Thank you to our Sponsors and Supporters, many River Revelers and River Guardians, our hard working Host Committee, and our hosts Walt Weber and Iva Corbett for helping us celebrate the river at our 2014 Suds on the River. Last Thursday night, we welcomed over 350 guests under a big tent at Walt and Iva’s house in Ypsilanti Township on Ford Lake. With 7 breweries, 6 chefs, 28 restaurants, and a spectacular view, river enthusiasts were treated to a lovely evening eating, drinking and socializing. We always say “we cannot do it without you” and this year 127 volunteers helped manage registration, two parking lots, 6 shuttle buses, food deliveries and pick-ups, cars and traffic and the clean-up after everyone goes home, to make it come together so beautifully. Thank you to everyone for making this Suds such a great success.
A crowd will be gathering in Grand Rapids this week to share the latest efforts focused on restoring the Great Lakes, and HRWC will be there!
The 10th Annual Great Lakes Restoration Conference hosted by the Healing Our Waters – Great Lakes Coalition begins on Tuesday, September 9th. The three-day conference brings together a diverse group of more than 400 people from throughout the region who learn about important Great Lakes restoration issues, network at the largest annual gathering of Great Lakes supporters and activists, and develop strategies to advance federal, regional and local restoration goals.
The Huron River renaissance RiverUp! and the Grand River rapids restoration will be featured on Day 1 at the Transforming Your River into Main Street session. HRWC’s Elizabeth Riggs will share the story of the revitalization and restoration efforts on the Huron through diverse partnerships, creative financing, and a compelling vision for what the river corridor can be to residents and visitors. #BlueEconomy
With dozens of great sessions covering topics such as toxic algal blooms, petroleum product shipping, microbeads, climate resiliency measures, and diversified energy, you’ll want to join the conference in Grand Rapids or follow the Live Stream provided by GreatLakesNow. Follow HRWC’s Twitter feed (#hrwc) for updates from the conference.
News to Us today highlights a couple of local stories from Milford and Scio Township. Several climate-related articles came across our desks recently including a press release on a new report connecting climate change to pest outbreaks and some promising bi-partisan legislation in New York. Finally, more fall out from the recent flooding in Detroit — raw sewage in local rivers and ultimately Lake Erie.
Milford activists aim to integrate river, downtown Recently, interested community members met in Milford to discuss the Huron River. As one of the Huron River Trail Towns, Milford is looking for ways to connect all the downtown assets available to people from the river, to parks to downtown businesses. Improved canoe landing areas, signage, and new development opportunities were among the topics discussed. Trail towns are part of HRWC’s RiverUp! program.
Scio Township imposes moratorium on oil and gas operations Following the installation of the first drilling operation in Scio Township on Miller Rd and W. Delhi, the township has established a 6-month moratorium on further oil and natural gas developments. This will give the township time to consider existing protections related to oil and gas activities such as ordinances on noise, odor, and hours of operation.
Warming Climate Brings Greater Numbers of Bugs and Outdoor Pests A new report is linking factors related to climate change are responsible, in part, for high populations of mosquitoes and ticks as well as the toxicity of poison ivy. Read the full report: Ticked Off: America’s Outdoor Experience and Climate Change.
Legislature sends climate change bill to Cuomo Across the nation, from the federal to local levels, people are planning and taking action to prepare communities for a changing climate. Last month, New York took a significant leap by bring legislation to Governor Cuomo that would require all state-funded projects to address climate change and extreme weather into planning and implementation of these projects. Legislation passed a democratic controlled Assembly and Republican controlled Senate and awaits the Governer’s approval expected sometime late this summer.
Metro Detroit’s sewage overflow feeds Lake Erie algae growth The historic flooding that occurred in the Detroit area this August caused trouble beyond flooded roadways and basements. Many areas affected by the flood have combined stormwater and sewer systems that, when overwhelmed, deliver raw sewage directly to rivers, streams and ultimately Lake Erie further exacerbating recent water quality issues in the lake. We are fortunate in the Huron River Watershed not to have combined sewer systems. However, stormwater and sewer infrastructure failures affect us all. Improving this infrastructure to handle large rainfall events will help protect against future failures.
Michigan summers do a great job of bringing people out-of-doors. Schools starts soon and so I’m thinking back about all the fun that I had. I truly hope that you were busy having as much fun as I did. Our Trails Towns of Milford, Dexter, Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, and Flat Rock were filled with wonderful events all summer long.
I had planned to golf more, ride my bike daily, and plant some new flower beds, but instead I . . .
* Paddled my kayak and pedaled my bike from Flat Rock to Oakwoods Nature Center on National Trails Day in June.
* Visited every fun display and enjoyed watching kids play in the sand area at Huron River Days in Ann Arbor’s Gallup Park. There were plenty of kayakers and handmade kayaks to see. What a busy day on the River!
* Bought kettle corn, set up a lawn chair, and enjoyed outside dining in Milford as part of their Farmers Market and Concert Series. I had such a good time, I went twice! How exciting their Amphitheater at Central Park along the River is under construction!
* Enjoyed a great BBQ dinner and root beer float at Dexter Daze. I had a great time visiting with all kinds of people to share fun facts about the Huron River Water Trail and promoting our Super Moon Paddle.
* Walked across the “tridge” and marveled how pretty the Huron is in Ypsilanti during Heritage Days in Riverside Park. A hidden gem. I had great fun selling kayak raffle tickets and seeing the happy winner! It is a wonderful community event that brings together all of Ypsilanti with festivities.
The fun isn’t over yet! Flat Rock Riverfest is coming up from September 19 to 21 at HuRoc Park.
With fall on its way, you’ll find me with a cup of hot apple cider, relaxing, and watching the leaves fall. Our Trail Towns on the 104-mile will put on a spectacular display. I’m sure that we won’t be disappointed.
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.