How the Clean Water Rule Affects Michigan, and Kirtland’s Warbler Fest

For Friday, May 29, 2015

1 – A new Clean Water Rule from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will protect streams in Michigan.

According to the EPA, the rule will benefit people who get their drinking water from seasonal, rain-dependent or headwater streams. More than half of the population in Bay and Arenac counties fits into that category.

epa esri map drinking water michigan clean water rule

Via EPA

The EPA says protection of about 60 percent of the nation’s streams and millions of acres of wetlands has been confusing and complex as the result of Supreme Court decisions in 2001 and 2006.

The rule protects streams and wetlands that are scientifically shown to have the greatest impact on downstream water quality.

Clean Water Action, a Michigan environmental group, says the rule closes loopholes that have left drinking water sources for one in seven in Michigan residents at risk of pollution.

Michigan environmental groups and others have spent about a dozen years asking for clarity on protections under the Clean Water Act.

2 – The Kirtland’s Warbler Festival returns next week.

The festival is Saturday, June 6,  in downtown Roscommon.

kirtlands warbler michigan usfws

Via USFWS

The event will include Kirtland’s warbler tours, a kids activity tent, educational speakers, kayak tours, timber equipment demonstrations, and local food.

A Home Opener on Friday night will features a talk by an expert from The Nature Conservancy.

The Kirtland’s warbler is an endangered songbird that nests in young jack pine stands in places that include northeast Michigan.

Habitat management and other programs have brought the species from a low of 167 singing males in 1987 to more than 2,000, according to federal data.

– Mr. Great Lakes is heard at 9 a.m. Fridays in Bay City, Michigan, on Delta College Q-90.1 FM NPR.

Follow @jeffkart on Twitter

Climate Education, Dark Skies and (Barely) Biodegradable Plastics

For Friday, April 3, 2015

1April 22 is Earth Day. The week of Earth Day, April 18-25, is Climate Education Week.

The week, organized by the Earth Day Network, urges teachers to educate and engage students on climate change.

To help, there’s a free Toolkit that educators can use. It includes a week of lesson plans, activities and contests for K through 12 students.

The lessons meet Next Generation Science and Common Core standards.

There’s a different theme for each day of the week, and the lessons include videos and items for various grade levels.

You can find the lesson plans and more information at ClimateEducationWeek.org.

2Look up at the sky tonight. How many stars do you see?

You’d see more if there were fewer unnecessary outdoor lights on homes and other buildings.

international dark sky week michigan

Credit: Brian Lauer

April 13-18 is International Dark Sky Week.

Several Michigan state parks will remain open late for night sky viewing during the week. Some parks will host special astronomy events.

Participating parks include Port Crescent State Park in the Thumb.

 

3 – Biodegradable plastics are better than regular plastics, right?

Not really, according to a study by Michigan State University researchers.

Some water bottles and other plastics are dubbed as biodegradeable. But they don’t break down in the environment much faster than plastics that don’t contain additives.

According to Chemical & Engineering News, plastics labeled as LDPE and PET can remain in a landfill for years, so some manufacturers include additives to help the plastics disintegrate faster.

The MSU researchers designed a study to see if the materials performed as promised. Among the findings: After three years of soil burial, plastic samples with additives did not show any greater physical degradation than samples without them.

– Mr. Great Lakes is heard at 9 a.m. Fridays in Bay City, Michigan, on Delta College Q-90.1 FM NPR.

Follow me @jeffkart on Twitter.

Credit: Jesse Wagstaff

Credit: Jesse Wagstaff

 

 

EPA to Coal Plants: Get Your Ash in Order

For Jan. 9, 2015

1 – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has announced the first national regulations on the safe disposal of coal combustion residuals, also called coal ash, from coal-fired power plants.

tva coal ash spill 2008

View of the TVA Kingston Fossil Plant fly ash spill. Credit: Brian Stansberry/Wikimedia Commons

The final rule includes safeguards to protect communities from coal ash impoundment failures and prevent groundwater contamination and air emissions from coal ash disposal.

The EPA assessed more than 500 facilities across the country after the failure in 2008 of a TVA coal ash pond in Kingston, Tennessee. Those assessments included the Karn-Weadock complex run by Consumers Energy in Bay County’s Hampton Township. The EPA rated the condition of disposal facilities at the local complex as “satisfactory.”

Improperly constructed or managed coal ash disposal units have been linked to nearly 160 cases of harm to surface water, groundwater, and air, the EPA says.

These first federal requirements include regular inspections of surface impoundments, and restrictions on the location of new impoundments and landfills so that they can’t be built in sensitive areas such as wetlands.

The rule also requires facilities to post information online, including annual groundwater monitoring results and corrective action reports.

2 – Information on Great Lakes currents is currently available.

The Great Lakes Environmental Research Lab in Ann Arbor is posting the visualizations online.

The flow patterns depicted in the visualizations are based on simulations from the Great Lakes Coastal Forecasting System operated by the lab.

The lab is arm of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Online, you can see snapshots of water motion at the present time and from three hours ago, including conditions on Saginaw Bay.

