Posts Tagged ‘Pollution Prevention’

Make a Difference… Be a Scientist on Earth Day

Join a team of kids, teens, adults, and retirees during the River Roundup as you explore creeks and rivers.

Join a team of kids, teens, adults, and retirees during the River Roundup as you explore creeks and rivers.

Earth Day falls on April 22 this year, and not accidentally, so does HRWC’s spring River Roundup.  Perhaps the idea of Earth Day may strike you as a little disheartening this year, in our current political climate of science and environmental budget cuts, and widespread doubt in scientific data.  Are we making a difference at all?  Or is our country reverting back to an era of rivers catching on fire?  What is so disheartening to me personally is not a looming Federal budget that will remove funding for the Great Lakes and environmental regulation (though that is terrible, don’t get me wrong, but I’m not surprised by this), but to see so many people who agree with this course of action. Still, there is room for hope in our future, and that hopes lies in you—the many people who want clean water and clean land and who stand strong with HRWC to work for it.

Consider volunteering with us. Every participant makes an immediate difference at our local level.  HRWC volunteers collect scientific data in southeast Michigan, primarily in Oakland, Livingston, Washtenaw, and Wayne Counties. For the upcoming River Roundup on Earth Day, volunteers will be looking for aquatic insects that tell us about the health of the Huron River and its tributaries, and ultimately about the health of all the land that drains into the Huron.  This information gives HRWC the knowledge to conduct effective river management projects and the authority to speak  intelligently on water quality issues with local, state, and federal government, landowners, and  other decision-makers.

And in the process of collecting scientific data, HRWC volunteers are learning and teaching others.  It is always so exciting to see the adult HRWC volunteers interacting and teaching children, teens, and college students about river systems, insects, and the environment.  And in as many cases, to see the kids teaching the adults! This is the type of education that will create the long term cultural change needed in our country.

Make a difference locally by acting now to help HRWC collect scientific information that informs our management decisions and local policies; change the future by teaching the younger generation in the process. The River Roundup is on Earth Day, April 22.  Learn more about the River Roundup and register at http://www.hrwc.org/volunteer/roundup/

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.

Take Back Your Prescription Medications

Help protect local water and prevent teen substance abuse!

You can make a difference.

Pain Medication Take Back Day October 8, 2016

Take Back Day, Sat Oct 8, Pioneer High School, Ann Arbor

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.

 

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.

Getting the Word Out

HuronAutumnIt is not enough to protect the Huron River watershed. There is a whole world of watersheds and citizens reliant on plentiful clean water. So sometimes we step outside of our watershed boundaries to share with others what we are doing and how it is going. In return we learn from others making a difference in their watershed.  In the last month I have hit the road to talk with a few new audiences about some of the work of HRWC.

The Great Lakes Restoration Conference took place in the Windy City (it certainly lived up to this moniker while I was there) last month. Along with Alister Innes from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, and Cheryl Kallio from Freshwater Future, I spoke to an audience of Great Lakes restoration professionals about the impacts of coaltar sealcoat and the PAHs it contains, on lakes, rivers and human health. Minnesota is the only Great Lakes state that has achieved a ban of this product that is commonly used to maintain asphalt driveways and parking lots. We are hoping to grow the buzz on this topic within our region to help get PAH contamination (the compounds of concern in coaltar sealcoat) out of Great Lakes waters.

Next, I was off to Detroit to the Michigan Association of Planners Conference.  Here I participated in a panel sharing stories of how communities throughout Michigan are incorporating climate change into municipal planning and trying to build resilience in natural, social and economic systems so that when more extreme events hit our cities and towns we can bounce back quickly and sustain less damage.

Finally, the 3rd annual Stormwater Summit was held at Lawrence Technological University. What a diverse group of professionals we have doing seriously good work right here in southeast Michigan!  The audience received a brief on the Lake Erie algal bloom that contaminated Toledo’s drinking water in 2014 and what is happening in Michigan and Ohio to prevent a similar event in the future.  I presented our work within the Huron to adopt better rainfall data to create stormwater systems that can accommodate the heavier rains climate change brings to our area. We also heard about some very cool green infrastructure and urban conservation projects. Summit presentations will be available soon on the Pure Oakland Water website.

These types of exchanges ensure HRWC staff are aware of innovations occurring elsewhere that inspire our future work and give back to the community by sharing innovations of our own.

 

New study links coal-tar sealed pavement to death of aquatic organisms

Numerous studies on coal-tar based asphalt sealcoats have linked this product to human health problems and ecological damage (learn more about the issue in this recent blog and this newsletter article, page 7).  HRWC would like municipalities and homeowners to refuse to use coal-tar based sealcoats because of their environmental effects, and a recent study released by the U.S. Geological Survey gives us all another reason to do so.

