Thursday, June 30, 2016

Worms to Help with Detroit’s Remaining CSOs

Who knew? Now Detroit can handle 95% of its combined sewer overflows! Worms will help with the remaining 5%.

On June 24, 2016, The Atlantic City Lab published an article by Jessica Leigh Hester titled “Detroit Is Turning Vacant Lots Into Sponges for Stormwater.” Hester reports (excerpts):

Detroit’s aged sewer system carries both sanitary sewage and stormwater. It overflows into creeks and rivers after heavy rains.

“Over the last two decades, the city has poured $1 billion into upgrading the system; now, its six retention basins and three treatment facilities can accommodate approximately 95 percent of the untreated overflow—an improvement, but an imperfect solution. ‘How do you get to the last 5 percent of the problem?’ asks Palencia Mobley, the deputy director of Detroit Water and Sewerage. ‘Spending another $1 billion or $2 billion doesn’t make a lot of economical sense.’ To bridge the gap, the city has pivoted to focus on green infrastructure …”

Image Courtesy of Joan Nassauer
Rendering, bio-retention garden, Warrendale neighborhood. (Courtesy of Joan Nassauer)

Small scale stormwater interventions may suffice in other, more crowded cities, but Detroit has plenty of room for larger projects.

“It’s a sprawling city, with vacant or buckling properties scattered across its 139 square miles. As of April 2016, 66,125 vacant parcels were held by the Detroit Land Bank Authority, which has received more than $100 million in federal funds to demolish blighted structures.”

“This spring and summer, researchers across the city are investigating the immediate and long-term ecological and sociological benefits of turning vacant land into stormwater basins topped with colorful plants.”

“Wade Rose, the vacant land restoration manager at the reforestation and farming organization the Greening of Detroit, described the process of remediating parcels that have been untended for decades. The houses that used to sit on top of them, Rose says, were demolished before the current protocols were put in place; they might have been bulldozed into the basement and sealed off.”

“The project deploys various techniques for soil remediation and water retention: a wildflower meadow; a tree stand, in which oak trees’ roots fracture compacted soils; rain gardens with deep depressions; and a treatment that deposits 100,000 worms at depths ranging from 2-6 feet, creating a network of tunnels that make space for storm water.”

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Big Ag vs. Water Quality

“There’s a growing public fight brewing over industrial agriculture’s water pollution,” says Donald Carr in the Huffington Post, June 19, 2016, under the caption, “Ag Lobby Paints Itself Into a Conservation Corner.” 

More clips:

“In all of these instances the Grand Ole Farm Lobby ™ has reacted with the well-worn message of voluntary conservation as the only solution.”

“The sad reality of voluntary conservation is that it is demonstrably not working.”

“It’s not working in Toledo, Des Moines, Minnesota, the Chesapeake Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. It’s not working despite U.S. taxpayers subsidizing agriculture conservation measures nationally $39 billion

“... [I]f the ultimate goal is clean water and agriculture productivity, then the ag lobby is going to have to fight hard and loud for conservation funding … Otherwise, regulation is inevitable.”

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Separate Storm and Sanitary Sewers!

Whether you live in the watershed for Lake St. Clair, Saginaw Bay or western Lake Erie, there’s a lesson for us all in the experience of people in Erie PA.

Presque Isle Bay / Erie PA

The Erie Times-News said in an August 21, 2015 editorial about algal blooms near Toledo OH the previous year:

“The city of Erie spent millions separating its storm and sanitary sewers, while many Great Lakes communities still haven't done it. The effect on [Presque Isle Bay’s] water quality has been so profound that we now have an annual swim to mark its improvement, and it has been removed from the Great Lakes Area of Concern List.”


Thursday, June 16, 2016

Editorial Condemns Ohio’s Plan for Lake Erie

***  Buffalo News Pulls No Punches  ***

Buffalo Harbor Entrance

Following are selections from an editorial in the Buffalo News, June 15, 2016 about Ohio's Western Basin of Lake Erie Collaborative Agreement Implementation Plan.

“New York has paid a price over the years for its geographic location at the receiving end of Ohio’s pollution. Acid rain pelted our lakes and forests, deadening some in the Adirondack wilderness. Agricultural runoff from Ohio poisons Lake Erie, creating toxic algae blooms that are moving ever closer to Buffalo where, without intervention, they may eventually threaten the water supplies of many municipalities. It has to stop, not just for New York’s sake, but for Ohio’s, Pennsylvania’s and Ontario’s.” [AND MICHIGAN'S - J. Lang]

“Assemblyman Sean Ryan, D-Buffalo, said last week. ‘If the toxic algae blooms continue to spread, Buffalo and Western New York could be at risk. It is clear that Ohio has not gone far enough, and New York is threatened by Ohio’s inadequate plan.’ “

That’s why Washington – or the federal courts – will have to be involved … Ohio has frequently been slow to acknowledge its role in causing environmental harm to its neighbors.”


Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Monroe MI Depends on Ohio Initiative

The City of Monroe, Michigan on the Lake Erie shore, 17 miles north of Toledo, Ohio, is a small town Mecca for tourism and water-related activities. Consequently, water quality in Lake Erie is a major concern.

