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.

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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.

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Saginaw Bay Forum, Low Ice Cover, and More Toxics in the Great Lakes

great lakes saginaw bay ice cover 2013 google earth

NOAA Coastwatch ice cover map via Google Earth.

Mr. Great Lakes (Jeff Kart). As heard 9 a.m. Friday, Jan. 18, 2013, on Delta Q-90.1 FM, Michigan:

1 -

A community forum on the Saginaw Bay environment is planned for Feb. 22 in Bay City.

The forum is sponsored by the nonprofit Saginaw Bay Watershed Initiative Network and the state-created Saginaw Bay Coastal Initiative.

The meeting is from 1-4 p.m. at the Delta College Planetarium in downtown Bay City.

A preliminary agenda includes a talk on “Michigan’s Vision for the Great Lakes and Saginaw Bay” from Jon Allan, director of Michigan’s Office of the Great Lakes; and a status report on Beneficial Use Impairments in the federally designated Area of Concern for the Saginaw River and Bay.

The Friday meeting is part of a series of ongoing meetings that will be held to discuss issues related to Saginaw Bay and its tributary system.

The meeting is an opportunity for groups working on various projects to provide updates on their work, and hear from others.

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Ice cover on the Great Lakes is at near-historic lows.

A composite map of satellite data from earlier this week shows thin ice on most of Saginaw Bay. The map is from CoastWatch, part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

A CoastWatch manager tells Great Lakes Echo that conditions this year on the Great Lakes could break a record for low ice cover set in 2002.

Earlier this month, average water temperatures on each of the Great Lakes were running 2 to 3 degrees above normal.

A lack of ice cover means increased evaporation, which is bad news for water levels, which are already low in the Great Lakes.

More: Great Lakes Surface Environmental Analysis

3

Toxic pollution to the Great Lakes increased in 2011.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, in a report out this week, says toxic releases into surface waters in the Great Lakes Basin increased by 12 percent from 2010 to 2011.

That’s in contrast to a 3 percent decrease in discharges nationwide during the same period.

The numbers come from EPA’s annual Toxics Release Inventory report.

An EPA official calls the 12 percent increase in the Great Lakes Basin “signifiicant,” and notes that the Great Lakes region is lagging behind other parts of the country when it comes to improving water quality.

Most toxic surface water discharges to the Great Lakes Basin come from nitrates and pesticides from municipal wastewater treatment plants and agriculture, according to EPA.

Nitrates also are discharged by primary metals facilities, such as iron and steel mills and smelters, and food and beverage manufacturers.

The EPA says information from the latest report will be used to work with municipalities, agricultural producers and manufacturers to improve water quality in the basin.

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‘Wicked Problems’ Revealed, along with Kirtland’s Warbler Census

As heard Nov. 9, 2012, on Q-90.1 FM, Delta College NPR …

Those three “wicked problems” have been chosen by Michigan Sea Grant.

photo aquaculture industry

Photo by Burt Lum

The University of Michigan-Michigan State University program is funding three new research projects to tackle so-called “wicked” problems. Submissions were taken just before Halloween.

The wicked problems to be researched are …

  • An expansion of Michigan’s aquaculture industry;
  • Remediation of an Area of Concern at a former mining site in the Upper Peninsula; and
  • Climate change in the Grand Traverse Bay area.

Researchers say they chose the projects for several reasons.

On aquaculture in Michigan: There’s an opportunity to provide an abundant supply of fresh, local fish products to Michiganders. The project aims to develop a strategic plan for aquaculture in the state, dealing with business and science issues, and grow a sustainable sector for Michigan.

On the U.P. Area of Concern: Researchers say there have been more than 20 years of study and meetings on Torch Lake. The project will compile a history of the site to use as a guide for remediating similar contaminated areas.

On climate change in the Grand Traverse Bay area: The research seeks to provide information on the bay’s vulnerability to climate change and begin a process of adaptive management to improve the region’s ability to respond in the future.

The Kirtland’s warbler is doing well.

photo kirtlands warbler singing

Huron Pines, a nonprofit in Gaylord, says a new census of the endangered bird’s population is cause for celebration.

A census is conducted each year by state and federal agencies, with the help of volunteers.

For 2012, 2,063 singing males were recorded in Michigan – 2,025 in the Northern Lower Peninsula and 38 in parts of the Upper Peninsula.
Another 23 were counted in Wisconsin and four more were heard as far north as Ontario, Canada.

That’s an overall total of 2,090 (up from 1,828 in 2011).

The Kirtland’s warbler was listed on the Endangered Species List since 1973.

Huron Pines is part of a Kirtland’s Warbler Initiative to delist the warbler as a species.

-end-

Saginaw Bay Watershed Confab, Bucks for Dredging & Flaming Fish

From the Feb. 10, 2012, edition of the Environment Report, as heard at 9 a.m. Fridays on Delta College public radio, Q 90.1 FM …

Great Lakes Czar and More

photo of fish on fire on grill

Photo by the great 8

Environmental leaders from across the Saginaw Bay watershed are meeting next month at Saginaw Valley State University.