In this study, researchers applied coal-tar sealcoat to a section of a parking lot, and simulated rain-falls and collected the water runoff both 3 days and 36 days after sealcoat application.  Two common aquatic species (fathead minnows and cladocerans) were exposed to the run-off.  A 1:10 dilution of the run-off (which would be an approximation of conditions in moderately urban streams and ponds) caused a 10% mortality of the fathead minnow and a 60-100% mortality of the cladocerans, with the length of time after sealcoat application not making a difference.

There is much more to this study including looking at the effects of ultraviolet light, alternative sealcoat products, control treatments, and differing treatment lengths.  However, based on the one part of the study given above, it is clear that coal-tar sealcoat is producing toxic rain run-off. Secondly, the sealcoat continues to cause the death of aquatic life 36 days after application (and perhaps further, but this was not included in the study). Application guidelines of coal-tar sealcoat  state that the sealcoat should not be applied if rain is forecast within 24 hours to allow the product time to cure, but after this period the “risk level of runoff drops close to inconsequential.” This study reveals these application guidelines are incorrect.

Readers are welcome to check out the study for themselves; it is technical but not impossible to read. It is also copyright free, so HRWC is able to give the journal article here.

 

Toxic Algae Bloom in Lake Erie

Algae bloom on Lake Erie, in 2011. Source: New York Times

Algae bloom on Lake Erie, in 2011. Source: New York Times

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.

 

Fresh wisdom available for your waterfront home!

Searching for ways to care for your waterfront?

Waterfront Wisdom, 7 tips for creating and maintaining a beautiful and healthy waterfrontMany of us put a lot of work into our homes and gardens. This summer, HRWC offers some water-friendly tips specifically for river and lake shoreline property owners!

“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.

You can download our 12 page pdf booklet here, or visit HRWC’s own Be Waterfront Wise webpage.

If you have any questions or would like a printed copy mailed to you, please contact Pam Labadie at plabadie@hrwc.org.

For Further Information:

Michigan Clean Water Corps: The Cooperative Lakes Monitoring Program

Michigan’s Natural Shoreline Partnership

HRWC’s Take Action Page for all Homeowners

News to Us

Maple tree sap being tapped for syrup.  Creative Commons Image by www.flickr.com/photos/ladydragonflyherworld/

Sugar maple tapping. Creative Commons Image by www.flickr.com/photos/ladydragonflyherworld/

This edition of News to Us shares news stories on how the Great Lakes fared in federal budget negotiations, the status of the debate over the proposed Lyndon Township mine and a couple articles that will hopefully help you “think spring”!

President’s budget cuts Great Lakes programs The federal budget for 2015 is proposing significant cuts for two programs supporting clean water work in the Great Lakes.  The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative faces a $25 million budget cut.  The Clean Water State Revolving Fund which supports wastewater treatment and sewer systems faces $150 million in cuts. Considering the rapidly declining condition of our state’s wastewater infrastructure, this is very bad news.

DEXTER: Annual Maple syrup tree tapping marks first sign of spring It is sugaring season in southeast Michigan.  For a short window of time, as we transition to warmer temperatures, maple syrup can be extracted from local sugar maples.  Many parks in the area provide tours and opportunities to tap trees in the coming weeks.

Neighbors express concerns about proposed sand and gravel mine near Chelsea  More news on the proposed Lyndon Township sand and gravel mine and the growing opposition.

How are robins faring this winter?  Not all robins head south for the winter. The large fruit crop from last year has helped robins weather this hard winter.  Learn more about this bird, their life history and why we see them through the winter even though they are thought of as our local “sign of spring”.

Flushability of Wipes Spawns Class-Action Lawsuit  Take it easy on your local wastewater treatment plant, your septic tank and the Huron River by abstaining from flushing the now widely available “flushable wipes”.  These products are wreaking havoc on systems throughout the U.S, to such a degree that lawsuits are being filed against companies manufacturing the products.

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Ann Arbor Unveils Plan for its Urban Forest

A2ForestAfter three years of study and gathering input from residents, businesses, forestry experts and stakeholder groups (including HRWC), the City of Ann Arbor is taking final public comment on their draft Urban and Community Forest Management Plan.

The Plan describes the status of the city’s “urban forest,” which includes all trees within the city, from the forests in Bird Hills and other parks, to the trees lining its streets and in back yards.  One of the findings of the plan is that trees provide $4.6 million in benefits each year to the city.  These benefits include reducing stormwater runoff , improving water and air quality, moderating summer temperatures, lowering utility costs and contributing to property values.  HRWC was a member of the Advisory Committee that provided input on plan development and fully supports the goals of the plan.

The City is accepting public comment on the plan until March 28, 2014.  Comments may be submitted via:

email:  kgray@a2gov.org
fax:  734.994.1744- attn: Kerry Gray
mail:  301 E. Huron St., PO Box 8647, Ann
Arbor, MI 48107- attn: Kerry Gray

Paper copies of the draft plan are available upon request.  Please contact Kerry
Gray at kgray@a2gov.org or 734.794.6430 x
43703.

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