From the headlines – December 6-10, 2021

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Cease and desist: The city of Detroit ordered Revere Dock to shut down operations last week and fined property owner Revere Dock LLC $4,000 following the second collapse at that site on the Detroit River in two years. However, Crain’s reported that the site appeared to still be receiving material after the shutdown order was issued. Officials from Michigan’s Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) and the city’s Buildings, Safety Engineering and Environmental Department (BSEED) concluded that improper storage of gravel within 50-75 feet of the water caused the collapse. Permits required the companies operating the dock to store materials 200 feet away from the water. City council member Raquel Castañeda-López said she wants the city to revoke the license for Detroit Bulk Storage, who operates at the property. The company has been responsible for a number of problems, including the previous collapse in 2019 and storing toxic petroleum coke without proper dust control measures. Water tests show contamination below state and federal action levels in the area around collapse. (Crain’s)

Farewell, freeway: In 2017, the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) announced it would replace Detroit’s I-375 freeway with a street-level boulevard that includes sidewalks and bike lanes. But it may be impossible to repair the damage from the construction of the downtown freeway, which destroyed a vibrant Black business and nightlife district and increased air pollution in the majority African American city. Replacing the expressway could also cause further displacement of residents and still send large volumes of high-speed traffic into the area. However, freeway removal projects in Minneapolis and Oakland offer some clues as to how these projects can be used to repair past injustices. For example, Minneapolis’ Freeway Remediation policy requires the city to “repurpose space taken by the construction of the interstate highway system and use it to reconnect neighborhoods and provide needed housing, employment, green space, clean energy, and other amenities consistent with city goals.” (Grist)

Lead resources: The city of Detroit has a new webpage with lead safety information for homeowners, renters and landlords. It includes instructions on how to determine if your home has a lead service line and resources for water testing and testing blood lead levels in children. The page also links to the city’s most recent drinking-water sampling report, which showed results under the state and federal action levels for lead. As reported in Planet Detroit last week, Detroit has around 311,000 service lines but checks water samples from only 50 of them each year as required by state law. (Planet Detroit)

Big money: The Michigan Senate passed a $3.3 billion water infrastructure bill, which includes $1 billion for lead service line replacement as well as money for repairing dams, addressing sewer overflows and cleaning up sites contaminated with PFAS. The bill also contains $400 million for the Great Lakes Water Authority, most of it for sewer improvements. The money for replacing lead service lines is a substantial increase over the $300 million Gov. Gretchen Whitmer proposed in November. However, the Michigan Municipal League estimated that replacing all of the state’s lead lines could cost as much as $2.5 million. (Bridge, Crain’s)

Picking cherries: Water experts are raising concerns about a resampling of water that occurred in Benton Harbor this past summer, after tests showed lead in the city’s drinking water at 33 parts per billion (ppb), well above the state and federal action level of 15 ppb.  F&V Operations and Resource Management, the consulting firm in charge of the city’s water treatment plant, did a second test with water from additional homes–some of which had previously shown lower lead levels–and came up with a new result of 24 ppb. “At best, it looks sloppy. At worst, it still looks like they were trying to create a new narrative about the data,” said Elin Betanzo, a water quality expert who helped expose the Flint water crisis. Although the results from the second test were still above action levels, experts say the resampling raises questions about the consulting firm cherry-picking homes to test and potentially creating a false impression that numbers were decreasing. (Detroit News)

Snot good: An algae known as didymo or “rock snot” has been observed in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, raising concerns about how the organisms could impact the ecology of rivers and streams. Didymo blooms blanket stream beds and reduce the number of insects that can survive, limiting the food available to trout and other fish. Unlike many other forms of algae, didymo blooms in cold water that lacks nutrients. “Those are a lot of your really high-quality trout fisheries like, say, the Manistee or the Au Sable (rivers),” said Sam Day, a water quality biologist for the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians. “They’re cold, low nutrient streams just naturally and happen to be great trout fisheries for that reason. Conversely, they happen to be a perfect habitat for didymo to form those blooms.” State officials are encouraging residents to clean and dry equipment after boating and fishing to discourage the spread of the algae. (Detroit News)

Forever problems: A Michigan official is requesting federal help in identifying more cost-effective methods for cleaning up contamination from PFAS, the so-called “forever chemicals” that have been found at 194 sites across the state. Abigail Hendershott, director for the Michigan PFAS Action Response Team (MPART), testified before the joint subcommittee of the House Committee on Science, Space & Technology and said federal research is needed to understand how PFAS enters the food supply and the risks it poses. She also expressed the need for developing a “truly” fluorine-free firefighting foam. “As long as the military, airport and civilian fire departments use PFAS-containing AFFF, these negative consequences will continue to impact the surrounding communities, particularly in areas where residents rely on groundwater as their source of drinking water,” she said. (Detroit News)


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