Freshwater Weekly — April 27th, 2018

Posted on April 27, 2018 by

This week: Foxconn gets 7 million gallons/day + oil spill simulation + Flint crisis anniversary + Ontario ferrochrome smelter + algae forecast

Wisconsin DNR Approves Diversion for Planned Foxconn LCD Factory  

Late Wednesday, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) publicly announced their approval of a plan to provide Foxconn Technology Group 7 million gallons/day of Lake Michigan water. The coastal city of Racine, Wisconsin will provide the diversion, which will travel approximately 6 miles to the factory site in nearby Mount Pleasant.

Mount Pleasant is a “straddling community,” meaning the municipality lies partially within the Great Lakes basin and partially without. That made it subject to the Great Lakes Compact, which requires state officials to approve diversions for straddling communities. Communities outside the basin, but within a straddling county, require the approval of all Great Lakes states.

While the diversion will represent only a 0.07% increase in total surface water withdrawals from Lake Michigan, Freshwater Future opposed the diversion primarily because the Great Lakes Compact requires straddling community diversions to be made for “public purposes.” We believe allowing Foxconn, a private corporation, to circumvent this requirement sets a potentially dangerous legal precedent that may undermine the Compact’s ability to conserve Great Lakes water.

Simulation Shows How Devastating Chemical and Oil Spills Could Be in the Straits of Mackinac

A Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory (GLERL) simulation shows that the unique currents in the Straits would cause materials to disperse far more quickly than in other locations in the Great Lakes. Over the course of one week, a chemical contaminant could spread to hundreds of miles of coastline in Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsulas.

An early April 550 gallon coolant leak from electric cables in the Straits of Mackinac brought renewed attention to the area’s ecological and economic vulnerability. For several years, northern Michigan inhabitants have grown increasingly weary of Enbridge Inc.’s 65-year-old Line 5, which carries petroleum products across Lake Michigan just west of the Mackinac Bridge. This month’s leak brought renewed focus on the beleaguered pipeline when it was revealed that the same anchor strike that caused the coolant leak also dented Line 5 in several locations.

Ohio EPA: Lake Erie Algae Prevention Unsuccessful

Michigan, Ohio, and Ontario have all pledged to reduce nutrient loads reaching Lake Erie by 40% by 2025. A new Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) study shows that the state is not on track to meet this target. Researchers found no clear decrease during the past five years in the nutrient pollution feeding the persistent algal blooms in Lake Erie. The review also finds that the vast majority of the phosphorus and nitrogen flowing from Ohio’s streams and rivers into the lake’s western end comes from agriculture.

In this Detroit Free Press article, Freshwater Future’s Executive Director—Jill Ryan— talks about what the study means for the future of algae prevention. The study’s results demonstrate that states must move beyond voluntary action programs, and that more must be done to ensure farmers have the tools and funding available to implement solutions and best practices.

Wednesday Marked Four Year Anniversary of Flint Water Crisis

After four years, over 12,000 lead service lines still need replacing, high lead levels are still a concern, and folks still don’t trust their tap water. Curt Guyette, an investigative reporter for the ACLU of Michigan, wrote this blog on why the water crisis isn’t even close to being over.

You can catch up on the last year of Freshwater Future’s coverage using the links below.

Freshwater Future Condemns Michigan’s Decision to End Free Bottled Water Program for Flint Residents | The Lead and Copper Rule Is Not a Health Based Rule | Flint Residents Shouldn’t Lose Their Homes Over Bills for Poisoned Water | Michigan Governor Appoints State Official Criminally Charged in Flint Crisis to New Public Health Panel | The State of Michigan Says Flint’s Water Is Safe | Michigan Proposes Stricter Standard on Lead, Replacing Lead Pipes Statewide

Northern Ontario Will Host Ferrochrome Smelter

The “Ring of Fire” is the bestowed name of a massive planned chromite mining and smelting development project located in the mineral-rich James Bay Lowlands of Northern Ontario. While the mine itself would lie outside the Great Lakes basin, the proposed ferrochrome smelting facility, or processing plant, may be built in Sudbury, Sault Ste. Marie, or Thunder Bay—each within the Great Lakes watershed.

Noront Resources, the corporation behind the development, is expected to announce their chosen location after this year’s provincial election.

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Images courtesy of Steven Huyser-Honig,
West Grand Boulevard Collaborative, & Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve.