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environmental protection agency

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A listener recently asked Stateside the following question:

What does the Environmental Protection Agency do in Michigan?

U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Flint.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Every year, the EPA awards over $4 billion in grants and other means of assistance.

Within hours of President Trump taking the oath of office, an email went out to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials ordering them to freeze all contract and grant awards, effective immediately.

That leaves many wondering how that could affect federal aid to Flint, especially as the U.S. Senate approved $170 million to address the lead in Flint’s drinking water last month.

Michigan Democrats take issue with Trump's EPA directive

Jan 25, 2017
Courtesy Nan Palmero / Creative Commons -- http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Some of Michigan's congressional representatives are worried about new rules from the Trump administration.

Senators Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow and Representative Dan Kildee wrote a letter to the president expressing their concerns about a directive that forbids the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from ordering any new contracts or grants.

The lawmakers fear that this directive could "jeopardize much-needed federal funding for Flint."

Jack Lessenberry
Michigan Radio

The Michigan School Reform/Redesign Office recently released its latest list of schools that are under-performing. There are 38 schools on this year's list that could be closed, mostly in Detroit. This Week in Michigan Politics, Morning Edition host Doug Tribou and senior news analyst Jack Lessenberry talk about whether Detroit's school district would be able to survive such a large round of closures.

They also discuss what role U.S. Secretary of Education nominee Betsy Devos plays in the state's school closure discussion, concerns over President Donald Trump's order to freeze all grant programs at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and a move to bring new voting machines to Michigan.

Courtesy Nan Palmero / Creative Commons -- http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

According to a U.S. EPA official, Flint’s water system is improving.

This conclusion is the result of a closed-door meeting at EPA headquarters in Chicago yesterday. Data was presented from a number of officials, including the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, Virginia Tech, EPA experts from Flint, and the Center for Disease Control.

Robert Kaplan is the acting administrator for EPA Region 5.

Stateside's Cynthia Canty talked to Kaplan right after last night's meeting ended

Satellite image of algal bloom in Lake Erie taken in 2015.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Several environmental groups have filed a notice threatening to sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency if it doesn't take action to clean up Lake Erie.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality has given Flint permission to build an approximately three mile section of water pipeline to link the city to the new Karegnondi Water Authority pipeline to Lake Huron.

The Flint segment of pipeline will supply raw lake water from the KWA pipeline to Flint's water treatment plant.

According to Bryce Feighner, chief of the MDEQ's Office of Drinking Water and Radiological Protection, this is an important step for Flint.

Asbestos sign
Michael Coghlan / Flickr, http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The Environmental Protection Agency just put out a list of ten high priority chemicals.

These are the first chemicals the agency will review for risks to human health and the environment under a new law that Congress passed this summer.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

The Environmental Protection Agency is giving the city of Flint and the state of Michigan until early next year to get its plans in place for switching to the KWA water pipeline.

Eventually, the city of Flint’s tap water will come from the Karegnondi Water Authority pipeline. But the EPA says there are a few things that have to happen first.   

Mistakes made the last time Flint tried treating its own drinking damaged pipes with leached lead into the tap water. 

The last pipes for the KWA were laid earlier earlier this year.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Federal, state, and Flint officials sat down behind closed doors at city hall on Monday to discuss ways to respond to questions about the city’s planned switch to a new water source.

Possibly next year, the city will connect with the recently completed Karegnondi Water Authority pipeline.   The city is committed to switching to the KWA pipeline as its new primary source of drinking water. 

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

U.S. EPA announced Friday it will consolidate and cap one-and-a-half-million cubic yards of old industrial waste in Kalamazoo. It’s been dubbed a compromise plan after residents and city leaders urged the EPA to choose a plan that would remove the waste entirely from the Allied Site.

“I’m reluctant to use terms like compromise because protectiveness is something the EPA can’t compromise on,” EPA Remedial Project Manager Michael Berkoff said.

Transmission electron microscopy image of Legionella pneumophilia, responsible for over 90% of Legionnares' disease cases.
CDC Public Health Library / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

 

The federal government offered help with Flint’s Legionella outbreak, and the state of Michigan turned the offer down.

That’s what MLive reporter Ron Fonger has learned from Environmental Protection Agency documents released through the Freedom of Information Act.

New phase announced in Dow dioxin cleanup near Midland

Sep 27, 2016
User mgreason / wikimedia commons

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, has proposed a new phase in its multi-year plan to clean up dioxin contamination from Dow Chemical's Midland plant. 

Discharges from the plant in the last century boosted levels of dioxins in the Tittabawassee and Saginaw rivers and their floodplains.

Dioxins are toxic chemicals that may cause cancer and other serious health problems.

The latest phase targets six miles of a contaminated 21-mile section of the Tittabawassee River and its floodplain. 

Dredging on the River Raisin. A mechanical dredge removing material on July 11, 2012.
USEPA

State and federal officials are celebrating the completion of a twenty-year river cleanup effort in southeast Michigan.

The River Raisin was once one of the most polluted rivers in Michigan. It will soon be clean enough for both commercial navigation and recreational use.

The Environmental Protection Agency says the cleanup effort is in its final stage, which is set to be finished by the end of October.

