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MLive, March 21, 2019
FREEPORT, MI -- Aaron Snell was working to clear a log jam on the Coldwater River when he noticed the water turn murky, “really murky,” he said, “unusually so.”
He traveled about four miles upstream and found the source. The water had turned black from manure.
“By the time we found where it was coming from and entered Messer Brook, there was no visibility in the water. It was ink blank,” Snell said. “It was enough to turn the water black, which I can’t say that I’ve seen before.”
Brook View Dairy, a Holland-based multi-facility dairy business with a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) at 10560 Freeport Ave., is being investigated by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality for the March 6 manure spill.
Regulators became aware of the spill after Snell found it two days later and reported it. At this time, the DEQ says there is no need for a “no water contact” advisory or fishing warnings.
Manure processed through the farm’s anaerobic digester was spread on fields March 6 about three miles east of Freeport. The ground, snow-covered and frozen, didn’t absorb it and the manure eventually ran into Messer Brook and then the Coldwater River.
The Coldwater River, which is a prized trout stream, feeds into the Thornapple River about three miles east of Caledonia.
“The DEQ received reports that portions of the Coldwater River and Messer Brook had turned black in color and had an odor," said Mike Worm, supervisor of the water quality unit for DEQ’s Grand Rapid district.
The recent incident is the dairy farm’s second spill into a tributary of the Coldwater River in just under a year. In April 2018, an estimated 5,000 and 10,000 gallons of liquid cow manure went into a tributary when a farm pipeline malfunctioned.
Large manure spill near Coldwater River marks second incident in past year / 1-17-19
Christian Yonkers, Contributing Writer
A recent manure spill marked the second significant agricultural waste spill in the Coldwater River Watershed in the past year. Saturday, Jan. 5, Swisslane Dairy in Alto self-reported a discharge from a defective valve near the border of Kent and Ionia counties. By the time the defective valve was shut off, an estimated 500,000 gallons of manure had leaked from the valve into the adjacent fields and a nearby wetland, 50,000-100,000 gallons of which made it to Tyler Creek.
Swisslane pumped 300,000-350,000 gallons from a contaminated wetland. The farm estimated reclaiming an additional 50,000 gallons from the above-ground flow path. The remaining 50,000-100,000 gallons were swept away into Tyler Creek, a tributary of the Coldwater River.
Despite the large volume of waste swept away into Tyler Creek, the incident is likely to have little impact on human and ecological health, said DEQ Senior Environmental Quality Analyst Melissa Sandborn.
“The release would have caused elevated levels of nutrients and E. coli in the receiving waters,” Sandborn said. “Due to recent weather conditions, there has been a high volume of water passing through Tyler Creek, particularly on the day of the discharge. As a result, the manure (and subsequently, nutrient and E. coli levels) was quickly diluted.”
Due to cold weather and high water levels, there is little chance that people could have come in contact with waste, Sandborn said. She confirmed the discharge has been stopped, and there is no evidence of an impending fish kill.
“This time of year, with the water being cold and most of the aquatic organisms … pretty inactive, there is probably no acute danger,” Aaron Snell, an independent environmental engineer with Streamside Ecological Services, said. “However, the nutrients, etc. associated with the manure … will persist in the system and can, many months later, fuel growth of plants and algae.”
If the spill occurred in the summer, a fish kill would have been likely, Snell said. A spill in 2006 killed nearly all fish in a 4 1/2-mile section of river.
The Swisslane spill marked the second major agricultural spill in the area in the past year. Up to 10,000 gallons of manure leached into the Coldwater in March 2018, just a few miles southeast of the Jan. 5 spill.
At this point, the DEQ has been focused on containment and clean-up. Sandborn said the case will be reviewed to determine what enforcement actions, such as fines, are appropriate.
In the meantime, Swisslane Dairy is responsible for clean-up efforts. As a part of the review of the case and potential enforcement actions, the DEQ will expect the farm to demonstrate and implement actions to prevent a future discharge.
January 17, 2019 – Here’s what’s happening in Michigan’s Winter Wonderland. Fluffy snow, lakes and ponds freezing over. Used to be time for winter outdoor fun. Not so much any more here, unless you like being slathered in livestock sewage.
