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A listener recently asked Stateside the following question:

What does the Environmental Protection Agency do in Michigan?

This map shows land ownership and location of the exploratory copper drilling project
Michigan Department of Natural Resources

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has given the green light to an exploratory copper drilling project in the Upper Peninsula.

The use permit allows Orvana Resources U.S. Corp., a subsidiary of Highland Copper, to drill in a one square mile area located on the western edge of  Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park. 

According to John Pepin, a DNR spokesman, the company is taking steps to reduce the impact of the exploratory drilling on the land surface of the park. 

The Swiss corporation, Nestle, wants to increase how much water it takes from a well in Evart, Michigan.
cmh2315fl / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The Swiss corporation Nestle wants to increase how much water it takes from a well in Evart, Michigan.
The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality used a computer modeling program called the Water Withdrawal Assessment Tool to assess the potential effect of an increase.

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

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

A group of doctors, regulators and outside experts is meeting behind closed doors in Chicago Tuesday to determine if Flint’s water technically meets federal standards again. The meeting at EPA’s regional headquarters could be the start of a shift; from a public health emergency to a longer term response.

Water samples have improved for several months. But there are still some homes with spikes in lead levels that are potentially dangerous without a water filter.

Some experts now believe any homes with a lead water service line are at risk.

MDEQ updates industrial air emissions regulations

Jan 4, 2017
markbwavy / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality is updating its regulations around toxic chemicals in industrial air emissions.

A press release from MDEQ announced last week that the department is making the adjustment in order to clarify air emissions rules for companies and to increase transparency for the public.

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.

graph
MDEQ

New tests show lead levels in Flints water are back within federal standards.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality says the new data shows more than 96% of the samples are at or below the 15 parts per billion (ppb) federal lead action level. It’s the sixth round of sentinel testing that has produced results within the federal lead action level.

The MDEQ’s results come after new independent testing by researchers from Virginia Tech University, which also showed improvement in Flint’s lead tainted tap water.

Lauren Luci / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Americans love their bottled water.

Statistics from the Beverage Marketing Corporation tell us that while sales of soft drinks, fruit drinks, sports drinks – even milk – have dropped over the past 15 years, sales of bottled water are booming.

In 2015, Americans guzzled nearly 12 billion gallons of bottle water. That’s a big jump from the 4.5 billion gallons we drank in 2000.

All that demand means Swiss corporation Nestle wants to pump more water out of the ground in West Michigan. It wants to increase pumping from 250 to 400 gallons a minute at one of its wells near Evart in Osceola County.

And the public nearly missed its chance to comment on the proposal.

Wilson Hui / Flickr

Nestle owns a water bottling plant in Stanwood, Michigan, north of Grand Rapids. It bottles spring water for its Ice Mountain and Pure Life brands.

The company wants to increase the amount of water it pulls out of the ground at one of its wells. The well is about 35 miles north of Stanwood in Evart, Michigan. To do that, it needs a permit from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, and the public is supposed to weigh in on whether the company should get that permit.

But a lot of people didn’t hear about it – until it was almost too late.

Michigan Attorney General's office

There is speculation that another person criminally charged in the Flint water crisis will agree to cooperate with prosecutors.

Gov. Snyder office

This week…a state senate committee holds a hearing on Governor Snyder’s pick to head the Department of Environmental Quality.  

Heidi Grether is a former oil and gas industry lobbyist.  That doesn’t sit well with Mike Berkowitz. He’s the Sierra Club’s legislative and political director.

Wikimedia user Gyre / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The state of Michigan has hit a roadblock in its efforts to cut down on air pollution in Wayne County.

U.S. Steel is suing the state over a rule that requires the company to submit a plan for meeting sulfur dioxide standards at its Great Lakes Works plant in Ecorse.

Michigan has been trying get the Pittsburgh-based company and several others in the Detroit-area to scale back emissions since 2010, when a federal review found that levels were above standards.

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 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.

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.

Michigan is one of only a couple of states that don’t already require all lawmakers to be subject to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.
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.

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