From the Headlines— Oct 17 – 21

Two years of pollution: At a Wednesday meeting held by Michigan’s Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE), Detroiters expressed anger and frustration over ongoing pollution from Stellantis’ Mack Assembly Plant. Although the company applied to install a regenerative thermal oxidizer to treat emissions from its paint shop in May, EGLE still hasn’t approved the device. This is in part because the company wants to increase its particulate emissions when it installs the oxidizer and to control when it uses the device. “The most important question I need to be able to answer to my residents is when,” U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib asked. “Is this going to be years, is it going to be a year? Why can’t we say this has to be done by this date? My residents have been living with no pollution controls for two years.” During the meeting, another resident asked how many violations it would take for EGLE to shut down the plant. “Our rules and regulations do not allow us to shut a company down like this,” said Jennifer Dixon, air quality liaison for EGLE. “I know that this isn’t helpful and does not make people happy.” (Crain’s, @civicdan)

Recycling at last? Detroiters may get better access to recycling services soon, according to an Axios report that Houston-based WM plans to build a $35 million facility at an as-yet undisclosed location in the city. Leaders aim to increase the state’s recycling rate from 19% to 30% by 2025. The company said the facility is planned for completion by the end of next year and will be able to process up to 40 tons per hour of materials from industrial, commercial and residential customers. (Axios Detroit)

Lead in Eastpointe: Eastpointe became the latest Michigan city to find elevated lead levels in its tap water. Testing at five homes showed lead at 18 parts per billion (ppb), above the state action level of 15 ppb. The city hosted a drive-through water filter distribution event and will hold a “Lead Safe Open House” on Oct. 26 from 5-8 p.m. at the Eastpoint Department of Public Works. Lead can cause brain and nervous system damage in children and has been linked to adult heart and kidney disease. There is no known safe level of lead exposure. Eastpointe officials say they are replacing 10-18% of the city’s remaining 1,313 lead service lines yearly. (Detroit News)

Funding needed: Over 10,800 people have applied for the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department’s (DWSD) Lifeline Plan, which offers fixed monthly rates for water service between $18 and $56. But the pilot program only has enough funding for the next year and a half. DWSD Director Gary Brown said the department will seek additional funding from the state and federal governments. The department may also use money from its agreement with American Water Resources, which offers Detroiters water and sewer line insurance. Some have criticized the DWSD affordability plan for setting a cap on water usage of 4,500 gallons a month, saying it amounts to “water rationing”. “Overall, we do feel like the plan is a step in the right direction,” said Tiana Starks, communications director for the water rights organization We The People of Detroit. “Our concerns are about the long-term funding and about the gallons available within the plan.” (BridgeDetroit, Freep)

Stormwater and service lines: The Detroit Water and Sewer Department (DWSD) used the 50th anniversary of the Clean Water Act to publicize its flood control and drinking water efforts. This included showing off the $40 million dollar stormwater retention project in Rouge Park, where basins will hold 172 million gallons of stormwater, keeping it from entering the city’s combined sewer system and contributing to basement backups. DWSD Director Gary Brown highlighted the city’s lead service line replacement program. Currently, the city is replacing 700 water lines a year. But with an infusion of $75 million in federal infrastructure money, he says the city will be able to replace 5,000 lines yearly. However, replacing all the city’s lines will cost an estimated $800 million and likely require additional outside funding. (Detroit News)

Getting to zero CSO: Macomb County is installing two inflatable dams or “bladders” inside a sewer interceptor pipe in the 8 ½ Mile Drainage District. During heavy rains, these can be inflated to keep combined sewage and stormwater from overwhelming the system and contributing to combined sewer overflows into Lake St. Clair. Combined with changes at the Chapaton Pump Station in St. Clair Shores, Macomb County says overflows will be reduced by 40%. Candice Miller, Macomb County Public Works commissioner, said the county is trying to eliminate combined sewer overflows altogether, but she criticized Oakland and Wayne County for their discharges. Tiffani Jackson, communications director for Wayne County, said the county is investing $100 million in sewer upgrades. (MI Radio)

Keep the cold out: Michigan is set to receive an additional $183 million for home weatherization from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. This money will allow the state to weatherize three times as many homes for low-income residents as it normally does over the next five to seven years – about 3,900 homes a year. Eligible households who receive a whole home energy audit and weatherization can also get heating system repair and replacement services. The service is also available to income-qualified renters. To learn more about the program, go here. (MI Radio)

Water affordability in OC: The Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner’s office (WRC) released a report on their efforts to create water affordability plans for Pontiac and Royal Oak Township. The WRC is considering an income-based assistance program offering water service for a fixed monthly charge. Oakland County’s money through the American Rescue Plan Act may be one way to fund such a program. The commission believes such a program could be used as a demonstration case to push for a statewide, low-income water assistance program similar to the Michigan Energy Assistance Program.


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