Michigan environment roundup: Despite billions, toxic algae chokes Lake Erie
Bridge Magazine is committed to sharing the best environmental journalism in and around Michigan, an effort called #EnviroReads.
In Bridge’s Michigan Environment Watch, we share a roundup of stories on the Great Lakes or other issues. If you see a story we should include next time, use the hashtag #EnviroReads on Twitter or email Environmental Reporter Jim Malewitz at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Detroit Free Press
“Miles of green, mucky and potentially toxic algae blooms on western Lake Erie — and the oxygen-deprived dead zones in the Great Lake that come with them — have led Ohio to spend more than $3 billion to combat them since 2011. Michigan has chipped in millions of dollars of its own, seeking to dramatically cut a major source of fuel for the algae blooms: fertilizers that run off farmers' fields into tributaries and on to the Great Lake,” Keith Matheny reports. “But those efforts aren't working, a new study by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency finds. At least not yet.”
“At more than 1,600 sites across the state of Michigan, you can’t drink the groundwater. Well, you could, but it wouldn’t be safe or legal. These sites are properties, groups of properties, and sometimes entire cities with bans on drinking water wells,” Kaye Lafond and Rebecca Williams report. One expert “blames amendments to the state's National Resources and Environmental Protection Act passed more than two decades ago, in 1994. They made it easier to partially clean up a contaminated site, as opposed to fully.”
Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting
“A growing number of Midwestern farmland owners who don’t farm themselves and who don’t live on the land they own.” Erin McKinstry reports. “Some see the shift as a good thing. They argue it’s putting more capital into rural communities, that investors rent to productive and responsible farmers and that farmers really can’t afford to buy land. Others see it as one more barrier for farmers trying to access land or expand their operations.”
“The Republican-led Legislature is dumping Gov. Rick Snyder’s budget proposal to increase landfill fees for environmental cleanups despite near depletion of a bond that paid for similar efforts since 1988,” Jonathan Oosting reports. “But lawmakers are expected to debate the fees again later this year as the Snyder administration and environmental groups push legislation projected to generate $74 million annually to remediate toxic contamination sites and boost the state’s recycling rate.”
“The Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, originally signed in 1972 by the U-S and Canada, has helped lower levels of some chemicals already found in the Great Lakes. And a 2016 law provides more oversight of chemicals by the EPA.,” Amy Miller reports. “But scientists say both countries are falling short of the accord’s intended effectiveness.”
The Allegheny Front
“Piping plovers are little shorebirds, and they're an endangered species in the Great Lakes region,” Kara Holsopple reports. “But they’re making a comeback thanks to conservation efforts and even some heroics” that involved an egg rescue, the Detroit Zoo, and a rearing station in northern Michigan.
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