Archive for the ‘Pollution Prevention’ Category

Top ten things I am thankful for . . .

As we head in to Thanksgiving I am reflecting on the many things that I am grateful for.  I am lucky that I find so much to be grateful for in my work.  Just in the past few months, I have a dozen or so things that come to mind:

Pinckney Recreation Area by John Lloyd.

Pinckney Recreation Area by John Lloyd.

  1. The excitement of our partners and donors to the spotting of an osprey on a platform we installed on the river.
  2. Stopping a new wastewater treatment plant from discharging more phosphorus and nitrogen in to the Middle Huron.
  3. The finalization of a new and lower 1,4 Dioxane standard for the drinking water in Michigan that will result in additional clean-up.
  4. My memories of Suds on the River, where over 400 of our community gathered to support HRWC and celebrate clean water.
  5. Achieving a growing number of municipalities to ban cancer-causing pavement sealants with 11 in the watershed and 14 total in the state.
  6. Quantifying the annual economic activity of the river at over $78.6 million!
  7. The joy of kids in the pictures and cards we receive from hundreds of them who participate in our summer snorkeling, rain garden, paddle trips, school field trips, and creek walking programs.
  8. The new commitment of the Oakland County Board of Commissioners to fund comprehensive lake monitoring in 100 of the 562 lakes in the county.
  9. After the removal of the Mill pond dam in Dexter, the increasing number of macroinvertebrates and brown trout enjoying a cleaner and faster moving creek, along with the increasing number of people discovering and enjoying the new trails, outdoor features and restaurants near the creek.
  10. You! In my work I interact with bright, passionate, and fun partners, staff, board, and volunteers. I am inspired by your commitment to our river and your love of everything Huron River.

News to Us

Florida Sea Grant agent Maia McGuire sampling for microplastics in a freshwater stream and microplastics photographed in the studio for a Florida Trend feature on Friday, July 21st, 2017.

Microplastics photographed in the studio collected from stream samples. Credit: Flickr Creative Commons License Florida Sea Grant.

This edition of News to Us provides news coverage on several major threats to freshwater including plastics, pharmaceuticals, invasive species, dioxane, and pavement sealers.

Plastics Are Forever
HRWC has been investigating the threat and impacts of plastics in the Huron River. Researchers are learning more all the time about how widespread the problem is and what the impacts are to the environment and drinking water. This radio piece dives deep on the issue with three experts.

Without Superfund cleanup, Ann Arbor still focused on court case against polluter
This month, the EPA shared its decision that the dioxane plume in the groundwater beneath Scio Township and Ann Arbor will not be declared a Superfund site.  Michigan DEQ will remain the oversight body on the issue. Ann Arbor, Scio Township, Washtenaw County, and the Huron River Watershed Council continue to pursue legal action for stronger clean-up.

Michigan GOP to invasive species: Welcome to the Great Lakes
A bill moving quickly to the Governor’s desk (House Bill 5095) will loosen restrictions on how shipping vessels manage ballast water.  Ballast water is the primary source of invasive species to the Great Lakes.  This bill weakens 2005 bipartisan legislation designed to reduce the impacts of invasives on the Great Lakes and the economic implications of those invasions. It is not too late to call Governor Snyder and request a veto.

Coal Tar Pavement Sealant Bans Discussed at Stormwater Summit
HRWC partnered with the Clinton River Watershed Council to present on the topic of toxic pavement sealers at the Oakland County Regional Stormwater Summit last month. Coal tar and other high-PAH sealants are used to maintain low traffic asphalt surfaces such as parking lots and driveways. We are looking to get more southeast Michigan communities to take action to eliminate this source of toxins in our lakes, rivers and homes.

Issues Of The Environment: Washtenaw Drug Take-Back Programs Protect Environment And Public Health
David Fair talks with Jeff Krcmarik, the Washtenaw County Environmental Program Supervisor, on the implications of pharmaceuticals in our waterways and how residents can appropriately dispose of medications to help reduce the presence of these in lakes, rivers and drinking water. Some recent articles are covering the implications of pharmaceuticals on great lakes fish.

Issues Of The Environment: Huron River And Huron River Watershed Trail Benefits Local Economy
The Huron River is one of the area’s greatest natural resources. And a new study shows it also provides an economic boon to the region. Find out how and what is still to come as WEMU’s David Fair talks with HRWC’s Elizabeth Riggs.

Shred, Gather, or Clear: How to Get Rid of Autumn Leaves

leaf-on-grassWe’re just past Autumn’s peak color burst and it’s time to properly deal with all the leaves left on the ground. There are a few ways to dispose of your leaves:

  1. Mow right over them and leave the bits to feed your lawn (easiest method).
  2. If you have a lot of leaves, you can gather the shredded leaves and compost them and/or use them as mulch for your garden beds, shrubs, and trees.
  3. Rake whole leaves up and make “leaf mold.” You’ll have some free compost in the future but keep in mind that whole leaves take longer to breakdown so plan for your pile “to stew” for a couple of years.
  4. Find out how your city/township collects leaves and gather your leaves for pick up. Some areas vacuum leaves from piles but most only gather from composting bins and leaf bags.
keep stormdrains clear flyer

Stormdrain awareness flyer for our Honey Creek outreach program

When leaves and debris end up in the street, they can clog stormdrains and cause flooding. When large amounts of leaves wash down stormdrains and into creeks and the river, they reduce oxygen and degrade fish habitat.

As part of our outreach project in the Honey Creek area, a team of seven HRWC interns took to the streets this past August to get the word out about the importance of keeping stormdrains clear of trash and other kinds of pollution. Together they labeled 498 stormdrains in residential areas while distributing 1,258 door hangers at homes along the streets they labeled. To learn more about Honey Creek, go here.

In addition to clearing your yards of leaves or for those who don’t have yards and still want to help, check out our Adopt-a-Stormdrain program. Through this unique give-back program, you can set your own volunteer hours and meet neighbors.

2018 Watershed Community Calendar

You can be an H2O Hero!

The communities of the Huron River watershed have come together to produce another spectacular calendar. Chock full of stunning Huron River photography, stormwater pollution prevention tips and local resources to inspire you to enjoy and protect our beloved river.2018-watershed-community-calendar-cover-lo-res

Our hope is that, just like the H2O Heroes featured in the calendar, you turn inspiration into action. That you do something every day to protect clean water or work with HRWC in 2018 as a volunteer. Your calendar is conveniently marked with the dates of our Winter Stonefly Search, Spring and Fall River Roundups and the kick off training for our summer Water Quality Monitoring program!

How to get your calendar.

By mail.  Ann Arbor and Dexter have already direct-mailed it to most households in their communities.

In person.  Calendars are at these customer service counters:
-Livingston County Drain Commission and Road Commission
-Washtenaw County Water Resources Commission and Road Commission
-City of Ann Arbor
-City of Brighton
-City of Dexter
-City of Wixom2018-watershed-community-calendar-p2-lo-res
-City of Ypsilanti
-Village of Pinckney
-Green Oak Charter Township
-Hamburg Township
-Marion Township
-Pittsfield Charter Township
-Putnam Township
-Charter Township of Ypsilanti

*Barton Hills Village, Ann Arbor Public Schools, Eastern Michigan University and University of Michigan Environment, Health & Safety are also distributing calendars.

From HRWC. Contact Pam Labadie at plabadie@hrwc.org or (734)769-5123 x 602. We can mail a calendar to you for $5 or you can pick one up for free at HRWC in the NEW Center 1100 North Main Street, Ann Arbor, M-F, 8am-5pm.

About the Calendar.

The 2018 Watershed Community Calendar is a collaborative effort to educate residents about the importance of water stewardship and nonpoint source pollution prevention. The communities listed above believe there are substantial benefits that can be derived by joining together and cooperatively managing the rivers, lakes, and streams within the watershed and in providing mutual assistance in meeting state water discharge permit requirements. HRWC would like to thank them for their continued support of the calendar program.

2016 Stewardship Awardees

Last night, HRWC’s Annual Meeting featured highlights from 2016: progress on the Huron River Water Trail, green infrastructure projects and plans, updates on pollution prevention initiatives like coal tar and dioxane, and efforts to ready the watershed for climate change. Our work would not be possible without the amazing support given by our donors, funders, volunteers, and peer organizations. Please join us in celebrating a few who went above and beyond in recent years. You can read more about these folks in our summer newsletter, the Huron River Report, coming out in June.

HRWC Stewardship Awardees 2017

Janet Kahan, Melissa Damaschke, John M. Erb, Sally Rutzky and Wendy Schultz

Janet Kahan
Volunteer of the Year
Janet leads HRWC’s youth streamside education program, working with volunteers of all sorts to teach stream ecology and water quality to over 1000 students per year.

Sally Rutzky
Herb Munzel Achievement Award
Sally has been a stalwart supporter of the Huron, HRWC, and local communities as she’s advocated for better zoning and planning, gotten in the way of sand mining, and used her expert plant identification skills on behalf of the watershed.

