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Bryce Huffman

West Michigan Reporter

Bryce Huffman is Michigan Radio’s West Michigan Reporter. Huffman has been serving as a reporter for Michigan Radio since Fall 2016. He has covered a variety of Michigan stories, including immigrants facing deportation, the Detroit-area doctor involved in the female genital mutilation case, and residents concerned about a massive sinkhole in Macomb County. A Detroit native, Huffman graduated from Central Michigan University with a degree in Journalism. He joined Michigan Radio as a newsroom intern in May 2016.

Students in the hallway looking at ducks
Bryce Huffman / Michigan Radio

It might not be Pamploma, but the annual "Running of the Ducks" at Ken-O-Sha Park Elementary School in Grand Rapids is its own time-honored tradition. 

This Friday, students and teachers gathered in the hallways to watch as a mother duck marched her ducklings to water for the first time.

The mother duck nests in the school's courtyard every year. When spring comes, she leads her babies through the school and into the woods a few hundred yards away.  

Water faucet
user william_warby / Flickr http://bit.ly/1xMszCg

A recent report and interactive map shows that Michigan is the nationwide leader for known PFAS contamination sites.

Michigan leads the country with 28 known contamination sites in at least 15 communities.

Dunes near Saugatuck
Norm Hoekstra

A citizen led group in Saugatuck is appealing the state’s decision to permit development along the Kalamazoo River.

The Saugatuck Dunes Coastal Alliance wants the Department of Environmental Quality to reconsider its decision because it says the proposed Padnos Marina violates a state law against sand dune mining for commercial purposes.

Jeff Padnos is the developer who wants to build near the dunes. He was not immediately available for comment.

Peeling lead paint.
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

A federally funded program to remove lead paint from houses is now free for eligible homeowners in Grand Rapids.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development gave the city a grant of nearly $3 million for the next three years to safely remove lead paint.

One ZIP code in Grand Rapids (49507) has more children with lead poisoning than anywhere else in the state. The Get the Lead Out program hopes to fix that.

Paul Haan, Executive Director of the Healthy Homes Coalition of West Michigan, says it is important to get lead out of homes before kids are exposed.

Bill Huizenga
US Congress

Some high school students in West Michigan want U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga to speak about gun violence.

A student-led group concerned with gun violence released a video today asking the Republican Huizenga to address the issue at a town hall.

Panel and audience
Bryce Huffman / Michigan Radio

Michigan's criminal justice system feeds on the poor – that’s what a state lawmaker in Grand Rapids says.

State Rep. David LaGrand, D-Grand Rapids, talked to community members about criminal justice reform at a town hall meeting tonight. He and his fellow panelists described different facets of the system that need changing.

LaGrand says nearly half of Michigan’s jail population is people who can’t afford to pay a modest bail..

Flitn River
Courtesy of the Flint River Watershed Coalition

The state health department has released updated guidelines for consuming fish from Lake St. Clair and the Flint River. The updated Eat Safe Fish guide take PFAS into account.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services already advised residents to be careful of eating certain fish due to mercury, but it considers the family of chemicals known as PFAS as an emerging contaminant.

Fish from Lake St. Clair and certain stretches of the Flint River in Genesse, Lapeer and Saginaw counties have been added to the safe fish guide.

Grand Haven coast
Nelo Hostuma - flickr / https://www.flickr.com/photos/63122283@N06/

The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected an appeal in case about whether a West Michigan community can put up a cross on public land.

For decades, the city of Grand Haven would convert an existing monument into a cross and erect it over a stadium for summer concerts. But the courts ruled that was an illegal endorsement of religion.

Geri McCaleb, the mayor of Grand Haven, says many residents wanted to keep the tradition of raising the cross alive.

Students in a school auditorium
Bryce Huffman / Michigan Radio

Some teachers at Orchard View High School in Muskegon say that the media paints their city as a place riddled with gun violence, bad public schools, and poverty. So they wanted to find a way to help their students see and take part in something positive in their community.

The teachers and school administration are looking to poetry to do that.

As the final school bell of the day just rang at Orchard View High School recently, some students made their way through hallways covered in artwork from current and former students.

Grand Rapids Police Department
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The Grand Rapids Police Department announce new Youth Interactions Policy for its officers.

This after a year which saw two incidents where officers held young black kids at gunpoint, one of whom was an 11-year-old girl walking out of a family member's house

The policy lists age, mental capacity and any previous interactions with the law as things officers should take into account when dealing with youths.

