From the Headlines- November 14 – 18

Nasty problems: Jefferson Chalmers residents met recently to discuss the flooding and sewer backups plaguing their neighborhood. Among the solutions under discussion were green infrastructure, large underground reservoirs to temporarily hold water, an expensive separation of stormwater and wastewater infrastructure, and emergency sewers to pipe sewage directly into the Detroit River during heavy rains. Some green infrastructure and reservoir capacity have been rolling out, but the city is moving ahead with the last solution of diverting sewage during rainstorms. “We’re going to start using a large pipe that we’ve had out of service,” said Bryan Peckinpaugh, Detroit Water and Sewerage Department spokesperson. He called it a “relief sewer,” which sounds like a plan Mayor Mike Duggan previously discussed for diverting untreated sewage into the river during rain events. When Planet Detroit asked for clarification, Peckinpaugh confirmed this was the case. This will likely be bad for water quality in the region, which already deals with billions of gallons of sewer overflows, but sending sewage into people’s basements is also horrifying. (Freep)

Smells like trouble: Officials at US Ecology Detroit South, a hazardous waste facility in the Poletown East neighborhood, responded to their 36th violation since 2014 by arguing that odors coming from the site were not that bad. Mike Wilczynski, a former senior geologist for Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality (now known as EGLE), said the site smelled like an “organic chemistry lab” when he visited over the summer. The facility treats and stores hazardous wastes like hydrogen sulfide, which could corrode the sewer system. Experts say odors may indicate pollutants could be leaching into the soil and groundwater and entering nearby homes. “If the groundwater is impacted, we wouldn’t know,” said Denise Trabbic-Pointer, a chemical engineer and toxics and remediation specialist for the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter. EGLE granted US Ecology a waiver from groundwater monitoring after years of clean results. However, a study showed evidence of leaky sewers in the area, and Trabbic-Pointer says US Ecology and the city should install cameras to monitor for damaged sections of sewer. (BridgeDetroit)

Repeat offender: Stellantis continues racking up air quality violations at its Warren plant and Detroit facilities. Michigan’s Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) hit the Warren plant last week with its fourth violation since 2021. The first of these was for volatile organic compounds (VOCs), while the next three were for particulate matter, which is associated with lung and heart problems. The automaker’s Jefferson North plant also received a violation notice for exceeding permitted VOC levels. Bob Byrnes, with EGLE’s air quality division, said overall emissions are down at this plant because of supply chain issues and decreased volume. “(T)his one is more of a performance standard,” he said. “It’s based upon how much is emitted per vehicle produced.” (Bridge Detroit, MI Radio)

New greenway: Detroiters got a glimpse of the nearly mile-long Southwest Detroit Greenway at a public event presented by The Detroit Riverfront Conservancy and Michigan Central. Expected to open in spring 2023, the below-grade pathway occupies an unused railway. It will run from Bagley St. to the Detroit RiverWalk, ultimately connecting with the planned 27.5-mile Joe Louis Greenway. The RiverWalk attracts an estimated 3.5 million visitors a year, and work has also begun on an addition that will connect the pathway with Belle Isle. (Model D, Freep)

Again with the wolves: Gray wolves are protected under the Endangered Species Act, but a new management plan from Michigan could open the door to future hunts. If wolves lose federal protection, hunting could be allowed in the Upper Peninsula to reduce human conflict with wolves or for recreation. Animal welfare groups and Native American tribes have opposed a wolf hunt, and Michigan farmers and hunters are already allowed to hunt wolves that threaten livestock and dogs. A 2019 investigation found that several stories of wolf encounters or attacks on livestock, which state officials and politicians had used to justify hunting, were embellished or made up. (Bridge)

Safety is no accident: Enbridge Energy has a new monitoring center for Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac that it says will send out electronic signals to ships to prevent anchors from hitting the oil and gas pipeline. Historically, monitoring has been an issue for the company. In 2010, when Enbridge’s Line 6B ruptured near Kalamazoo, causing one of the most expensive oil spills in U.S. history, it took 18 hours for the company to learn of the spill. And last year, protestors entered an Enbridge pumping station in Tuscola County and turned off an emergency shutoff valve. Enbridge didn’t respond to the action, which unfolded over nearly an hour. Beth Wallace from the National Wildlife Federation was unimpressed with the company’s new monitoring plan for Line 5. “This monitoring doesn’t prevent an anchor strike during bad weather, which is when it’s most likely to occur,” she said. “All of this just seems like ways for Enbridge to prolong the life of this pipeline.” (MI Radio, MLive, Freep)


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