Wendy Schultz
Extraordinary Partner Award
A key ally of HRWC’s water quality monitoring program, Wendy and her staff test our samples from Washtenaw County, identify and solve programmatic problems, and graciously greet our volunteers throughout the season offering tips and encouragement for collecting much needed water samples from our streams.

Erb Family Foundation
Big Splash Award
The Erb Family Foundation has been a forerunner in funding organizational growth and new programmatic initiatives including our RiverUp! program. Long-term support like theirs is key to nonprofit organizational health.

Join us in congratulating these watershed champions!

 

Powerful Tools for Your Clean Water Toolkit

New resources and training for waterfront (river and lake) property owners.

Pleasant Lake, Freedom Township, by Lon Nordeen

Pleasant Lake, Freedom Township, by Lon Nordeen

Michigan Shoreland Stewards provides recognition for lakefront property owners who are protecting the waterquality and ecosystems of inland lakes through best practices. These include reducing fertilizer use, maintaining septic systems, creating fish habitat with woody debris and native aquatic plants, and using native trees, shrubs and wildflowers to capture runoff and prevent erosion. The free web-based questionnaire is designed to guide you through the practices and help you determine how to achieve Gold, Silver or Bronze status. Qualifying properties get a certificate and a sign. Many of the practices can be adapted for riverfront properties.

Wisconsin’s Healthy Lakes website includes five simple and inexpensive best practices that improve habitat and water quality on your lakeshore property. Factsheets, technical guidance and detailed how-to information for creating fish habitat at the water’s edge and on using native plant buffers, diversion, rock infiltration and rain gardens to capture and clean runoff. Most practices apply to riverfront properties.

Upcoming Workshops

Sat, March 25, 2017. Protecting Your Shoreline: A Workshop for Inland Lakefront Property Owners, Michigan State University 3-25-17_natural_shoreline_workshopExtension, Oakland County Executive Office Building Conference Center, Waterford, Michigan. For property owners interested in creating, restoring and managing natural shorelines. This workshop is designed to educate on natural erosion control methods and will discuss techniques for using natural landscaping along the shoreline for erosion control and habitat while maintaining the aesthetic value of the lakefront. Register by March 22.

Fri-Sat, April 21-22, 2017. 56th Michigan Lake and Stream Associations Annual Conference, “Bridging the Resource Gaps: Enhancing the Ability of Lakefront Communities to Prevent and Manage Aquatic Invasive Species,” Crystal Mountain Resort, Thompsonville, Michigan. The conference will provide participants with the knowledge, information, and ideas to improve their lakefront community’s ability to prevent and/or manage aquatic invasive species. Learn more about the latest efforts to control invasive mussel populations, the status of starry stonewort in Michigan waters, purple loosestrife management initiatives, and the efforts of the Michigan Swimmers Itch Partnership. MiCorps Cooperative Lakes Monitoring Program will also hold its annual volunteer training at the MLSA Conference, on Friday.

 

Engage, Engage, Engage

In the last 2 months I’ve been asked a lot about my thoughts on sustainability and climate going forward. At a recent climate rally I shared what we do best at HRWC—the climate science and trends, and what people can do.

Here is a synopsis of my comments:

For 50 years our job has been to study and protect the Huron River, which runs right through many communities, including Ann Arbor. We have 25 years of data about this ecosystem. And the data confirms what we’ve seen this February. We have a migrating climate. Days like this are what we would have expected to see in Kentucky 20 years ago. Within 50 years our seasons will feel more like Oklahoma. This has massive implications for our natural ecosystems and our economy, and our quality of life!

Ann Arbor floodingSo let me tell you about what our science shows us about Michigan today:

  • It’s warmer. Annually by 2 degrees F; by 2070 an increase of 3.5 to 6 degrees.
  • Today, the growing season, or the frost-free season, has gotten longer by 9 days. In the future, it could increase by 1-2 months.
  • Today, Michigan gets more rain and snow—an 11% increase. In Ann Arbor 24% more.
  • The strongest storms have become more intense and more frequent. These rain storms are so heavy they overwhelm our storm sewers, our dams, and our wastewater treatment plants.

But, that’s facts and figures, let me tell you a couple of stories about how that affects us all.

  • People might remember that three years ago, a rain caused flooding in our watershed and in particular, on the UM campus. It was so intense and with so much water, students kayaked down the East University Street.
  • HRWC researches the river. Every January, we send about 100 volunteers out, up and down the river, to collect Stoneflies. Stoneflies are little bugs that are sensitive to changes and pollution, so they tell us how healthy the river is. Two years ago we had to cancel because of the extreme cold. The volunteers couldn’t break the thick ice to get in to the river. This year, we had the opposite problem: our volunteers could not get in the river in certain places due to high flows from a 50 degree thaw. We heard from volunteers that they were already seeing stoneflies that had hatched rather than in their larval stage. This means that when the fish start spawning in April, they won’t have as many stoneflies to eat….that damages the entire aquatic ecosystem.

