risks of ruptures and leaks in pipelines crossing Michigan’s rivers, streams and lakes.
Arsenic in Michigan’s Groundwater. Michigan Radio has done a series of pieces over the past two weeks chronicling the issue of elevated arsenic in Michigan’s groundwater. The counties in the Huron River watershed do have occurrences of elevated arsenic. This only affects people on private wells as city water is required to remove arsenic from water during treatment. There are not elevated arsenic levels in all wells and there are treatment options for private wells. If you are in a county that has registered elevated levels in groundwater, consider having your well tested. Here are links to the series:
- This mom didn’t know why her family was sick until she checked their water
- Here’s how to test and treat your drinking water well for arsenic
- Michigan’s arsenic problem is among the worst in the nation. Here’s why that matters.
- There’s arsenic in Michigan’s well water, but not a lot of people are talking about it
- These places in Michigan are still working on getting arsenic out of their drinking water
- One congressman has kept us in the dark about the health risks of arsenic
Join HRWC as we end July with a variety of recreation events to get you out on the Huron River. Whether you enjoy swimming, fly fishing, or paddling; we’ve got an event for you!
Sunday, July 20, Baseline Lake, Michigan Sailing Club, Dexter, MI
Sunday, July 20, Schultz Outfitters, 4 E. Cross Street, Ypsilanti, MI
Thursday, July 24, Oakwoods Metropark, Huron Charter Township, MI
*Attention paddlers! We are looking for a few more volunteers to be safety paddlers during the Baseline Lake Swim. Safety Paddlers are an integral component of this event; you will ensure the safety of the swimmers. Contact Derek Schrader at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Have you ever found yourself in the shower or washing the dishes thinking to yourself, “Self, I wish I knew more about geomorphology.” Well, you are not alone! In fact, HRWC’s geomorphology support group meets in just a few weeks and it’s likely a good idea that you attend.
HRWC’s Measuring and Mapping project teams up all sorts of cool people (like you!) to quantify (really – we’re using this word per it’s definition, not it’s typical public use as of late) how the GEOMORPHOLOGY of our bug collection sites is changing over time.
Now, you’re going to have to trust us that this “data” is “useful” and simply attend the “
training” support group. Well, or you could read Tony, “the volunteer extraordinaire,” Pitts’ writeup on the matter, here.
Registration and details may be found by mousing over and left clicking the hyperlink found here:
Fine Print: HRWC staff will do our best to ensure your safety and preparedness. Be advised, this is not an assurance of our abilities to do so, nor our professionalism therein.