water

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The average Lansing Board of Water & Light electric and water customer can expect to see their bills increase, if proposed rate hikes go through.

The utility board will decide next week whether to approve the changes. 

“I don’t imagine any customers are looking forward to rate increase,” admits J. Peter Lark, BWL’s General Manager, “but I think it’s essential.”

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Bay City officials believe they have finally found a water main break that has drained the city’s water system.

City officials estimate that between 15 and 20 million gallons of water have leaked from the city’s water system since Saturday.

Ryan Manz is Bay County’s emergency management coordinator. He says late today they identified a 36-inch water main which appears to be the source of the leak.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

BAY CITY, Mich. (AP) - Bay City officials are searching for the source of a water main break that is draining 10 million gallons of water a day and threatening to empty reserves by Monday in the Michigan city of 35,000

The Bay City Times says public works Director Dave Harran is urging residents and businesses to avoid all unnecessary water use.

Harran says crews discovered Saturday afternoon that there was a major water main break and searched all night for its location without success.

Toledo issues water warning over cyanobacteria toxin

Aug 2, 2014
Water faucet.
jordanmrcai / Creative Commons

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) - Ohio's fourth-largest city has warned residents not to consume its water after tests revealed the presence of a toxin possibly related to cyanobacteria on Lake Erie. Toledo issued the warning early Saturday. It said tests at one treatment plant returned two sample readings for microsystin above the standard for consumption. The city warned against boiling because it will only increase the toxin's concentration.

Water faucet.
jordanmrcai / Creative Commons

This week, the Environment Report is taking a look at Michigan’s silent poison — arsenic.

Federal standards allow public drinking water supplies to have arsenic levels of up to 10 parts per billion (ppb), but these standards do not apply to private well owners (that's left up to the well owner to determine).

And in counties throughout Michigan, some wells have much higher levels of arsenic than this "maximum contaminant level" set by the EPA.

Higher levels of arsenic in drinking water have been linked to skin cancer, lung cancer, and bladder cancer, among others.

But are lower levels of arsenic a threat to human health?

Rebecca Williams / Michigan Radio

There’s no way to tell if arsenic is in your water without testing it. Arsenic has no taste and no smell.

Certain parts of Michigan have higher than average levels of arsenic in groundwater. That’s especially true in the Thumb region and a few other counties in southeast Michigan. And that can be a problem if you’re on a private well.

Amy Temple / The Center for Public Integrity

Arsenic is nearly synonymous with poison. But most people don't realize that they consume small amounts of it in the food they eat and the water they drink.

Recent research suggests even small levels of arsenic may be harmful. In fact, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has been prepared to say since 2008 that arsenic is 17 times more toxic as a carcinogen than the agency now reports.

Women are especially vulnerable. EPA scientists have concluded that if 100,000 women consumed the legal limit of arsenic each day, 730 of them eventually would get lung or bladder cancer.

The EPA, however, hasn’t been able to make its findings official, an action that could trigger stricter drinking water standards. The roadblock: a single paragraph inserted into a committee report by a member of Congress, an investigation by the Center for Public Integrity found.

Bushen Well Drilling. / Facebook

Parts of southeast Michigan – especially in the Thumb – have higher than average levels of arsenic in the groundwater.

Arsenic can cause cancer. It’s been linked to bladder, lung and kidney cancer, and other serious health effects.

If you’re on city water, there’s a federal regulation that limits the amount of arsenic in it, but if you’re on a private well, it’s up to you to find out whether there’s too much arsenic in your water.

Arsenic is a deadly poison, and there are people in Michigan getting arsenic at levels high above federal standards every time they drink the water coming from their taps.

Michigan Radio's "The Environment Report" is presenting a five-part series this week called "Michigan's Silent Poison," in partnership with The Center for Public Integrity and the public radio show "Reveal."

The Environment Report’s Rebecca Williams spoke on Stateside today, along with David Heath from the Center for Public Integrity.

“No organ system goes untouched by arsenic,” Williams said.

Extremely high doses of arsenic can kill you. Smaller doses have been linked to lung, bladder, skin, prostate, and liver cancers. You can also get arsenic poisoning with symptoms such as nausea, headaches, gastrointestinal pains, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Arsenic can be found in rice, apple juice, beer and wine, and drinking water. The levels are exceptionally high in private wells at people's homes, mostly in the thumb region of Michigan.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The city of Flint is reducing the water bills for its poorest residents.

Beginning July 1st, city homeowners who already qualify for Flint’s poverty exemption for property taxes will get a $53 break on their monthly water bills.  According to the city of Flint:

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Lower lake levels-- the good and bad news

Meg Cramer / Michigan Radio

This past Sunday marked the second successful Water Hill Music Festival.

