michigan department of environmental quality

Protesters in Flint.
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

In Flint, lead levels in some children's blood have spiked dramatically, and scientists believe a new drinking water source is to blame. They're pointing to lapses in oversight from state regulators, who they say should’ve seen the problem coming.

Flint’s water problems began about a year ago, not long after the city stopped drawing water from Detroit’s system. To save money, Flint began getting its water from the Flint River.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Flint hasn’t been using any corrosion-control method since it switched from Detroit’s water system in April 2014. Corrosion-control treatment helps keep lead out of drinking water. Since the switch, more kids are showing up with elevated levels of lead in their blood.

Wikipedia

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality has a plan to curb sulfur dioxide pollution in Wayne County, and it has plenty of critics.

In 2013, an area of Wayne County that includes part of Detroit and some downriver communities failed to meet new federal ambient air quality standards for sulfur dioxide.

Wikipedia

Plans to expand a hazardous waste facility have sparked worries from residents in a Detroit neighborhood.

The US Ecology facility site has been processing and temporarily storing hazardous waste on Detroit’s east side for decades.

That includes toxic chemicals and other byproducts from nearby industrial facilities.

steel mill furnace
Jmk7 / Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

A project to redevelop an old steel mill south of Detroit is getting over $2 million in grants and loans from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

State officials say much of the money will go toward cleaning up the site of the former McLouth Steel plant in Gibraltar.

Beachgoers on a Lake Michigan beach in the Upper Peninsula.
Joseph Novak / Creative Commons

Health officials close beaches when levels of E. coli bacteria are too high. But it takes 24 hours to get test results.

A new test identifies E. coli DNA. You don’t have to wait a full day to grow a bacteria culture in a dish, so the new test produces results in a few hours.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The state is offering a million dollars to help clean up the site where Michigan State University is going to build its biomedical research center.

The site is near Grand Rapids’ “medical mile”; where The Grand Rapids Press was housed for decades.

Stephen McChesney / Flickr Creative Commons

    

The amount of waste sent to Michigan landfills jumped by 4.7% last year - following a ten-year decline.

That's  according to a recent report by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. 

MDEQ spokesperson Karen Tommasulo said every year Michiganders send $435 million of recyclable materials to the dump.

"We currently have one of the lower recycling rates in the Great Lakes area," said Tommasulo. "Only about 15 percent of our residential waste is recycled." 

Michigan offers free energy and pollution audits to businesses

Feb 5, 2015
Corey Seeman / Flickr

A  state program is offering free help to businesses looking for ways to conserve energy and reduce waste.

Teams of retired engineers perform about 100 efficiency audits each year for businesses with 500 or fewer Michigan employees – and for any public institution.

Environmental groups say a proposal from within state government to weaken Michigan’s toxic air pollutant guidelines would put public health at risk.

Michigan has some of the strictest guidelines in the nation when it comes to toxic air chemicals. It’s one of just nine states to regulate all potentially toxic emissions.

user c braun / flickr

State environmental officials have agreed to update air quality permits for two of the state’s biggest and most polluting industrial facilities.

Dearborn’s Marathon oil refinery and Dearborn’s Severstal steel plants have had trouble complying with their state permits in recent years.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality now agrees with the companies contention that some of the old standards were too strict. The updated permits relax some emissions rules, while strengthening others.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

If you’re a fly fisherman, there are few rivers this side of the Rocky Mountains that compare with Michigan’s Au Sable River. There’s a particular nine-mile stretch east of Grayling known as the Holy Waters.

The water is clean, cold, easy to wade through, and packed with more than 100 pounds of wild trout per acre.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Two state lawmakers are calling on the US Environmental Protection Agency to step in and help regulate a Dearborn steel mill.

State Representatives Rashida Tlaib and George Darany say the state can no longer be trusted to oversee and enforce environmental laws against the Severstal steel facility.

NWF / screenshot from YouTube video

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — Michigan's attorney general and chief environmental regulator have asked the company that owns two oil pipelines stretched beneath an ecologically sensitive area of the Great Lakes for evidence that the 61-year-old lines are properly maintained and in good condition.

Attorney General Bill Schuette and Dan Wyant, director of the state Department of Environmental Quality, posed a lengthy series of questions and requested stacks of documentation in a letter sent Tuesday to Enbridge Inc. and made public Wednesday. They said the pipelines, which run beneath the Straits of Mackinac — the waterway linking Lakes Huron and Michigan — pose a unique safety risk.

