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Michigan leaders: Lake Erie Must Be Protected

Michigan – State department leaders held a news roundtable in Lansing today to review the recent algae bloom in western Lake Erie that tainted drinking water for Ohio and Southeast Michigan residents.

The danger was caused by harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie. Blue-green algae are a type of naturally occurring, photosynthetic bacteria. When the organism dies, it releases a toxin called microcystin. The blooms are fueled by phosphorus levels in the water, which come from some key sources on land.

Leaders from the Michigan departments of Environmental Quality and Agriculture and Rural Development stressed that Michigan has taken major steps to address the factors it can control.

“Governor Snyder has charged Michigan government agencies with taking a hard look at what has been done to address the problem and what more we need to do,” said DEQ Director Dan Wyant. “The fact is, the algal blooms in Western Lake Erie are the product of several key factors — municipal sewer discharges, farm and other surface runoff, invasive species like zebra and quagga mussels, and weather.

“We can’t control the weather, but we are determined to do all we can with the pieces we can address.”

MDARD Director Jamie Clover Adams discussed steps taken in recent years that have reduced phosphorus inputs. Programs like the Michigan Agriculture and Environmental Assurance Program have removed nearly 62,000 pounds of phosphorus from the Western Lake Erie basin watersheds by encouraging farmers to use best practices. The Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program has helped create buffers between agriculture operations and surface water.

“For more than 15 years, Michigan has been a leader in the efforts to improve water quality in the western Lake Erie basin. The state’s agribusinesses helped and are implementing innovative approaches for fertilizer best practices through the 4R system – the right source, the right rate, at the right time, at the right place,” said Clover Adams. “We’re committed to work aggressively to expand technical assistance in the basin through conservation districts and other groups to help farmers implement conservation practices. We will continue to work with other state and federal partners to complete the full nutrient reduction proposal under the Farm Bill Regional Conservation Partnership Program.”

DEQ announced a five-point plant to bolster Michigan’s phosphorus reduction efforts. The plan includes:
• Optimize phosphorus removal at five key wastewater treatment plants in the watershed.
Optimization means fine-tuning plant operations to minimize phosphorus in the treated effluent.
• Reduce agricultural and non-point source discharges to the Maumee River watershed.
• Cease the open water disposal of dredged Toledo Harbor sediments.
• Implement the Phosphorus Control Activities Checklist to best degree achievable.
• Develop science-based understanding of the role of invasive mussels in the basin ecology and how they impact cycling of phosphorus. Support the evaluation of emerging technologies to control invasive mussels.

MDARD also announced long-term plans to focus on agriculture’s role in protecting the basin, including:
• Seek the elimination of the sunset on state MAEAP/groundwater funding.
• Work with Michigan agribusiness to build a close linkage between MAEAP and the 4R Nutrient Stewardship Program to enhance agriculture’s capacity to reduce nutrient loss to our waterways.
• Continue to aggressively seek out opportunities to expand technical assistance in the WLEB through conservation districts and other organizations to assist farmers in implementing conservation practices.
• Continue work with Ohio and Indiana to complete the full nutrient reduction proposal under the Farm Bill Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) to bring additional funding resources in the WLEB to reduce nutrient loss.
• Continue our science-based approach to the application of manure on snow covered or frozen ground, limiting application to only those locations with a low to very low MARI index rating only when necessary and on no slopes greater than 3 percent for liquid manure nor 6 percent for solid manure.

Detroit Water Bills Could Be Paid Through Crowdfunding

Detroit, MI – Complete strangers can now help Detroit residents with their unpaid water bils through a new web site set up by the Detroit Water and Seweage Department.

To donate, people can go to the Detroit Water Project web site, enter their email address and the amount they are willing to pay toward unpaid water bills. The DWSD department will match donors to a Detroit resident who they can help directly by submitting a payment to the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department on their behalf.

Since launching the web site, the donor list has grown to over 3,000 people.

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DWSD announced a plan earlier this year to cut water services to over 150,000 households that are overdue on their water bills. That plan received a great deal of criticism, including from international human rights organizations.

In May, DWSD sent out 46,000 shut off notices. Of those, only 4,531 customers had their water service shut off for any period of time according to DWSD. Detroit Water and Sewage Department has stated that this action is only targeted at those who have the ability to pay their water bill but refuse.

“Our goal is to have as few shut offs as possible,” said DWSD Director Sue McCormick.

Detroit residents can sign up here to be matched with a donor.

European Seas Face Grave Danger

EU – A recent assessment by the European Environment Agency (EEA) showed that the continuous changes related to over-exploitation of natural resources, causing biodiversity loss, climate change and other human activities that continue to increase, are leading to a degradation of marine ecosystems and the services and benefits provided by…

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Fracking Likely Harmed Threatened Kentucky Fish Species

LEXINGTON, Ky. – According to a report Wednesday, a joint study by the U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, hydraulic fracturing (fracking) fluids are believed to be the cause of the widespread death or distress of aquatic species in Kentucky’s Acorn Fork creek, after a 2007 spill from nearby natural gas well sites.

After the spill of hydraulic fracturing fluid, state and federal scientists observed a significant die-off of aquatic life in Acorn Fork including the Blackside dace as well as several more common species like the Creek chub and Green sunfish. Blackside dace are a species of ray-finned fish found only in the Cumberland River basin of Kentucky and Tennessee and the Powell River basin of Virginia. It has been listed as a federally-threatened species by the Service since 1987.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wereh alerted by a local resident who witnessed the fish die-off. To determine the cause of the fish die-off, the researchers collected water and fish samples immediately following the chemical release in 2007.

The analyses and results of the study show that the hydraulic fracturing fluids degraded water quality in Acorn Fork, to the point that the fish developed gill lesions, and suffered liver and spleen damage as well.

“This is an example of how the smallest creatures can act as a canary in a coal mine,” said Tony Velasco, Ecologist for the Fish and Wildlife office in Kentucky, who coauthored the study, and initiated a multi-agency response when it occurred in 2007. “These species use the same water as we do, so it is just as important to keep our waters clean for people and for wildlife.”

According to the Center for Biological Study, “fracking fluid threatens freshwater species and drinking water supplies because of both the large quantity of water needed to inject into wells and the toxic substances used. Massive quantities of water are withdrawn from creeks and lakes to inject into wells, drying up habitats and decreasing water supplies. Fracking fluids can contaminate both groundwater and surface water because the waste that returns to the surface is acidic and can be contaminated with both heavy metals and radioactive particles.”

The USGS reports that hydraulic fracturing is the most common method for natural gas well-development in Kentucky.

The report is published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Southeastern Naturalist.