The maps use the same technology developed for mapping winds, and the potential for wind energy generation.

 

— Mr. Great Lakes is heard at 9 a.m. Fridays in Bay City, Michigan, on Delta College Q-90.1 FM NPR.

Echo Wind Park Spins, WIN Grants Available, and Septic Tips

For Oct. 3, 2014

 

1 – A new wind park is spinning in Huron County.

echo-wind-park-construction-dte

Echo Wind Park construction. Credit: DTE.

DTE Energy says its Echo Wind Park has reached commercial operation. There are 70 turbines in the park, located in Oliver and Chandler townships in Michigan’s Thumb.

The Echo Wind Park adds 112 megawatts to DTE Energy’s renewable energy portfolio, or enough to power more than 50,000 homes.

The wind park is sited on nearly 16,000 acres. It’s the fourth to be owned and operated by DTE Energy.

The project is the first to tie into a new 345,000-volt transmission system built to handle all the renewable energy flowing onto the electric grid in the Thumb.

The wind park will be operated and maintained by a team of seven employees. As many as 170 workers were on site during peak construction activity.

With the commissioning of the Echo Wind Park, DTE’s renewable energy portfolio is at 9.6 percent. Under state law, Michigan utilities have to meet a 10 percent standard by 2015.

– via GLREA

 

2The leaves are falling, and fall funding is available from Saginaw Bay WIN.

Saginaw Bay WIN, which stands for Watershed Initiative Network, is funded by area foundations. It’s offering Fall Community Action Mini Grants.

They’re available to organizations working to make improvements in their neighborhoods, communities, and watersheds within the framework of “sustainability.” That is, projects that have economic, environmental and community impacts.

WIN will award matching grants of up to $1,000 to successful applicants whose projects show creativity and address an important and demonstrated need.

Past grants have gone to environmental education initiatives, public access projects, watershed signage, tree plantings, and community gardens.

Eligible organizations include nonprofit groups, local governments and educational institutions. Organizations can apply online at SaginawBayWIN.org. The deadline is Oct. 17.

 

3Faulty septic systems can pollute local waterways and contribute to harmful algal blooms.

commode toilet septic

Don’t overload the commode. Credit: Glenn Beltz.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is encouraging homeowners to maintain their septic systems as part of a public information campaign.

Nearly 25 percent of all American households use septic systems to treat their wastewater. Faulty septic systems have been blamed for beach closures in Bay County and other parts of Michigan.

Data collected by states attribute septic systems and other onsite wastewater treatment methods to water quality impairments in almost 23,000 miles of rivers and streams; about 200,000 acres of lakes, reservoirs and ponds; and more than 72,000 acres of wetlands, according to EPA.

EPA tips for septic system maintenance include:

  • Protect It and Inspect It
  • Think at the Sink, and
  • Don’t Overload the Commode.

The average household septic system should be inspected at least every three years. Household septic tanks are typically pumped every three to five years.

— Mr. Great Lakes is heard at 9 a.m. Fridays in Bay City, Michigan, on Delta College Q-90.1 FM NPR.

Scooping up Dioxins and Mapping Coastal Wetlands

For Aug. 15, 2014

Update, Aug. 18: A comment link has been posted http://www.epa.gov/region5/cleanup/dowchemical/pubcomment-201408.html

1The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed a plan to clean up dioxin-contaminated soil in frequently flooded areas along the Tittabawassee River.

The floodplain includes about 4,500 acres and extends along 21 miles of the river below the Dow Chemical Co. plant in Midland.

The proposed plan calls for a combination of steps, according to EPA:

If tests show a high-enough contamination level in homeowners’ yards, workers will dig up and remove contaminated soil, replace it with clean soil, and restore grasses and plants.

In other areas, such as farms, parks, and the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge, contaminated soil will be trucked away for disposal or covered with clean material. Some areas will be replanted.

EPA is accepting comments on the proposed cleanup plan through Oct. 14. (As of 2 p.m. Eastern on Aug. 15, a comment link was not available at www.epa.gov/region5/cleanup/dowchemical/). A public meeting is planned for Sept. 24 in Freeland.

2- A Central Michigan University helicopter is on the job.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The tiny, six-foot-long chopper is being used by Central Michigan University researchers to study Great Lakes coastal wetlands.

The craft is fitted with a high-resolution digital camera. It was recently in the sky at Wilderness State Park near Carp Lake, along the Lake Michigan shoreline.

The ‘copter’s onboard camera took thousands of aerial photos that researchers will use to map locations of Pitcher’s thistle, a threatened native plant that grows on beaches and grassland dunes along the shorelines of Lakes Michigan, Superior and Huron.

The CMU researchers hope data from the helicopter, along with ground sampling efforts, will allow scientists to cover larger areas and get a better understanding of how ecosystems around the Great Lakes are changing.

The project has research support from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The helicopter’s aerial method of data collection and mapping is relatively new technology.

Pitcher’s thistle, an important food source for certain birds and small mammals, was once fairly common in sand dune ecosystems of Michigan. Its numbers have declined in recent decades due to habitat destruction associated with shoreline development, recreational use, and  invasive plant species.