"Because of where they are, any failure will have exceptional, indeed catastrophic effects," their letter said. "And because the magnitude of the resulting harm is so great, there is no margin for error. It is imperative we pursue a proactive, comprehensive approach to ensure this risk is minimized, and work together to prevent tragedy before it strikes."

Eusko Jaurlaritza / Flickr

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality is proposing changes to their rules for oil and gas drilling in the state.

MDEQ leaders say they've had a successful record regulating the practice of hydraulic fracturing in the state for more than five decades, but new practices by the oil and gas industry are leading to the rule changes.

The industry's practice of horizontal hydraulic fracturing, known commonly as "fracking," has allowed companies to extract a lot more oil and gas from the ground.

Gas prices from the past at the shuttered Logan's Gas and Deli near Battle Creek.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Every time you fill up, you pay seven-eighths of a cent per gallon of gas for a “regulatory fee” that was originally set up to help clean up the thousands of old underground storage tanks in Michigan.

Those pennies you pay at the pump add up to a $50 million pot of money each year.

It’s called the Refined Petroleum Fund. The fund worked initially. The money helped remove tens of thousands of old underground storage tanks in Michigan. When those old tanks leak, they can pollute the soil and ruin nearby water sources.

Doc Searls / Creative Commons

An inland lake north of Muskegon that was once one of the most polluted places surrounding the Great Lakes is making big progress. Most of the pollution in White Lake was caused by a chemical company that dumped waste into the water decades ago.

Efforts to clean the leftover chemicals from the environment have been underway since the late 1980s.

A Dearborn steel plant wants the state to let it legally emit more air pollution, a prospect that doesn’t sit well with many of the people who live nearby.

The massive, 350-acre Severstal steel complex sits in a heavily industrial area along the Dearborn-Detroit border. It’s been cited 37 times for violating its current state air quality permit.

But Severstal thinks that permit was too strict. In its new permit application, the company wants the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to raise the emissions cap for a number of pollutants, including lead and carbon monoxide.

That angers many south Dearborn residents, like Norieah Ahmed. Speaking at a packed public hearing on the proposed new rules this week, Ahmed said her community already suffers from too much pollution.

“We cannot allow for an increase in permitted levels simply because Severstal once again can’t meet those standards,” Ahmed said.

Rachel Kramer / Creative Commons

It was a snowy January in Michigan; the snowiest on record for Flint and Detroit, according the the National Weather Service.

“We’ve had our fair share too, that’s for sure,” said Jared Sanders, assistant district supervisor of the Kalamazoo district’s water resources division. The division is a part of Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality.

I can vouch for it; huge piles of plowed snow are filling up the parking lots of many businesses here in Grand Rapids too.

Craig Ritter

In case you’re new in town, three and a half years ago an Enbridge pipeline broke, causing a huge oil spill near Marshall, Michigan.

The case of the mystery rocks

A couple of years ago, I met Craig Ritter while doing some reporting on the river cleanup.

He’s your typical, passionate, Michigan out-of-doors type.

He says he was out fishing last summer.

“I started noticing these weird formations that I’d never seen before,” Ritter said.

Nathan Sharkey / Creative Commons

Michigan has lost millions of acres of wetlands over the last century. But the state’s still got roughly five million acres left. 

“Wetlands are really, really important to clean water. They’ve been called nature’s nurseries and nature’s kidneys,” said Grenetta Thomassey, who heads Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council in Petoskey.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) - About three dozen local health departments and other agencies that usually receive state funding to monitor beach waters for contamination won't get any next year.

The funding comes from the federal government. Michigan will get $152,000 in 2014.

But a provision inserted into a state budget bill orders the Department of Environmental Quality to spend $100,000 of that money on one project in Macomb County.

Eusko Jaurlaritza / Flickr

Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality proposed a list of new rules for hydraulic fracturing in the state — commonly known as fracking.

Fracking is a process where developers pump high-pressure streams of water and chemicals into a well to clear a path to hard-to-reach deposits of natural gas.

So just what are these proposed new rules? And what could they mean to the future of fracking in Michigan?

