Pages tagged "Groundwater"
As utility companies work to make their plans for carbon neutrality reality, they’ll need to clean up their acts on coal ash to truly protect Michiganders from fossil fuels’ threats to public health and the environment.
A new report by the Michigan Environmental Council reveals that, despite what some utility companies say, the 1.45 million tons of coal ash – the toxic byproduct of coal – produced each year in the Great Lake state is not always safely stored.
The report’s co-writers – MEC energy program director Charlotte Jameson and MEC energy policy specialist Abby Wallace – found that 12 the 15 coal ash sites with publicly available monitoring data had contaminated groundwater with toxic chemicals far above state and federal standards.
That puts the Great Lakes, rivers, groundwater and people living near coal plants at risk from toxic chemicals in coal ash, like lead, arsenic and mercury.
The report also found that the majority of the acres-long and meters-deep coal ash storage “ponds” are unlined, and one in Grand Haven flooded recently due to high water levels.
“MEC’s research shows the trend in groundwater contamination from coal ash has not substantially improved and that unlined coal ash ponds, even where a substantial clay underlayer exists, have been leaching toxic chemicals into our water for decades,” said Jameson. “We cannot fully protect our water and our health in Michigan if we remain dependent on coal-powered energy. We must swiftly close their plants; properly remediate their pollution; and transition to clean, renewable energy sources.”
“Holland. Marquette. River Rouge. Essexville. These are cities where utilities’ coal ash sites have contaminated groundwater with arsenic and lead significantly above health and environmental protection standards,” Wallace said. “Utilities must close coal ash ponds and remediate nearby groundwater to protect and give justice to the vulnerable communities around them.”
A 2021 Harvard University study noted one in five people worldwide may die from fossil fuel pollution, said Casey Patnode, a doctoral and public health student at the University of Michigan and founding member of Medical Students for a Sustainable Future.
“I’ve seen many patients come into the ER in respiratory arrest,” Patnode said. “I wonder how many of them would not have had to experience these situations if it wasn’t for the pollutants in their environment. Coal and coal ash must go completely for people to be truly safe from fossil fuels' debilitating effects, from developmental delays to cancer. We, at a population level, are on the precipice of being in this type of arrest and we need urgent action to prevent this."
MEC’s 2021 coal ash report was peer-reviewed by Earthjustice. It is an extension of a 2018 coal ash report.
The Michigan Senate Environmental Quality Committee passed a bipartisan bill package in 6-0-1 vote today that would make Michigan’s water cleaner and create thousands of jobs, all without taxpayer dollars.
Over $293 million in water infrastructure grants for local governments and residents would be available through a budget appropriation recommendation by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer through her MI Clean Water Plan and bolstered by Sens. Rick Outman’s (R-Six Lakes) and Paul Wojno’s (D-Warren) Senate Bills 319 and 320.Read more
Beneath our beloved lakes, rivers, streams, creeks and communities are our aquifers. These features store our vast expanse of groundwater, which irrigates our crops, powers our electrical plants, keeps our surface water and its ecosystems vibrant, and gives us good, clean water to drink.
But failing septic systems, factory farm pollution and toxic chemicals have seeped into our groundwater supply. Industry and agriculture have unsustainably withdrawn water from the ground, threatening water quality, ecosystems and land stability.
To keep our water system strong, clean and perpetually refreshed, we must better understand groundwater and protect it in ways both environmentally and economically beneficial.
MEC program director Tom Zimnicki and MEC board member Bryan Burroughs are using their appointments to the state's Water Use Advisory Council to give Michigan the data it needs to best protect groundwater. This state-appointed, citizen-powered council gave its first recommendations to the Michigan Legislature in 2021: a minimum $11 million to fund systems that would efficiently collect, analyze and use data that will power future decision making on how water is used and monitored.
We know a lot about our surface water. We are, after all, the Great Lake State. But the water beneath is metaphorically murky. We don't even know how groundwater travels. A PFAS-contaminated site or a major water withdrawal could have devastating effects elsewhere in the state, and we wouldn't even know it.
To protect groundwater from toxic and chemical pollutants, we're educating and advocating for three policies: a statewide septic code, sustainable agricultural practices and limits to manure runoff.
Michigan is the only state without a statewide septic code, and many of our counties don't have a code either. That makes it tough to fix septic tanks before they fail, identify where a failure has occurred and help tank owners pay for expenses. When a septic tank fails, the nasty nutrients in our waste can contaminate our groundwater and, thus, our drinking water.
Groundwater is threatened from waste above, too, namely from animal waste that travels down below. We're working in the state administrative courts and with farmers to help promote sustainable agricultural practices that are both environmentally and economically beneficial.
How We Work
- Through Program Director Tom Zimnicki’s and board member Bryan Burroughs’ appointments to the Water Use Advisory Council
- Through Chairwoman Jennifer McKay’s policy leadership with Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council
- With member groups like Michigan Trout Unlimited, Healthy Pine River and ECCSCM
- As always, with other member groups
- As always, at the Capitol
Whether it be the “green ooze” that trickled onto a highway from a shuttered Madison Heights business in 2020 or PFAS currently seeping into west Michigan wells, a new bill ensures those causing pollution catastrophes pay for the health threats they create.
On Tuesday, Feb. 23, Michigan House Democratic House Floor Leader Yousef Rabhi introduced House Bill 4314, which requires private companies to pay to clean up pollution they create. Current law only requires companies to contain and limit exposure of these pollutants. The financial burden of cleanup falls on residents, who pay through taxes.Read more
The fog of anxiety was thick for many as we trudged through an exhausting election and an ever-present pandemic. Yet, bright lights cut through.
Laws, decisions and amendments passed at 2020’s end will make the health of Michigan’s people, places and finances stronger in 2021 and beyond.
Check out the wins from late 2020 that MEC helped secure. Let’s ring the bells once more!Read more
On Thursday, a coalition of eight Great Lakes region organizations filed a motion in support of the area’s people, water and wildlife.
Michigan Environmental Council, Environmental Law & Policy Center and other partners seek to legally intervene in the 2020 Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation general permit contested by Michigan Farm Bureau and livestock commodity groups.Read more
Wednesday was historic in the fight for clean water. Michigan adopted enforceable limits on harmful chemical compounds in drinking water. The move, years in the making, will boost the physical and developmental health of those that have fought for years to make the limits a reality: the people.
A joint committee in the state’s legislature quietly allowed proposed limits on seven per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, commonly known as PFAS, in drinking water to lapse, setting the limits into law. Some limits are the lowest in the nation.
“These limits were long-needed and were long-supported by the vast majority of Michigan residents,” said Charlotte Jameson, program director for Michigan Environmental Council, who testified before the joint committee Wednesday. “These limits will have long-lasting benefits, too. They will prompt more site testing, place pressure on companies to stop using PFAS and galvanize more statewide PFAS protections.”Read more
A bill increasing toxic chemical contamination accountability and pollution prevention unanimously passed the Michigan Senate Wednesday. It also serves as a reminder that the state’s first enforceable drinking water limits on PFAS have stalled in a committee for nearly three months, one step away from protecting human and environmental health.Read more
On Thursday, February 27 the Environmental Rules Review Committee (ERRC) will meet at 1 PM to vote on the draft rules that set limits for PFAS in drinking water. Under Michigan law the ERRC can vote to approve the draft rules, approve the draft rules with modification, or reject the draft rules. The ERRC vote comes after a month-long public comment period during which thousands of Michigan residents weighed in to support the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy’s effort to adopt PFAS drinking water standards. Environmental and community groups issued the following statements urging the ERRC to approve the draft rules as is.Read more