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  • published Keep septic regulations in place 2019-05-13 12:33:39 -0400

    Keep septic regulations in place

    Michigan Environmental Council and our partner organizations have been working for years to create a statewide septic code that will require the periodic testing and inspections of septic systems. Every other state in the nation has a statewide septic code, except the Great Lake State. Only 11 counties in Michigan currently exercise some oversight of septics, including Kalkaska. Kalkaska county has a Point of Sale ordinance for their septic systems, and because of this ordinance, residents of Kalkaska are less vulnerable to human waste loaded with pathogens like E.coli entering into their drinking water.

    Unfortunately, the Kalkaska County Board of Health recently voted to repeal the Point of Sale septic program. The repeal now goes before 10 county Board of Commissioners for approval or rejection. These counties include Crawford, Kalkaska, Lake, Manistee, Mason, Mecosta, Missaukee, Newaygo, Oceana, and Wexford County. Since we do not have a statewide septic code, we must keep the few existing regulations on septics in place to protect the health and safety of Michiganders.

    IF YOU ARE FROM ANY OF THESE COUNTIES, WE NEED YOUR HELP! USE THIS FORM TO TELL YOUR COUNTY CLERK TO KEEP DRINKING WATER PROTECTIONS IN PLACE 

    This regulation is an important step in making sure the residents of Michigan are protected from dangerous water contamination. We will not be able to fix what we are not looking for, which is why it is imperative that the Board of Commissioners hears from you and keeps the Point of Sale septic inspection in place.



  • House Leadership Slashes Funding for Programs that Protect our Water, Land, and Public Health

    LANSING - The House appropriations subcommittee passed out their fiscal year 2020 budget for the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) on a party line vote. In their budget, House Republican leadership took a hatchet to programs that protect Michiganders from environmental and public health threats by cutting an astounding $9 million from Governor Whitmer’s proposal. This comes in sharp contrast to what Senate Republicans supported in their budget for the departments, which included $120 million in general funds for EGLE. Michigan Environmental Council released the following statement in opposition:

    Read more

  • Governor Whitmer Promotes Transparency in New Freedom of Information Act Executive Directive

    LANSING - Today, February 1, Governor Whitmer issued an executive directive (ED) that makes it clear that the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is important to her administration and encourages state departments to work with residents who request information. The ED includes ways in which state departments could enhance their transparency, including holding more publically accessible meetings. It also asks for departments to name a liaison who will provide assistance for people navigating the FOIA process and to create advocates in transparency when available. Michigan Environmental Council issued the following statement in support:

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  • Senate Bill Introduced to Natural Resources Committee Threatens Wetlands, Lakes, and Streams

    On Wednesday, November 28, the Senate Natural Resources Committee heard testimony on SB 1211 introduced by Senator Tom Casperson. Michigan Environmental Council, as well as many other environmental organizations, are strongly opposed to this bill. SB 1211 will completely overhaul how Michigan’s wetlands, inland lakes and streams are regulated by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). Currently, Michigan is one of two states with delegated authority from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to administer the Clean Water Act. Michigan’s program is already noncompliant with federal standards, and SB 1211 will push us further out of compliance. The result is increased degradation of our water quality and the elimination of lakes and wetlands vital for ecological health and outdoor recreation. Michigan Environmental Council released the following statement in response:

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  • Here are some voting tips plus one change you'll see on the ballot this year

    On Tuesday, November 6, Election Day will finally be here. With Michigan’s environment facing threats on multiple fronts, strong leadership is more important now than ever. We understand that taking just an hour out of your day to go vote can be difficult, so here are some helpful tips to make your Election Day a good one!

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  • New Agriculture Proposal Threatens the Health of Michigan’s Public and Environment

    LANSING - Starting in 2019, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) has proposed to no longer consider local zoning when determining the location of livestock operations under the Generally Accepted Agriculture Management Practices (GAAMPs). GAAMPs are voluntary farming guidelines established under the Right to Farm Act. If followed, GAAMPs afford farm operators protections from nuisance complaints and lawsuits from neighbors. Under current GAAMP standards, MDARD considers local zoning ordinances when evaluating locations for livestock operation placements. Under the proposed changes, however, MDARD would not consider such information. Michigan Environmental Council and the Michigan Townships Association released the following statement in regards to this proposal:

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  • The Price of Power: DTE Energy’s new proposal could mean much higher bills for Michiganders

    On July 3, DTE Energy filed a rate case with the Michigan Public Service Commission. If it is approved, it would increase electricity bills for DTE residential customers by $240 per year by 2022.