James Clift is the policy director of the Michigan Environmental Council. He joins us to discuss the new regulations.

Listen to the full interview above. 

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Forty years ago a chemical mix-up led to one of Michigan’s worst environmental tragedies, and it’s not over yet.

The mix-up occurred in early 1973 at the former Michigan Chemical Corporation plant (which later became the Velsicol Chemical Corporation) in St. Louis, Mich. The company accidentally shipped flame-retardant chemicals to livestock farms around the state.

Farmers thought they were getting a feed supplement. Instead, they were dosing their animals with the toxic chemical PBB.

The problem wasn’t discovered for another year -- and the chemicals were passed up the food chain to humans.

Enbridge Energy has until July 31st to submit a plan to resolve problems with its new oil pipeline. The line will span much of lower Michigan once completed. It’ll replace the one that burst in 2010, causing the oil spill in the Kalamazoo River.

Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality cited a dozen violations of the conditions of a water discharge permit.

MDEQ investigated the site in Livingston County’s Tyrone Township after a video surfaced online of reddish colored hydrostatic test water spewing into North Ore Creek.

MDEQ found Enbridge didn’t have someone on site overseeing the tests on the pipeline. Water sampling and testing wasn’t done as required. There was too much oil and grease discharged, among other issues.

Steven Davis, courtesy of Allegretti Architects

Over 70,000 acres of dunes are recognized as "critical dunes," out of the 275,000 acres of dunes in the state of Michigan.

In 1976, the Michigan Legislature created the Sand Dune Protection and Management Act.

A small book was published this summer by the Michigan Department for Environmental Quality illustrating ways to safely build homes in these critical dune areas.

MDEQ teamed up with an organization called Preserve the Dunes.

Preserve the Dunes is a non-profit that was started in 1997 in Van Buren and Berrien Counties. The group has sponsored two competitions recognizing homes built in critical dune areas. Critical Dunes Residential Design Awards were awarded in 2006 and again in 2012. 

User: Brother O'Mara / Flickr

Childhood poverty rate high in Michigan

This year’s Kids Count report from the Michigan League for Public Policy and the Annie E. Casey Foundation says Michigan ranks 31st nationwide for overall child well-being. Michigan League for Public Policy President Gilda Jacobs told Michigan Radio's Jake Neher that state lawmakers should restore Michigan’s tax credits for low-income families and ease restrictions on welfare cash assistance.

Possible changes in home foreclosure rules

Legislation in Lansing could change home foreclosure rules in Michigan. Currently, after a foreclosure, homeowners get six months after it gets sold at auction to regain the property. Under the proposed changes, a homeowner would lose that redemption period if the house is damaged. The idea is to stop homeowners going through foreclosure from damaging the home.

Neeta Delaney, director of the Michigan Foreclosure Task Force, told Michigan Radio's Lindsey Smith she worries the provision would only make the foreclosure process more contentious.

Michigan beachgoers lost 755 days of water access

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality's annual beach quality report says Michigan beachgoers lost 755 days of water access in 2012 because of pollution. The most common cause for beach closings was the presence of bacteria from human or animal feces. Altogether, 166 beaches were closed for a total of 755 days in 2012. That's down from 913 days  in 2011.

IRONWOOD, Mich. (AP) - The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality has tentatively approved the last major permit needed for construction of a copper and silver mine in the western Upper Peninsula.

The permit deals with protection of wetlands, inland lakes and streams. It will become final after being signed by Orvana Minerals Corp. and state officials.

In 2007, Logan's Gas and Deli lost 8,000 gallons of gas underground. The owners walked away, and the state is still cleaning up the mess.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

There are around 4,800 gas stations in Michigan, but at one time, there were a lot more. It seemed like just about every corner had a gas station on it.

Many of those gas stations are closed now, but taxpayers are often on the hook for what’s been left behind.

I visited one of these polluted sites recently with representatives from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ). The heavy traffic along State Route 89 near Battle Creek makes it a perfect place for a gas station.

And for a long time, things were going well for Logan’s Gas and Deli.

Jim Wallace / flickr.com

The owners of the Ambassador Bridge are trying to renew an environmental permit for a proposed twin span.

The twin span idea has been rejected by both Governor Snyder and Canadian officials. They’ve already signed a deal to build a new bridge, the so-called New International Trade Crossing, further downriver.

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