Private well water quality unregulated after installation

By LAURA BOHANNON
Capital News Service

LANSING — Even though Michigan has the most private wells in the nation, no state regulations control how often that water should be tested.

A quarter of Michigan’s residents rely on well water, according to Michigan’s 21st Century Infrastructure Committee’s most recent report. But the state has set no standard for monitoring the quality of water from private wells, Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) source water unit supervisor Matt Gamble said.

“Private wells get tested when they’re installed and they may never be sampled again,” Gamble said. “There is no requirement — at least no statewide requirement — for a homeowner to have their well sampled on any schedule.”

Gamble said the DEQ frequently learns of contaminated well water. When it hears of new cases, the department responds through a program that funds projects to replace contaminated wells and connect residents to municipal water.

And some local communities require well inspections when a house changes hands, similar to a lead paint inspection, Gamble said. Continue reading

Deadline for state money to test beaches approaching

By CHAO YAN

Capital News Service

LANSING —The state is offering $200,000 to help local agencies monitor water quality in inland lakes this summer.

Localities and nonprofit groups have until Feb. 28 to apply for Department of Environmental Quality grants to measure levels of E.coli — a bacteria that can cause bloody diarrhea, severe anemia or kidney failure — off inland beaches, according to Shannon Briggs, a program director in DEQ’s Water Resources Division.

Michigan is currently keeping watch on about 380 inland lakes, about half of the state’s total. Water quality data helps officials determine if a lake is safe for swimming. It is reported to the website Michigan Beach Guard, part of the DEQ site, and compiled in a statewide report.

State law gives the authority for monitoring and testing public beaches to local health departments and their partners, Briggs said. Continue reading

Water quality a problem for rural areas, too

By LAURA BOHANNON

Capital News Service

LANSING — The state of water quality in Flint has been of high interest around Michigan and throughout the nation, but rural areas around the state are also struggling to provide safe drinking water.

According to Michigan’s chapter of the Sierra Club, rural areas have been underinvesting in their water treatment needs at a higher rate than cities are.

Mike Berkowitz, the legislative and political director for the Sierra Club, said ensuring that people in Michigan have safe drinking water and treatment facilities that operate the right way should be a top priority.

“I think the fundamental solution, first of all, is fixing our state budget and making it more sustainable,” Berkowitz said. “We need to be making sure that we’re able to replace lead pipelines and other deleterious infrastructure in local communities throughout the state. We need to be able to replace that with more sustainable infrastructures.”

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Wash, rinse, pollute, repeat

 

Photo: US Department of Energy

Photo: US Department of Energy

By CHLOE KIPLE

Capital News Service

LANSING — A new study shows that while we clean our clothes we dirty waterways like the Great Lakes.

Every load of laundry produces microfibers, or tiny pieces of clothing that shed during washing. Wastewater treatment plants can’t break them down, so they end up in lakes, rivers and other bodies of water.

Once they’re in the water, aquatic animals can mistake the fibers for food. And that’s not a good thing. Continue reading

Small coastal communities spiff up their resumes

By KAREN HOPPER USHER

Capital News Service

LANSING — Small coastal communities are laying the groundwork to bring cash to their waterfronts.

Community members, researchers, designers, engineers and others are helping six small harbor communities plan for the future. And the effort, coordinated by Michigan Sea Grant, could have a statewide impact by modeling development strategies for other coastal communities, creating safe harbors for recreational boaters and spurring tourism.

Four communities last year participated in a program that helps to develop five-year  plans for their waterfronts: Ontonagon, Pentwater, Au Gres and New Baltimore. Two more – St. Ignace and Rogers City – will go through the process in October.

More than 80 communities with small public harbors will benefit from the program because the planning materials it develops will be available free through Sea Grant. Continue reading

Experts from Israel, Great Lakes compare big water

By MORGAN LINN

Capital News Service

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Lake Kinneret. Image: NASA Earth Observatory

LANSING — While Lake Michigan protectors are fighting a threatened carp invasion, managers in Israel are dumping them into the Sea of Galilee.

That’s just one of the differences in managing two of the world’s largest lakes that emerged during a recent conference between lake managers from Israel and the Great Lakes region.

The Sea of Galilee – or Lake Kinneret – and Lake Michigan differ greatly in size, but experts from both areas shared common experiences and found ways of learning from each other at the Michigan State University conference

Lake Kinneret, in northeast Israel, is only about 13 miles long by 8 miles wide but is the largest freshwater lake in Israel. Continue reading

A “lab-in-a-can” could pioneer protection network for Great Lakes water

By HANNAH BRENNER

Capital News Service

LANSING — A water-testing device making its freshwater debut in Lake Erie this month could lead to a network able to issue warnings of toxic algal blooms.

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The sealed Environmental Sample Processor is lowered into a lake. Image: NOAA.

It’s called the Environmental Sample Processor (ESP), a 2.5-foot long cylinder nicknamed “lab-in-a-can.” The instrument is anchored underwater where it samples water, concentrates algae and particulates onto a filter, analyzes them and sends the results electronically through a buoy to a lab.

In Lake Erie’s case, the device will search for bacteria and for potential toxins called microcystins that are produced by freshwater cyanobacteria. Continue reading

Snyder confuses public relations with public health solutions

By ERIC FREEDMAN
Capital News Service

(This commentary originally appeared in Domemagazine.com).

LANSING — Gov. Rick Snyder remains under heavy fire for the amount of time it took for him to become publicly concerned with Flint’s escalating unsafe water crisis and to act decisively on those concerns.

But the governor is certainly making up for lost time – if you measure concern by the number of press releases flooding from his office.

That deluge of pronouncements, announcements, advisories and denouncements reflects a misperception that better PR is – if not a solution to the poisoning of a city– at least a priority deflection of too-slow-to-act criticisms and of the unfavorable and unwelcome international media attention the crisis continues to draw.
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Untapped: When your only potable water comes in a bottle

By AMANDA PROSCIA
Capital News Service

FLINT — The view from the driveway is surprisingly normal: there is snow on the ground, the neighbors’ children are playing basketball in the street and the landscaping is meticulously manicured.

Inside, family pictures adorn the walls, a television hangs above the fireplace and several houseplants complement the décor. This house could be any suburban home in the country.

Except…various-sized water bottles fill drawers and cover countertops, and cases of bottled water are stacked in the mudroom.

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Angel Garcia pours water supplied by the National Guard into his coffee maker. Credit: Amanda Proscia

This is the home of Angel and Edeline Garcia, residents of Flint for the past 15 years and now victims of that city’s water crisis.
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Proposal would add governor to FOIA

By JASON KRAFT
Capital News Service

LANSING – The Flint water crisis could give a boost to proposed changes to Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by adding the legislative branch and governor’s office to government bodies that must follow it.

The changes, introduced by Sen. Coleman Young II, D-Detroit, are co-sponsored by 10 senators.

Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act ensures that the public is entitled to full and complete information regarding governmental affairs. It excludes both the governor and the Legislature.

In recent years, the act has not been immune to amendments. Six changes  have been enacted in just the past six months.
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