Nessel sues over PFAS, Ooze news, Water shutoffs still happening

January 17, 2020 | CO2 2020/2019 412.48 / 409.09 ppm <<

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Nessel launches sweeping PFAS lawsuit

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel filed a lawsuit this week against 3M, DuPont, and other PFAS manufacturers, arguing that they “intentionally hid” the health and environmental risks of the chemicals that are used in products like Scotchguard. The suit would hold the companies liable for all past and future expenses associated with remediation, health assessments, and alternative water supplies. In Michigan, 1.9 million residents are currently drinking water containing some amount of PFAS, according to state data.

Meanwhile, the Guardian put a human face on the issue last week in an article examining the effects PFAS chemicals have had on families including that of Sandy Wynn-Stelt in Belmont, Michigan near Wolverine World Wide. PFAS chemicals used in waterproofing entered Wynn-Stelt’s well. She and her husband likely drank the chemicals for years; her husband died of liver cancer and Wynn-Stelt suffers from thyroid problems and gout. PFAS levels in her bloodstream reached 750 times the national average.

Madison Height’s ooze problem spreads to Sanilac County, Detroit (and don’t miss the Ooze cruise!)

State officials are examining properties in Detroit and Sanilac County owned by Gary Sayers, the man believed responsible for the green ooze containing hexavalent chromium that seeped out onto I-696 from his now-closed business Electro-Plating Services. Michigan’s Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) are examining soil and water samples at the Sanilac county site where a chemical drum was found. At the Detroit site at Commonwealth and Marquette, EGLE found liquid some of which “resembled the green contamination”.

Mr. Sayers—who is currently imprisoned—may not be able to pay for the cleanup. “Is it $2 million? Is it $20 million? I don’t know, but it’s not in the hundreds of thousands. It’s in the millions,” said Tracy Kecskemeti, southeast district coordinator for EGLE.

At a recent meeting of the Michigan House Appropriations Committee, legislators questioned how Sayers could be allowed to continue operating for so long when he was under scrutiny by EGLE (then the Department of Environmental Quality) going back to the 1990s. EGLE issued a cease and desist order to Sayers in late 2016.

Representative Leslie Love of Detroit, may have had the quote-of-the-day at the hearing when she said:

I am really thankful for the ooze. Because that green ooze, the earth oozing that up onto I-696, is like a person who throws up. It's a warning sign of something greater happening.

The Environmental Protection Agency is currently considering a Superfund designation for the site, which could help fund the cleanup (although the backlog of such sites has grown under the Trump administration). Meanwhile, the AWE (Area Wilderness Explorers) Club is hosting an Ooze Cruise on Sunday at 3 pm to tour the site. Participants will then retire to the Max Dugan bar where they may enjoy an “Ooze shot.”

About half of Detroit’s water shutoffs still off

Although the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department has been shutting off people’s water at a high rate for seven years now, Detroit Free Press columnist Nancy Kaffer wants to remind us that this is still a very, very big deal. She writes:

As of Oct. 31, according to its own internal report, the water department had turned off water to more than 25,000 accounts in 2019, and subsequently restored service to 13,721 of those customers. That means 11,297 accounts still lack water service. And 10,145 of those accounts serve properties the department believes are occupied. 

Although some of these doubtless occurred in vacant structures, Kaffer argues that this crisis is worse than ever and a solution needs to be found for a service that “isn’t just a personal amenity; it's a public good”.

NAACP questions energy company payments to minority-led organizations

Darrell Dawsey at Deadline Detroit made the Detroit connection to the New York Times‘ piece about the NAACP’s efforts to keep energy companies from influencing their local chapters with cash donations. As Metro Times reported, Detroit-area groups that serve communities of color, including the Detroit Association of Black Organizations (DABO), The Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services (ACCESS), Latin Americans for Social and Economic Development (LA SED) and others have received money from the DTE Energy Foundation and often show up to support the utility’s efforts to build new greenhouse-gas-producing power plants, despite the fact that low-income Detroiters have some of the highest utility burdens in the nation, DTE’s reliability lags, and minority and low-income residents are expected to be hit especially hard by climate change.