Putrid stench for miles around. Bakerlads stockpiling manure on frozen, snow-covered ground. Besides what’s in the photo, there were 4 semi’s lined up to enter the field to dump solids at around 5 p.m. on January 17. South side of Beecher Rd. between Hughes and Morey Hwys., Hudson Twp. South Branch, Raisin River. Major snow followed this crap-blizzard.
MSU’s Enviro Impact Tool says this about conditions here:
High risk of runoff from Jan. 18 through Jan. 24 on this chart
SECOND ADRIAN DRINKING WATER TAP TESTS POSITIVE FOR CYANOBACTERIA; 2 TEST POSITIVE FOR BACTEROIDES
Adrian, Michigan (Dec. 31, 2018) - The second batch of test results for cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) and one of the toxins it can produce, microcystin, taken from City of Adrian residents’ drinking water taps, is now available. Of six taps tested, cyanobacteria was found at one site and Bacteroides1, an indicator of fecal contamination, was found at two sites. No microcystin was found at any site. This brings the total amount of positive cyanobacteria tests of the City’s tap water to 2 of 9, or a little over 22%, same for Bacteroides.
Taste and odor problems in Adrian’s drinking water have been reported for several years. Adrian draws its drinking water from two sources: Lake Adrian, created by damming Wolf Creek, and several drinking water wells. Cyanobacteria, the blue-green algae that can produce the microcystin toxin that shut down Toledo’s drinking water system in 2014, and other bacteria are recurring problems in Lake Adrian. Two compounds that are produced by cyanobacteria and algae when they die, geosmin and 2-MIB, were identified by City officials as a possible reason for the odor complaints. Skin rashes and other symptoms associated with cyanotoxin exposure have also been reported.
Brittney Dulbs, one of the many Adrian residents who is still experiencing problems with her tap water, said she looks forward to sharing more information about the problems still happening in Adrian with Federal, State and local agencies and the City as soon as possible. The City needs to provide safe, clean water. More testing is needed, but the money from donations received has been used on the tests done so far, and there’s no more available for all the people who are still having problems but can’t afford to have their water tested. She would also like to see more effort directed at cleaning up Wolf Creek, so that the City’s treatment system isn’t overwhelmed.
Because of limitations in other test methods and procedures, and because City of Adrian water users continue to experience taste, odor, and other problems into late December long after the harmful algae bloom on Lake Adrian stopped, molecular testing2 in the form of DNA analysis, using PCR, was used. Samples to be tested for both cyanobacteria and microcystin from each tap were collected at the same time, because often one is present without the other. If cyanobacteria is capable of producing microcystin, there is no way to know if, where, or when the toxin will be released. Testing only for microcystin does not show if cyanobacteria is also present, and testing for only cyanobacteria doesn’t show the presence of microcystin.
Pam Taylor of Environmentally Concerned Citizens of South Central Michigan, a group that has been monitoring many of the area’s surface waterways for nearly 20 years, and found cyanobacteria and microcystin in Wolf Creek and its tributaries in 2017 and 2018, said, “This needs more investigation. System-wide testing and a local epidemiological study would be helpful. While cyanobacteria at low levels is naturally found in surface water, especially in the summer, levels are increasing here. It should never be found in treated drinking water because scientists do not know what triggers some cyanobacteria into producing colorless, odorless, cyanotoxins like microcystin at the end of its life cycle. Treated drinking water shouldn’t contain Bacteroides. Maybe the City needs to upgrade its testing equipment. Maybe an upgrade to add ozone or ultraviolet treatment is needed if they have to use Lake Adrian as a source, especially if they’re going to supply the new ProMedica hospital as well as existing customers. Wolf Creek’s water quality is dismal and it needs to be cleaned up. There are no safe drinking water standards and regulations for either cyanobacteria or the toxins it can produce, like microcystin, yet - only guidelines, recommendations, and a couple of reporting requirements. It’s up to MDEQ and the City to make sure the distribution system doesn’t have low-level cyanobacteria contamination. Public health needs to come first.”
