Our July News to Us covers a trio of environmental threats impacting Southeast Michigan this summer, including wildfire smoke, harmful algal blooms, and PFAS. Click below to learn about their potential  health effects and how to mitigate exposure. Also covered, how to find your perfect summer paddle adventure and an audio piece on new efforts to eliminate offensive terms from Michigan public lands.

Bad air quality in Michigan has raised pollution, climate change awareness
After weeks of unprecedented poor air quality due to Canadian wildfires, Michiganders are now more aware of the effects of air pollution and how to interpret the air quality index. As Michigan residents become more aware of air quality issues, they are better able to respond to adverse air conditions and protect their health. With rising temperatures and more frequent droughts due to climate change, Michigan can expect more wildfire smoke and, in turn, more frequent unsafe air conditions.

Hazy skies along Woodward Avenue in Detroit in late June 2023.
In late June, air quality in Southeast Michigan ranked among the worst in the world due to wildfire smoke from Canada. Photo credit: Ryan Garza, Detroit Free Press

Harmful algal blooms appearing on Lake Erie earlier than usual
Harmful algal blooms, or overgrowths of algae or bacteria in water, are forming in areas of Lake Erie earlier than anticipated. As of early July, multiple harmful algal blooms were detected in Lake Erie’s western basin. Typically, blooms don’t appear until August or September. It is hypothesized that the hot, dry conditions in early summer followed by July rains may have stirred up nutrients accumulating near the mouth of the Maumee River. Once a bloom is detected, residents and their pets are advised to steer clear. For more information on algal blooms and the Huron River watershed, check out our blog from 2018.

Where to find water trails for paddling in Michigan
Michigan is home to over 3,000 miles of water trails, which are aquatic routes for kayaking, canoeing, paddleboarding, and other non-motorized watercraft. This article from MLive provides an overview of the nine state-designated water trails in Michigan, including the 104-mile Huron River Water Trail. The Michigan Water Trails website can also help paddlers find paddling routes and plan trips across the state.

Almost half of U.S. tap water contains ‘forever chemicals’
A new, first-of-its-kind study from the U.S. Geological Survey found that at least 45 percent of US tap water contains one or more types of PFAS chemicals. The study assessed PFAS exposure in over 700 unregulated private drinking water wells and regulated public tap water across the US and discovered PFOA, PFBS, and PFHxS most frequently. PFAS detection also varied based on location, with exposure being more common in the Great Lakes, Great Plains, Central/Southern California, and Eastern Seaboard regions. The US Environmental Protection Agency is moving to regulate six PFAS under the Safe Drinking Water Act, which aims to curb PFAS in drinking water.

Why Michigan is removing slurs against Indigenous people from its landmarks
This audio piece from WDET discusses statewide and federal efforts to remove offensive language against Indigenous people from public land names in Michigan. For example, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources recently renamed an Oakland County lake and boat launch in an effort to remove a derogatory slur. This piece also discusses the history around lake naming in Michigan as well as advocacy efforts by Indigenous people across the state to repair historic damage to their communities.