Concerns emerge on riverfront collapse, Tri-county justice, ACLU calls for water shutoff 'health emergency', Lake St. Clair sludge

January 24, 2020 | CO2 2020/2019 415.79 / 409.09 ppm <<

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Deteriorating conditions and soil tests raise concerns about dock collapse on Detroit River

When Detroiters first learned of the collapse of a dock at the Detroit Bulk Storage facility on the Detroit River last month, immediate fears related to possible radiation stemming from the site's former use by Revere Copper and Brass to manufacture uranium rods for nuclear bombs. Subsequent radiation testing by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) showed that radiation wasn’t likely an issue

But from the start, experts were just as worried about other contaminants on the site—like polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and heavy metals—falling into the river. They were also concerned that the spill could dislodge contaminated sediments in the Detroit riverbed itself.



Activists brave the cold for 'Tri-County Environmental Justice Solidarity Rally'

Residents from Macomb, Wayne, and Oakland counties came together on a chilly evening Thursday, January 23 for a "Tri-County Environmental Justice Solidarity Rally" at the intersection of the three counties. About 60 people met on Dad Butler playground in Detroit to voice their concerns about environmental justice issues. 


ACLU asks Whitmer to declare water shutoffs a ‘health emergency’

The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan (ACLU) and the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center are asking governor Gretchen Whitmer to declare water shutoffs in Detroit a “health emergency”— which would include a shutoff moratorium.

Mark Fancher, a lawyer with the Michigan ACLU says, “The shutoffs, hundreds of thousands of them, that occur in Detroit, amount to a very quiet disaster—one that causes the people who live in these homes without water to suffer in silence.”

Sludgy situation on Lake St. Clair

Frozen balls of a green-and-black substance have been washing up on the shore of Lake St. Clair in Harrison Township. "We don't really know if it's harmful, but we don't think so," said Macomb County public works commissioner, Candice Miller."I think what we will likely find is that it's an organic material which is at the bottom of the lake that was churned up." Miller believes that combined sewer overflows could be a contributing factor. Testing is underway to see if the sludge contains E. coli or other harmful substances.

Ooze update: Early tests show no chromium in Detroit, Sanilac

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) says that preliminary testing of properties belonging to Gary Sayers—the owner of Electro-Plating Services in Madison Heights that’s believed to be responsible for the “green ooze” situation–show no signs of hexavalent chromium, although some heavy metals were found. One of the properties on Commonwealth street is close to Detroit’s Henry Ford Medical Center on West Grand Boulevard.

Water justice events come to Pontiac, Detroit

The Global Water Justice Summit will be coming to Detroit this Friday and Saturday and a similar event will take place in Pontiac on Saturday. Both events look to educate the public about water affordability and access, although the Pontiac event is more local in its focus. Centered around Oakland County’s Environmental Action Plan, the Pontiac event is organized as a town hall-style meeting to “promote clean, affordable and safe drinking water to vulnerable populations like seniors, children or those in poverty.”

A history of Zug Island

Planet Detroit’s Brian Allnutt writes for Curbed Detroit this week about how Zug Island became an island and ‘the dirtiest square mile in Michigan’ while contemplating its uncertain future. The U.S. Steel company is idling plants while the DTE coal-fired power plant in River Rouge is set to shutter in 2022. The Rouge River’s Old Channel is being cleaned up, wildlife call the island home, and sturgeon spawn in the waters nearby. Could the area become a wildlife sanctuary amidst the ruins of industry, like Seattle’s Gas Works park? The island is “a place whose history seems too weird not to have a compelling next chapter,” Allnutt writes.

$86 million awarded to address air pollution, traffic congestion

The Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG) has awarded $86 million dollars in federal grants to 16 local road and transit agencies to encourage carpooling and reduce traffic and vehicle idling. Projects include investments in public transportation and traffic signal optimization, all of which could help cut down on air pollution. The City of Detroit and Detroit Department of Transportation (DDOT) received a total of $23.54 million to update traffic signals, replace busses and improve traffic operations.


Supreme Court to allow Flint residents to sue over water contamination

Rejecting appeals by state and local officials, the US Supreme Court ruled that Flint residents could sue the state and government agencies over knowingly allowing the lead contamination of the city’s water. The ruling holds up a lower court ruling that residents had the right to “bodily integrity” under the Fourteenth Amendment. The court said granting government officials immunity would contravene this right. In the past, Flint officials have argued that they are protected by “qualified immunity”.

Study documents environmental health threat to Michigan children

A recent report from the Children’s Environmental Health Network draws attention to the impact pollution is having on Michigan’s children. Factors like air pollution, drinking water contamination, and lead contribute to asthma, attention deficit disorder, and childhood cancers. One of the more eye-popping statistics shows that 10.2% of Michigan children have rates of ADD and ADHD compared to a national average of 3.8 %. Lead and other chemical toxins have been shown to increase the risk of these disorders. High child poverty is also a contributing factor, combining with environmental problems to increase poor health outcomes.

Rising lake levels destroy homes or force them to move

An article and photo-essay in The Detroit News illustrate the devastation historically high water levels are bringing to lakefront properties, especially on Lake Michigan. Some homes have collapsed into the water, while others are being pulled off their foundations and being moved inland. Efforts to protect homes are largely self-financed and can cost tens of thousands of dollars. However, the “Huizenga Amendment”—passed in the Michigan House and being considered in the Senate—would finance the construction of natural barriers along shorelines. Meanwhile, beyond Michigan, Chicago is also suffering from high lake-levels and erosion that potentially imperils that city’s lakefront parks and Lake Shore Drive.

What the what?

Wolverine World Wide—the business implicated in the PFAS contamination that has rocked Michigan’s Kent County—received a firm talking-to from the Rockford Chamber of Commerce for contaminating citizens’ well water with toxic chemicals. Except, oh no, wait, that didn’t happen at all! Looks like Wolverine received the honor of “Business of the Year” from the chamber. Sandy Wynn-Stelt, whose husband died of liver cancer that she believes was caused by PFAS in their well water, called the move a “slap in the face”.


A carbon high | Carbon dioxide reached a new peak Tuesday at 415.79 parts per million (ppm)  Earther

No more “Waters of the United States’ | The Trump administration rolled back a 2015 Obama rule that expanded the Clean Water Act to apply to a larger subset of streams and wetlands. New York Times

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