In May’s News to Us, read HRWC’s Bridge Magazine Opinion after last week’s catastrophic dam failures and flooding in Midland, Michigan. Other news: the US Supreme Court ruled in favor of groundwater protection, carbon emissions are on the decline, and the MiCorps Cooperative Lakes Monitoring Program has secured funding. From us in our homes to you in yours, dive into the latest news catching our attention.

Amidst widespread quarantine and economic slowdown, the world has also seen a dramatic decline in carbon emissions. Photo credit: Creative Commons

Opinion | Midland breach is wake-up call to remove Michigan’s obsolete dams
Executive Director, Rebecca Esselman offers HRWC’s perspective on the catastrophic dam breaches on the Tittabawassee River. Without action to remove obsolete dams and investment to repair the few that still serve a practical function, dangerous situations like what happened in Midland will become common. In Michigan, the combination of aging dams and increasing flood risk due to climate change is a recipe for disaster. This is not a future problem. This is a clear and present danger.

Clean Water Act covers groundwater discharges, Supreme Court rules
In late April, the US Supreme Court ruled that the Clean Water Act applies to groundwater discharges. The 6-to-3 decision in County of Maui v. Hawaii Wildlife Fund, confirms that the Clean Water Act must regulate point source pollutants that find their way to navigable waters such as rivers and streams. Now, industries who discharge pollutants into groundwater that ends up in navigable waters must obtain a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit.

How Michigan reduced industrial discharges of PFAS
Since the discovery of PFAS in Michigan waterways nearly two years ago, the state has made significant strides in reducing releases from industries and wastewater treatment plants. This profile from Environmental Working Group outlines measures taken in Michigan to reduce PFAS across the state, including regulation, carbon filter installation, and source tracking.

Michigan’s Cooperative Lakes Monitoring Program receives funding for 2021 and beyond; providing remote assistance in 2020
While MiCorps Cooperative Lakes Monitoring Program (CLMP) is on hiatus for 2020, funding has been secured to resume the program next year and beyond. Lake residents are still encouraged to independently monitor their lakes this year. HRWC, Michigan State University Extension, and the Michigan Lakes & Streams Association are providing virtual training and technical assistance to support interested individuals.

Coronavirus pandemic leads to profound cutbacks in fossil fuel use
During the COVID-19 pandemic, fossil fuel consumption has sharply declined along with energy demand. Around the world,  most larger developing countries have observed an estimated 25% drop in carbon emissions with experts forecasting a 5 to 8 percent global reduction. This evidence of the dramatic economic slowdown, offer a glimpse into a lower emissions future.

COVID-19 pandemic exposing America’s water infrastructure crisis
The recent coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the fact that millions of people in the United States lack access to safe affordable water. Why? A lack of federal water and wastewater infrastructure funding forces local and state governments to raise water utility bills to cover critical infrastructure upgrades. Skyrocketing water bills often falls on those least able to pay. Former HRWC Executive Director, Laura Rubin authors this op-ed about the crisis.

New study estimates 381 tons of plastic in Lake Erie — most of it on the bottom
A new Rochester Institute of Technology study estimates that 381 metric tons of plastic live at the bottom of Lake Erie. The team used models to discover that most plastic particles flowing into Lake Erie, including the discharges from the Huron River, end up at the bottom concentrated in sediment. This estimate is over 50 times greater than existing estimates of surface water plastic pollution, revealing more information about how plastics move through our waterways.