— Mr. Great Lakes is heard at 9 a.m. Fridays in Bay City, Michigan, on Delta College Q-90.1 FM NPR.

A Cleaner Kawkawlin, Installing Home Solar Systems, and Sewage $ for Saginaw Bay

1 – The Kawkawlin River is getting a little cleaner.

A group of more than 18 organizations have teamed up to help improve the river’s water quality through continued research, public education, land protection, improved farming practices, septic system maintenance, and recreation, according to a news release.

The group includes Delta College, Saginaw Valley State University ,the Kawkawlin River Watershed Property Owners Association, the Little Forks Conservancy in Midland, Saginaw Basin Land Conservancy in Bay City, the Bay Conservation District, and departments and offices in Bay County government. The project is supported by state and federal grants.

As one example, the Bay Conservation District is working with growers to change farming practices and protect soil health, reduce soil erosion, and nutrient pollution. Technical and financial assistance is available to those who qualify.

So far, more than 2,700 acres of cover crops and other practices are in place, and have been verified to be reducing sediment and nutrient runoff. Twelve grade stabilization structures are to be installed this spring.

The Kawkawlin River Watershed covers about 144,000 acres of land in Bay, Midland, Gladwin, and Saginaw counties that drains to the Kawkawlin River. There have been ongoing problems with bacterial contamination in the river, resulting in closures and public health advisories.

  • Little Forks is holding a March 19 meeting for landowners interested in conservation easements. It’s at the North Midland Family Center, from 6-8 p.m. RSVP by calling (989) 835-4886.

2 – Do you remember sunshine and warm days?

In the midst of Michigan’s ongoing winter, utility officials and environmental groups are drafting a plan they say can lead to wider development of solar energy in the state.

The Michigan Public Service Commission, DTE Energy, and Consumers Energy are involved in the workgroup.

A goal is to provide a strong basis for requiring utilities to establish ongoing programs that help residents and businesses install their own solar systems, according to Clean Energy Now.

A final report is expected in June. The report could recommend expansion of DTE’s SolarCurrents Program and Consumers’ Experimental Advanced Renewable Program (EARP).

Michigan’s renewable energy standard of 10 percent by 2015 expires next year.

3 – A new state program to maintain sewers in cities and towns has been infused with $97 million.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality has made grant and loan awards under the state’s Stormwater, Asset Management, and Wastewater program.

Grant assistance will go for stormwater management planning, stormwater and wastewater project planning and design, and testing and demonstration of innovative technology.

Loans will assist with the construction of projects derived from the plans.

Grants in the Saginaw Bay area include: $1.1 million to East Tawas, about $407,000 to Roscommon, $472,000 to Frankenlust Township, $1.1 million to Bangor Township, and almost $1 million to the city of Auburn.

Grants will be used for assessing how to schedule and pay for maintenance and upgrades to stormwater and sewer systems.

– Mr. Great Lakes, as heard at 9 a.m. Fridays in Bay City, Michigan, on Delta College Q-90.1 FM NPR.

A New Saginaw Bay Research Vessel, and Cleaning Up Microplastics

Mr. Great Lakes. With Jeff Kart. As heard at 9 a.m. Fridays on Friday Edition, Delta College Q-90.1 FM. The report for Sept. 20, 2013:

1 – There’s a new research vessel plying the Great Lakes.

It’s called “Cardinal II,” and is the new flagship of the Saginaw Bay Environmental Science Institute at Saginaw Valley State University.

The 24-foot boat was christened at a ceremony on Thursday (Sept. 19) at the university, with help from a director from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

SVSU officials say Cardinal II will be used for water sampling and related activities.

It will support SVSU’s Saginaw Bay Environmental Science Institute, serving as a mobile classroom for students and faculty researchers.

SVSU recently received a $413,000 grant from the University of Michigan Water Center to support additional ecological studies of Saginaw Bay and develop priorities guide future conservation efforts.

The new research vessel Cardinal II joins others on the bay, including four boats used by the state Department of Natural Resources to study fish populations.

2 – On Saturday (Sept. 21), Adopt-a-Beach cleanups will be taking place throughout the Great Lakes, including on Saginaw Bay.

The public beach at the Bay City State Recreation Area in Bay County is among the sites for the annual cleanup, conducted by volunteers and organized by the Alliance for the Great Lakes.

Cleanups are happening elsewhere in Michigan,  Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

This September’s cleanup is noteworthy because it’s about more than regular manmade debris, like cigarette butts and plastic bags.

There’s the ongoing issue of microbeads that have been found in the Great Lakes. The beads, also called microplastics, are blamed on household beauty and cleaning products that aren’t removed in the wastewater treatment process.

During the cleanups, volunteers will be collecting data and helping support regional research on the tiny plastic particles.

According to the Alliance, the impacts of these particles could include absorption and transport of other chemical contaminants, ingestion by aquatic organisms, or effects on microbial communities in freshwater ecosystems.

– 30 –

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