Requests have been made of the City to publish its raw and finished water test results for both cyanobacteria and cyanotoxins. Dulbs and Taylor would also like to see the City’s completed application to the State for the use of permanganate and the City’s contingency plan3 for cyanobacterial bloom occurrence including their monitoring program and their management and communication plan.
City officials and MDEQ were notified of the preliminary results on December 22, 2018, and the final reports were sent to the City, MDEQ, US EPA Region V, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services on December 28.
2,3 Cyanobacteria and Cyanotoxins: Information for Drinking Water Systems. USEPA, September, 2014. https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2014-08/documents/cyanobacteria_factsheet.pdf
Attachments: Lab Results (2) Helix Biological Laboratory
Results of Testing Adrian MI Residents Tap Water Samples D and E (annotated) 121718 Collection Project P-473
[caption id="attachment_2625" align="aligncenter" width="712"] Tile Drainage and Anthropogenic Land Use Contribute to Harmful Algal Blooms and Microbiota Shifts in Inland Water Bodies
Environ. Sci. Technol., 2018, 52 (15), pp 8215–8223
Publication Date (Web): June 28, 2018[/caption]
Algal blooms a threat to small lakes and ponds, too
August 23, 2018 by Misti Crane, The Ohio State University
Harmful algae isn't just a problem for high-profile bodies of water—it poses serious, toxic threats in small ponds and lakes as well, new research has found.
A team of researchers from The Ohio State University examined water samples from two dozen ponds and small lakes in rural Ohio and found plenty of cause for concern, with particularly high levels of toxins at one lake.
Toxins from algae can cause skin rashes, intestinal problems and damage to the liver and nervous system. Fertilizers common to agriculture—including nitrogen and phosphorous—create an environment in which harmful algae can flourish.
The researchers said that the way farmers manage runoff could play a significant role in creating water bodies that are ripe for harmful algal blooms. A primary concern is tile drainage, a widely used agricultural approach to removing excess water from the soil below the surface. That water—and the nutrients found in it—are rerouted, often toward ponds on farm property, said study co-author Seungjun Lee, a postdoctoral researcher in environmental health sciences at Ohio State.
"A lot of people and government agencies are paying attention to larger lakes, including Lake Erie, but these smaller bodies of water are also used for recreation, fishing and irrigation," he said.
The study was published recently in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.
The research team, led by Ohio State's Jiyoung Lee, analyzed samples from the 24 bodies of water over a three-month period in late summer 2015.
Ten of the sites had detectable levels of microcystins, toxins produced by freshwater cyanobacteria during algal blooms.
One site had repeated instances of microcystin concentrations above recreational guidelines set by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, and so the research team paid particular attention to the samples from that site.
"Samples from this lake in early July were particularly concerning, as they contained four times the recommended amount of microcystin for recreational use and more than 800 times the recommended level for drinking," Seungjun Lee said.
A pond or lake with high toxin levels presents a risk to people, pets, farm animals, wildlife (including fish) and crops and could benefit from routine monitoring and work to lower the risk of algal blooms, he said. The researchers did not name the lake in question, because it is privately owned.
Jiyoung Lee said the impact of tile drainage may be elevated in small lakes and ponds, compared to larger lakes.
"Highly concentrated nutrients are being introduced into a smaller volume of water, making small lakes and ponds more sensitive to this influx of phosphorous, nitrogen and other nutrients," she said.
Nitrate and phosphorous are linked to the primary type of toxic microcystin found in the water. Judicious use of fertilizers could help control the algal blooms, as could measures to reduce animal waste contamination of ponds and lakes, Seungjun Lee said.
Though the study concentrated on Ohio agricultural areas, its findings likely apply to many areas throughout the U.S. and the world where agriculture and small lakes and ponds coexist, the researchers said.
Tom Henry, Toledo Blade
The lead attorney in a landmark western Lake Erie case told about 50 people attending a private function Wednesday night she has “real faith and confidence” the ultimate decision rendered by Senior U.S. District Judge James G. Carr — even with it now likely to come months or even a year or two later than expected — will be a turning point for addressing the lake’s chronic algal blooms.