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  • commented on Governor Debate 2018-10-15 14:59:27 -0400
    hello

    What do you want to ask our next governor?

    On October 24, Gretchen Whitmer and Bill Schuette will face off in their final debate before the election. Got anything you'd like to ask them on the environment? Submit your questions here!

    Michigan Environmental Council will collect your questions and send the top ones to the producers of the debate. From Line 5 to PFAS, there are many environmental concerns in Michigan that must be addressed. What do you want to hear the candidates speak on before you go to the polls on November 6?

    It's time to ask the hard-hitting questions. After submitting, please share this with your friends and family with #ShapeTheDebate!

    Send your question(s)

  • PFAS in Michigan: What we know and what we need

    Unfortunately, this storyline is getting all too familiar: there’s a new chemical of concern that poses a public health risk. Industries have widely used this chemical for decades, but its health impacts are not well studied, and the potential harmful properties of this chemical have been suppressed by the manufacturer. The class of chemicals this time: PFAS or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances. Thus far, there are 36 confirmed PFAS sites around Michigan, but the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) estimates there could be as many as 11,300 potential sites where PFAS may have been used.

    How did PFAS get here?

    PFAS are a family of more than 3,000 manufactured chemicals that were put into production in the 1950s. The unique properties of PFAS allowed manufacturers to create waterproof, stain resistant, and non-stick products. Because of this, PFAS were used in practically everything, including carpeting, waterproof clothing, food paper wrappings, upholstery, takeout containers, furniture, some cosmetics and more. They were also used in a firefighting foam called AFFF, which branches of the armed forces and fire departments used all across the country. At the time, the use of PFAS was heralded as a manufacturing breakthrough, but the other shoe was about to drop.

    Studies documenting work-related exposure to PFAS began surfacing in the 1970s and 1980s, but by the early 2000s, it became clear that PFAS were contaminating drinking water. After this, industries began to phase out the use of PFAS and production of AFFF ceased (although the remaining AFFF continues to be bought, sold and used today).  

    Fortunately, Michigan’s government is already ahead of most other states in addressing this issue. The state established the Michigan PFAS Action Response Team (MPART) for a rapid and multidepartment response. They are also requiring all public water systems and 461 schools to test their water supplies and have asked wastewater treatment plants to test their discharge. Furthermore, Michigan is getting its labs ready for PFAS testing, helping to reduce the time it takes to get back certified results. They are also testing different fish and recommending limited or no consumption of certain species due to PFAS contamination. All this information is available to the public at michigan.gov/pfasresponse. While these actions are commendable, there’s still more that needs to be done to ensure the safety of Michigan’s residents.

    How do PFAS impact public health?

    There are a number of ways a person can come in contact with PFAS, but the most common way is through drinking water. So far, researchers have only studied a handful of these chemicals for their health implications; however, preliminary research suggests that PFAS may increase thyroid disease, decrease fertility in women, cause developmental issues in infants and older children and increase blood pressure and cholesterol levels. They have also been linked to increased risks of kidney and testicular cancer.

    Currently, the EPA’s recommended lifetime health advisory limit is set at 70 parts per trillion (ppt) for PFOA and PFOS (the two best studied PFAS compounds). However, a health advisory limit is non-enforceable, meaning that drinking water system operators are not required to adhere to this recommendation. But even this number may be too high. A recent draft study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that, for certain PFAS, health issues began presenting themselves at significantly lower levels than the current EPA recommendation of 70 ppt. The Association of Drinking Water Administrators expects these study results will lower the recommended safe level to 7 ppt for PFOS and 11 ppt for PFOA, seven to ten times lower than the EPA’s current recommendation. 

    Protecting the public

    Clearly, more research needs to be done in regards to PFAS, but just because we don’t yet fully understand these chemicals does not mean they should continue to be allowed in our drinking water unchecked. To regulate PFAS, the state must establish a drinking water standard under the Michigan Safe Water Drinking Act. A drinking water standard would be created by implementing a Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) for PFAS, which determines the highest level of a contaminant that is allowed in drinking water. Based upon the most recent science, the MCL should be between 7 to 11 ppt, but this number may change as more information is discovered. Only when we set this standard can Michigan begin to truly regulate and monitor the amount of PFAS in our drinking water and protect our health.