Cameron Davis is senior advisor to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy.

The former Wurtsmith Air Force base.
Mike Fritcher / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Wurtsmith Air Force base in Oscoda Charter Township has served as home to B-52 bombers and F-106 fighter jets.

During the height of the Cold War, there were even plans to turn it into one of the few American military installations to house trains capable of launching intercontinental ballistic missiles. 

The base closed in 1993. Now, according to an MLive report, it might become known for something else.

What caused the Flint water crisis? Rick Sadler from Michigan State University argues the true cause of Flint's water disaster goes back decades.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The head of the Environmental Protection Agency says Flint’s water system still faces major problems. EPA chief Gina McCarthy sent a warning to Governor Rick Snyder and Flint Mayor Karen Weaver.

The letter says the city’s water treatment plant is understaffed – and the water distribution network is too large and sprawling.

Inside the Flint water treatment plant.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The city of Flint has met an EPA deadline to upgrade equipment at the city’s water plant.

The EPA sent the city of Flint a letter one week ago saying the city had until today to install and have operational equipment to add additional chlorine and other chemicals to the city’s water supply.

Flint gets its tap water from Detroit already treated with chemicals to impede the growth of bacteria and other organisms. But chemicals, like chlorine, lose their effectiveness the longer they are in the system.  

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

The city of Flint may have equipment in place by the end of the week to improve chlorine levels in city water.   

But it may not be operating.

The Environmental Protection Agency sent the city of Flint a letter last week saying there is an “urgent need” to have the ability to boost chlorine levels in the city’s water supply. They set a date of Friday June 10th to have equipment “installed and operational.”

Chlorine and other chemicals are added to water supplies to kill bacteria, like Legionella.  Warm summer weather helps bacteria to grow. 

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

FLINT, Mich. (AP) - Flint residents are being urged to run water in tubs and kitchens each day to flush any lead and coat the pipes with chemical protection.

  The announcement was made Saturday at a forum attended by state and federal officials. The state of Michigan says it will pay for the extra water use, which starts May 1 and lasts for two weeks.

  The cost is expected to be $300,000.

  Flint still is recovering from using the Flint River for 18 months without corrosion control. The water leached lead from old plumbing.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

This week the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency outlined a number of concerns in a letter to Flint and Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality.

Two of these lingering issues were deemed “critical” or “significant.” 

Those have to do with the city’s comprehensive plan to prevent lead from leaching into drinking water and “inadequate number of qualified personnel” at the city’s water department.

Gov. Rick Snyder formed a workgroup that made 69 recommendations on how the state of Michigan should manage and improve its mental health care system. The question is, how many of those recommendations will be turned into actual policies?
gophouse.com

Gov. Rick Snyder joined Environmental Protection Agency administrator Gina McCarthy today to testify before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in Washington today. This was the third Flint water hearing by this House panel.

Detroit News business columnist Daniel Howes tells us that of all the people the panel has questioned, Snyder has come the closest to admitting and accepting his mistakes.

screengrab/YouTube

A U.S. House committee held a second hearing on the Flint water crisis Tuesday, taking testimony from some key players in that disaster.

Former Flint emergency manager Darnell Earley, former mayor Dayne Walling, former EPA official Susan Hedman, and Virginia Tech engineering professor Marc Edwards – whose independent research team helped reveal the high levels of lead in Flint water late last year – all testified.

But the hearing was defined largely by blistering criticism leveled at the U.S. EPA for failing to step in sooner.

Flint's records of where its lead service lines are located were on hundreds of index cards until February 2016.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The U.S. EPA is stepping up enforcement of the federal rule designed to prevent people from being exposed to too much lead in their drinking water. Today, the agency is sending letters to 49 states responsible for implementing the federal rule. The EPA already has the primary responsibility for overseeing the Lead and Copper Rule in Wyoming and Washington D.C.

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.

The Flint River
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A 2010 federal audit of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality showed concerns with the state agency’s ability to monitor for clean water.

The audit, conducted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, depicted struggles in the MDEQ due to budget cuts, staffing issues, and shortfalls in meeting federal standards for safe drinking water.

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.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

New tests suggest filters work even in Flint homes with high levels of lead in the drinking water.

EPA officials say 50 homes have tested at 150 parts per billion of lead, well above the federal action level, and at the filters’ posted limit.

But the EPA’s Mark Durno says tests at 10 of those homes show filters can still remove the lead.

“Even at those higher levels, even the ones that came back still over 150, when you pass them through the filter they are non-detect,” says Durno.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A new bill would require the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to let the public know if their water contains dangerous levels of lead.

Right now, that responsibility lies with state and local officials.

The new bill would give the EPA authority to notify residents of high lead levels if the state fails to act.

Michigan Senators Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow and Congressman Dan Kildee announced the new legislation Wednesday.

Peters said the bill would help ensure situations like the Flint water crisis don't happen again. 

The Snyder administration is now in over-drive to create both the perception and the reality that the state is engaged in making rapid progress in dealing with the Flint water crisis.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

I’ve been trying to interview the EPA’s Miguel Del Toral since early July, 2015, when a copy of his interim report on high lead levels in Flint’s water landed in my inbox.

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