“Political will is what we need here. But sometimes political will needs a little help from a judge, like an order,” Madeline Fleisher, senior attorney for the Environmental Law & Policy Center, said at an event the group hosted inside the National Museum of the Great Lakes in East Toledo....
Toledo Blade, Tom Henry
Though clearly frustrated by the state of Ohio’s response to toxic algal blooms that have carpeted western Lake Erie’s surface the past 23 summers, Senior U.S. District Judge James G. Carr said in open court Tuesday he worries he is on “thin ice” with the case before him.
He said he welcomes a new version of it to be filed in hopes of eliminating any outstanding administrative issues the federal government might use to get his ultimate decision thrown out on appeal, while recognizing that a new filing would likely result in additional delays.
“I’m concerned my hands will be tied,” Judge Carr said, explaining that he believes the current case is going into uncharted territory and needs to have some bureaucratic loopholes eliminated. “I'm a little wary of skating on too thin ice.”
“Ohio is doing a good bit, but is it doing what needs to be done?” the judge asked. “I think the records show clearly the efforts Ohio has taken with voluntary compliance have had no discernible effect. ... It seems like common sense. We can’t be endlessly dumping that stuff into the lake.”
The judge also said he would like to see the Ohio EPA take an active role in the case, perhaps as an amicus — that is friend of the court — partner with the defendant.
City of Toledo, OH
Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz followed through today on his promise to push for a total maximum daily load for Lake Erie.
The cities of Toledo and Oregon filed a joint Amicus Memorandum in U.S. District Court seeking the creation of a total maximum daily load (TMDL) for Lake Erie.
“I campaigned on cleaning up the lake and we are following through on that today by filing this motion,” Mayor Kapszukiewicz said. “We need to hold the non-point sources accountable and this is one way we can do it. We support the efforts of the Environmental Law & Policy Center, Advocates for a Clean Lake Erie, and Mike Ferner, who has pushed for years to get tougher regulations for polluters. Toledo and Oregon taxpayers, as well as the water ratepayers in the entire Toledo region, are paying hundreds of millions of dollars for equipment, technology, and chemicals to treat our lake water because of harmful algal blooms. We need the problem to be fixed at the source and I believe a total maximum daily load is necessary for that effort.”
Toledo will spend $527 million on the Toledo Waterways Initiative Program by 2020 and more than $500 million on infrastructure improvements to improve water quality, yet there are no regulatory requirements on the vast majority of polluters who are responsible for the harmful algal blooms that happen every summer on the lake, the mayor said.
Toledo and Oregon are both located on Lake Erie and are greatly affected by its water quality. Toledo operates a water treatment plant that provides water to about 500,000 customers throughout northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan. Oregon operates a water treatment plant that provides water to the citizens of Oregon, Genoa, Northwood, Lake Township, Millbury, Jerusalem Township, Harbor View, and some other Lucas County local area pipelines.
The cities submitted the motion today to support the plaintiffs’ request to require a TMDL for Lake Erie.
“It is important for our communities to continue to work together to protect the lake,” Oregon Mayor Michael J. Seferian said.
The motions states: “The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is refusing to protect the environment by continuing to allow the state of Ohio to ignore the mandates of the Clean Water Act and create a TMDL for Lake Erie. The Clean Water Act’s requirement to create a TMDL for an impaired waterway is a solution to a pollution problem that involves many independent actors. Eighty-eight percent of the phosphorus causing Harmful Algae Blooms comes from various nonpoint sources such as agricultural runoff.”
It further states: “The failure of the nonpoint polluters to change their behavior or share in any cost of the clean-up of Lake Erie will continue to burden the cities and damage the environment.”
A hearing in the case is scheduled before Judge James G. Carr on Aug. 21 (2018).
Toledo, Oregon push for stronger Lake Erie protections
ByTom Henry | BLADE STAFF WRITER Published on Aug. 10, 2018
Toledo and Oregon have become parties to a lawsuit filed by two groups that calls upon U.S. District Judge James G. Carr to order the most comprehensive cleanup strategy for western Lake Erie, known as a total maximum daily load.