Named after the west-side Ann Arbor neighborhood that hosts it, the festival features local musicians playing on porches while visitors wander and listen.

While some acts were invited by friends who lent their stoops for the afternoon, many live in the neighborhood and simply took the opportunity to show off their musical talents to the community.

Take a look at the video below to hear from a few of the bands and see the crowds of kids, parents and dogs enjoying music and sunshine.

user Brucegirl / wikimedia commons

There's a plan for the third biggest Great Lake, Huron, to be tapped by a 72 to 78 inch pipeline.

The Karegnondi Water Authority (KWA) is planning to start construction on a pipeline that will carry Lake Huron water to areas around the I-69 corridor of Michigan's Thumb area.

(Karengnondi is a old Petan Indian word meaning "lake.")

The KWA is made up of officials from Flint, Lapeer, Genesee County, Lapeer County, and Sanilac County.

The Flint Journal reports that Genesee County Drain Commissioner Jeff Wright said the county has started designing the "massive intake to draw water from Lake Huron," and that ground should be broken on the new water pipeline project by fall.

"We are starting the design of the intake," which will allow for construction on that piece of the $600 million pipeline project, Wright said.

The drain commissioner said the intake itself, which is expected to cost about $30 million, will take longer to finish than any other part of the project, and "the design requirements are the same whether any community drops out (of the project) or not."

The City of Flint, initially a partner in the project, might be forced to step aside because of its financial situation.

On it's website, the KWA says the pipeline is being built to "avoid increased water rates from the City of Detroit, which could increase by up to 15% per year."

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

A new study indicates racial minorities pay more for water and sewer service than whites in Michigan.

Michigan State University researchers looked at what people across the state paid for water and sewer service in 2000. Basic economic theory predicts that rural residents would pay the most for such services.

But the researchers found precisely the opposite to be true. Their results show that people in urban centers—with large minority populations—paid the most.

It looks like a system that monitors drinking water for at least three million people in southeast Michigan will stay online for another year.

The monitoring system gives early alerts if chemical spills are detected—so it keeps contaminants out of the drinking water system.

The system was in danger of shutting down when federal and state dollars ran out. But officials from Macomb and St. Clair counties have each come up with enough money to keep the system going for another year.

But policymakers are still searching for a long-term solution.

Macomb County Commission Chair Kathy Vosburg says a long-term fix will likely mean a small consumer fee.

“Consumers are very willing to pay for that, it comes out to be something like 50 cents to a dollar per household per year.”

But implementing that would take cooperation from the many different cities that send out water bills--and the city of Detroit, which owns and operates the whole drinking water system.

Photo courtesy of Birmingham Public Schools

Detroit’s water department has been under federal oversight for almost 35 years. Recently, the city tried to get that oversight lifted. But the federal judge who monitors the department shot that effort down, and he ordered stakeholders to find a way to fix the system’s decades-long problems--within two months. Some people wonder about that short timeline—and whether some of the Judge’s suggestions hint at a possible takeover. 

Photo by Alex Anlicker, Wikimedia Commons

If you live in southeast Michigan, chances are you get your water through Detroit’s municipal water system.

Detroit owns and operates the system that serves more than three million people. That’s long been a major source of tension between the city and suburban communities.

Some recent events have pushed questions about system’s long-term future into sharper focus. And it’s shaping up to be a battle.

user william_warby / Flickr

A system that monitors the quality of drinking water for 3 million people in southeast Michigan is in danger of being shut down for lack of money.

Monitoring stations are located in Lake Saint Clair, and the Detroit and Saint Clair rivers. Macomb County interim deputy health officer Gary White says federal and state grants, along with local money, have kept the system running since 2007:

Flickr user mdprovost

A Michigan State University scientist is leading a team of researchers to study how lakes, streams and wetlands are connected to their surroundings.

Associate professor of fisheries and wildlife Patricia Soranno is using a $2.2 million National Science Foundation grant to examine land use and climate change's effect on freshwater ecosystems.

Growing the region's clean economy

Jul 21, 2011
Photo courtesy of Geoff Horst

The clean economy is touted as a future economic driver of the region. But a new report shows that while Ohio and Illinois have added jobs to the clean economy, Michigan is the only state to have lost them. Changing Gears visited one scientist in Plymouth, Mich., who’s trying to nudge that number back up.

user andrea_44 / Flickr

When bacteria levels get high, county health departments close the beaches. The latest news of a beach closure is on Lake St. Clair:

A week after the Macomb County Health Department gave the all-clear message to swimmers at Memorial Park Beach in St. Clair Shores, the beach has again been deemed unsafe for swimming.