    While a standard for PFAS can’t come soon enough, Michigan should begin taking preventative actions now. No filtration system is guaranteed to remove all PFAS, but with adequate funding, steps could be taken in the right direction. The state should fund and implement point-of-use filters for individual residents in impacted communities and establish a grant program to help public water systems add needed treatment technologies, like granular activated carbon filtration processes. Both of these filtration methods have been found to significantly lower certain PFAS levels. The state should also fund the connections of residential homes to public water systems when PFAS are found in their wells, if this is available. To accomplish all this, the legislature should pass HB 5898 to fund these water infrastructure projects and to ensure adequate revenue to address ongoing PFAS responses around the state.

    Transparency – our right to know

    Going forward, it will be critical that the DEQ conveys the best information available on PFAS, in a timely manner, and in ways that members of the public will find helpful. More specifically, the DEQ should be required to publish all of their test results and information gathered from other levels of government. The agency should also create and update a map with all known contaminated groundwater plumes in Michigan and make it available to the public.

    Lastly, a report that warned of the widespread dangers of PFAS was circulated within the DEQ back in 2012. It should be investigated and reported out why this report did not get the attention it deserved six years ago and what steps have been taken to make sure this doesn’t happen again.  

    Cleanup requires standards and funds

    Michigan has established a cleanup standard for just two of the thousands of compounds that make up this class of chemicals, but even these limited standards are being widely criticized for not doing enough to protect public health. Unfortunately, the state has also proposed making it harder and slower to update those standards in the future. They are trying to repeal the rule that allows them to quickly set a new standard for a chemical not currently regulated (which is virtually all PFAS), and require a process that can take a year or more to update any current standard. Since new information about PFAS is learned every day, Michigan’s cleanup regulations must be flexible enough to allow the DEQ to adapt to emerging research on PFAS and other pollutants. The current slow and bureaucratic process stands in the way of cleaning up contaminated sites in the most efficient and effective way possible.

    Coupled with updating our cleanup standard, the state must dedicate funds to contaminated site remediation. Funding to address sites of environmental contamination was virtually exhausted in 2018, and although the state legislature introduced a replacement proposal, they took no further action. Right now, there are 3,000 abandoned contamination sites across Michigan, and no funds to clean them. Moving forward, it’s imperative that the legislature passes SB 943 to create a sustainable funding source for these sites.

    Who is responsible?

    In the case of PFAS, however, the residents of Michigan should not be responsible for cleaning up the mess of others. Military bases across the state are hotspots for PFAS pollution, and recent investigations are showing that the Department of Defense knew and withheld crucial information about PFAS.  When examining for PFAS in the environment, the DOD purposely used testing methods that only identified a fraction of the chemicals, when more advanced methods of testing were available to them. Along with skewing the data, the DOD also pressured the CDC into withholding the aforementioned study on the health risks of PFAS. This utter disregard for public health cannot stand. By working with other states, Michigan can leverage the federal government, especially the DOD, to fund cleanup and remediation efforts. This should include the DOD implementing filtration systems and covering the cost of providing clean water.

    Along with the DOD being held responsible for their actions, so should the manufacturers who produced PFAS back in the mid-20th century. There is evidence to suggest the companies that manufactured PFAS knew these chemicals posed a potential health risk. Even so, they and the industries that used their product haphazardly disposed of their waste, and as a result, PFAS contamination is ubiquitous. Should it be on the residents of Michigan to clean up their mess? Of course not. Our current law only holds responsible the parties who caused the release of the chemicals. Instead, the law should be amended to include any company that is aware of the dangers related to the chemicals they produce and sell, but fail to disclose them to the public.

    Michigan should lead the country

    PFAS contamination is not just a Michigan problem; it’s a national issue that must be rectified. Michigan should lead a combined effort by the states to marshal the needed political forces to get the federal government to respond to this growing issue. Our federal government should be providing the funds to clean up PFAS contamination, implementing treatment technologies to protect drinking water, researching the health impacts of PFAS, and setting protective and enforceable limits of exposure to PFAS.

    At home, Michigan needs to continue to be proactive in addressing the growing PFAS crisis. Already, there are 1.5 million people in Michigan who have been drinking municipal water contaminated with PFAS.  We are poised to become a leader in helping to teach other states how to address PFAS contamination, but we must act soon. These are not the only emerging contaminants of concern that we need to be alarmed about. However, if Michigan takes the initiative now, we can ensure we have a system and set of policies in place going forward that will truly protect human health and our environment.

