From the Headlines – October 25-29, 2021

‘Makes you sick’: “Emission control systems at the facility are operating properly and in compliance with the air permit conditions,” Michael Brieda, manager of Stellantis’ Mack plant, said in response to an odor violation in September. However, this was not the case several weeks later. On October 12 and 13, Michigan’s Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) observed that volatile organic compounds from the Jeep plant’s paint shop weren’t being conducted to the regenerative thermal oxidizer that is designed to destroy them, causing the agency to issue a second air quality violation. The smell “makes you sick to your stomach,” said Tammy Hart, a resident of nearby Beniteau Street. “It’s nasty, strong, very stinky.” The second violation requires Stellantis to correct the issue and give a written response to EGLE by November 10. Detroit Mayoral candidate Anthony Adams referred to the issue as “environmental racism” and said the city should relocate residents away from the plant.  (Detroit News, Crain’s) 

Understanding Benton Harbor: How did Michigan allow another lead drinking water crisis to unfold in Benton Harbor just a few short years after the 2014 water crisis in Flint? A piece from PBS looks at common themes between the two cities, which both have a shrinking population of predominantly African American residents bearing the costs of segregation and disinvestment. But a delayed reaction is also at fault. “The failure to intervene with an appropriate level of urgency when the water is clearly unsafe to drink, according to the state’s own data, is another manifestation of environmental injustice and historic neglect,” said Anna Clark, journalist and author of The Poisoned City: Flint’s Water and the American Urban Tragedy. Benton Harbor Mayor Marcus Muhammud says it will cost $30 million to replace the city’s lead service lines, an amount that far exceeds the city’s resources. Help may be on the way with $10 million pledged by the state and $10 million coming from the American Rescue Plan Act. (PBS)

Fewer lead inspections: Detroit City Council voted four to one in favor of an ordinance that allows landlords to perform lead inspections once every three years rather than annually. In order to qualify for the reduced inspections, landlords need to demonstrate “good faith” efforts like painting over lead paint. A number of residents spoke out against the proposed change at the council session, including TaNiccia Henry, who suggested council members visit her home. “When you open and close windows, lead dust is created,” she said. “Any level of lead is not good and unacceptable.” More than a thousand Detroit children on average have elevated blood lead levels every year — and many more who don’t get tested go unidentified. Lead is an irreversible neurotoxin that can lower IQ and cause behavioral problems. Eating or breathing dust from lead paint is the most common cause of lead poisoning. (Freep, Metro Times)  

Disconnect: Power issues at the Bluehill pump station on Detroit’s east side may have played a bigger role in a July flood than metro Detroiters were previously led to believe. Investigators hired by the Great Lakes Water Authority previously said the primary cause of this flood–which dealt a heavy blow to parts of the east side already hit by June’s flooding–was extreme rainfall. But Ed Hogan from the consulting firm Wade Trim told GLWA that power issues at the pump station were a “significant cause” of the July flooding. There were also significant power failures at the Freud and Conner Creek pump stations during June’s historic flooding. (Freep)

Community-owned: A food co-op set to become “the only Black-led, community-owned grocery store in the Midwest” received a boost this week from the Michigan Strategic Fund, which will give the project a $1.5 million Michigan Community Revitalization Program grant and around $510,000 in brownfield tax captures. The Detroit Food Commons project will bring a food co-op, cafe, kitchen, event space, offices, and other amenities to the corner of Woodward Ave. and Euclid St. in Detroit’s North End Neighborhood. “There is a need in the entire city of Detroit for a grocery store that is community-owned, which makes this project unique,” said Malik Yakini, executive director of the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network, who are partnering on the project with Develop Detroit. “It’s owned by the member-owners. That’s a very different model than a corporation coming in and opening a store in the community. Community residents get to shape the store and determine how it proceeds.” Yakini also said that the store will be a “catalyst for the urban agriculture movement,” giving local growers a retail outlet where they can sell at a larger scale. (Crain’s) 

Powered up: Nineteen residents in Jefferson Chalmers installed solar panels on their properties with help of the Manistique Community Treehouse Center. “It has a pretty big offset on the electric part of our utility bill,” resident Karl Schachter said noting he has been saving between $25 and $35 per month on electricity.  The nonprofit–run by Jefferson Chalmers resident Tammy Black–helped residents pay for the solar panels after an initial buy-in of $2,000. So far they’ve put $250,000 into the project with a goal of installing solar panels on 25 homes. Black says the neighborhood has plenty of room for a larger solar power station to provide energy for the neighborhood at large, which could help residents with electric bills and buffer against power outages. (Freep)

New PFAS rule: Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued a directive to limit the state’s purchasing of products containing toxic PFAS chemicals. The state will evaluate the purchase of products that contain or are packaged with PFAS and suppliers will be required to disclose if there are PFAS-free alternatives. Items containing PFAS will only be purchased if no alternatives are available. The move won praise from environmental groups. “Other states and municipalities have begun creating procurement policies and purchasing specifications related to PFAS in products, but none are as broad as Michigan’s new directive that includes all product categories,” said Rebecca Meuninck, deputy director of the Ann Arbor-based Ecology Center. (MLive)


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