People marching with signs
Bryce Huffman / Michigan Radio

The Cedar Springs school board last night accepted the resignation of its superintendent, amid calls for her ouster by teachers and community members.

Some of  Superintendent Dr. Laura VanDuyn's critics marched to the school board meeting holding signs that read “#ResignVanDuyn.”

VanDuyn had been accused of using rude or hurtful language when talking to staff and threatening people’s jobs for disagreeing with her.

Water running from tap
jordanmrcai / Creative Commons

A group of lawmakers wants more federal money to address drinking water contamination around the state.

U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee and U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters included money for PFAS contamination in their latest budget bill.

The family of toxic chemicals, known as PFAS, have been linked to certain forms of cancer as well as other health issues.

Downtown Grand Rapids
Steven Depolo / Creative Commons

Kent County is adding two full-time health experts to help tackle issues of PFAS exposure and opioid addiction.

The Kent County Board of Commissioners unanimously voted to approve hiring two full-time epidemiologists for the health department.

Teresa Branson, the county’s Deputy Health Officer, says the department was stretching itself thin dealing with these issues. But adding more staff is good for the department and county residents.

Running faucet
Melissa Benmark / Michigan Radio

Two townships have joined the state’s lawsuit against a west Michigan shoe manufacturer.

Plainfield and Algoma townships are both being affected by ongoing groundwater contamination caused by chemicals Wolverine Worldwide once used at its tannery in Rockford.

Cameron Van Wyngarden, the Plainfield Township manager, says joining the lawsuit wasn’t his first choice.

Van Etten Lake in Oscoda, Michigan
Kaye LaFond / Michigan Radio

A group of Oscoda residents is angry with the governor’s task force that responds to PFAS issues around the state.

The group Need Our Water – or NOW – spoke to the Michigan PFAS Action Response Team (MPART) about the ongoing groundwater contamination there.

The chemicals known as PFAS were used in firefighting foam at the Wurtsmith Air Force Base in Oscoda.

A Grand Rapids police officer standing at a table with a microphone
Bryce Huffman / Michigan Radio

Some Grand Rapids residents want to see more police engagement in the community. That’s what they told the Grand Rapids Task Force on Policies and Procedures at a public meeting last night.

The task force is using an outside consulting firm to review the department’s policies to reduce implicit racial bias. One of the earliest recommendations made to the task force was to hold public meetings.

Water running from tap
jordanmrcai / Creative Commons

The Department of Environmental Quality will begin testing 1,300 public water supplies across the state for emerging contaminants known as PFAS.

The family of chemicals, which includes PFOA and PFOS, have been found at high levels in private drinking wells and some bodies of water around the state -- most notably at the Wurtsmith Air Force Base in Oscoda and in northern Kent County. 

Susan Leeming, deputy director for the Office of External Relations with the DEQ, says the state will be selective in its testing.

Superintendent Teresa Weatherall Neal
Bryce Huffman / Michigan Radio

Grand Rapids Public Schools will not remove its head of special education, despite possible legal action.

Six local unions and some parents and faculty claim Laura LaMore has done a poor job running the district’s special ed program.

They complain of poor placement of students and not enough staff. The petition even says, “Staff  fear bullying. So many great, experienced professionals have been pushed out or left because of poor working conditions, excessive caseloads and intimidation.”

Christian Cross
Waiting For The Word / Flickr CC /

A Saginaw Township Catholic priest is under investigation for alleged criminal sexual activity. 

Father Robert DeLand Jr. is the pastor of St. Agnes Parish in Freeland and is a judicial vicar with the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw.

DeLand was arrested by Tittabawassee Township Police after being under surveillance beginning in November.

The 71-year old priest is accused of a sexual assault from August of last year. DeLand has since been accused of providing alcohol to a minor and purchasing the controlled substance MDMA – or Ecstasy. 

A street pole in the middle of flood water
Bryce Huffman / Michigan Radio

Lansing is one of several cities throughout the state dealing with flooding.

Mayor Andy Schor declared a state of emergency Wednesday. Several streets are still blocked off, making it tougher to navigate sections of the city.

John Estill lives right along the Grand River. Flood water covers his entire backyard and has made its way to his basement.

“We’ve got sandbags around the outside of the house, but it’s still seeping in, and we’re trying to keep ahead of it with pumps,” Estill said.

Estill says the drywall in his basement took the most damage.

A park sign in water
Bryce Huffman / Michigan Radio

Several cities in West Michigan are experiencing flooding after heavy rainfall and warm temperatures swept across the state this week.

