From the Headlines- March 28 – April 1



Odor unlimited:  Stellantis’s east side Detroit plant added another odor violation to its tally last week (Stellantis was formerly known as Fiat Chrysler Automobiles). Michigan’s Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) cited the Mack Avenue plant for “objectionable/paint solvent” odors after an investigator observed smells of “moderate-intensity” in neighborhoods close to the plant. At the end of last year, the carmaker installed a new “regenerative thermal oxidizer” to treat emissions at the east side facility after failing to install proper emission controls in its paint shop. The Environmental Protection Agency is currently investigating EGLE, following a civil rights complaint concerning the agency’s permitting for the Stellantis facility. (Crain’s, Detroit News, Freep)

Critical funds: On Wednesday, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed the $4.7 billion infrastructure bill that will primarily use federal funds to improve drinking water, sewers, roads, dams, parks and internet service, among other priorities. Charlotte Jameson, chief policy officer for the Michigan Environmental Council, said in a statement that the spending bill is “among Michigan’s best and largest environmental investments in decades” and that it would direct resources to “critical needs like removing lead service lines, fixing failing septic systems, keeping sewage out of our lakes, restoring our state parks, and creating more affordable, attainable housing.” (Freep)

Food commons: The Detroit Black Community Food Security Network announced on its Facebook page that they have acquired the land needed for their new food co-op in Detroit’s North End neighborhood and closed on the financing for the project. The 31,000 square foot Detroit Food Commons will include the member-owned co-op, which will sell locally and sustainably grown food, and an incubator kitchen and community meeting space. The group says they will create more than 20 jobs for community members, serving a predominantly urban and African American clientele.

Drafts be gone: Michigan could receive as much as $183.2 million to fund weatherization programs in low-income households. The money is part of $3.1 billion set aside in the federal infrastructure bill to fund upgrading heating and cooling systems and installing insulation.  Around 1,500 Michigan homes currently receive retrofitting through the Department of Energy’s Weatherization Assistance Program. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said the new funding would mean a ten-fold increase over current spending. (Detroit News)

PFAS in smelt, statewide: Following the discovery of elevated levels of toxic PFAS chemicals in Lake Superior smelt, additional data shows elevated levels in the small, silvery fish across much of the state. “With smelt, no matter where we’re sampling, we’re seeing elevated concentrations,” said Brandon Armstrong, an aquatic biologist with EGLE. (Bridge, MLive)

Big rivers, lots of PFAS: In other PFAS news, two researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that big rivers were sending the largest amounts of the so-called “forever chemicals” into Lake Michigan, more than smaller streams in areas with high levels of contamination. “When we did the math on the loadings, combining the concentrations and the flow rates, we found out ‘hey, these big rivers contribute two-thirds of the tributary loading to Green Bay.’ That was a really surprising finding,” said Christy Remucal, a civil and environmental engineering professor. PFAS has also been found at several Detroit and Clinton rivers locations and in Lake St. Clair. The mouth of the Rouge River had the most significant number of PFAS chemicals in local sampling, perhaps because of its proximity to wastewater treatment plants. (Detroit News)

Dodging accountability: Lead poisoning has decreased significantly in the United States since the 1970s, but around 500,000 children under the age of six still have elevated blood lead levels. Lead paint in older homes causes most of this lead poisoning. Landlords shield themselves from responsibility with limited liability companies, and insurance companies exclude lead from their coverage. As a result, there is little incentive for landlords and insurers to act, and fewer children and families can get settlements to help pay for health care or other assistance. Sean M. Ryan, a Democrat state senator in New York, introduced a bill banning insurance exclusions; the bill has faced opposition from the insurance industry and has stalled. Uneven enforcement for landlords could also contribute to the problem. After increasing their inspection requirements, both Rochester, New York and the state of Maryland saw significant decreases in lead poisoning. In 2021, Detroit reduced the frequency it requires landlords to perform lead inspections. (NYTimes, Planet Detroit)

Spring wonder: An article in MLive reflects on why some of us wake up in the morning: vernal pools. These murky seasonal pools, which abound in our soggy state, teem with life, including blue-spotted salamanders, fingernail clams, and fairy shrimp. This last creature lives out its short life munching down on amoebas and other small fry before laying its eggs to seed the next spring’s crustaceans. Often the pools only stick around for a few short weeks, providing vital habitat where the absence of fish allows an abundance of aquatic wildlife to proliferate. “In fact, some people have referred to them as the coral reefs of Northeast forests,” said Yu Man Lee, a conservation scientist who studies vernal pools. “The diversity they have in them, and the services they provide, are much greater than you would think, given their size.” The Michigan Nature Association has also released a sweet vid showing some of the creatures that populate these swampy depressions. (MLive)


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