Monday, September 3, 2018

Some Special Wildlife Colonies in the Lower Great Lakes Region

that, years ago, spawning salmon made their way from Lake Michigan up the
polluted Grand Calumet River, then through a pipe and into the nearly pure water
of an enclosed reservoir in the East Chicago Sanitary District wastewater
treatment plant. Apparently, the salmon brought with them a few strands of
freshwater sponge. A sponge colony developed, subsisting on what little impurities
survived the facility’s new ultraviolet wastewater treatment process.

that goldfish in the Ontario outdoors had a very low survival rate and little success
at reproducing. But officials … say that's been changing in recent years in the
warmer weather we've been experiencing. They've noticed exponential increases
in numbers being counted ... And early this winter [2015-2016], millions of five
centimetre, young-of-the-year goldfish have been seen swimming in giant schools
at various locations in the harbour…”

mussels are considered the most imperiled group of organisms in North America.
Over 70 percent of them are considered at risk of extinction…’ So reported Dr.
Dave Zanatta In the case of the Great Lakes, invasive species in the form of
zebra mussels and quagga mussels came close to wiping out native mussels …
Zanatta found that the St. Clair Delta and western Lake Erie ‘were the most
healthy areas of the lakes in terms of native mussel abundances.’ “

the North American white pelican population has increased, and the birds are
expanding their range. That includes establishing themselves through the summer
breeding season at Michigan’s Pointe Mouillee State Game Area in the northwest
corner of Lake Erie.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Some Consequences of Sediment Suspended in Streams

"Suspended sediment, through turbidity, reduces light penetration through the water thus reducing photosynthesis.  Fish in nature avoid streams or stream reaches with high suspended sediment levels creating environments just as devoid of fish as if they had been killed." 
Red Run Drain, April 20, 2017

"Deposited sediment increase the level of embeddedness of the stream bed (termed habitat reduction) resulting in a decrease of invertebrate populations and consequently in food available to fish.  Embeddedness refers to the extent to which gravel and cobbles are surrounded or covered by fine sediment.  Decay of deposited organic sediments can also negatively affect in-stream dissolved oxygen concentrations.  This is known as the sediment oxygen demand (SOD)." 

Red Run Subwatershed, 5-9

Friday, August 10, 2018

FOIA as Water Quality Tool

Federal and various state Freedom of Information Acts should be expanded, not diminished, as has often been the practice over the years. Such statutes are especially valuable in uncovering and tracking complex inter-governmental activities. That has been my experience in monitoring water quality issues. For example:

Several years ago, I had occasion on behalf of Sierra Club to investigate the NPDES violations of a large Midwestern wastewater treatment plant, its unexplained phosphorus overloading in particular.

By applying FOIA triangulation, the deceit of a plant manager in manipulating data was uncovered. I had found through initial, routine FOIA requests that two people at the plant depended on the same data for separate reports, each to state and federal regulators.
Wastewater Treatment Plant

I made further FOIA inquiries to the state and federal offices. Apparently, each month the regulators duly filed away the two municipal reports, ostensibly based on the same data, without the comprehensive review and/or comparative analysis that would have revealed the variations in the underlying data.

(Once exposed, the offending manager was returned to his previous post in a different department at the same plant. As a result of improvements in the treatment process, the phosphorus numbers eventually improved.)

The value of broadly applicable government transparency statutes is immeasurable. All of us should press for better access to government records through enhanced freedom of information legislation.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Utilize Green Infrastructure in Great Lakes Areas of Concern

Part of the reason why remediation of a legacy of industrial pollution identified as Areas of Concern (AOCs) in the St. Clair River-Detroit River corridor is taking decades to achieve is the over-reliance on concrete and steel projects where green infrastructure would be more effective.

For example, as a means of stormwater control, public and private interests in New York City (including one auto company, Toyota) determined to plant a million trees in 10 years. They achieved that goal in eight years.

