MDEQ

Bryan Weinert told us Michiganders are throwing away some $350 million worth of recyclable material every year
Mike Blank / Michigan Radio

Do you have any idea how much money we are throwing away with that all that garbage that's going into our landfills?

Tomorrow, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality will hold a public meeting in Lansing to figure out how to rethink the way we deal with garbage and trash.

At the meeting, members of the public will get a chance to weigh in on the first major revision of our trash disposal and recycling laws since the 1990s.

Remember the Onion, that crazy satirical newspaper people couldn’t get enough of in the 1990s? It’s still around, but these days, I think real life has gotten better than art at being utterly absurd. Certainly that was the case in Michigan yesterday.

I mean, can you imagine a better Onion headline than “Governor whose aides poisoned children appoints oil industry lobbyist to head environmental agency?”

Heidi Grether, Gov. Rick Snyder's appointee for head of the Department of Environmental Quality.
Courtesy photo / Gov. Snyder

Gov. Rick Snyder has appointed Heidi Grether as the new head of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, his office announced today.

Grether is the current deputy director for the Michigan Agency for Energy and is a former executive at BP America, where she helped manage Gulf Coast restoration efforts after the Deepwater Horizon disaster of 2010.

Snyder said in the press release:

Gov. Snyder speaks at a Flint news conference.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

It’s been almost six months since the Flint Water Task Force blamed the culture of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality for the Flint water crisis.

The Task Force said a culture of quote “technical compliance” exists inside the drinking water office.

Its report found that officials were buried in technical rules – thinking less about why the rules existed. In this case, making sure Flint’s water was safe to drink.

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 Chrypinski/Michigan Radio

Issues & Ale visited Bill’s Beer Garden in Ann Arbor last night to discuss the Gelman Sciences 1,4 dioxane plume of toxic pollution making its way through the city’s groundwater.

Host Lester Graham led a panel of experts through the discussion. Together they answered residents’ questions and discussed ways to reduce risks associated with the contamination.

MLive reporter Ryan Stanton, who covers this issue, was one of the panelists. Stanton said the Department of Environmental Quality has been working to revise Michigan’s standard for dioxane in recent years.

Gov. Rick Snyder talks about Wednesday's criminal charges against two MDEQ employees and one Flint official.
SnyderLive / screen grab

Two state water quality experts and a Flint utility official have been charged with felonies and misdemeanors related to the city's drinking water crisis. 

The charges include misconduct and neglect of duty, and lying to cover up the lead contamination. 

When asked specifically whether Governor Snyder was being looked at as part of the state's ongoing investigation, state Attorney General Bill Schuette simply responded that "no one is above the law."

MDEQ rejects proposal to limit regulations

Apr 5, 2016
mdprovost ~ Prosper in 2011 / Flickr http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

State regulators have rejected a proposal that would, among other things, limit the number of chemicals monitored in the air.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality announced this week that it is largely rejecting the recommended changes to air quality regulations. The proposal comes from a 2011 report that evaluated various environmental rules in the state. 

Lynn Fiedler, the MDEQ Air Quality Division Chief, said the department wants to continue its broad range of monitoring. MDEQ tracks the levels of nearly all potential air toxic substances. 

markbwavy / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality is moving forward on a new rule to cut air pollution in part of Wayne County.

The rule will limit sulfur dioxide emissions from two US Steel facilities. They’re in southwest Detroit and two downriver suburbs deemed in “non-attainment” of National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS).

Barb Rosenbaum is with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s Air Quality division.

She says the agency is still working on a larger sulfur dioxide attainment plan for that area, after getting feedback on an initial draft.

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.

A worker holds a lead service line removed from a home in Flint.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

The state of Michigan is asking all water systems to come up with plans to find and replace lead pipes in their communities, even the portions of water service lines that are on private property, which are traditionally the responsibility of the homeowner.

Gov. Rick Snyder
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.

State OKs oil drilling permit for Southfield church

Mar 8, 2016
wikipedia http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality has granted a controversial permit to drill oil on church-owned property in Southfield.

Traverse City-based Jordan Development Co. applied for the permit to drill an exploratory oil well on 1.5 acres of land leased from the Word of Faith International Christian Center.

