Freshwater Weekly — June 22nd, 2018

Posted on June 22, 2018 by

This week: Michigan Ballast Water Bill + 2019 GLRI Funding in Senate Bill + Michigan Approves New Lead Rules + Foxconn Legal Challenge Moves Forward

Michigan Residents: Tell Governor Snyder to VETO H.B. 5095 and Save Invasive Species Protections

Michigan House Bill 5095 eliminates the state’s strict ballast water standards that protect Great Lakes waterways from new and troublesome invasive species. Since an estimated 55-70% of invasives species in the Great Lakes have come from contaminated ballast water, maintaining these stringent rules is a must. If you’re a Michigan resident, tell the Governor to reject H.B. 5095.

Senate 2019 Appropriations Bill Increases Spending on Environment

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved its version of the FY19 Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill at its full committee markup on June 14th. Its total allocation is $35.85 billion—including $13.109 billion for the Department of Interior, $8.058 for the Environmental Protection Agency, and $6.29 billion for the U.S. Forest Service. Of the EPA’s share, $300 million of funding is reserved for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI), the highly successful and popular program to improve ecological balance in the Great Lakes.

Michigan Overhauls Lead Rules Following Flint Crisis

Michigan has finalized a rule change that lowers the “action level” for lead in municipal water lines from 15 parts per billion (ppb) to 12 ppb in 2025, which means 90% of system samples must be below that level or broader intervention is required. Alternatively put, up to 10% of samples can be above 12 ppb in 2025 and beyond. A new stipulation will ensure samples are taken from the highest-risk sites and that state-of-the-art lead detection methods are used. The rule would also mandate that water utilities replace at least 5% of their inventoried lead service lines per year and ban partial replacement of lead service pipes. Michigan has approximately 500,000 lead service lines. At an estimated $5,000/line, this policy will be pricey for many local utilities.

Freshwater Future approves of the new lead guidelines, but as is always the case, we didn’t get everything we asked for. Moving forward, we’ll keep advocating for a couple key improvements: 1) a timeline to lower the “action level” to 0 ppb, the only safe level of lead; and 2) funding for service line upgrades to avoid exacerbating unaffordable water and sewer rates in many Michigan communities. We’d also like to see movement on the issue of removing lead pipes inside older homes; this rule change only addresses lead in outdoor water lines.

Challenge to Foxconn Water Diversion Moves Forward

On May 25, 2018, Midwest Environmental Advocates filed a legal action on behalf of petitioners, Milwaukee Riverkeeper, League of Women Voters of Wisconsin, River Alliance of Wisconsin and Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, to challenge Wisconsin DNR’s approval of the City of Racine’s request to divert Lake Michigan water to supply Foxconn’s proposed facility. This week, the Wisconsin DNR notified Midwest Environmental Advocates that their request for a contested case hearing had been granted. The DNR will soon be forwarding the case to the Division of Hearings and Appeals where an Administrative Law Judge will be assigned to oversee the proceedings.

Following this announcement, Foxconn released information about a planned $30 million investment for a water recycling system that will reduce their daily consumption from ~7 million gallons to around 2.5 million gallons. Despite its relatively marginal impact on Great Lakes water levels, Freshwater Future continues to oppose the diversion given the negative precedent it sets with regard to the Great Lakes Compact, which states diversions for “straddling communities” must be for public use. Foxconn is a private corporation.

Ways to Make a Difference

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