    Actions we can take now

    Michigan Environmental Council recommends these policy solutions to ensure there is a system in place to protect human health and the environment against PFAS and other emerging contaminants of concern:

    Public Health

    • Establish a drinking water standard for PFAS under the Michigan Safe Water Drinking Act by creating a Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) for PFAS that uses the best science available. Based on a CDC draft study, this would indicate 7 ppt for PFOS and 11 ppt for PFOA, but this may change with more information.
    • Reassess the cleanup standard for PFAS in Part 201 of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act due to the aforementioned CDC draft study and emerging health research.
    • Fund and implement point-of-use filters for individual residents in impacted communities.
    • Establish a grant program to add needed treatment technologies to public water systems, like granular activated carbon filtration processes.
    • Fund the connections of residential homes to public water systems when PFAS are found in their wells, if this is available.
    • Pass House Bill 5898 to fund water infrastructure projects and ensure adequate revenue to address ongoing PFAS responses around the state.

    Transparency

    • Require the DEQ to publish all test results and information gathered from other levels of government.
    • Create and update a map with all known contaminated groundwater plumes in Michigan and make it available to the public.
    • Investigate why a 2012 PFAS report was disregarded by the agency. It should be reported out why this happened and what steps have been taken to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

    Cleanup

    • Keep in place the rule in Part 201 of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act that allows new cleanup standards to be set quickly for chemicals not currently regulated (which is virtually all PFAS).
    • Pass Senate Bill 943 for a sustainable funding source for contaminated site remediation.

    Accountability

    • Michigan should lead a combined effort by the states to marshal the needed political forces to make the federal government, especially the Department of Defense, fund cleanup and remediation.
    • Change our laws so that they hold not only the party who caused the release of chemicals responsible, but also include any company that is aware of the dangers related to the chemicals it produces and sells, but fails to disclose them to the public.

     

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  • published Contaminated water in our backyard in News 2018-08-24 12:37:34 -0400

    Contaminated water in our backyard

    Growing up in a community like Rockford, Michigan, it’s easy to take a lot of things for granted. It felt safe and welcoming, and the idea that my family or neighbors could be drinking toxic water never crossed my mind. Then, one weekend while I was home from college, my Mom told me that I couldn’t drink from the tap, explaining why we had an unusually large amount of bottled water in the house.

    Read more

  • published Cultivating a Better Future in News 2018-08-10 15:17:04 -0400

    Cultivating a better future: how Michigan farmers can help prevent algae blooms

    Over the past few weeks, we have shared with you parts one and two of our plan to combat nuisance and toxic algae blooms. Today, we have the final installment which focuses on better practices for both crop and concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs).

    We saved the best (or worst) for last because, simply put, runoff from agricultural operations is the main contributor to the algae blooms occurring in Lake Erie and all around the Great Lakes Basin. The runoff from both CAFOs and crop operations feed nuisance and toxic algae blooms, and despite the state spending millions of dollars trying to address this problem, we’ve seen only marginal improvements over the past decade.

    Help us fight algae blooms. Sign this petition and urge Governor Snyder and the State Legislature to take action now.

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  • endorsed 2018-08-02 09:39:25 -0400

    Vote for Water Pledge

    Add your name to the list of those taking action to protect Michigan's water at the upcoming election.

    What makes the Great Lakes Michigan's most valuable natural resource? You could list facts about this all day long, such as how the lakes provide 40 million people with drinking water and 1.5 million jobs. But to a Michigander, you can’t sum up what the Great Lakes are worth with statistics. We know these lakes are priceless. So when you cast your vote in the upcoming August 7 primary, remember to Vote for Water.