This Week in Environmental Justice

A new section we’re adding to round up national and global stories on environmental justice that impact Detroiters …..

Heat islands linked to racist housing policies

Recent research shows that racist housing policies that have denied African Americans homeownership and quality public services have created neighborhoods that are uniquely vulnerable to heatwaves. The study showed that:

94% of studied areas display consistent city-scale patterns of elevated land surface temperatures in formerly redlined areas relative to their non-redlined neighbors by as much as 7 °C.

NEPA rollback could hit minorities and low-income people the hardest

A piece in The Hill argues that the Trump administration’s decision to revamp the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) could hurt poor and minority communities by making it easier for industries to pollute in low-income, highly impacted communities. Among other things, communities could lose their right to comment on new projects under NEPA or be required to pay a bond to the Environmental Protection Agency when filing an injunction to stop a project.


And now for our bright spots…..

Coping with ecological grief

WDET’s Annamarie Sysling spoke with U-M medical student and member of the student group White Coats for Planetary Health to understand how to cope with grief over the climate crisis and other ecological calamities.

Black Rock to disinvest from fossil fuels

Climate activists are cautiously optimistic about Black Rock’s announcement that they will move to divest from companies that “present a high sustainability-related risk”. Black Rock is the world’s largest asset manager.

“The steps BlackRock is taking are baby steps,” author and climate activist Bill McKibben said. “And we will have to watch and push hard for them to begin striding at the pace we need to go. But in some sense, the first step is often the hardest.”

On January 30th, SMSBF is hosting their third annual Sustainable Resolutions event at the Charles H. Wright Museum. Has someone in your network made a difference advancing sustainable, 3BL business strategy and practice? Nominate them for the “Triple Bottom Line Business Leader Award” here.
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Local environmental jobs & volunteer opps

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Connect: Engage with Detroit’s environment

January 18 | The Ooze Cruise | Madison Heights & Hazel Park  >>>

January 18 | Bike the Blizzard | Detroit >>>

January 18 | Pinckney Recreation Area Hike | Pinckney Recreation Area >>>

January 18 | Birding 101 Workshop with Detroit Audubon | Lathrup Village >>>

January 19 | Creating Pollinator Gardens: A Lecture by Alaine Bush | Belle Isle  >>>

January 20 | Martin Luther King Jr. Ride | Detroit >>>

January 23 | Tri-County Environmental Justice Solidarity Rally! | Detroit >>>

January 25 | Winter Stonefly Search | Rochester >>>

January 28 | Seed Swap | Ypsilanti >>>

January 28 | Clinton River Trail Annual Meeting | >>>

January 30 | The State of Transit: Then, Now, and into the Future! | Detroit >>>

January 30 | Southeast Michigan Sustainable Business Forum Fundraiser | Detroit >>>

February 1 | Shiver on the River Winter Birding | Detroit River >>>

February 1 | ¡Ay Cramba It’s Cold Out! | Shelby Township >>>

February 1 | Young Birders Walk at Palmer Park | Palmer Park >>>

February 1 | Stonefly Search 2020 | Ann Arbor >>>

February 13 | Michigan Environmental Justice Summit 2020 | Ann Arbor >>>

February 15 | Become a Master Rain Gardener | Lathrup Village >>>

February 23 | Bee is for Beneficial: A Lecture by Brian Peterson-Roest | Belle Isle >>>

February 29 | Quiet Adventures Symposium | Lansing >>>

March 7 | Rouge Frog & Toad Survey Training Workshop | Livonia >>>

March 13 | Community Treehouse Gala >>>

March 19 | Architectural Solutions to Reduce Bird Deaths | Ann Arbor >>>

March 21 | Invasive Species Summit | Waterford >>>

April 4 | Trash Fishing Exploration - Testing of the boats | Detroit >>>

June 6 | National Trails Day | >>>


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