End of an era: On Memorial Day evening, the River Rouge Power Plant sent its last electrons into the grid. Opened in 1956, the DTE Energy-owned facility is one of five coal-powered plants the utility is planning to close by 2022. The facility was no longer burning coal; it converted to “recycled gas” in June 2020. DTE said the plant employed 292 employees at its peak and generated 840 megawatts. River Rouge Mayor Michael Bowdler said the city budget could lose as much as $1 million with the plant’s closure. However, he added, “They had a good run of 65 years. In the 20 communities Downriver, a lot of people either worked in that plant, were contractors in that plant, or were part of the supply chain for that plant.” DTE will demolish the plant but hasn’t yet determined what they will do done with the site. (Detroit News)
Ozone actions: On Sunday, temperatures in Southeast Michigan climbed to nearly 90 degrees, and the region experienced its third Ozone Action day of the year. Production of ozone increases at higher temperatures which can trigger asthma attacks or cause other respiratory issues. On Ozone Action days, you should:● Delay lawn-mowing until the evening or the next day because the exhaust from gas-powered garden equipment can contribute to ozone formation.
● Drive less and avoid refueling your vehicle.
● If possible, stay inside if you have asthma. (WDIV)
It’s rainin’ PFAS: Preliminary data from researchers shows significant amounts of toxic PFAS chemicals in rainwater in the Great Lakes basin. In April, rainwater collected in Cleveland over two weeks showed PFAS chemicals were present at about 1,000 parts per trillion (ppt). For comparison, Michigan’s standards for certain PFAS chemicals in groundwater is 70 ppt. Researchers have been collecting rainwater samples at several sites across the region, including Michigan’s Sleeping Bear Dunes and Eagle Harbor in the Upper Peninsula. Samples have mostly ranged from 100 – 400 ppt, with urban areas showing higher levels. Tony Spaniola, a lawyer and PFAS activist, noted the number of potential sources for the chemicals in metro Detroit. “With all the industry around the Detroit area, particularly Downriver, I bet the numbers there are huge,” he said. (MLive)
And PFAS in Holly: Testing at wells around the closed Falk Road Landfill in Holly show PFAS chemicals above state limits at several sites. Although testing done by the state revealed contamination from other chemicals at the landfill site in 1995, Holly officials appear to have never followed up with more testing, even though the agency advised them to do so. Michigan’s Department of Environmental Greats Lakes and Energy (EGLE) District Supervisor of Remediation and Redevelopment Paul Owens said the agency only has “the capacity to focus on 10% of all the sites on file we know about.” (Detroit News)
DTE wants more money: Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel asked the Michigan Public Service Commission to cut DTE Energy’s proposed 11% rate hike on residential gas. Calling the increase “excessive and unreasonable,” Nessel is recommending a 2% rate hike instead. According to Nessel’s office, she has saved Michiganders $1 billion by intervening in rate cases since 2019. (Detroit News)
Turn down the A/C: Meanwhile, Consumers Energy is set to charge its consumers more for electricity, but only between 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. on weekdays from June through September. They say this is to reduce energy use when statewide demand is at its highest for the year, which could lessen the need for seasonal sources of power and decrease carbon emissions. However, a pilot program for this approach only increased the average bill by $2 a month, even when consumers made no changes to their energy use. (Bridge)
“Filthy fifty: Wurtsmith Air Force Base near Oscoda and K.I. Sawyer Air Force Base in the Upper Peninsula has landed on the “Filthy Fifty” list of sites where proposed congressional legislation looks to accelerate PFAS cleanup. The legislation would direct $10 billion in funding to military sites to clean up the contamination. It would also require the military to test all active and closed bases within the next two years, provide safe drinking water to nearby residents within 60 days, and install remediation systems within the next decade. This legislation also compels the military to comply with the most stringent PFAS standards, whether state or federal. The Environmental Protection Agency does not yet have federal standards for PFAS, but proposed legislation would require it to establish such rules. (MLive)
Lead in bone: A handheld device used to measure lead levels in bones is disputed in Flint. The maker of the scanner, Thermo Fisher Scientific, says the device wasn’t intended to be used for measuring lead levels in human bone but was designed for mining and other uses. And Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha–who helped uncover the lead contamination in Flint’s drinking water–opposes the use of the scanner. Claimants in the $641 million Flint settlement were not required to have such scans. But Lynsey Mukomel, spokesperson for the Michigan Attorney General, said residents “could voluntarily undergo that process based upon the advice of their lawyers.” (Detroit News)
Achoo: Among other indignities, climate change is turning you into a snotty mess. Multiple studies have found that global heating and increased precipitation are lengthening the growing season for the plants that make pollen and contribute to allergies and asthma. And rising carbon dioxide levels are associated with increased pollen production in ragweed, a significant driver for allergic rhinitis, commonly known as hay fever. “Good news, for the most part, allergy medications are pretty well-tolerated,” said allergist and President of the Michigan Allergy & Asthma Society Jennifer DeMore. “But certainly, we want to control the allergies as best we can with the least amount of medications as possible for good symptom control and good overall health control.” (Bridge)
Unequal relief: Research shows that white Americans, or those who live in mostly white areas, receive more disaster relief from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) than their Black, Native American, or Latinx counterparts. Possible causes for the disparity include the higher valuation for homes in predominantly white areas or the lack of resources to help navigate the federal bureaucracy. Based on 5.4 million requests for FEMA assistance, researcher Ethan J. Raker found that 11 percent of residents in Black neighborhoods had their applications denied with no reason given. At the same time, this only happened to 4 percent of homeowners in white areas. And when assistance was given, homeowners in Black areas received 5 to 10 percent less money on average than those in white neighborhoods. (NY Times)