The department issued a no-swimming advisory today for the beach because of high E. coli levels

Blossom Heath in St. Clair Shores remains under the no-swimming advisory because of its E. coli levels, as it has been since May 26.

County health departments issue the warnings and closures, and the state keeps track of them.

The Michigan BeachGuard System has a map with red flags marking closures and advisories.

Currently, there are 15 advisories or closures at public beaches around the state - that's 15 out of 1,211 public beaches.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The two acre park is a step towards the city’s goal to have every Grand Rapids resident live within ¼ mile of some kind of greenspace. That goal has been difficult to achieve since nearly all of the city’s land has already been developed. Plus, city government has been cutting down on spending for years.

13-year old Ashley Jones remembers the old vacant lot where the park is now. She refered to it as a ‘hot mess’ before the renovations.

“It looked crazy. It had the prickles when you walked it would stick on your shoes. There was no shade or nothing. And it was kind of boring.”

Clarence Clemons, saxophone player for Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band, has died of complications of a stroke. He was 69.

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

""It must be something in the water." - Paul Tinkerhess.

Last Sunday, I walked around a neighborhood in Ann Arbor's west side and witnessed a new music phenomenon - the Water Hill Music Festival - where neighbors played music from their front porches, backyards, and garages.

The idea for the festival came from Paul Tinkerhess, a local business owner and musician.

Tinkerhess described the concept in Groundcover News:

"The concept is simple," Tinkerhess said. "On the afternoon of Sunday, May 1st, everyone in the neighborhood who either is a musician or wants to pretend to be a musician is encouraged to step out onto their front porch and play music. That's it. Or half of it. The other half is that we are inviting all the other neighbors, and the rest of the world, to wander through the neighborhood that afternoon and enjoy something like a music festival with a lot of stages."

The neighborhood in Ann Arbor's west side, dubbed "Water Hill" by Tinkerhess, if filled with musical talent.

I caught a small fraction of the festival, and made this video:

One festival attendee, Patti Smith, said the event was "Ann Arbor covered in awesome sauce."

user greg l / wikimedia commons

From the Associated Press:

The Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy has canceled an Earth Day program scheduled for Saturday after more than 600,000 gallons of raw sewage spilled into wetlands near the event's Kalamazoo-area location.

Conservancy workers discovered the leak Thursday and a cleanup was under way Friday. The Kalamazoo Gazette reports that vandals caused the spill by blocking a sewer line with several logs.

Sue Foune of Kalamazoo's Public Services Department says lime has been scattered to destroy bacteria. She says the wetlands will absorb and treat the sewage and there should be no long-term
effects.

But conservancy stewardship director Nate Fuller says nutrients in the sewage will boost invasive cattails that the group has been trying to remove.

The vandalism was reported to police.

Google Maps

Update 2:03 p.m.

Officials say the gasoline leak has been stopped. Still no word on how much fuel leaked from the storage tank.

From the Associated Press:

Officials say they've stopped a gasoline leak in Michigan and confirmed the source as a storage tank in the area.

Ingham County emergency officials said in a statement Monday that the tank and a related filling system in White Oak Township, about 55 miles west of Detroit, are owned by Marathon Pipe Line LLC.

A message seeking comment was left Monday by The Associated Press at Marathon's offices.

Wolverine Pipe Line Co., which also owns some tanks at the same storage site, has been working with the county on response to the leak since it was reported Wednesday.

The county says Marathon will take over work dealing with the leak from Wolverine. The amount of the spill remains unknown. There's no evidence of health hazards in the area.

9:07 a.m.

Authorities say they've found the source of the gasoline leak in Ingham County.

From the Associated Press:

Michigan authorities say they've traced a gasoline leak to the area of a storage tank holding 14,700 barrels of fuel. Ingham County Emergency officials said in a statement Sunday that they've found higher levels of spilled gasoline as their monitoring equipment approaches the Wolverine Pipeline Co. facility.

The large gasoline storage tank site is in White Oak Township, about 55 miles west of Detroit.

Some of the gas flowed about a mile down an open drain by the time a farmer reported the leak Wednesday.

The county says the suspected source of the leak is a tank that can hold up to 180,000 barrels of fuel. It says that while the amount of the spill remains unknown, it's nowhere near the capacity of the tank, which was mostly empty when the leak started.

Michigan Radio's Kyle Norris reported yesterday that officials from the Wolverine Pipeline Company were searching for the gasoline leak.

Google Maps

Land and groundwater in the city of St. Louis, Michigan has been contaminated with chemicals from the Velsicol Chemical Company.

Now the city will get $26.5 million to help set up a new water supply  system.