    Who we choose to elect has a direct impact on the waters of Michigan. Our Great Lakes and inland waterways are currently facing a multitude of serious threats that need to be addressed. We urge you to keep these in mind during this election cycle:

    1. Algae Blooms - At their best, algae blooms foul our waters and make them a sickly green color, but at their worst, algae blooms can contain toxic cyanobacteria which contaminates our drinking water and closes beaches.
    2. Drinking Water Contamination - Michigan’s drinking water is threatened by pollution. In 2017, 71 water systems had higher lead levels than Flint and there are 35 sites and counting that have been identified with PFAS contamination.
    3. Aging Septic Systems - There are over 100,000 septic systems leaking over 30 million gallons of raw sewage into our groundwater every day. This waste pollutes our rivers, streams, and lakes and is loaded with pathogens like E. coli that threaten the health of Michigan residents.
    4. Line 5 - Every day, 23 million gallons of oil flow through a 65-year-old pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac. A recent study found that a spill from this pipeline could pollute up to 400 miles of Great Lakes shoreline and would cost the state nearly $1.9 billion to clean up.
    5. Plastics - 22 million pounds of plastic enter the Great Lakes every year, and once it’s in our water, it never goes away. Instead, it breaks down into “microplastics” that get into our drinking water supply.
    6. Invasive Species – More than 180 invasive and non-native species have entered the Great Lakes, wreaking havoc on their ecosystem. These intruders, like the parasitic sea lamprey, outcompete native species, degrade habitats and disrupt food-webs which ultimately affects Michigan’s fishing, agriculture and tourism industries.

    This list could go on, but you get the point. The waters of Michigan are being attacked on multiple fronts. One of the greatest ways you can help protect them is by voting in the August 7 primary with these issues in mind. Pledge to Vote for Water now - and share this page with your friends and family with #VoteForWater.

    Endorse

  • Plugging the Leak: Help us keep raw sewage out of our waters

    So far in our three-part plan to combat toxic algae blooms we have shared with you how healthy soil leads to clean water. In this installment, we share part two of our plan: a statewide septic code.

    Read more

  • published Algae Blooms Petition in Toxic Algae Blooms 2018-07-12 14:44:57 -0400

    Stop Toxic Algae Blooms

    To Governor Snyder and the State Legislature:

    To stop toxic algae blooms, state leaders need to create comprehensive policies that protect our waterways from nutrient dumping. These annual blooms pose a serious public health threat to the residents of Michigan, damage local businesses dependent on tourism, and harm important ecosystems. Michigan has been plagued by these algae blooms for over a decade and enough is enough, restrictions must be placed on those polluting our waters. 

    For every summer over the past decade, the western basin of Lake Erie has been plagued by toxic algae blooms that threaten drinking water sources, pose a risk to human and animal health, and damage the tourism economy of the region. Despite state and federal agencies pouring millions of dollars into this issue, we have seen minimal improvements. On July 12, 2018, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released their final forecast of the season predicting what we and the lake are in for this summer.

    Based on their findings, NOAA and their research partners expect to see another harmful algal bloom of toxic cyanobacteria this summer in Lake Erie. NOAA predicts this bloom will be smaller than the one in 2017, but larger than the one seen in 2016.

    The cause of these blooms in western Lake Erie is not a mystery and the solutions aren’t either. An overabundance of nitrogen and phosphorus, primarily from agricultural lands, feeds these explosive and, at times, toxic blooms. Michigan has largely relied upon farmers voluntarily adopting better practices to mitigate the amount of pollution entering western Lake Erie but this strategy clearly is not enough.

    Take action today: sign our petition to call for stronger protection for Lake Erie against toxic algal blooms

    While agricultural runoff remains the main source of pollution into Lake Erie, it is not the sole contributor. Some of the nutrient loading comes from point source pollution, such as wastewater treatment plants or factories. However, unlike the agricultural sector, Michigan required these industries to cut their pollution. The state also banned the use of phosphorus in fertilizer on homeowner’s lawns. While this is a step in the right direction, until we seriously address runoff from agricultural lands, harmful and toxic algal blooms will continue to make news in Lake Erie.

    The Great Lakes play a central role in the state’s economy, ecological health, and charm, but these natural gems are currently being threatened by excess nutrient runoff. It is easy to want to protect beautiful Lake Michigan or impressive Lake Superior, but we at the Michigan Environmental Council want to challenge our supporters to not forget about Lake Erie. 

    We hope to demonstrate that it is not hopeless for Lake Erie; the problem IS solvable. But we need your support to make these policy solutions a reality. Sign our petition today to ensure that state leaders are held accountable for protecting Lake Erie. And share the petition with your network to get the word out and push for swift action to save the lake.

    See our three-part plan to break the cycle of algae blooms here:

    Part One: Digging Deeper: How can healthy soil lead to clean water?

    Part Two: Plugging the Leak: Help us keep raw sewage out of our waters

    Part Three: Cultivating a better Future: How Michigan farmers can help prevent algae blooms

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