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Michigan environment roundup: Judge bars public from Wolverine World Wide PFAS hearing

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 recent stories on the Great Lakes or other environmental issues. If you see a story we should include next time, use the hashtag #EnviroReads on Twitter or email environmental reporter Jim Malewitz at jmalewitz@bridgemi.com.

It's not Flint anymore: More Michigan communities showing high levels of lead in water
Michigan Radio
“While Flint became infamous for its lead-in-water crisis, recent testing showed that city’s 90th-percentile for lead at 6 ppb [below the federal action level of 15 parts per billion],” reports Sarah Cwiek.  “But a higher number of other Michigan communities are coming back with results that exceed the federal action level—largely because of new, stricter state requirements for how cities test for lead. Melvindale has the highest result so far, but 13 other cities have returned results higher than the action level in this latest round of testing. They include Highland Park, Dearborn Heights, Oak Park, Birmingham, Benton Harbor, Clare, and Hazel Park.”

Michigan energy regulators aim to prioritize ‘action’ over ‘fancy reports’
Midwest Energy News
“A new Michigan energy initiative aims to translate two years of planning into action that can transform the state’s electricity system,” Andy Balaskovitz reports. “The MI Power Grid initiative, jointly launched by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Public Service Commission, was met with broad support from clean energy and consumer advocates as well as the state’s largest energy company. The overarching goal is to better prepare Michigan for the shift from large centralized coal plants to distributed renewable resources like wind and solar and emerging technology like battery storage. Officials cite declining renewable energy costs as a key driver of the initiative.”

Public barred from secret court hearing on Wolverine contamination
MLive
“The public is barred from a secret federal hearing that will examine whether shoemaker Wolverine World Wide should pay for extending municipal water to neighborhoods where its tannery waste dumping contaminated the drinking water,” Garret Ellison reports. “U.S. District Judge Janet T. Neff closed the seldom-used judicial proceeding, called a “summary jury trial,” when it takes place in Grand Rapids on Nov. 18….Attorneys for Plainfield Township, a co-plaintiff in the state of Michigan’s case against Wolverine, expressed surprise and dismay at the decision; the justification for which is not explained in Neff’s order.”

Michigan's most endangered species sees sharp population decline and could become extinct 
Detroit Free Press
“As bad as the news has been for Michigan's most endangered species, it's apparently worsening,” Keith Matheny reports. “Surveys at 29 sites in the U.S. and Canada this past July found fewer than 100 remaining Powesheik skipperlings, a small, brown butterfly that as recently as the 1990s was so abundant, it was generally an unstudied afterthought.” 

‘A lot of prayer going on,’ Lake Michigan homeowner says about bluff erosion
MLive
“Every morning when the sun comes up, Bill Gray steps out of his Lake Michigan home, walks to the bluff, then gauges whether more dune has slipped away into the water. It’s a ritual he does not relish,” John Tunison reports. “The anxiety he and neighbors feel every day about whether their homes will survive Lake Michigan’s high water levels -- causing significant dune erosion during windy and stormy weather -- is expected to continue for the foreseeable future.”

Fewer hunters means fewer dollars for Michigan's conservation programs
Crain’s Detroit Business
“For the past 20 years, more and more Michigan hunters have laid down their weapons and the state’s youth haven't picked them up. Since 2013, nearly 125,000 fewer hunting licenses have been sold in the state, according to data from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. The decline is part of a national trend,” Dustin Walsh reports.  “...The decline has big consequences for many parts of Michigan's outdoor economy. Meanwhile other outdoor activities, such as birdwatching, hiking and kayaking, are rapidly growing, upending a model for conservation funding that relies on fees paid by hunters and anglers.” 

After 70 years, the fight to get sea lampreys out of the Great Lakes continues
Michigan Radio
“A number of destructive invasive species have invaded the Great Lakes in the past several decades. These non-native creatures can do significant damage to native ecosystems. Biologists work hard to control them, but it's an ongoing battle. Cory Brant of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission has captured the story of one particularly prolific invasive species in his new book “Great Lakes Sea Lamprey: The 70-Year War on a Biological Invader,” reports Michigan Radio’s Stateside staff. “Brant referred to sea lampreys as “the little vampires of the Great Lakes.” As that nickname suggests, the parasitic creatures can be devastating to local fish populations.”

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