Should you test your water?

A resident of Delta-Mills worries about high cancer rates in her area and she fears the culprit could be coming from her well water. This concern leads to a broader question: how does one go about testing their well water quality?

Old dams threaten downstream life

By LAINA STEBBINS
Capital News Service
LANSING — Since Michiganders drive on them every day, roads and bridges are often the first things that come to mind when it comes to the condition of Michigan’s infrastructure. Less visible – but just as hazardous if not properly maintained – are the state’s 2,500 dams.
Just as deteriorating roads and bridges can cause significant damage, aging dams in high-hazard locations have the potential to do great harm to the environment and to human life. The Otsego Township Dam on the Kalamazoo River is one such dam. It’s in poor condition and located in an area that would see serious consequences if the dam were to collapse. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Director Keith Creagh said his department is removing the dam in conjunction with the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

Lawmakers want citizen oversight of environmental decisions

By LAINA STEBBINS
Capital News Service
LANSING — Bills introduced by House and Senate Democrats would establish citizen oversight commissions to restore a layer of accountability in environmental enforcement – commissions which have not existed in Michigan for a quarter-century. The boards would allow public input and oversight over the Department of Environmental Quality’s air quality, water quality and oil and gas operations throughout the state. Rep. Sheldon Neeley, D-Flint, the House sponsor of one bill, said high-quality oversight like this is necessary to ensure that incidents like the Flint water crisis will not happen anywhere else in the state. “We had multiple failures in the state department, which had been tasked with making sure things were safe for residents,” said Neeley in regards to Flint. “Moving forward, I think if we put these commissions back into place, we won’t see another [crisis like] Flint,” said Neeley.

Cities face challenges in getting the lead out

By JOSHUA BENDER
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.

Policies, social realities may be behind water, air disasters

By COURTNEY BOURGOIN
Capital News Service
LANSING — It started with a blame game among government officials. Now, many people want to know whether the Flint water crisis was fueled by racism and classism. And according to environmental justice experts, these social drivers of environmental disasters are more than a Flint problem. They’re Michigan’s reality. While Flint suffered the consequences of corroding pipes and lead poisoning, Detroit residents are concerned about severe air quality issues in the city.

Water quality, automated cars stir interest of Michigan voters

By ERIC FREEDMAN
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.

State plan to deregulate chemicals upsets environmentalists

By ZHAO PENG
Capital News Service
LANSING— The debate about environmental injustice has grown more serious in Michigan after the Department of Environment Quality (DEQ) recently proposed deregulating 500 chemicals. These possible changes to the air regulations concern the Michigan Environmental Council (MEC) a lot. According to MEC, the department is going to propose a rule change requested by industry to deregulate 500 chemicals that have been subject to oversight in the past. The DEQ said the change is because the chemicals that have not been tested for their impact on public health. “Our primary concern is that the state will stop regulating certain toxics,” said James Clift, policy director for the MEC.

Beware the new invaders – New Zealand mud snails

By SIERRA RESOVSKY
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

By KEVIN DUFFY
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

By JOSH THALL
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.