Cities face challenges in getting the lead out

Capital News Service
LANSING – While the lead in Flint’s water captures plenty of attention, another source of the deadly element also threatens Michigan cities and neighborhoods. The demolition of older homes and buildings releases lead into the air, threatening the health of those who live and work near these demolition sites, said Tina Reynolds, health policy director at the Michigan Environmental Council, a Lansing -based coalition of environmental advocacy groups. The lead is contained in old paint and some building materials. “Any structure demolished that is pre-1978 would definitely still have lead dust and be an exposure pathway to the community,” she said. In 2014, that included 64.8 percent of Michigan homes, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

Water quality, automated cars stir interest of Michigan voters

Capital News Service
LANSING — The controversy about elevated levels of lead in Flint’s drinking water has sparked significant concern about water quality across Michigan, a new statewide poll shows. More than 90 percent of those surveyed want the state to examine urban water systems for indications of faulty infrastructure and 84 percent want the state to test the water in public schools at least annually. Meanwhile on a second environmental issue, widespread publicity about autonomous cars has directed public attention to questions about the safety of driverless vehicles. Despite qualms about safety, however, a majority of those polled “accept that this will be how people get around in the near future,” according to a Nov. 3-5 telephone survey of 600 Michigan adults.

Beware the new invaders – New Zealand mud snails

Capital News Service
LANSING – New Zealand mud snails were found in the Pere Marquette River and are invading the Great Lakes region, according to the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Now outdoor groups are taking steps to prevent their spread to other bodies of water across the state. The agencies announced in September that the invasive New Zealand mud snails
had been found near Baldwin in Lake County. Measuring only 1/8 of an inch long, it’s easier for them than for larger native snails to “hitchhike” on waders and fishing gear, the departments said. And although they live in streams primarily in the western United States, they’re now on the move.

Free boat wash targets Michigan invaders

Capital News Service
LANSING — Michigan State University is fighting the state’s worst aquatic invaders with mobile lakeside education and free boat washes. A grant from the Department of Environmental Quality and U.S. Forest Service supports the portable project, which has already landed in 32 inland lakes as part of the “Clean, Drain, Dry” initiative. “Boats and boat trailers are the number one means of lake-to-lake transport for invasive species,” said Sarah Plantrich, a project outreach volunteer. With more than 150 boats washed, Plantrich and other volunteers have discovered and removed aquatic invaders that threaten the health of lake systems.
Some plant invaders, like the Eurasian watermilfoil, crowd out native species. Others, including starry stonewort, release chemicals that dampen native species’ growth and form dense meadows that keep fish from spawning.

Detroit River cleanup brightens gateway to Michigan

Capital News Service
LANSING — Cleaning up Detroit and its river could be a key in revitalizing and re-creating Michigan as a state, state officials say. People describe Detroit as the front-door city of the state, said Ron Olson, the chief of parks and recreation for the state Department of Natural Resources. “The better Detroit does, the better the state does.”
The industrial complexes that were built up along the Detroit River and other rivers throughout the state years ago were an abusive use of land, Olson said. Now, the challenge is to dismantle these complexes and restore the waterfronts to the way they once were. The main focus for the future is to continue to figure out how to dismantle and remove the remnants of those complexes to turn that space into safe and usable park space, Olson said.

DNR director’s mine decision will affect many stakeholders

Capital News Service
LANSING — A wide range of interests are on the line when Department of Natural Resources Director Keith Creagh decides in February whether to grant land rights for a proposed limestone mine in the Upper Peninsula. Bill O’Neil, chief of the Forest Resources Division for the DNR, says the agency must ensure the state will benefit from selling land rights to Canadian company Graymont Inc., while preventing environmental risks, considering economic benefits and listening to the opinions of local citizens. DNR officials have raised numerous concerns since receiving the company’s first land transaction application in 2013. Several officials have recommended that Creagh deny the proposal. Graymont has proposed to pay 18.75 cents to the state for each ton of limestone mined.

Court upholds $800,000 tab for leaking underground tanks

Capital News Service
LANSING – Michigan is owed more than $800,000 for cleanup costs, civil fines and administrative penalties for failure to properly remediate three sites with leaking underground storage tanks in Berrien County, the state Court of Appeals has ruled. The tab may rise if the state has to complete the long-delayed work, but the defendants have asked the Michigan Supreme Court to review the case. At issue are petroleum products that leaked from underground tanks at two gas stations and a bulk fuel distribution center in Galien and Baroda, west of Niles and north of the Indiana border. The sites still haven’t been cleaned, according to the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). According to the appeals court, Baroda-based Strefling Oil Co.

Fracking fervor fomenting

Capital News Service
LANSING — The process is the same: Drills burrow thousands of feet below the surface to make way for large quantities of water, sand and chemicals to be pumped into the ground to create fissures for gas to flow through. Hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, has existed in Michigan since 1952, largely without opposition or question. More than 12,000 wells have been drilled during the past six decades the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) hasn’t recorded a major leak or spill in that time. Despite what industry officials call an impressive safety track record, this method of natural gas extraction is under fire. Advances in technology allow energy companies to dig deeper and efficiently extract more natural gas and oil, creating a nationwide boom in supply and raising environmental concerns among residents of producing states, such as Michigan.

Two polluted West Michigan lakes now cleaner, officials say

Capital News Service
LANSING – Muskegon and White lakes have reached important cleanup milestones and should be removed from the official list of “areas of concern” within four to five years, according to the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). The Environmental Protection Agency already has eased restrictions – known as “beneficial use impairments” – pertaining to fish consumption that allows anglers to fish those lakes with fewer constraints. Recent studies by Grand Valley State University revealed that fish in the two lakes don’t have higher concentrations of PCBs or mercury than fish in lakes that weren’t designated as “areas of concern.” Both lakes remain subject to the same fish consumption advisories as other lakes in the area. Beneficial use impairments are imposed if the chemical, physical or biological integrity of a Great Lakes ecosystem is degraded. They were placed on Muskegon and White lakes because of pollutants discharged from industrial facilities in their watersheds, according to Stephanie Swart, the area of concern coordinator for Muskegon Lake in DEQ’s Office of the Great Lakes.

Chalk up another victim of exotics: shipwrecks

Capital News Service
LANSING – Thousands of shipwrecks lie at the bottom of Michigan waters. These cultural treasures attract thousands of visitors to the state, but changing conditions in the Great Lakes threaten their preservation. According to Tom Graf, a water resource specialist with the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), the Great Lakes are home to an estimated 6,000 shipwrecks with about 2,000 of them in Michigan. But the Great Lakes hold more than just ships. Piers, wharves and an estimated 200 military aircraft lost during training exercises in World War II litter the lake’s floor.