Downtown Monroe and River Raisin

Of course, the State of Michigan has a hand in the game, but the primary responsibility for improving water quality in Lake Erie falls to the State of Ohio under an agreement between those two states and the Province of Ontario. Limiting phosphorus running off farm fields and into the lake, where it feeds algal blooms, is the first order of business.

Last month, the State of Ohio announced plans to cut the amount of phosphorus entering western Lake Erie by 20% by 2020, and by 40% by 2025, using the amount of phosphorus in 2008 as a baseline. A year ago, the governors of Ohio and Michigan and the premier of Ontario committed to those targets, the same goals agreed to by the U.S. and Canadian governments.

That’s a tall order. Some water quality experts doubt those goals can be met without drastic measures.

Ohio expects to improve monitoring at water treatment plants, identify watersheds more prone to erosion and set targets for phosphorus reduction in each county, among other steps.

Last year, Gov. Kasich signed legislation that prohibits spreading fertilizer on ground that is frozen, snow-covered or saturated, or if rain is forecast within 12 to 24 hours, depending on the type of fertilizer.

Critics say Ohio must compel compliance if the new limitations are not achieved voluntarily.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Repeal of Michigan Shorelands Protection

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and his cronies propose to repeal the Shorelands Protection and Management Act, 1970 Public Act 245, and subsequent codification as Part 323, (Shorelands Protection and Management), of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act, 1994 Public Act 451, as amended.

The proposal must be submitted to NOAA for approval. Snyder & Co. are calling the proposal a ‘routine program change’ (RPC) and ‘minor refinements.’

A recent public notice stated, “The Michigan Coastal Zone Management Program (MCZMP), in the Office of the Great Lakes, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ), was approved by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in 1978…”

The notice goes on to say that the MCZMP contains enforceable policies pertaining to the management and protection of Michigan’s coast that are contained in Michigan statutes and rules.

“Any person wishing to comment on whether or not the action does or does not constitute RPCs of the MCZMP may do so by sending written comments [within three weeks] to Ms. Joelle Gore, Chief, Stewardship Division, NOAA Office for Coastal Management, N/OCM6, 1305 East-West Highway, SSMC 4, Room 10622, Silver Spring, Maryland, 20910, or “

The Snyder administration’s proposal warrants close scrutiny by the public, NGOs and environmental lawyers.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Free Press Resurrects DWSD Against KWA

Detroit Free Press - Have you been off on another planet the last five years? No, more likely you’re playing word games with an ulterior motive.

In today’s (6-12-16) Free Press (“Official: Flint will 'lose everything’…“) you wrote:

“While those punishing terms appear to make a Flint default unlikely, whether Flint hooks up with the new KWA pipeline to Lake Huron or opts to continue receiving treated Lake Huron water from the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, as it does now, remains a live issue.” (Emphasis added.)  

As you know very well, Flint presently gets water from the regional successor to DWSD, the Great Lakes Water Authority. Your misstatement lingers until a correction at the bottom of the piece, which many readers won’t reach.

I suspect the Free Press is surreptitiously advancing the idea that an abused, downtrodden Flint should make common cause with an abused, downtrodden Detroit in part by resurrecting the DWSD brand, as if oblivious to GLWA and its Detroit retailer, DWSD-R.

I agree that an urban alliance against everything Republican, from Snyder to out-county Genesee, might be useful, but the means you’re employing could do more harm to Flint than to Republicans.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Big Ag's Big Lie About Lake Erie Impairment

Spraying Manure

I support cleaning up the nutrient overload in western Lake Erie. The cleanup requires restrictions on manure and chemical fertilizers running off farm fields in the Maumee River watershed, the largest part of which is in Ohio.

The governor of Ohio, his administrators in Ohio’s environmental, agriculture and natural resources departments and their colleagues in the Farm Bureau oppose such restrictions. Tougher pollution controls will cut into the profits of big corporate farm interests which are Farm Bureau’s benefactors and major political campaign contributors.

A long time lobbyist for the Farm Bureau, now Gov. Kasich’s spokesman on the Lake Erie impairment issue, has been telling people in Toledo and elsewhere that the Clean Water Act does not apply to agriculture, so the financial burden of any USEPA enforcement would fall on municipal sewage treatment plants. Both elements of that statement are blatant falsehoods. The Farm Bureau lost that argument in the Chesapeake Bay federal lawsuit, as the governor and his spokesman know very well.

Confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) are unregulated or under-regulated manure factories. The operators spray millions upon millions of gallons of animal waste on farm fields in the Maumee watershed. The manure spread on fields far exceeds what is necessary as fertilizer for plant growth. The excess runs off into the Maumee and its tributaries, then into Lake Erie, fueling algal blooms.

In my view, we should determine whether Farm Bureau lobbying has morphed into ‘regulatory capture’ (see Wikipedia definition), and regulatory capture into RICO fraud. Examine it yourself. If the elements are there, the U.S. Department of Justice should act.