Reports of dishonest companies indicate we need to do our homework.
There are at least four cases under investigation in Scio Township where a company allegedly applied coal tar sealcoat on driveways after telling homeowners they were applying the safer asphalt based sealcoat. Scio Township passed an ordinance banning the use of coal tar sealcoats in June, 2016. Not only is this practice deceitful, it is illegal in areas with bans. Communities in the Huron River watershed passing similar ordinances now include, Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, Dexter and the Townships of Hamburg, Scio and Van Buren.
If you are planning to seal your driveway or other asphalt surface, consider taking the following steps to ensure you are getting what you pay for.
- Choose a local company.
- Collect several competitive bids.
- Be wary of anyone knocking on your door and offering to sealcoat unsolicited.
- Check out the company you are considering on sites like the Better Business Bureau, Yelp and Angie’s List.
One homeowner described the incident:
They are operating in our area as we speak… offering no estimates, overcharging citizens by upwards of 500% of what it actually costs and using an illegal, banned and harmful product and lying about it to customers…The name that he gave me was Father and Sons Sealcoating but it’s not a real company. The brochure that he gave me of a real and safe product is not what he used either… They were driving a green Dodge pickup with camouflage on the wheel rudders, probably a Ram.
We are nearing the end of the pavement sealing season, but if you are still hoping to seal yet this fall, do your homework and work with a reputable company.
For more information on the human and environmental health impacts of coal tar and other high PAH sealcoats visit www.hrwc.org/coaltar.
Please help HRWC better serve the communities of the Huron River watershed by completing this survey. Good will and possibly a $20 Amazon Gift Card are in it for you.
HRWC research partners are surveying residents in our watershed and the results of this research will be very helpful to HRWC. The survey is intended to help us understand how people and communities perceive their risk associated with impacts from climate change, how prepared people feel and their willingness to prepare.
Your participation in this study is voluntary and greatly appreciated. Your information will be anonymous. The findings will be shared with stakeholders to inform community planning toward resiliency and sustainability. The results of this study may be used in reports, presentations, or publications but your name will not be used.
Please take 10 to 15 minutes to complete the survey by October 31st. Also, consider sharing this blog or survey link via community websites or other appropriate locations to help increase our response rate.
Thank you for all the ways you help to make the Huron the best it can be!
Help protect local water and prevent teen substance abuse!
You can make a difference.
Take your unused medications (both for people and pets) to the UM’s Pain Medication Take-Back Day
Saturday, October 8, 10am-2pm, Ann Arbor’s Pioneer High School Parking Lot
Check the link for a listing of accepted items.
(hosted by the Ann Arbor Police, the Institute for Healthcare and Policy Innovation, and the Division of Pain Research)
Unused prescription medications are both a water quality issue–(A US Geological Survey study concluded that 80% of streams sampled contained detectable levels of compounds found in common medications) and a teen substance abuse issue (Partnership for Drug Free Kids reports that prescription medicines are now the most commonly abused drugs among 12 to 13 year olds).
Disposing of medications through a take back program keeps them out of our water and gets them away from the home where teens have access.
There are lots of drug take back options (many Sheriff Stations, pharmacies, State Police) throughout the Huron River watershed. We have found the most complete information at Washtenaw County’s Don’tFlushDrugs.com. Look closely at listings for what drugs each program accepts. Some will not accept controlled/scheduled drugs (in compliance with the Controlled Substance Act (CSA), enforced by the Drug Enforcement Administration) and some will.
Quick links at HRWC’s Take Action Take Back Drugs page.
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.
Is fall the best time to plant trees? Good question. Seems that the answer is debatable. With the onset of fall, there are a couple of compelling reasons to plant — availability and affordability! We know of at least two upcoming tree sales here in the shed:
Washtenaw County Conservation District fall tree sale (Order by September 30)
Matthaei Botanical Gardens fall native plant and tree sale (October 1/October 2, 10am-4:30pm)
What is not up for debate is that trees are good for protecting local waterways. “Polluted stormwater runoff is the number one threat to the Huron’s health. Trees soak up stormwater with their roots and intercept rainwater in their canopies. They filter pollution such as pesticides, fertilizers, and animal wastes out of runoff; and they shade the river and its streams, keeping them cool. One tree can intercept 1,763 gallons of runoff water each year.” Huron River Report, Fall 2014, Hardworking Trees, Low-cost watershed workers.
Need more proof? Check out Trees Tame Stormwater, an interactive poster from the Arbor Day Foundation. Drag the slider from few trees to abundant trees. Notice how clean and sparkly the urban river becomes — no doubt due to less polluted stormwater coming through that stormdrain (middle right).