The two plaintiffs, the Midwestern-based Environmental Law & Policy Center and the Toledo-based Advocates for a Clean Lake Erie, contend the federal Clean Water Act requires the highly aggressive TMDL cleanup strategy to be followed by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency once the Kasich administration finally relented in March — after years of resistance — and declared western Lake Erie’s open waters to be impaired.
They want the judge to impose a TMDL order on the U.S. EPA, with the understanding the federal agency would then require the Ohio EPA to carry out the program.
Toledo’s decision to get involved dates back to May 1, 2017, a day before Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz announced his candidacy for that office.
During an all-day tour of southeast Michigan factory farms, Mr. Kapszukiewicz, a Democrat, told The Blade there were two things he would do if elected: First, call for the impairment status and, second, have Toledo assist the two plaintiffs in their lawsuit.
He never had to call for the impairment status once elected because former Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson — a Democrat who had long sided with the Kasich administration on that issue — had a sudden change of heart last September, weeks before the election, after a thick blanket of algae appeared in downtown Toledo just as ProMedica was preparing for a major regatta near Promenade Park.
“I campaigned on cleaning up the lake and we are following through on that today by filing this motion,” Mr. Kapszukiewicz said in his prepared remarks Friday, referring to a court filing known as an amicus brief.
“We need to hold the nonpoint sources accountable and this is one way we can do it. We support the efforts of the Environmental Law & Policy Center, Advocates for a Clean Lake Erie, and Mike Ferner, who has pushed for years to get tougher regulations for polluters,” the statement said.
The city of Oregon co-signed the eight-page memorandum. That city’s mayor, Michael J. Seferian, said in his prepared remarks that it is “important for our communities to continue to work together to protect the lake.”
In the motion, the two cities argue they should be given standing as plaintiff parties because they believe the U.S. EPA “is refusing to protect the environment by continuing to allow the state of Ohio to ignore the mandates of the Clean Water Act.”
“The Clean Water Act’s requirement to create a TMDL for an impaired waterway is a solution to [a] pollution problem that involves many actors,” lawyers for the two cities wrote.
Their brief cited The Blade’s coverage of an Ohio EPA report from April that contends 88 percent of algae-forming phosphorus flowing down the Maumee River and into Lake Erie comes from nonpoint sources like agricultural runoff.
“Voluntary measures of reducing nonpoint sources of nutrients are not working,” the memo states. “Without the guidance and accountability that a TMDL analysis would provide, it is highly doubtful that the political support will exist to hold nonpoint polluters accountable in a regulatory manner. Hence, the phosphorus loading will continue unabated and Lake Erie will continue to turn green every year.”
Howard Learner, ELPC’s executive director, welcomed support from the two cities, telling The Blade it is “an important action for advancing necessary solutions to reduce agricultural runoff pollution that is contaminating Lake Erie.”
Local residents are “entitled to safe, clean drinking water supplies and a healthy Lake Erie fishery and ecosystem,” he said.
Said Mr. Ferner: “It's an encouraging difference from past city administrations, which didn't even recognize Lake Erie was impaired. It should add momentum to the lawsuit and hopefully encourage Judge Carr to make the EPA do its job.”
The U.S. EPA declined to comment, citing its longstanding policy against talking about cases in progress.
The Ohio EPA and the Kasich administration did not respond to requests for comment.
The Justice Department, in open court and in briefs, has asked Judge Carr to dismiss the case on the grounds plaintiffs got what they wanted from an impairment designation. The plaintiffs have argued the judge should retain jurisdiction to ensure the designation is more than symbolic.
Justice Department lawyers also have stated, including in a document filed Monday, the Ohio EPA has never “clearly and unambiguously abandoned its obligation to produce a TMDL.” Plaintiffs point to at least one statement by an agency official claiming the Ohio EPA is not interested in going that route.
The Kasich administration, as an alternative, proposed designating several watersheds flowing into western Lake Erie as “distressed” to make them eligible for stronger Ohio Department of Agriculture oversight of manure application. That initiative, though, has been indefinitely put on hold by the Ohio Soil and Water Conservation Commission.