So we’ve had an extremely warm February, but these unexpected extremes should now be expected.

So what can we do about this? Engage, engage, engage. I hear from people day in and out that they are frustrated and yearning to take action. We need big change; to change the way we operate major infrastructure systems of this country—transportation, energy, stormwater, housing, waste, and food.

As somebody who has spent my career working on environmental issues, here’s what I find effective: 1. Take individual steps on your own and with your family; 2. Build connections with people (your colleagues, elected officials, friends, neighbors) to work on issues at a larger scale.

Stand up against the things you don’t want (a weaker EPA, the Dakota pipeline, Line 5), but at the same time take actions to create the things you do.

There’s lots of things we can do as individuals. We also have elected officials, business, and government employees, and it’s important to do things collectively and scale them up.

  • To change our transportation systems, Take the bus—and advocate for robust public transit;
  • To change our stormwater systems, Put in a rain garden or rain barrel—and work with neighbors to push your university or town to install better rain capture systems on roads, parks, and rooftops;
  • To change our energy system, Put in solar—and help your elected officials pass tax incentives and ease of permitting for alternative energy; and
  • To improve our housing system, Live near your work or school—and encourage affordable housing so others can too.

Finally, it’s important to volunteer—engage in your community, sit on a board or commission. This is tough but necessary work. This is where change is made.

In my work as Director of HRWC, I bring very different people together to protect something we all love, the Huron River. I do that by talking to everyone who plays a part—farmers, drain commissioners, hunters, anglers, politicians, scientists, and homeowners. We’re all really different people with different political perspectives. We don’t always agree, but we find ways to make real change. Because all these people work together, the river is cleaner than it’s been in 50 years. It’s that steady engaged work that makes a difference and gives me hope.

Go get involved, take up the challenge, and let’s get to work!

Here are some of our projects that exemplify how our partnerships address climate change.

 

News to Us

DSC01396

Mulching fall leaves is a river friendly practice. Photo credit: Dean Hochman via Flickr Creative Commons license.

HRWC’s commitment to compiling and sharing noteworthy water-related news continues. This month’s News to Us covers the recent listing of Lake Erie as impaired waters, problems associated with low density development, a great river recovery story and some tips on good river “housekeeping” for autumn leaves.

 

Conservation Groups Applaud Michigan’s Inclusion of Lake Erie in Impaired Waters Report
Last week the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality listed western Lake Erie as impaired waters under the Clean Water Act. Environmental groups have been advocating for this for some time now as it will allow for further research, funding and action to address the nutrient pollution that leads to toxic algal blooms in Lake Erie. This is very good news for this Great Lake. Many are pushing for Ohio to follow suit.

Is the Infrastructure ‘Time Bomb’ Beginning to Blow?
It may not be immediately obvious, but low density development—what we see in suburban and rural areas where homes are built on large lots far from city centers—is not good for waters and watersheds. Here at HRWC we prefer high density development in a few areas as opposed to low density development everywhere. This article highlights one of the problems associated with sprawling development. “Low density housing cannot pay the bills.”  The tax revenue is too low to cover the cost of infrastructure maintenance like roads, sewer and water necessary to serve these developments. When this infrastructure fails, the environment suffers. Check out our Smart Growth publications to learn more.

Taking Down Dams and Letting the Fish Flow
Last issue we shared an article about the human safety benefits of dam removal. This heartening story shows how quickly an ecosystem can rebound after dam removals. Three dams were removed on the Penobscot River in Maine in 2012 and 2013. Just three years later, huge numbers of native migratory fish have resumed their migration up the river—a trip they have not been able to make for nearly 200 years!

Leave The Leaves–Putting Organic Waste To Work
Leaves and grass that make their way into waterways add excess nutrients and use up valuable oxygen as they decompose. Local Master Composter Nancy Stone gives advice on how to utilize fall yard waste to maximize the benefits of fallen leaves. Leaves can be used in your yard to improve your soil and reduce weed growth. Nancy recommends mowing the leaves into your lawn. Mulching leaves can also reduce the greenhouse gas methane. Give this interview a listen as you are getting ready to clean up fall leaves. For more tips on river friendly home care visit our pollution prevention page.

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.

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.

 


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