Want to dig deeper? Take a look at a Review of climate impacts to tree species of the Huron River watershed, from HRWC’s Climate Resilient Communities project. As climate zones shift across the Great Lakes region, some populations of native tree species will be stressed, and habitats may become more suitable for species from outside the region. Geared toward natural resource managers in the region, the guide includes tree species change summaries. You can see general trend predictions for trees like Red Maple and White Pine.
For more how-to info see Home Trees & Shrubs from Michigan State University Extension.
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:
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.
Open for business this summer is the renovated canoe and kayak launch at Frog Island. Ypsilanti’s Frog Island Park on the Huron River, located just north of Depot Town between Forest and Cross, is getting a makeover. This access is located at river mile 40.7 on the Huron River Water Trail.
Since last November, invasive shrubs were removed and sight lines to the river opened up, hand rails on the stairs were installed, concrete cleaned, and an access path and launch graded and gravel added. The access is safer and easier to use. A new river-themed mural is in the works, too.
Try out the river in Ypsilanti and visit Frog Island. This section features mature tree canopy, newly restored fish habitat, and an unimpeded paddle trip into Ford Lake. Put in below Dixboro Dam, paddle the meandering river past the St. Joseph Mercy Hospital campus, portage the Superior Dam and Pen Park Dam, and see Ypsilanti from the water before taking out at Frog Island. Or start your trip at Frog Island and paddle past Riverside Park and Waterworks Park before entering Ford Lake. Paddle the upper end of the lake before taking out at Loon Feather Park. For a longer trip, paddle Ford Lake and take out at the new dam portage into North Hydro Park.
Ypsilanti Fall River Day on Sunday, October 9th offers a great opportunity to see the city by water in your own kayak or rent one that day.
Before your paddle, check out our podcast series that profiles three waterfront locations in Ypsilanti each with an important role in the city’s position as an automotive powerhouse:
- The Faircliffe Home on Ford Lake
- Motor Wheel
- Water Street
Learn more about the Automotive Heritage Trail District.
HRWC leads this RiverUp! project, in cooperation with the City of Ypsilanti. Thanks to Bill Kinley for championing this project, with support from the Walter J. Weber Jr. Family, and many individual donors. Much gratitude to Washtenaw County Convention and Visitors Bureau and Margolis Landscaping for the many hours of labor and materials generously given to this renovation. Thanks to all of the community volunteers who kicked off the work in November 2015.
As mentioned in the Summer 2016 HRWC newsletter, both Barton and Argo Pond on the Huron River are home to a new exotic aquatic plant, the European Water-Clover (Marsilea quadrifolia). In 2015, Michigan DEQ alerted HRWC that this plant was only in two places in the state, Barton/Argo Ponds and a location in the Clinton River Watershed. However, they were unaware of how widespread this plant was in our system. In 2015, HRWC volunteers searched those ponds and found many patches of the plant and reported their location back to DEQ.
The scientific community at large is generally ignorant about the European Water Clover; people do not know how it spreads, to what extent it can out-compete nearby native plants, and how it might change the ecology of the system. This is often an issue with new exotic species; scientists often don’t know how damaging something will be until it becomes a problem. It is important to get a handle on these new plants, though, because you can’t predict when the next Phragmites will arrive- a plant that spreads very rapidly and changes its ecosystem. And any control methods have to be done very carefully, as so many plants (such as Eurasian Water Milfoil) can actually spread faster and further if they are carelessly ripped out.
This past spring, HRWC put a monitoring plan together with DEQ. To determine when the plant first emerged, HRWC visited two known problem areas weekly in Argo and Barton Ponds through the late spring and early summer. The water clover was first detected in early June.
To determine possible spread of the water clover, HRWC and DEQ waited until early August of this year, when the plant would be at its full summer growth, and surveyed upstream of Barton Pond, from Delhi Metropark to the Maple Street Bridge. Thankfully, that section of the Huron River was clear of the plant. It does seems that the plant strongly prefers very slow water, and the Huron upstream of Barton generally flows at a moderate to rapid rate.
HRWC is planning additional monitoring downstream, through Gallup Park and Superior Pond, which contains more promising habitat for the plant. DEQ is also planning to try out some control methods, conducting both herbicide treatments in a greenhouse and an exclusion method using a mat that covers the plants in the river.
HRWC will continue to watch this exotic plant and report out as more is learned about European Water Clover in the Huron River system.
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.
- Issues Of The Environment: Ann Arbor Bans Coal Tar Sealants And Hopes State Will Follow Suit
- Hamburg Township bans coal tar driveway sealants
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.