Environment & Science

Jake Neher / Michigan Public Radio

A group of state House Democrats hopes the crisis in Flint will help bring attention to other issues they say threaten clean water in Michigan.

They announced bills on Thursday that would increase regulations on fracking.

Democrats say there’s an opportunity to have a serious conversation about fracking and other water quality issues.

“Now that there’s a little more attention, this gives us an opportunity to go to our colleagues and say, hey look, here’s another threat, here’s another problem,” said state Rep. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor).

These are examples of lead drinking water pipes. The pipe on the left had no corrosion control in place, allowing metals to flake off and get into the water. The bigger pipe on the right (white coating), had phosphate corrosion control in place.
Rebecca Williams / Michigan Radio

Stop me if you've heard this one before.

The people in charge of the drinking water in Flint didn't do their jobs correctly.

A state-appointed emergency manager forced the city to switch where they got their drinking water from to try to save money. The city switched water sources from Lake Huron water from Detroit, to water from the Flint River. And when they made the switch, they failed to understand that there was something Detroit was adding to the water to protect them.

Phosphates.

These phosphates create a protective layer inside drinking water pipes.

Pixabay / News Service

Officials with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) dropped into Flint yesterday to offer support for residents reeling from the water crisis.

Deputy Undersecretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services Katie Wilson announced residents in Flint who participate in the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program can have lead testing done, paid for by the program. She explains the department wants to help families get through the crisis.

Photo courtesy of National Scenic Byways

The debate over fish farming in Michigan has arrived in Lansing.

Hearings are taking place at the state Capitol as environmental groups argue against a permit issued by the Department of Environmental Quality. That permit allows the operation of a fish hatchery operated by the Harrietta Hills Trout Farm in Grayling to raise rainbow trout on a branch of the Au Sable River, which is located in the northern lower peninsula, about 50 miles east of Traverse City.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The US Environmental Protection Agency says it will conduct an inspection of Detroit’s wastewater treatment plant.

In a statement issued Wednesday, the EPA confirmed plans to do a “performance inspection audit” next month.

“Staff from the Michigan Dept. of Environmental Quality will also be involved in this audit, to assess current lab procedures and compliance with federal requirements under the Clean Water Act’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) program,” the statement reads.

Paulette Parker / Michigan Radio

Wayne County Executive Warren Evans is urging the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to reject permit requests that would allow Marathon Oil and US Ecology to increase emissions and  hazardous waste.

The Marathon Petroleum Refinery in Detroit has been embroiled in controversy over its request to increase sulfur dioxide emissions.

"Our request there is: Before you even contemplate an increase in the permitting, that you show us that you're making some concrete steps in controlling the pollution that's already there," Evans said.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is defending its eGRID system against a critique by an analytics think tank.

Companies all across the U.S. use eGRID to calculate their own indirect carbon emissions based on how much electricity they use. And it's not uncommon to see a company brag about a) their transparency on emissions and b) their progress in reducing their indirect emissions to fight climate change. 

Rebecca Williams / Michigan Radio

It’s been almost four months since Flint went back to buying water from Detroit’s water system.

Here’s the good news: Since January, more than 90 percent of water tests have come back below the federal action level for lead of 15 parts per billion.

But there are still some insanely high lead levels in some homes. Take a look at a map of where those are, and you'll see there’s no pattern.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Flint’s ongoing water crisis, and the wider concerns it’s sparked about water quality throughout the state, was the subject of a town hall meeting in Royal Oak this weekend.

Speakers included Sue McCormick, head of the state’s new largest water supplier, southeast Michigan’s Great Lakes Water Authority; Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, the Flint pediatrician who helped bring the city’s lead-in-water crisis to light; and Jim Nash, Oakland County’s water resources commissioner.

Screencap from Google Maps / Google / Google

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality is holding public meetings on Tuesday about a proposal to divert water from Lake Michigan.

Waukesha, Wisconsin wants to build a pipeline to the Great Lakes.

It has a radium problem in its groundwater supply. Radium occurs naturally, but it’s a carcinogen.

The city wants to divert 10.1 million gallons a day from Lake Michigan in the beginning, and up to 16.7 million gallons a day by 2050.

wikieditor243 / wikimedia/commons

Updated 2/8/16 at 1:32 pm and 2/10/16 at 2:50 pm

Many companies are making their carbon emissions public, to show they are doing their part to fight climate change.

But new research by Lux Research indicates most companies in the U.S. are either underestimating or overestimating their emissions.

Ory Zik is Vice President of Analytics for Lux Research.  He says estimating one's own carbon emissions is very difficult.  That's because electricity moves from region to region on grids.

A dive team works on Line 5 under the Straits of Mackinac.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Recently released information about the condition of Enbridge’s Line 5 oil pipelines in the Straits of Mackinac shows some signs of corrosion. But company officials continue to say the twin pipelines running under Lake Michigan are safe.

A sewage main for the Detroit sewer and water system.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

A new report from the Environmental Protection Agency says communities in the eight Great Lakes states will need close to $80 billion to update and replace wastewater infrastructure in the next 20 years.

The recently released 2012 Clean Watersheds Needs Survey says national waste water management needs total $271 billion. 

That includes general water treatment plant infrastructure, storm water management systems, and aging sewage systems.

Lead pipes
Mitch Barrie / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The Flint water crisis has attracted attention and outrage from all over the globe, but unfortunately, the city of Flint isn’t the first to have its population affected by lead.

Due to the age and condition of lead water lines, it’s entirely possible that other cities around the country are currently suffering from elevated lead levels.

The most recent large-scale example of lead poisoning was discovered in 2001 in Washington D.C.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced yesterday afternoon they’ve sent a “public health strike team” to Flint.

HHS says it has sent in more than a dozen officers with the Commissioned Corps. That’s a uniformed service of public health experts.