In the metro Detroit area (home of three auto companies), large-scale tree planting has been forsaken out of preference for huge concrete and steel projects like the so-called retention-treatment basins (RTBs). Nevertheless, downstream pollution, including sedimentation and turbidity, continues to be problematic.
Kuhn RTB - Oakland County, Michigan

One such, the massive Kuhn RTB (formerly known as Twelve Towns) in Oakland County, recently expanded, continues to divert partially screened and treated, sediment-laden surges down the Red Run Drain to the Clinton River and on to Lake St. Clair when overwhelmed by heavy rainstorms, instead of pumping the effluent to the Detroit Wastewater Treatment Plant as usual.

Better water quality in Great Lakes AOCs can be hastened by greater reliance on green infrastructure.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge

The Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge is a binational sanctuary created in 2001 to preserve ecosystems in the river and on the western edge of Lake Erie. The achievement is the result of the combined efforts of Canada and the U.S., the only such international reserve on the continent.

“The [original] refuge [consisted] of nearly 6,000 acres of unique habitat, including islands, coastal wetlands, marshes, shoals, and waterfront lands within an authorized boundary extending along 48 miles of shoreline.” The 400 acre Humbug Marsh was added in 2004.
Canada greatly expanded the boundaries of the sanctuary in 2012 by creating the adjoining Western Lake Erie Watersheds Priority Natural Area, another first of its kind.
U.S. area, left; Canadian, right
The Detroit River and Lake Erie watersheds “...lie fully within the Carolinian Zone, which supports the greatest diversity of plant and animal species of any region in Canada.”
Rare and endangered fish species in the Detroit River include the Northern Madtom (a small catfish) and the Mooneye. “There are only three known populations of Northern Madtom in Michigan, and they are rare or critically imperiled throughout their range.” Mooneye of the family Hiodontidae resemble shad. “Although historically found in Lakes Michigan and Huron, recent accounts suggest that Mooneye only persist in the St. Clair-Detroit River System.”

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Pelican Numbers Increasing in Southeastern Michigan

Brian Sullivan - Cornell

In recent years, increasing numbers of pelicans have been sighted in southeast Michigan at the edge of Lake Erie. Initially they were thought to be migrating to and from summer breeding grounds far to the west. Lately, however, as many as 60 of the birds have been seen throughout the summer at Michigan’s Pointe Mouillee State Game Area.

The American White Pelican is a large bird with a nine foot wingspan. In recent decades, their population has been increasing. They feed by simultaneously swimming and skimming the water with their large lower beak pouches, often in coordination with one another, to catch fish.

Most of these pelicans winter along the U.S and Mexican Gulf coast or on the southern California coast and along the Baja Peninsula. In the spring, most migrate to nesting areas near or on Canadian inland waters in the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan, some in the Dakotas in the U.S.

Pointe Mouillee State Game Area is just south of the convergence of the Detroit River and Huron River at the western end of Lake Erie

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Moroun Family Seeks EPA Superfund Status for Abandoned McLouth Steel Site on Detroit River

McClouth Steel, Trenton, 1950s-Reddit

McLouth Steel expanded its Detroit operations to a 188 acre site in Trenton, Michigan, south of Detroit on the Detroit River, in 1948. McLouth became one of the nation’s largest steel producers.

In 1996, the plant was sold. The Trenton facility remained idle after several failed attempts to restart it. The site has been and continues to be one of the most polluted on the Detroit River.

Wayne County foreclosed on the property in April 2017 for unpaid taxes. Past due city and county taxes exceeding $4 million are expected to be the Morouns’ purchase price.

A Michigan Department Environmental Quality (MDEQ) report said “contaminated soils at the site consist of slag fill material containing metals, arsenic, lead, cadmium, chromium, copper, iron, selenium and zinc, as well as documented spills with contaminated soils containing PCBs.”

A spokesman for the Morouns’ real estate development company, Crown Enterprises, is quoted in Crain’s as saying, "This is going to be a Superfund site that's not going to sit and languish." (Easy for him to say. The property has been sitting, languishing and polluting for the better part of 70 years.)

It’s reported that Crown Enterprises and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have a tentative agreement to add the old McLouth property to the National Priorities (Superfund) List. The Wayne County Land Bank has extended the time for negotiations three times.