Newaygo is one such city. Some residents were evacuated from their homes nearly 40 miles north of Grand Rapids.

Riverfront Park in Newaygo has water from the Muskegon River covering park benches and picnic tables.

Georgia Andres is the Chief of Police in Newaygo. She says the city is at "level C" flooding, which means that homes and businesses in the low lying areas have been evacuated.

Mayor Rosalyn Bliss speaking in Grand Rapids
Bryce Huffman / Michigan Radio

Mayor Rosalynn Bliss highlighted housing affordability and bettering community police relations as important areas to improve upon in her annual state of the city address.

Mayor Bliss says the city’s economic turnaround will only be a success if it benefits all residents.

“We need to be a place where a rich variety of residents not only feel accepted and want to call Grand Rapids home, but can afford to do so,” Bliss said.

Bliss says the city will continue to prioritize mixed-income housing development proposals in the future.

Cattle grazing in a field.
F Delventhal / FLICKR - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

State officials say two cattle on a farm in Ottawa County have tested positive for bovine tuberculosis.

James Averill, a veterinarian with the state Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, says the disease can be spread in a few different ways.

“It can be transmitted from cattle to cattle, and it's also considered a zoonotic where it can be transmitted from cattle to humans,” Averill said.

Averill says a different strain of the respiratory disease was found in whitetail deer in the northeast portion of the state's Lower Peninsula.

A rusty barrel in the woods
Bryce Huffman

A Kent County woman believes groundwater contamination caused complications during her pregnancy, and that PFAS exposure may be to blame for the newborn's death.

Wolverine Worldwide is the shoe manufacturer believed to have contaminated groundwater near Rockford with PFAS. That's a family of chemicals often used to waterproof leather.

Ashlee Naffziger lived in Rockford for about 13 years before moving out of her mom’s house. She was on private well water during that time.

Congressman Dan Kildee
Photo courtesy of the Office of Congressman Dan Kildee

U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Flint, isn't happy with the president's 2019 budget proposal that was released today.

Trump's latest budget proposal looks to cut the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative by $267,963,000 -- or by about 90%.

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative aims to protect the lakes from pollution and invasive species. 

In a statement released today, Kildee calls the cuts reckless.

A Rapid bus in Grand Rapids.
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Grand Rapids can go forward with a $70 million transit project -- now that federal funding for it has been approved.

The city can begin work on a new, rapid bus line connecting Grand Valley State University's Allendale campus to downtown.

The Federal Transit Administration just approved a $57 million grant to help fund the so-called Laker Line. The Michigan Department of Transportation pledged $14 million.

Construction is scheduled start this spring. It should be finished by spring of 2020. 

Van Etten Lake in Oscoda, Michigan
Kaye LaFond / Michigan Radio

People who live in Oscoda are concerned about foam containing toxic chemicals known as per-and-polyfluoroalkyl substances – or PFAS – that keeps appearing on Van Etten Lake.

The serene lake in Northeast Michigan is surrounded by trees and houses. But it also has foamy stuff that looks like soap scum floating along its shores.

Residents are wondering why the state isn’t doing more about it.

Grand Rapids Police Department
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Some Grand Rapids community members want the city to adopt a national violence prevention program.

Cure Violence is a program used to combat gun violence in several major cities like Chicago, Baltimore and New York.

The idea is simple, people in communities affected by gun violence mediate issues between people within their community.

Charlie Ransford, Director of Science and Policy with Cure Violence, says the program views gun violence as a health crisis instead of a crime problem.

The Detroit Lions home field, Ford Field
meesh / Flickr - http://bit.ly/1rFrzRK

The Detroit Lions announced today that Matt Patricia will be the team's next head coach.

Patricia was with the New England Patriots for the past 14 seasons, and was the defensive coordinator for the past five.

Despite the Patriots allowing 41 points in last night's Super Bowl loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, Patricia won three Super Bowls during his time in New England.

The Lions, who have never been to a Super Bowl, haven’t won a playoff game since 1991 and haven’t won a championship since 1957.

house for sale in Grand Rapids
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Grand Rapids continues to be one of the hottest real estate markets in the country. Homes or apartments are particularly hard to find for low to moderate income residents. 

This week the Grand Rapids City Commission took steps to improve affordable housing when it unanimously approved four policy recommendations from the Housing Advisory Committee. It's one step in a longer process to help alleviate the problem.

Interim City Manager Eric DeLong says the policies were developed to benefit both private and public interests.

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