From the Headlines – May 17-21, 2021

Recovery doubtful: RecoveryPark has seen better days. The project, which received millions in foundation funding and oodles of positive press in recent years, aimed to employ people facing obstacles due to incarceration and drug abuse. Last year, most of the farms’ approximately 20 employees, some of whom had been incarcerated, were laid off, and the farm ceased operations. Why this happened is a bit of a mystery. CEO and President Gary Wozniak, who has spoken openly about his troubles with addiction and a fraud conviction in the 1980s, said the layoffs resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic killing the market for the farm’s produce, which mainly went to restaurants. Yet, a Detroit Metro Times investigation found the layoffs happened a month before the pandemic hit, and that audit from 2019 revealed a multi-million dollar financial shortfall. Former employees have complained of sporadic paychecks, and vendors say they are still owed money. Still, Wozniak says he’s committed to raising new funds to keep the project alive. “I don’t think it’s possible for the project to get back on track under Gary Wozniak’s leadership,” said Anna Kohn, RecoveryPark’s former chief impact officer. “I also don’t believe the project could get back on track with the name RecoveryPark. I do believe that there is a lot of virtue in the business model, as far as training people how to grow food.” (Metro Times)

Power couple: A pair of bald eagles are raising two eaglets on Belle Isle, sharing bits of prey that they tear into small pieces and drop into the nest. “This pair is pretty amazing — bald eagles are usually fairly shy, and they nest in remote places, but these eagles have chosen a busy, bustling park, and they seem to be right at home with all of the island’s activity,” said Holly Vaughn, a public outreach manager with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Division. In the 20th century, DDT and other pesticides caused massive declines in eagle populations, but Michigan now has more than 800 nesting pairs. Here are some tips on eagle nest etiquette. Experts recommend staying at least 1000 feet from a bald eagle nest and using binoculars for viewing. (Freep)

Must get stones: Gravel miners, business groups, and their allies in Lansing are pushing a group of bills in the statehouse that would take the approval of gravel mining permits away from local governments, transferring it to Michigan’s Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE). Critics say this will shift control away from the communities that would have to endure the dust and noise from gravel operations and potential issues with groundwater contamination. The gravel industry argues that a lack of mines near roadways could make it more expensive to ‘fix the damn roads,’ as a certain governor is wont to say. A previous Michigan Department of Transportation study that backed up this claim was revealed to have been largely the work of an industry lobbying group. (Freep)

More bad news for coal: In 2019, coal still provided more than 32 percent of Michigan’s energy- with DTE energy using it for 56% of its generation. But while people often think of the threat posed to air quality by coal-fired power plants, these facilities also generate coal ash, contaminating soil and groundwater. “Coal ash can also cause heart damage, lung disease, respiratory distress, kidney disease, reproductive problems, gastrointestinal illness, congenital disabilities, and impaired bone growth in children,” said Casey Patnode, a medical and public health student at the University of Michigan. Water contamination is especially concerning because coal ash is often stored in large ponds to keep it from blowing away, potentially releasing lead, mercury, and arsenic into groundwater, rivers, and lakes. A review of monitoring data from 2018 and 2019 showed that 80% of coal ash disposal sites had levels of toxic chemicals in the groundwater exceeding state and federal standards. (Michigan Radio)

PFAS exposure: The state of Michigan is taking blood samples from Michigan firefighters to study their exposure to toxic PFAS chemicals, which are present in some firefighting foam and protective gear. “The findings will help inform activities to minimize firefighters’ exposure to PFAS,” said Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. Previous research has shown high levels of PFAS chemicals in firefighters’ blood. The chemicals have been linked to kidney and testicular cancer, among other health problems. (MLive)

Whitmer v. Canada: As the binational furor over the Canadian-owned Line 5 pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac continues, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has weighed in with an editorial, stressing the importance of protecting the Great Lakes that contain more than 20 percent of the world’s freshwater. “The two aging, 4.5-mile sections of underwater pipeline are a ticking time bomb,” she writes. “We cannot continue to run the risk of the devastating economic, environmental and public health impacts that would follow a disaster involving Line 5,” she writes. (WaPo)

Ticked off: Well, we hope you like ticks because you and your pets are probably about to see more of them. Once uncommon in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, there has been a significant increase in dog ticks and deer ticks over the last few decades. The deer tick, or black-legged tick, that transmits Lyme disease has thrived during our increasingly warm and wet winters. A growing number of counties, including Wayne County, have confirmed local exposures to Lyme disease. So what can you do to protect yourself? Experts recommend wearing insect repellent when spending time outside and doing daily tick checks on yourself as well as your pets and children. If you find a tick, use tweezers to grab it as close to the skin as possible and pull it straight out without twisting. Place it in a sealed bag if you want to have it identified, and call your doctor if it has been attached for more than 24 hours. (MLive, Channel 4)


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