They’ll be doing follow-up medical visits with kids whose tests have come back with elevated levels of lead in their blood.

Gov. Rick Snyder.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder will propose $30 million in state funding to help pay the water bills of Flint residents facing an emergency over the city's lead-contaminated water supply.

Snyder will brief city officials and pastors about the proposal Wednesday and outline it to lawmakers next week in his annual budget proposal, according to a statement the governor's office provided to The Associated Press.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Numerous media outlets, including the Detroit Free Press and CNN are reporting a congressional committee has issued Darnell Earley a subpoena to testify about the Flint water crisis. 

Earley is a former Emergency Manager for the city of Flint. He is currently the Emergency Manager for Detroit Public Schools, but announced on Tuesday he would resign from that position on February 29, 2016.

The House Oversight Committee had earlier invited Earley to testify on Wednesday along with several other officials related to the Flint water crisis, but Earley refused.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

It's still not safe to drink the tap water in Flint.

The Environmental Protection Agency recently announced it's stepping in to test water, along with the state.

Mark Durno is the on-scene coordinator for the EPA. He says the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality is still in charge of testing for lead in water samples from people’s homes. Durno says the EPA is then going into the homes with very high lead levels (greater than 150 ppb) to find out what’s going on.

The DEQ did not require Flint to treat its water to prevent lead from leaching from old pipes and faucets.

Flickr user USFWSmidwest/Flickr / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

  

An industrial chemical is showing up in trout from the Great Lakes. It’s called perfluoro-1-butane sulfonamide, or FBSA.

Researchers traced this chemical back to several products on the market. Those include detergents and surfactants first used in 2003. Surfactants are materials made to stainproof and waterproof products.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

In Flint today, top scientists from all three University of Michigan campuses met to discuss future research into the city’s drinking water crisis.

U of M is putting up $100,000 in seed money to help get the research started. University President Mark Schlissel is encouraging scientists from Dearborn and Ann Arbor, as well as Flint, to see what kinds of research opportunities might be worth pursuing in the wake of the crisis. 

U of M-Flint Chancellor Sue Borrego says now’s the time to coordinate work being conducted on Flint’s lead-tainted tap water.

user braun / Flickr

Political leaders are lining up to blast a Detroit oil refinery’s plan.

Mayor Mike Duggan was just one of the officials speaking out at a public hearing Thursday night.

Duggan threatened to sue the state if the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality approves the Marathon refinery’s plan.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The state is launching an effort in Flint to recycle the tens of thousands of water bottles and filters pouring into the city. By one estimate, only about 16% of Flint residents routinely recycle.  

The city’s lead-tainted drinking water crisis is creating another problem with what to do with donated water filters and bottles.

State and local officials are teaming up with local companies to give Flint residents more ways to dispose of used water bottles and filters.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Donations of bottled water have been flooding into Flint.

Making sure people have safe drinking water is the top priority in Flint right now. But some people are wondering about one side effect of the water crisis: where all those empty bottles are ending up.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

The Marathon Petroleum refinery in southwest Detroit is no stranger to controversy. But its request to increase sulfur dioxide emissions has sparked a major backlash. The company has done a huge expansion of its southwest Detroit refinery in the past few years.

A Flint water protest.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The legal team representing one of the class action lawsuits stemming from the Flint water crisis served subpoenas for records today on Governor Snyder, the Governor's Office and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ).

The documents will be delivered to class counsel by Tuesday, February 9, 2016 at 11 a.m.

Steven Depolo / Flickr Creative Commons / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Water donations flooding into Flint means a lot of empty plastic bottles.

That's why a local environmental company is offering to recycle residents' water bottles, starting today.

Young's Environmental Cleanup, Inc. is an emergency response and environmental remediation provider with offices in Flint and Grand Rapids.

The company will act as a collection point and has partnered with Averill Recycling and Great Lakes Recycling of Flint to recycle the bottles.

The Flint River and the Flint water treatment plant.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The Environmental Protection Agency has issued an emergency order under the Safe Drinking Water Act. State and city officials in Flint will now have to take immediate steps to address the Flint water crisis.

The EPA says the state and local responses to the water crisis have been inadequate to protect public health, and the agency says these failures continue.

Here's what the EPA said in a statement Thursday evening:

People in Flint are relying on bottled water while officials try to figure out how to fix the tap water.
Michigan State Police

In his State of the State address this week, Governor Rick Snyder apologized to people in Flint for the water crisis. 

“I’m sorry most of all that I let you down,” he said. “You deserve better. You deserve accountability. You deserve to know that the buck stops here with me. Most of all, you deserve to know the truth, and I have a responsibility to tell the truth.”

The governor said he would release his emails related to Flint. Those emails came out late yesterday afternoon.

In general, the emails didn’t divulge anything big. They pretty much underscored what’s already been revealed. That the state didn't recognize the severity of the problem, and downplayed or dismissed the warning signs.

Credit Flickr user David Salafia/Flickr / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Researchers are looking into the possible ripple effects of lead exposure. 

After the city of Flint switched to the Flint River for its drinking water, experts found the number of kids with elevated levels of lead in their blood doubled.

Even low levels of lead can cause kids to lose IQ points and end up with behavior problems.

Ann Arbor removes 10 parks from deer cull list

Jan 14, 2016
Deer
Noel Zia Lee/Flickr

Ten Ann Arbor parks are open to the public again, following the city's decision to remove them from a list of sites where sharpshooters with the U.S. Department of Agriculture will shoot deer.

That leaves 14 parks closed to the public from 4 p.m. until 7 a.m. on weekdays until the deer cull ends on March 1.

According to a press release from the City of Ann Arbor, the decision to reopen the parks was "a result of recent operational assessments related to the cull."

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