From the Headlines- Sept. 12 – 16

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‘Asthma capital’: Detroit tops the list of the worst cities in the country for asthma,  jumping to # 1 from # 15 in 2021, according to an annual report released this week by the Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America. Detroit’s ranking was based on the high prevalence of asthma in the city as well as the number of asthma-related emergency room visits and deaths. Asthma makes more people sick in Detroit than anywhere in the state – and the disparity is growing.  Cleveland was at number 2 on the list; Chicago was at 28. The American Lung Association had previously placed the Detroit-Warren-Ann Arbor area in the top 25 most polluted cities for ozone and year-round particle pollution. (Asthma Foundation of America, Planet Detroit)

Faster freeway removal: Michigan will speed up its planned removal of I-375 in downtown Detroit with help from a $104.6 million federal grant. The highway was built in the 1960s in an area that had been home to the predominantly African American Black Bottom neighborhood and the Paradise Valley commercial district. The state intends to replace the highway with a six-lane boulevard that incorporates wide sidewalks, green stormwater infrastructure, and bike lanes, a move that could open up 31 acres of land. (Bridge Detroit)

Intervening: Environmental groups are looking to intervene in an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lawsuit against a DTE subsidiary. The agency has charged the EES Coke Battery on Zug island with violating the Clean Air Act by increasing its emissions of sulfur dioxide. Environmental groups are attempting to join the case to make sure local concerns are heard. A settlement with the company could potentially involve community benefits for the surrounding area, changes at the facility to reduce emissions or supplemental projects that help mitigate the pollution. (Bridge Detroit)

Car guy: President Joe Biden paid a visit to the North American Auto Show in Detroit to remind people that he’s a “car guy” and sell recently passed legislation that could accelerate the transition to electric vehicles. Last year’s infrastructure bill, the CHIPS act for domestic semiconductor production and the recently passed Inflation Reduction Act could all prove beneficial for Michigan automakers by incentivizing domestic production of EVs and investing in roads, bridges and transit. The president also announced $900 million in grants for installing EV chargers across 35 states, including Michigan. (Detroit News)

Polluter pay: Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County officials are calling on the state to take up legislation that would demand greater accountability from polluters for incidents like Tribar Technologies’ recent spill of hexavalent chromium in the Huron River or the Gelman dioxane plume. “We have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars dealing with Gelman’s 1,4-dioxane plume and all of the pollution, and if a polluter-pay law were still in place, this would not be necessary,” said Ann Arbor Council Member Kathy Griswold. The city also pays $900,000 a year to filter PFAS out of the water from the Huron River on account of the previous pollution from Tribar. Senate Bill 58 and House Bill 4314 would require polluters to do more to clean up pollution, but both pieces of legislation remain stalled in the Republican-controlled legislature. (MLive)

Trouble underground: Officials from Ann Arbor, Scio Township, Washtenaw County and Michigan’s Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) are pushing the EPA to assess the Gelman dioxane plume and potentially list it as a Superfund site. The pollution from the former Gelman Sciences facility on Wagner Road has been spreading beneath Ann Arbor and Scio Township. It now covers an area four miles long and one mile wide, posing a threat to Ann Arbor’s public drinking water intake at Barton Pond. Dioxane is a likely carcinogen that has already contaminated drinking water wells used by some residents. Gelman has been required to provide these people with bottled water. Although EGLE and the Washtenaw County Health Department are conducting extensive water sampling in the area to monitor the spread of the pollution, advocates say a Superfund designation could compel Gelman to clean up the contamination. (Detroit News)


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