From the headlines- August 15 – 19

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Keep boiling water: A water main break in St. Clair County has left 7 communities with 133,000 residents under a boil water advisory – an improvement on the 935,000 people who had previously been under an advisory in Lapeer, Macomb, Oakland, and St. Clair counties. The Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA) says it may take until September 3 to restore service fully. The utility is awaiting the delivery of 48 feet of 120-inch diameter pipe needed for the repair. GLWA is also asking all 23 communities originally included in the advisory to stop watering their lawns until the repairs are completed. A full list of communities affected by these advisories can be found here. (Freep, MI Radio)

Lifeline for some: Detroiters enrolled in a pilot plan will see lower water bills beginning in September or October. Over 6,900 households have enrolled in the Lifeline Plan which offers fixed water rates between $18 and $56 a month based on income and water use. Last year, Detroit’s average monthly water bill was $81.62, according to the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD). The Lifeline Plan also erases past-due charges upon enrollment and those in the program will not be subject to water shutoffs. However, DWSD says the city still needs a long-term funding solution for a water affordability program. The water shutoff moratorium enacted during the COVID-19 pandemic is set to expire at the end of the year. Those interested in enrolling in the Lifeline Program can find more information at waynemetro.org/dwsdlifeline or call Wayne Metro at 313-386-9727. (Freep)

Asthma at school: According to Michigan’s most recent data, childhood asthma rates increased from 11.3% to 14.6% between 2014 and 2017. “Asthma is, I believe, the most common medical reason why kids are missing school,” said Dr. Toby Lewis, a pediatric pulmonologist with the University of Michigan. Over 50% of Detroit students were considered chronically absent last November. Pediatrician and school health consultant Dr. Elliott Attisha says it’s important for children to have asthma action plans on file at school, where children may have trouble using inhalers on their own. Some schools are also bringing in healthcare providers to help diagnose asthma and measure its severity. But, Lewis says more needs to be done to address the root causes of asthma, like poor air quality in low-income minority neighborhoods. More asthma resources can be found here. (Freep)

Cleanup before the cleanup: Pollution from the BASF facility in Wyandotte is delaying a dredging project to clean up contaminated sediment in the Detroit River. “They understandably don’t want to start that project while there is contamination still coming into the river nearby, so they are holding off… until we can get groundwater under control,” said Ed Nam, EPA director of land, chemicals and redevelopment division for Region 5. Currently, water carries PFAS, cyanide, volatile organic compounds and other contaminants into the river from the BASF site, which occupies 1.7 miles of Detroit River shoreline. Nam said the Environmental Protection Agency and BASF could potentially address the problem by putting in a pump-and-treat system to reduce the amount of water moving through the most contaminated soils. The BASF facility is upstream from Wyandotte’s drinking water intake, where several tests have shown elevated levels of PFAS. (Detroit News, Planet Detroit)

Train to TC: The U.S. Department of Transportation approved funding for the second phase of a planning study for the “A2TC” rail route from southeast Michigan to Traverse City and Petoskey. “The boost of new funding is a major milestone in the long-term effort to bring passenger rail service — and related economic development — to towns all along the north-south route and give families and workers a safe, environmentally friendly way to travel throughout the state while also reducing cars on our highways,” said Jim Bruckbauer, transportation director at the nonprofit Groundwork Center. An initial study of the A2TC line found it could earn $128 million in revenue by 2050 and deliver significant economic benefits to towns along the route. (Freep)

Dodged bullet: Michigan officials gave the all-clear for activity on the Huron River after finding that far less hexavalent chromium spilled into waterways than previously feared. Tribar Manufacturing spilled just three pounds of the chemical into Wixom’s wastewater system, while authorities previously believed it may have been as much as 4,100 pounds. Still, activists are pushing automakers to stop using Tribar or other parts suppliers that still use hexavalent chromium. Another Tribar facility in Wixom was responsible for contaminating the river with toxic PFAS chemicals in 2018. (Bridge)

Squash on sight: The invasive spotted lantern fly has arrived in Michigan. The insects were found near a wastewater treatment plant and several plant nurseries in Pontiac. The lantern fly “likely hitchhiked on nursery stock brought in from an infested state and has possibly been here for several months,” said Mike Philip, pesticide and plant pest management division director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD). The insects are known to feed on fruit trees and grape vines, raising concerns for northern Michigan’s wine industry. Anyone seeing lantern flies should take photographs and notify officials via the Eyes in the Field monitoring program. Also: Kill the bugs on sight. (Bridge)

Hunting and fishing for all: The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has been reaching out to communities that have often lacked access to hunting and fishing opportunities to reverse declines in the sale of hunting and fishing licenses. This trend could hurt the agency’s wildlife conservation programs that depend on money from the sale of licenses. At community meetings hosted by the DNR in Flint, Detroit, Pontiac and Saginaw, residents have said they often lack access to public lands or the resources to travel. However, safety is also a concern. “We hear all this anti-immigrant sentiment and it’s hard to find it within ourselves to say this land also belongs to us,” said Sergio Cira Reyes, founder of the Grand Rapids Latino Outdoors chapter. The DNR has been working to create more access, investing in facilities like Detroit Outdoor Adventure Center, which offers archery classes and fishing excursions, but more is needed. “The DNR has been relying on traditional communication channels to reach us, but it’s not working,” Reyes said. “We need intentional outreach. They need to come find us and show us this is something they want us to engage in.” (Bridge)

 Island: You’ll want to grab the hard copy of Detroit Metro Times this week for the full experience of photographer Amy Sacka‘s Love Island Detroit: A photo essay of young love on Detroit’s Belle Isle. It’s a study of reckless and swooning love that could only happen in a Detroit summer. Sacka writes that she began to see the series “as a metaphor for the place we all go to when we are newly in love. A space of equal parts romance, mystery and escape — where all you need is a towel, a little sunscreen, and the belief that anything is possible.”

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