From the Headlines – July 5-9, 2021

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FEMA arrives: Federal Emergency Management personnel arrived in metro Detroit Thursday to tour flood-stricken areas. “We really are trying to gather information at this point,” said FEMA external affairs officer Troy Christensen. FEMA will make a report to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who can then decide whether to request disaster assistance from the federal government. (Freep)

More storms, more flooding: Storms moved through metro Detroit Wednesday and Thursday evenings. The Thursday storm caused new basement and street flooding in the Grosse Pointes, according to members of a GPFlood Facebook group, while the Wednesday storm knocked out power for more than 100,000 residents and rattled people who were still cleaning up from flooding. “We’ll probably be sleeping in shifts if the weather gets bad,” said Chelsea Jankowiak of Dearborn, whose house flooded a week and a half earlier. “If we have a bad storm, we’re probably going to be on edge, at least for the rest of the warm season.” (Detroit News)

Need help: Many Detroiters — including low-income residents, seniors, and the disabled — need significant help following last month’s flooding. “They need hot water tanks; they need access to electricians; they need skilled trades [people]. They need help not just cleaning out their basements, but sometimes replacing what’s in the basements,” said Donna Givens-Davidson, CEO of Detroit’s East Side Community Network. Givens-Davidson says that many service providers won’t even go into Detroit and that Detroiters’ experiences after 2014’s major flooding raise other concerns. “When FEMA came in, we found that renters did not get the same access to support as homeowners did, and also that people who did not have a lot of documentation had a harder time accessing any of that support,” she said. (Michigan Radio)

Climate tax: Ann Arbor Mayor Christopher Taylor proposes a 20-year millage to help the city transition to renewable energy and become “carbon neutral.” The tax could raise between $130 and $150 million to help with things like the city’s A2Zero plan to make municipal operations carbon neutral by 2030. If the city council approves the tax, it will be put before voters in November. (Detroit News)

No swimming: Heavy rains likely contributed to bacteria problems on several lakes and led to 16 beach closures across the state. In metro Detroit, closures include Pontiac Lake in Oakland County and St. Clair Shores Memorial Park Beach in Macomb County. (MLive)

Not your dad’s summer camp: Climate change affects everything, and that includes summer camp. At Camp Cavell in Lexington, Michigan, fire danger means that campers have had “flashlight campfires” for the last two summers. Other risks like an increase in disease-carrying ticks and extreme heat have affected the camp experience as well. In the West, extreme heat has delayed the start of a summer camp in Washington, while wildfires forced two evacuations in the last five years at a camp in Colorado. However, some camps have been turning this into a learning experience. “We’ve been trying to educate children and adults about nature and our environment since we started in the 1950s,” said Julie Kroll of Camp Caroline Furnace Lutheran Camp and Retreat Center in Fort Valley, Virginia. Part of that education now includes learning about climate change. (NY Times)

Toxic water: Water treatment plants may kill viruses and bacteria, but they’re less effective at eliminating chemicals like PFAS, dioxins, and PCBs. The Environmental Working Group performed a study recently to see if the level of chemicals currently allowed in drinking water could be causing health risks. “Even at legal limits, we’re seeing a hundred thousand potential lifetime cancer cases that could be related to drinking water contaminants as they are in the water today,” said Sidney Evans, one of the study’s authors. Linda Birnbaum, a former director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, says regulatory changes are needed. Currently, chemicals are regulated individually, and it can be challenging to get companies to do cleanups or stop producing substances even when they’re shown to be harmful. (Michigan Radio)

Pipeline problems: An article in Grist provides some additional context into the ongoing saga of Enbridge’s Line 5 oil pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is requiring Enbridge to make an environmental impact statement for its plan to move the pipeline into a tunnel under the straits, something the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires this for certain projects. “This would be the first federal NEPA analysis that (Line 5) would be subject to, ever,” said Oday Salim, a lawyer with the National Wildlife Federation. NEPA analyses usually take about three and a half years, delaying the tunnel’s construction and amplifying fears over the oil still flowing in the current pipeline. Enbridge previously refused Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s order to suspend the Line 5 operation by May 12. That issue is currently in court mediation. (Grist)

Chicago v. Lake Michigan: Although much of the discussion of shorelines and climate change has focused on sea-level rise, a new article highlights the problems Chicago faces on account of wildly fluctuating water levels on Lake Michigan and the unique engineering of the Chicago River. If water levels fall too low, it’s feared the Chicago River and the city’s wastewater could reverse course and flow into the lake, the city’s water source. Conversely, if lake levels rise too much, it could eliminate a necessary overflow for sewers during periods of heavy rains, which in turn could flood the city. This nearly happened in 2017 when flooding on the Chicago River collided with record high water levels on Lake Michigan. These extreme scenarios make it hard to plan for the future of the city’s infrastructure. A city facing sea-level rise could “build for the future,” said Joel Brammeier, president of the Alliance for the Great Lakes. “Here, we don’t even know what that looks like.” (NY Times)
Our photo this week was submitted by Planet Detroit member and Hamtramck resident, Alissa Shelton


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