The event is the Saginaw Bay Watershed Conference, to be held Friday, March 16, at Curtiss Hall on the campus of SVSU.

Leaders will meet to hear about and discuss current and future projects planned to address water quality in the basin. That includes the delisting of the Saginaw River and Bay as a federal Area of Concern.

A keynote address is to be given by Great Lakes czar Cameron Davis, who serves as senior advisor to U.S. EPA chief Lisa Jackson.

State climatologist Jeff Andresen, a geography professor at Michigan State University, also is to discuss projected impacts of climate change on the Great Lakes.

The latest research information regarding beach muck in Saginaw Bay will be presented by federal scientist Craig Stow.

The conference is receiving government funding support through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. The cost to attend is $25, which includes lunch.

Dig It: More Money

The Saginaw River is due to receive almost $2.7 million for dredging projects.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is providing additional funds for navigational dredging projects.

The extra funds total $9 million, and will pay for projects in the Saginaw River, Holland Harbor, St. Joseph Harbor, Manistee Harbor and the St. Marys River.

The additional money is for projects throughout the Great Lakes basin that support economic development and job creation.

According to U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, the funding also will help sustain Michigan harbors that were threatened with closure.

Fish Won’t Catch Fire

A federal study to be published by the Journal of Great Lakes Research found male walleye contain three times more flame retardant chemicals than females in the Saginaw River and Bay.

According to Great Lakes Echo, the flame retardant chemicals have been used in plastics, foams and fabrics since the 1970s. Animal tests suggest they can damage the liver, thyroid and brain.

The Echo report says male walleye use the Saginaw River for feeding and habitat, while females mostly stay out in the bay.

The river was found to have much higher levels of flame retardants than the bay. In the river, the chemicals are ingested by small fish eaten by walleye.

Researchers believe the chemicals are draining from landfills and other waste sites and sticking in the river sediment.

See also: New Flame Retardants as Bad as Old Flame Retardants

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Pop Sci Picks a Michigan Invention, EPA Reports on Enforcement, & a 2012 Lightbulb Guide

The Environment Report. As heard Fridays @ 9 a.m. Eastern on Q-90.1 FM, Delta College

photo lighting facts consumers union guide

Courtesy Consumers Union

Dec. 30, 2011:

1 – A Michigan invention has been named one of the “Best of” 2011 by Popular Science magazine.

The product, called Forage Boost, was developed by researchers at Michigan State University.

It’s a microbial fertilizer that uses an ingredient called SumaGrow. The fertilizer was chosen as a “Best of What’s New” product by Pop Sci for its positive environmental impact.

SumaGrow is different from common fertilizers because it harnesses the power of non-genetically modified living microorganisms to improve the productivity of forages, hay crops, and grain and vegetable crops, according to MSU researchers.

SumaGrow is said to reduce the need for chemical fertilizers and improve disease resistance.

Popular Science magazine wrote that Forage Boost “could eliminate all other fertilizer use on the planet’s eight billion acres of pasture grass.”

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Enforcement by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has cut more than 300 million pounds of pollution in the Great Lakes region, according to a year-end report.

The information comes from the EPA’s Region 5 office in Chicago, which oversees enforcement efforts in Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin.

Major cases highlighted by EPA for fiscal year 2011 include a settlement with the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District, which will keep untreated sewage out of Cleveland-area waterways and Lake Erie.

Closer to home, EPA records show enforcement actions in 2011 involving the Saginaw Wastewater Treatment Plant, which discharges to the Saginaw River.

In total, the region’s office estimates that 311 million pounds of pollution was reduced, treated or eliminated as a result of EPA enforcement actions.

An additional 25 million pounds of hazardous waste was cut, and 72 million cubic yards of contaminated soil or water were cleaned up, the EPA says.

3 -

New federal lightbulb laws are taking effect Jan. 1.

Here’s what you need to know: Incandescent lights are not being banned. But the lights you can buy in stores will be more efficient come Jan. 1, and there will be expanded choices.

The Consumer Federation of America and Consumers Union have released a guide on the new lighting standards.

Light bulbs sold in 2012 will have to be 25-30 percent more energy efficient than traditional incandescent bulbs.

There will be three choices: Halogens, Compact Flourescents, and Light-emitting diodes. The last of those, LEDS, cost around $25 per bulb, but prices are expected to drop. Halogens and CFLs sell for about $2 each. All three last longer than traditional incandescents and can reduce emissions from power plants due to less energy consumption.

You’ll have to buy based on lumens, not watts. Lumens indicate brightness. 60 watts is 800 lumens, for instance, and 100 watts is 1,600 lumens.

You’ll also have to check for light color, measured on the Kelvin temperature scale. Lower K numbers indicate more yellow light. Higher K numbers mean whiter or bluer light.

Don’t worry if you can’t remember all of this, because the law also requires a “lighting facts” label on packages for most bulbs manufactured after Jan. 1, 2012.

Those facts will include estimated yearly energy costs.

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