Posts Tagged ‘bacteria’

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.

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.

Honey Creek Plan Released

HRWC recently received final approval to release a new watershed management plan to address impairments in Honey Creek, a tributary to the Huron River in Scio Township. The creek is identified as “impaired” by the state Department of Environmental Quality because water samples routinely show levels of bacteria above the state’s water quality standards.

Target areas for reducing bacteria contamination in Honey Creek

Target areas for reducing bacteria contamination in Honey Creek

HRWC developed the plan in consultation with partner organizations and stakeholders in the watershed following two years of extensive study. The study included sampling throughout the creek watershed, genetic “fingerprinting” of bacteria source animals, as well as in-stream and neighborhood surveys. Overall, the study helped to identify a few critical areas of possible septic contamination and it eliminated as problem areas some other parts of the watershed. Beyond septic sources, HRWC identified pet waste, livestock waste (e.g. horses and chickens), and manure application as sources of bacteria.

Key recommendations in the plan include:

  • Identification of specific septic sources, elimination of illegal connections to the creek and remediation of failing septic systems;
  • Establishment of an ordinance in Scio Township requiring the removal of pet waste combined with the installation of pet waste stations at key locations;
  • Targeted agricultural funding in the creekshed for manure and nutrient management, animal exclusion from waterways, and the restoration of stream buffers and wetlands; and
  • Education throughout the creekshed on issues contributing to bacteria contamination.

HRWC is working with partner organizations like Scio Township, the Washtenaw County Water Resources Commissioner’s Office, Washtenaw County Environmental Health, and the Washtenaw County Conservation District to raise funding to implement plan activities in 2015 and beyond.

News to Us

Winter scene in Fleming Creek

Winter scene in Fleming Creek

This edition of News to Us shares several articles on pollution, both where we are losing ground and making some gains.  Two stories provide updates on pending park improvements.  Finally, take a look back at January’s weather in a piece that captures the month in numbers.

Michigan rivers polluted by human, animal waste more than double previous estimates Occurrences of pathogen pollution have more than doubled in Michigan’s rivers and lakes in recent years.  The new numbers are thought to be the result of better monitoring rather than marked changes in water quality.  The problem is, and has been, widespread.  Most of the waters impaired by pathogens (from human and animal waste) are located in southeast Michigan.  Failing septic tanks, manure from farm fields, sewer overflows and polluted runoff are the leading contributors to the problem.

Can sewage treatment plants protect fish from the chemicals in the water? Building on the story we published in the last edition of News to Us on trace chemicals in drinking water, Michigan Radio’s The Environment Report, covers potential impacts to fish from emerging contaminants – pharmaceuticals.

Michigan: Thornapple River. Removing Dam Improves Dissolved Oxygen Levels in River It is not all bad news when it comes to water quality.  Before and after monitoring data showed improved dissolved oxygen (DO) levels at the site of a dam removal. Prior to the removal of the dam, DO levels were so low, the river was listed as impaired under the Clean Water Act.  The river will be delisted for its DO impairment.

By the numbers: See how Ann Arbor’s cold and snowy January stacks up against history  This is a fun look at this month’s weather.  It uses Ann Arbor’s weather stations but similar numbers would apply across the watershed.  Spoiler alert: It’s been coooold!

Milford Village Council Approves Final Submittal for Phase I of AMP Project  Milford is one step closer to making significant improvements its Central Park that includes an amphitheater for their summer concert series. Pettibone Creek, a tributary of the Huron River, runs through this park.  Milford is one of five Huron River Trail Towns.

Next steps for Ann Arbor greenway project uncertain after grant funds denied  A key parcel in the Allen’s Creek Greenway, did not receive state funding for improvements necessary to take it from a retired city maintenance yard to a welcoming civic space.  The Allen Creek Greenway Conservancy and the City of Ann Arbor will be meeting to determine what the next steps for keeping the greenway project moving forward.

Preventing Bacterial Contamination

Some of you may not know that the HRWC is well-known throughout the Region for their excellent work in protecting the Huron and the Great Lakes. That’s why I count it an enormous opportunity to work as an intern with them this spring and summer.

Let me introduce myself. I’m Josh Miller, doctor a graduate student at U of M. I’ve been working with Ric Lawson to develop more substantial information about bacterial contamination throughout the watershed. We have developed pages to help residents understand what bacterial contamination is, drugstore how it’s measured and why bacteria levels matter. We have also dedicated a page to the typical sources of contamination and what residents can do about it. A quick tip: celebrate Scoop Poop month by grabbing a baggy on your way out the door to walk your pet.

I’ve also been working on a bacterial contamination impairment in Honey Creek that was discovered by the MDEQ and by HRWC volunteer water monitors in recent years. We kicked off the Honey Creek project in November to make a plan for identifying the likely sources of contamination and to develop Honey Creek’s own Watershed Management Plan. In fact, physician as the study gets underway, we have planned a Stakeholder Meeting for March 29th at 6:00 pm at Scio Township Hall (827 N. Zeeb Rd.). This will give us a chance to present our current knowledge and our strategy for collecting data and developing solutions.  It also gives residents of  Honey Creekshed a chance to provide us with information and to ask questions. If you live or own a business in the creekshed (most residents of Scio Twp), please join us—no invitation required.

New Project to Help Honey Creek

Map of Honey Creek project area

Honey Creek project area showing DEQ sampling sites. HRWC also monitors at station #4.

HRWC, cialis partnering with Washtenaw County Water Resources Commissioner and Scio Township, will soon launch a new project to better understand the source(s) of bacterial contamination in Honey Creek and develop a plan to reduce or eliminate the problem. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality recently announced that they will be awarding HRWC a grant of nearly $75, here 000 to do the work. Major elements of the project include:

  • Monitoring starting in Spring 2012 at locations throughout Honey Creekshed;
  • Bacterial Source Tracking to determine animal or human sources of bacteria;
  • Development of a plan to reduce or eliminate the sources; and
  • A local workshop to get input on the plan and educate residents about the problem.

An article describing the project and providing further background can be found on annarbor.com.


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