water

New bills in the state House would put Michigan’s water — including groundwater — in a public trust. That means that the waters would have to be reserved for the public’s use, and the state would have to protect the water for that purpose. 

Dan Wanschura / Interlochen Public Radio

This week on Points North, the water is so high in Michigan this summer that shorelines are disappearing, docks are underwater and rivers are overflowing. Plus hear how high water is affecting public access to beaches and research on avian botulism. 

 


On Tuesday, October 24, the Great Lakes Water Authority issued a boil water advisory for parts of Oakland County after a 48-inch water main broke late Monday night.

The boil water advisory ended for all communities on Monday, October 30. 

Michigan Radio followed this story, and updated it as events unfolded and as new information was made available. Scroll down and read up to see how the story unfolded.

New test results show lead levels in Kalamazoo’s water system have dropped.

The federal limit for lead in water is 15 parts per billion. Last time the city tested, in 2014, Kalamazoo’s lead level was 13 parts per billion. Now it's down to 4 ppb.

13 ppb was close enough to worry Shannan Deater, Kalamazoo’s Environmental Services Programs Manager. She says some of the higher lead results in 2014 weren’t really a good, representative sample. 

The hunt is on for lead pipes in Detroit.

Flint officials still don’t know where all the city’s lead service lines are. That’s because the building records were in horrible shape.

Starting May first, if you live in Flint, officials with the EPA, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and the city want you to flush water through your home or business every day.

They say you should take your water filter off your kitchen tap or flip the lever to bypass the filter, open your cold water taps in your kitchen and your bathtub all the way, and let them run for five minutes. They want you to do that every day for two weeks.

They’re calling the campaign Run to Restore.

Ann Arbor Township and the city of Ann Arbor are both pushing for a federal cleanup of the dioxane plume that has been working its way through the city’s groundwater for several years. The concern is that the 1,4 dioxane, a known carcinogen, could eventually reach Ann Arbor’s main water source in the years to come.

Sarah Razak - Flickr

The charge has been leveled that state and federal officials put salvaging their careers ahead of making sure kids in Flint had safe drinking water.

I guess being a government agency means never having to say you’re sorry,” said Virginia Tech researcher Mark Edwards, who helped sound the alarm on the lead contamination crisis.

There were tense and angry moments at a congressional hearing on the water crisis in Flint.

For the last 30 years, a plume of a colorless, odorless toxic chemical has been steadily creeping toward one of the main water supplies in the city of Ann Arbor.

Steady decline in wetlands endangers Great Lakes

Jan 4, 2016

The Next Idea

In Michigan and across the country, wetlands are known as marshes, swamps, bogs, fens and pocosins.

They are also known as threatened.

Steve Carmody, Michigan Radio

The head of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality has resigned over the drinking water crisis in Flint.

Gov. Rick Snyder has also now apologized to the community of Flint for his administration’s involvement in the situation.

“I want the Flint community to know how very sorry I am that this has happened,” said Snyder in a statement on Tuesday. “And I want all Michigan citizens to know that we will learn from this experience, because Flint is not the only city that has an aging infrastructure.”

Flint hasn’t been using any corrosion-control method since it switched from Detroit’s water system in April 2014. Corrosion-control treatment helps keep lead out of drinking water. Since the switch, more kids are showing up with elevated levels of lead in their blood.

The Next Idea

You can see Michigan from space. It’s the mitten surrounded by all that blue with the bunny jumping over it.

In fact, almost half of the Great Lakes State is comprised of water. Michigan has more shoreline than any other state in the union, with the exception of Alaska, which is seven times larger.

New law targets drunk boaters

Apr 28, 2015

Law enforcement officers say a new Michigan law will make it easier to keep intoxicated boaters off the water. The new law lowers the allowable blood-alcohol content for boaters from .10 to .08. That's the same blood-alcohol standard used to judge car drivers.

John O’Hagan is undersheriff in Manistee County, where two officers patrol local waterways during the summer. O’Hagan says having a consistent standard for everyone will make their jobs easier.

The two reasons: 1) the process of moving water that far, and that high, wouldn't make economic sense; 2) Great Lakes water is locked down politically.

The ongoing drought in California has hit its fourth year. 

Traverse City ramps up battle against frozen pipes

Mar 5, 2015

Traverse City has doubled the number of crews working to thaw out pipes throughout the city.

Last week, Traverse City saw a huge uptick in the number of people calling in to complain about frozen water pipes. As of yesterday, more than 300 people had called in.

In response, the city doubled its effort. It now has five crews working overtime to thaw out pipes at residences throughout the city.

Coliform bacteria and boil-water alerts, rashes on kids, and water that tastes and smells horrible are some of the side effects associated with Flint’s decision to disconnect from the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department and switch to the Flint River while it transitions to a new system.

Conditions in Flint grew so terrible that environmental activist Erin Brockovich caught wind of the situation and turned her team’s attention towards Michigan.

Flint switched from Detroit’s water system last year and is now using the Flint River until it can hook up to Lake Huron.

But there have been major problems. Residents complain about the water tasting and smelling bad. The Department of Environmental Quality cited Flint in December for violating the Safe Water Drinking Act. 

Why are water bills in Flint higher than anywhere else in Genesee County?

The Flint Journal and Mlive found water customers in Flint pay on average $140 a month for water and sewer service. That is tops in the county.

It’s also $35 a month more than Montrose, which is second-highest.

Not only is the cost high, but it looks as if it will only go up. The budget set out by Flint Emergency Manager Darnell Earley calls for a 6.5% increase in water and sewer rates.

Water shutoffs to Detroiters who haven't paid their bills are not going to stop.

That's the result of a ruling today by federal bankruptcy judge Stephen Rhodes.

Michigan Radio's Detroit reporter Sarah Cwiek says this ruling came in response to a lawsuit filed by Detroit residents and activists who wanted Judge Rhodes to issue a six-month moratorium on the controversial water shutoffs.

Did you know one cow can produce 10,000 gallons of manure each year?

Now do the math: A large farm with a thousand cows means about 10 million gallons of manure every year.

Now, thanks to research from Michigan State University, that cow poo could become the source of, believe it or not, clean water.

Steve Safferman is an associate professor of biosystems and agricultural engineering at Michigan State University.

Safferman says 90  to 95% of cow manure is water.

There is a multi-step process used to retrieve the water. First the manure goes through pretreatment, then filtration, air stripping, and reverse osmosis.

Research shows that from 100 gallons of cow manure, 50 gallons of water can be retrieved.

The water is just like fresh water that comes out of the faucet. This water even has higher quality of drinking for the cows than well water.

Within a year of commercializing, there has been a lot of interest from farmers who are interested in the water-extraction system.  

Safferman said the system could be very useful for farmers who may have to sell their livestock because there is not enough water. It could also cut their water use potentially in half. 

*Listen to full interview above.

Peter Payette

Water drips through my kitchen sink all day every day, like many others in the region, to keep my underground pipes from freezing.

For a month or so, we've let it flow at the width of a pencil lead. Some run water advisories are in effect until mid-April.

So just how much water is going through there?

I stuck a plastic gallon milk jug under the flow and timed it. I calculated that I’m running about 90 gallons a day. That's about two bathtubs of water run right down the drain daily.

There are nearly 2,600 dams in Michigan, and more than 90% are going to hit or exceed their design life by 2020.

That's according to the American Society of Civil Engineers, which gave Michigan a grade of "D" on the condition of its dams.

Keith Metheny looked into the issue of Michigan's aging dams in a recent piece in the Detroit Free Press, where he is the environmental reporter. He joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.