The city opposes the drilling. Some residents say it will lower property values, increase emissions and pose a risk of contamination.

flickr user Bart / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

An audit of the unit within Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality that’s responsible for making sure water systems are following drinking water regulations declares the state’s oversight is “not sufficient.”

The report was released Friday morning by the Michigan Office of Auditor General.

Capitol Building, Lansing, MI
Matthileo / flickr http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Democrats in the state Legislature say it’s time to restore citizen oversight panels to supervise air and water programs in the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

The independent, appointed panels were eliminated 25 years ago by Republican Governor John Engler and were never brought back under his Democratic successor, Governor Jennifer Granholm, nor by Governor Rick Snyder.

But some lawmakers say now the Flint water crisis and air pollution surrounding an oil refinery in Detroit show it was mistake to scrap the boards.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

 

 

State and local officials still are not doing enough to fix problems that caused lead pollution of drinking water in Flint, including having enough qualified workers to make sure the city water system functions adequately, a federal regulator said Friday.

 

A Flint water protest
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

FLINT, Mich. - A newly released email shows that shortly before Flint began drawing its drinking water from the Flint River, an official with the city water plant feared things were moving too quickly.

Mike Glasgow was laboratory and water quality supervisor on April 17, 2014, when he sent a message to officials with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. Glasgow said people above him were planning to distribute water "ASAP." But he said he still needed time to train more staffers and update monitoring plans.

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 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 week ago I mentioned that Jordan Development, a major oil and gas exploration company based in Traverse City, wanted to drill a well on a church property in Southfield.

Southfield is a well-settled, bustling middle-class suburb of 75,000, and the idea of an oil well in such a community seemed unbelievable to some.

It seemed unbelievable to me as well, so did the idea that the city couldn’t stop it.

user Bjoertvedt / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Governor Snyder will not be called to testify at a Congressional hearing next week looking into the Flint water crisis.

Instead, the spotlight will be on the EPA.

On Thursday, the Republican leadership of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform announced the hearings would be focused on “Examining the Federal Administration of the Safe Drinking Water Act in Flint, Michigan.”

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.

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.

Rep. Phil Phelps official website

A state lawmaker wants to make it a felony for state employees to manipulate data in official reports.

State Representative Phil Phelps, D-Flushing, says there’s no law on the books to punish state employees who intentionally distort data to change the outcome of an official report.   

Tap water in a Flint hospital on Oct. 16, 2015.
Joyce Zhu / Flintwaterstudy.org

Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Director Dan Wyant has resigned because of the agency's role in the Flint water crisis.

But will more state officials resign in the near future and why does all of this matter?

Michigan Radio's Kyle Norris talks with Rick Pluta, the State Capitol Bureau Chief for the Michigan Public Radio Network, about Wyant's resignation.

Listen here:

  

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

UPDATED AT 5:37 PM ON 12/29/15

The head of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) has resigned over the drinking water crisis in Flint.

Gov. Rick Snyder has also now apologized to the community of Flint for his administration’s involvement in the situation.

“I want the Flint community to know how very sorry I am that this has happened,” said Snyder in a statement on Tuesday. “And I want all Michigan citizens to know that we will learn from this experience, because Flint is not the only city that has an aging infrastructure.”

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality is offering grants for projects designed to prevent food waste.

  It's part of an initiative Gov. Rick Snyder announced in 2014 to double the state's residential recycling rate. Wasted food accounts for more than 20 percent of household trash - more than any other material.

  The DEQ says $250,000 will be distributed. Individual grants could be as much as $100,000, but recipients must match at least 25 percent of the amount they get from the state.

EPA Region 5 director Susan Hedman (file photo).
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A federal agency will review how the state of Michigan monitors local drinking water.

Regional EPA administrator Susan Hedman says her agency will conduct an audit of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s drinking water program.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

New tests suggest high lead levels in the drinking water at one Flint school may have a simple and inexpensive solution.

Initial test results on drinking water samples taken at Freeman Elementary showed high levels of lead in the water: 101 parts per billion or roughly six times the federal action level for lead in tap water.

Follow-up tests were conducted last month on water at four Flint schools that tested at or above the federal action level. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A formal review is underway into the state agency that made mistakes in its monitoring of Flint’s drinking water.

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