From the headlines – March 14-18, 2022

Structural discrimination: The Environmental Protect Agency (EPA) will investigate Michigan’s Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) after residents living near the Jeep plant on Detroit’s east side filed a discrimination complaint. When EGLE issued the permit for the plant in a highly polluted and predominantly Black part of Detroit, Stellantis (formerly Fiat Chrysler) was required to reduce emissions from its facility in Warren, which is primarily white. EGLE has previously said that the law limits its ability to address discrimination complaints when issuing permits. “These conditions exist because of structural discrimination by government and private industry hidden under the cloak of race-neutral language,” Andrew Bashi, an attorney at the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center (GLELC), said in a statement. “We’re hopeful that the EPA understands the significance of this complaint and undertakes a full audit of the policies and practices that have allowed the State of Michigan to get away with this for far too long.” Nick Leonard, executive director for the GLELC, said the EPA could limit future industrial developments near the Stellantis plant or compel the automaker to add more pollution controls. (Bloomberg, MI Radio)

21st-century problems: Climate change is threatening 29 sites with high levels of hazardous chemicals, according to a new EPA report. Most of the 24,000 toxic sites EGLE tracks are in southeast Michigan. Climate-related disasters like the 2020 dam break and flood around Midland can potentially disturb areas with a history of intense industry. And poor and minority residents are more likely to live near facilities that use hazardous materials. Flooding is likely the most significant climate threat facing these sites in Michigan. Phil Argiroff, an assistant director for EGLE’s water quality division, says the state can prepare by using updated flood data when building new sewers and water treatment plants. He said existing sewers “were designed to 20th-century requirements, but we’re now seeing 21st-century rainfall.” (Bridge, Detroit News)

Air pollution win? EPA says the metro Detroit area is no longer in “nontainment” for ozone, a pollutant formed by nitrous oxide and volatile organic compounds that can damage lung function and exacerbate asthma. The new designation means the Detroit area has ozone levels below the federal standard of 70 parts per billion. (Detroit News) 

Door knockers: The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) will go door to door to try and collect unpaid water bills. The department says the bill collection rate has dropped 20 percent since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. DWSD Director Gary Brown says the door-knocking effort is to let residents know about $15 million that’s available to help residents pay their bills. A moratorium on shutoffs protects residents from disconnection until the end of the year. Roger Colton, a lawyer focusing on water affordability, says more needs to happen to figure out why water is so unaffordable for Detroiters, suggesting that water rates indexed to income could help address the issue. (MI Radio)

Odor problems: Arbor Hills Landfill Inc. in Salem Township has reached a $2.3 million settlement with environmental regulators that will have the company pay a $355,109 fine, install a network of emissions monitors and undertake several other environmental projects. After residents made hundreds of odor complaints, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel sued the landfill owners, alleging they had failed to properly install a system to capture gas generated by the moldering rubbish. As part of the settlement, the company will plant spruce trees to reduce odor and particulate matter coming from the facility and operate a free hazardous materials collection facility for the next ten years. (MLive)  

All clear? Benton Harbor residents are getting mixed messages about the safety of their drinking water. A spokesperson from Michigan’s Department of Health and Human Services gave a vague assessment of the relative safety of bottled water versus filtered tap water, saying, “residents in Benton Harbor can choose which option works best for their families.” Tera Fong, water division director for the EPA’s fifth region, said water filters successfully reduced lead levels, but they were often misused. Another concern is that although effective at removing lead, carbon water filters might not remove Legionella or other bacteria. (MI Radio)

Infrastructure money: The Biden administration wants to ensure that historically marginalized communities get an equitable portion of federal funds for water infrastructure. They’re requesting that states align their operations with the federal infrastructure law’s requirement that roughly half the money for selected water infrastructure projects go to disadvantaged communities as forgivable loans or grants. Michigan is set to receive more than $10 billion in federal money, with $1.3 billion intended for water infrastructure projects like replacing lead service lines. “I look forward to working with the EPA, the Michigan legislature, and anyone who wants to partner with us to replace lead service lines statewide and ensure every parent can give their kid a glass of water with confidence knowing that it is safe,” Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in a statement issued as part of the EPA’s memo. (MLive)

This site uses cookies to provide you with a great user experience. By continuing to use this website, you consent to the use of cookies in accordance with our privacy policy.

Scroll to Top