According to the EPA, Velsicol (formerly known as the Michigan Chemical Corporation) "produced various chemical compounds and products at its fifty-four acre main plant site in St. Louis, Michigan, such as hexabromobenzene (HBB), 1,1,1-trichloro-2,2-bis(p-chlorophenyl) ethane (DDT), polybrominated biphenyl (PBB), and tris(2,3-dibromopropyl) phosphate (tris)."

The EPA says the company produced these chemicals from 1936 until 1978.

From the Associated Press:

ST. LOUIS, Mich. — A federal judge has approved a $26.5 million settlement for a central Michigan community whose water supply was contaminated by a chemical company in the 1950s and 1960s.

U.S. District Court Judge Thomas L. Ludington in Bay City signed an order approving the deal on Thursday.

The city of St. Louis, Mich., hopes the settlement with Rosemont, Ill.-based Velsicol Chemical Co. will help pay to replace the water system that serves the area, which is contaminated with a byproduct of the pesticide DDT.

The settlement of the 2007 lawsuit was approved this week by the City Council.

The city says money for the settlement includes $20.5 million from an insurance company for Velsicol and $6 million from a trust related to a former parent company.

The EPA lists the threats and contaminants in the community:

On-site groundwater is contaminated with DDT, chlorobenzene, carbon tetrachloride, trichloroethylene (TCE), and other chlorinated compounds. On site soil samples revealed contamination with PBBs, copper, chromium, zinc, and magnesium. The sediments of the Pine River were also contaminated with similar contaminants through direct discharges from the site; however, surface waters do not show any significant impacts. Potential risks exist for people who eat contaminated fish and wildlife in the vicinity of the site.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The next director of Detroit’s Water and Sewerage Department might earn a quarter million dollars a year. The Detroit city council voted to increase the job’s salary cap today by nearly  $100 thousand. Councilwoman Sauntell Jenkins  says the pay hike is needed to attract the ‘best and brightest’ candidates to fill the vacant position. 

“So if we want to move forward and doing things right, we have to be willing to do what it takes to attract that talent.  Because we’re in competition with other municipalities.”

Councilwoman JoAnn Watson voted against the salary cap increase.   Watson says,  since the council just approved a 9%  water fee increase, now is not the time to approve a pay hike for the head of the water department.

 “It’s unconscionable to be paying the director of the water department a quarter of a million dollars when citizens can’t afford to pay their basic water bills."

Detroit's mayor and the heads of three neighboring counties recently reached a deal two revamp oversight of the department which serves the needs of 4 million people living in southeast Michigan.

From the report "Tar Sands Pipeline Safety Risks"

Update 5:30 p.m.

The NRDC responded to the ECRB statement saying they "stand by the information provided in the report - which is well documented and reviewed." From the NRDC statement:

The lack of transparency from the oil industry is part of the issue here. A clear accounting of the public health and safety issues associated with these products and the infrastructure associated with them is simply not available. The example of Enbridge’s CEO denying tar sands were involved with the Kalamazoo River disaster until pushed by reporters with undeniable evidence is one example of this lack of transparency.

Update 2:55 p.m.

The Energy Resources Conservation Board of Alberta, Canada, "an agency that regulates the province's energy resources," has issued a response to the report.

They write that the report "contains misleading statements on pipeline safety in Alberta and on the characteristics of diluted bitumen." From ERCB statement:

The report also states that “there are many indications that DilBit is significantly more corrosive to pipeline systems than conventional crude.”  Analysis of pipeline failure statistics in Alberta has not identified any significant differences in failure frequency between pipelines handling conventional crude versus pipelines carrying crude bitumen, crude oil or synthetic crude oil.

1:27 p.m.

This past summer, an oil pipeline in Michigan spilled more than 843,000 gallons of crude oil into Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River.

The spill is still being cleaned up by Enbridge Energy Partners, the company responsible for the spill.

Now, a new report says the type of oil running through the pipeline could lead to more spills.

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department serves more than just the City of Detroit.

It's water and sewer lines stretch beyond the city's boundaries and into the surrounding suburbs and communities.

The Detroit Free Press reports that Rep. Kurt Heise will introduce a bill that will give the suburbs more say in how the department is managed. From the article:

Under the proposal, the city would retain ownership of the 1,075-square-mile system, but the 126 communities and 4 million people who use its water and sewage services would be represented by a regional authority that manages contracts, water rates and future projects.

Members of Detroit City Council are reportedly in Lansing today lobbying against the bill. Council President, Charles Pugh, is quoted as saying:

"We are willing to have a regional discussion, but when the discussion is over, Detroit will still own and control the system. We built out the system, and we have a right to maintain control of it. Anything less than that is illegal."

You can see how far Detroit's sewer and water lines stretch into outlying communities on the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department's page.

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