From the Headlines – August 2-6, 2021

Prop P fails, Duggan wins: In Detroit’s primary election on Tuesday, residents voted against Proposal P, which would have changed the city charter to stop water shutoffs for nonpayment, set water rates at no more than 3% of a household’s income and expanded community benefits for large development projects, among other things. Voters rejected the proposal by a wide margin, with 67% voting against it. Businesses and other groups spent heavily on advertisements against the measure, with DTE Energy donating $50,000 and Blue Cross Blue Shield spending $25,000. Just 14.3% of Detroiters voted in the election that also provided an easy victory for incumbent Mayor Mike Duggan, who won the primary with 72% of the vote. (Freep, Planet Detroit)

Turmoil at GLWA: The Great Lakes Water Authority is facing ongoing criticism for partial failures at pump stations during June’s heavy rains and flooding. Here are the latest developments:

  • McCormick steps down: GLWA CEO Sue McCormick announced she would resign last month, ahead of an independent investigation into the causes of June’s flooding. McCormick said she had been considering retiring earlier, but delayed the decision on account of the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. (Freep)
  • Staff thought the pumps would handle the rain: McCormick said that GLWA employee’s believed the Freud pump station in Detroit could handle the 1.5 to 3 inches of rain predicted for June 25 and June 26, even though the facility was only partially operational due to a power outage. Seven inches of rain fell in some places, leading to widespread flooding in Dearborn, Detroit and the Grosse Pointes. “The standard operation procedure…in that situation was for the personnel to contact the energy supplier when they note an interruption. They followed the exact written procedures,” McCormick told GLWA’s board, adding that she only learned of the electrical problems on the morning of the storm, leading board member Jaye Quadrozzi to suggest that GLWA’s procedures need to be changed. (Freep)
  • Class action vs. DTE: Metro Detroit residents filed a class-action lawsuit against DTE Energy on account of the power failure at the Freud pump station. “Defendant DTE is functionally responsible for overseeing, approving, and managing the operation and maintenance of the Ludden substation to ensure that the Freud Pumping Station is fully operational and can pass excess water flows during wet weather conditions,” the complaint reads. DTE said the station was not yet part of its system, with electricity still being supplied by the Detroit Public Lighting Department. The lighting department is gradually transferring its customers to DTE over a roughly seven-year period, part of a deal negotiated in 2014. David Dubben, a lawyer representing residents in the case, says the lawsuit will eventually include GLWA and various municipalities. (Detroit News)
  • It’s not just Detroit: Grist reports that communities of color in New York State, Illinois and Louisiana are all paying a price for aging sewerage infrastructure, which has caused flooding and backups of untreated sewage into basements. The country’s wastewater infrastructure received a D+ in a report from the American Society of Civil Engineers, with minority and low-income communities representing many of the most heavily affected areas. The good news: Water infrastructure funding is included in the bipartisan infrastructure package that’s working its way through Congress. This would supply $56 billion in grants and loans for states, territories, and tribes to update drinking water, stormwater, and wastewater systems. (Grist,, The Guardian)

Is Belle Isle closed? In response to recent closures on Belle Isle, caused by too many vehicles and–for at least a few weekends–a certain car race, the Department of Natural Resources has launched a text service to notify residents if cars are temporarily unable to enter the island. To access the service, test “GEM” to the number 80888. Scott Pratt, chief of southern field operations for the DNR’s Parks & Recreation Division, said the agency is trying to route traffic away from the popular beach on the northern shore of the island, which can create a bottleneck for traffic. The DNR is also undertaking a mobility study that will explore options like adding a trolley to help visitors get on and off the island. Reader David Gifford would like to see the DNR consider expanding on existing transit before incorporating new trolleys. (Detour)

Emissions: The Biden administration is set to announce plans to raise gas mileage and emissions standards for cars over the next five years as well as secure a voluntary commitment from Detroit automakers to sell 40% electric vehicles by 2030. It’s part of a broader push to make 50% of vehicles “emissions-free” by 2030. Electric vehicles currently account for 2% of vehicles in the United States, so the Biden administration’s targets are ambitious, although environmental groups have expressed frustration that agreements with automakers are non-binding. And while electric vehicles could play a part in reducing emissions from transportation, some say that improving public transportation is a much more effective way to do this, while also addressing inequities in transportation that can keep residents from accessing resources like food, health care, and jobs. (Detroit News, NPR)

Slimed: harmful algal bloom is once again visible in western Lake Erie, although it’s much less severe than the bloom of toxic algae that shut down Toledo’s drinking water supply in 2014. This year’s bloom is predicted to measure a 3 on the severity index developed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), whereas previous years were as high as 10.5. Officials warn people to stay away from the scum that forms on the service of the water because it could contain the toxic substance microcystin. Canadian authorities have issued a warning for the southern shore of Lake St. Clair, where tests have shown the presence of microcystin. Here’s a picture guide to help you distinguish safe algae from toxic algae. (Freep, Great Lakes Now, Windsor state)

COVID in deer: Sixty percent of the Michigan deer tested by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) have COVID antibodies. However, deer don’t seem to get sick from the virus and there’s a low likelihood that they will transmit it to humans. “Studying the susceptibility of certain mammals, such as deer, to SARS-CoV-2 helps to identify species that may serve as reservoirs or hosts for the virus, as well as understand the origin of the virus, and predict its impacts on wildlife and the risks of cross-species transmission,” an APHIS press release stated. A number of other animals have tested positive for the virus, including gorillas at the San Diego Zoo and a Malaysian tiger at the Bronx Zoo. (Bridge)

‘No more milkweed to lose’: Climate change is killing monarch butterflies. This is the conclusion of a new study from Michigan State University that found climate change was by far the most serious threat impacting monarchs, surpassing other factors like herbicide use. The eastern monarch population — part of which passes through Michigan during the summer — declined from around 384 million in 1996 to 14 million in 2013. Herbicides have reduced the amount of milkweed growing in fields, eliminating the plants where the butterflies lay their eggs and the only food source for monarch caterpillars. But while this likely played a big role in early declines, Elise Zipkin, director of MSU’s Ecology, Evolution and Behavior Program and the paper’s lead author, said that as a result of herbicides, “there’s no more milkweed to lose.” Zylstra says that extremes in temperature and precipitation have negatively impacted monarch breeding in Northern Ohio, Northern Illinois and Iowa. She adds that planting milkweed may still be a good idea, but addressing the climate crisis is crucial. (Bridge)


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