From the Headlines, Oct 10 – 14

‘Rotting mats of goo’: Mats of algae that smell like rotting fish are once again forming on Lake St. Clair, blocking access to boat slips and generally making a stinky mess. Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Candice Miller pointed the finger at Oakland County’s George W. Kuhn drain, which releases thousands of gallons of partially treated sewage into a drain leading to Lake St. Clair every year. Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner Jim Nash denies culpability. Meanwhile, Macomb County and the U.S. Army Crops of Engineers are teaming up to study the problem. (Detroit News) 

Campaign cash: While ratepayers complain of frequent power outages and high rates, DTE Energy has been busy making donations to 138 of Michigan’s 148 state senators and representatives, according to the Energy and Policy Institute, an industry watchdog group. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has also received $235,900 from the utility and its executives during her political career, bringing in almost $40,000 from DTE executives this July. All this comes as the company seeks an 8.8% rate hike and simultaneously pushes back on things like a higher renewable energy standard, which could be an essential step for climate action in the state. And the company recently received an “F” from the Sierra Club in a report that graded utilities on how well they followed up on their climate pledges. “I’ve been in office for six years now. I have introduced dozens of bills to try to expand solar energy in Michigan, stop climate change, expand our renewable energy portfolio, and every single one of those bills has been blocked. Not by magic, not by some external alien force coming in, it’s DTE,” State Rep. Yousef Rabhi said at a recent public hearing. Rabhi previously returned donations from DTE’s political action committee and called for a ban on donations from regulated utilities. (Metro Times, MI Radio)

Citizen science: One group trying to get a grip on Detroit’s air quality problem is Hamtramck High School’s Clean Air Council. Uday Parom, a sophomore at the school and member of the group, uses a small, portable monitor to track air quality in Hamtramck, Detroit, and the suburbs. “As you can see here, the downtown Detroit area is totally red,” he said while displaying data from the monitor on his phone. “And the more we move towards Warren, Sterling Heights, Southfield or Farmington Hills, the air quality actually gets better.” The nonprofit Ecology Center is doing similar work, installing 35 community air monitors to track pollution on a hyperlocal level. The Ecology Center is also working with a new company, JustAir, that compiles real-time air quality data and makes it available to residents through text alerts. This could help residents know when it’s a good day to stay inside while also influencing policy by drawing attention to persistent air quality threats like high truck traffic in some neighborhoods. (MI Radio)

‘Nuisance odors’: Stellantis’ Mack Assembly Plant was hit with another violation notice after workers from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) observed: “persistent and objectionable paint/solvent and chemical odors of moderate intensity… impacting residential areas downwind of the facility.” This followed reports of “nuisance odors” from residents living near the plant. As a result of previous violations, the automaker will be paying around $275,000 in fines, and for projects like planting trees in a nearby park. The 48213 zip code on the north side of the Mack Plant had one of the highest asthma hospitalization rates in the city. According to the most recent state report on asthma in Detroit, the city’s asthma hospitalizations in 2019 were four times higher than in the rest of Michigan. EGLE will hold an online information session and public hearing on its enforcement actions for Stellantis at 6 p.m. on October 19. (Detroit News)

Backup power: GM announced a new business, GM Energy, which will offer electric vehicle chargers, stationary battery packs, solar panels and software to link EVs and other offerings with utilities. These services could allow users to power their homes with EV or battery storage during a power outage as well as potentially selling energy back to utilities during periods of high energy use. GM says the home energy system will become available next year. (CNBC)

Benton Harbor update: One year after activists pushed state officials to begin delivering bottled water to residents in Benton Harbor, 95% of the city’s service lines have either been replaced or were confirmed to be lead-free. A total of $33.2 million was set aside for contractors to address the city’s 4,500 service lines, including incentives of up to $100,000 for early completion. However, lead abatement work will continue even after the last service line is checked. “We’re looking for any potential source of lead in the plumbing and then we will be mitigating that either through faucet replacement or full-house plumbing replacement, depending on the water sample results,” said Carin Speidel, a lead services section manager at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. Rev. Edward Pickney, head of the Benton Harbor Community Water Council, says officials need to do more to require homes to install lead filters on their faucets rather than just having it offered as an option. Lead in fixtures can continue leaching into the water for months after removing a service line. (MLive)

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