Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Canadian Influences on Shared Waters

LAKE ST. CLAIR:  Sometimes we forget that our neighbors across the border share with us similar concerns about water quality in Lake St. Clair.

Norman DeBono of the London (Ontario) Free Press wrote earlier this spring that heavy rains caused sewage overflows at London, polluting the Thames River, which flows into Lake St. Clair. City records show 59,473 cubic meters of raw sewage and 91,171 cubic meters of partially treated sewage were discharged to the river in the first quarter of the year.

Inadequately treated sewage contains phosphorus, which feeds algal blooms in Lake St. Clair and farther downstream in Lake Erie.

Another cause for concern is suspended sediment in the Thames River, much of it erosion from Ontario farms. A sediment plume clouding Lake St. Clair, beginning at the mouth of the river, can be seen often in satellite photos.

LAKE ERIE:  As you might expect, Canada monitors water quality in the Great Lakes. Some Canadian researchers look for toxins in Great Lakes fish. Results of recent tests in Lake Erie warrant our attention.

“Since the 1970s there has been a dramatic reduction in contaminants in Great Lakes. Harmful pollutants have been phased out or banned resulting in over 90% reduction levels for some contaminants. As the ecosystem recovers, contaminant levels continue to decline at most locations, with some exceptions. For example, a slight upward trend in contaminant levels in some Lake Erie fish is occurring.”

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Anticipating 'Impaired' Lake Erie

Just trying to get my head around some generalities about an EPA ‘impaired’ designation for Lake Erie.

Ambassador Bridge between Detroit, Michigan and Windsor, Ontario

The entire lake is surrounded by Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and the Province of Ontario; thus, U.S.- Canadian treaties come into play, and the International Joint Commission (IJC) has a role. (By contrast, EPA’s plan to clean up Chesapeake Bay involves six states, but there is no international connection.)

If the ‘impaired’ label is applied only to the western basin of Lake Erie, then the states directly involved are Michigan and Ohio, plus Ontario, so treaties and the IJC remain pertinent.

Because a critical feature of an impaired western basin is the Maumee River watershed, Michigan, INDIANA and Ohio have to be taken into consideration for certain aspects of an EPA determination, but perhaps not Ontario (unless an indirect association is compelled by the Pakootas and Detroit Edison cases, U.S. and Canadian, respectively), nor treaties, nor IJC.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if somebody has sorted all of this out already?

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Congress to Loosen Ballast Water Regs

Those of us in the vicinity of Lake St. Clair have heard plenty about ballast water and invasive species. A plan in Congress backed by cargo shippers would create gaping holes in the regulation of ballast water in U.S. waterways, opening the door to more invasive species like zebra and quagga mussels. John Flesher wrote for AP today (May 24, 2016):
The proposal was tucked into a $602 billion defense bill that the House passed last week, the latest twist in a longstanding struggle over how to handle water that ships carry in huge tanks during overseas voyages. Ballast provides stability in rough seas but harbors fish, plants and even viruses, which find new homes when vessels discharge the water in distant ports. Some multiply rapidly, out-compete native species for food and spread disease.

The debate focuses on how extensively ship operators should be required to treat ballast water to kill as many organisms as possible before the water is released…

This is one more example of Congress favoring special interests over the public interest.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Deny Monsanto Immunity for PCB Damages


Monsanto Plant
“Waterkeeper Alliance and 55 Waterkeeper member organizations and affiliates across the country are urging President Obama to oppose an attempt by Congress to protect Monsanto from liability for billions of dollars of damages caused by toxic polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).”

“ ‘Monsanto’s PCBs have contaminated more than 80,000 miles of streams and rivers and 2.9 million acres of lakes and reservoirs in the United States alone,’ said Executive Director Marc Yaggi. ‘Rather than be shielded by Congress, they must be held accountable for the damage inflicted on people and natural resources across the country.’ ”

Ask our people in Congress to hold Monsanto accountable - NO IMMUNITY!

Friday, May 6, 2016

Notes from Macomb County, KWA, GLWA

Macomb -- U.S. Representative Candice Miller, who is leaving Congress, has announced that she will run for election as Macomb County (Michigan) public works commissioner.

Karegnondi Water Authority pipe installation
“The upcoming campaign, between Miller and longtime Democratic incumbent Anthony Marrocco, a powerful force in Macomb County politics, shapes up as one of the oddest, most intriguing 2016 races in Michigan,” wrote Chad Selweski this week in Bridge Magazine.

“The public works commissioner oversees sewer systems, drain construction and maintenance, soil erosion and pollution controls, and anti-flooding measures. Whoever holds this office has the power to halt, or approve, residential subdivision planning and layout.”

“Annual overflows at the sewer facilities fluctuate with summertime precipitation, but during Marrocco’s 24-year tenure they have remained mostly at or above 200 million gallons of human waste discharged each year, including a recent summer, in 2011, in which 1.7 billion gallons were dumped into [Lake St. Clair].”

KWA -- Genesee County Drain Commissioner Jeff Wright says the Karegnondi Water Authority (KWA) has completed about 95% of the 80 mile fresh water pipeline from Lake Huron to Genesee County on schedule and under budget. Completion is expected in a few weeks.

Genesee County has been paying nearly 12% of the Detroit water authority’s total budget, although the county represents less than 2% of the total population served via Detroit.

A related but separate project, a county water treatment plant, is expected to be completed in a year.

Bill Petzold wrote about the KWA project in the Burton View on May 5, 2016:

GLWA -- The Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA), which provides potable water, wastewater and stormwater services in the Detroit metropolitan area, announced recently that Freman Hendrix has been appointed to the GLWA board, the City of Detroit’s second representative, joining Gary Brown. Hendrix had been former Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer’s chief of staff and deputy mayor. Hendrix succeeds Ike McKinnon, who retired.