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Adrian Drinking Water Study Results released: Wayne State University, 2/13/22

February 14, 2022

Adrian, Michigan February 13, 2022

Wayne State University has sent letters, including test results and a project summary, to participants in the Adrian Water Study, a 2019 project to test home tap water samples in the City of Adrian’s drinking water distribution system for the presence of Microcystis Aeruginosa (harmful algae), a species of cyanobacteria, and two of the algal toxins it can produce, microcystin and anatoxin-a.   Microcystin is a hepatoxin and anatoxin-a is a neurotoxin.  Samples collected on June 22, 2019, and again on September 14, 2019, from participating homes were analyzed using PCR (polymerase chain reaction) technology.

According to the letter, 48% of the samples collected on June 22 contained the Microcystis gene, 16% contained the microcystin gene, and none contained the anatoxin-a gene.  Of samples collected on September 14, 53% contained the Microcystis gene, 3% contained the microcystin gene, and 3% contained the anatoxin-a gene.  The project was not designed to connect algal toxins with harmful algae blooms as only tap water samples were analyzed, and it “did not repudiate or confirm the possibility of water source contamination with cyanotoxins.”  “Further evaluation of the water using independent and specialized sources is required to properly address any quality and safety issues”, according to the letter.

Brittney Dulbs, the Adrian resident who helped WSU coordinate sample collection locally, said, “The letter, minus all information that would identify individual participants and their results, has been sent to state and county agencies and to the City of Adrian.  Taste and odor problems in Adrian’s drinking water and algae blooms in Lake Adrian have been documented for many decades.  Since we aren’t connected with the analysis portion of this project and don’t have any additional information, we can’t comment on the results at this time.”

Pam Taylor, who assisted Brittney, said one concern is the potential for biofilms and colonization of the system over those years, and additional testing would be required to determine whether or not that is a problem.  Also, due to the study’s scope, samples were not analyzed for either Planktothrix or Anabaena, two genera of cyanobacteria that can also produce the toxins microcystin and anatoxin-a and taste and odor compounds.

This was an independent project, conducted by Wayne State University.  All questions about it should be directed to Andrew James at andrew.james2@wayne.edu.  All questions about Adrian’s drinking water system should be directed to the City of Adrian.

December 2018 Adrian MI drinking water: 2nd positive cyanobacteria sample found, plus Bacteroides


Michigan issues Lake Erie watershed plan to curb harmful algal blooms

January 10, 2022

David Panian, The Daily Telegram

ADRIAN — State officials last month released a management plan for improving Lake Erie water quality, but environmental groups say the plan is flawed.

The adaptive management plan is part of efforts in Michigan, Ohio and Ontario to reduce the number of harmful algal blooms that happen in Lake Erie. It is the companion document to the state’s previously released domestic action plan addressing the causes driving harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie.

“In Michigan, we are defined by our Great Lakes, and we have to work together to protect these precious natural resources for future generations and our economy,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in a news release. “We know that harmful algal blooms are caused by a number of sources in Michigan’s portion of the Western Lake Erie Basin and beyond. While it will be challenging to reach our 40 percent nutrient reduction goal, I know we can get it done. Together, we will make the investments we need to reduce algal blooms and continue working to protect our Great Lakes.”

The plan, jointly created by a senior management working group from the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD); the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE); and Department of Natural Resources (DNR), is a learning-based management approach, the state’s news release said. Michigan’s adaptive management framework will work in two ways: evaluate the outcomes of deliberate, measured actions taken to reduce phosphorous; and develop and implement scientifically driven research projects to address gaps and uncertainties in existing phosphorus reduction methods and technologies.

Farm Bureau Contested Case Challenge to Michigan’s 2020 NPDES CAFO General Permit – Michigan Farm Bureau, et al.; Docket No. 20-009773

January 4, 2022

Michigan Surface Waters at Risk – 2020 Michigan NPDES CAFO Permit Revisions Threatened

Livestock waste in Michigan’s surface water makes our inland lakes, streams, and our Great Lakes undrinkable and unsafe for recreation. Pathogens and parasites in livestock manure make people and animals sick.  Excess nutrients, especially phosphorus, from livestock manure destroy streams, cause fish kills, and help cause dangerous toxic algae blooms.  Downstream communities that get their drinking water from inland sources or from the Great Lakes pay the transferred cost of pollution in the form of upgrades to their municipal drinking water systems. 

[caption id="attachment_3028" align="alignnone" width="507"]August 15, 2018 – Discharge from liquid manure application on tiled field to tributary of South Branch, River Raisin. Sample analyzed by City of Adrian lab showed excess E. coli of 101,100/100mL, more than 300 times the existing TMDL limit for total body contact in this watershed. August 15, 2018 – Discharge from liquid manure application on tiled field to tributary of South Branch, River Raisin. Sample analyzed by City of Adrian lab showed excess E. coli of 101,100/100mL, more than 300 times the existing TMDL limit for total body contact in this watershed. Photo Credit: ECCSCM[/caption]

In 2014 we saw the human cost of pollution as 500,000 residents were without water due to a harmful algal bloom in Lake Erie. Unfortunately, Michigan has failed to meet its 2020 phosphorus reduction goals for western Lake Erie under its Domestic Action Plan and is unlikely to meet its 2025 goals under current conditions.

It’s imperative that we preserve Michigan’s strong NPDES CAFO permit – one of the few tools for controlling agricultural runoff – so we can prevent pollution from these megafarms, keep Michigan’s surface water safe and clean, and protect Michigan’s precious ecosystems. The water protection safeguards within the State NPDES 2020 General Permit renewal are at risk of being overturned by Farm Bureau and industry petitioners. This challenge is currently being reviewed by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).

Industry Petitioners are asserting two main grievances with the 2020 General Permit renewal.  They claim EGLE does not have the authority under state law to condition the 2020 permit the way it did and even if it did, those permit terms violate both state law and the Michigan and U.S. Constitutions.  They also claim that the restrictions in the 2020 permit are not grounded in science.

ECCSCM and other Environmental intervenors disagree with these assertions.  First, EGLE has delegated authority from the EPA to develop an NPDES permit that is protective of water quality. EGLE has similar delegated authority to oversee and protect water quality for things like wetlands and inland lakes and streams (Part 301 and 303 of NREPA). EGLE not only has the authority but a mandate under state and federal law to issue permits strong enough to protect water quality.

Second, the petitioners also assert that EGLE improperly passed ‘new’ rules under this permit without going through the rulemaking procedures. That is inaccurate. EGLE already has the authority to issue this NPDES permit, including the challenged conditions, under NREPA and existing rules. Changing the standards within the permit (e.g. new requirements for setbacks, reporting information, etc.) does not equate to promulgating new rules.

Third, the science clearly shows that water quality in Michigan is degrading, and CAFOs significantly contribute to that trend, especially in certain watersheds. As Michigan’s Adaptative Management Plan for Lake Erie states, “Heidelberg University’s National Center for Water Quality Research has monitored and analyzed River Raisin annual and spring TP loads and SRP loads since 1999. Analysis of data from 2019 indicates that an apparent declining trend from 2008 to 2016, that was reported in the 2018 DAP, did not continue, while TP loads appear to have increased since then, or at least returned to approximately the long-term average.” The changes in the 2020 General Permit aim to reduce excessive, and unchecked nutrient applications to fields receiving CAFO waste. Along with more transparent reporting requirements, the 2020 permit implements more robust setback distances, minimizes the application of waste on frozen/snow covered ground, and restricts where CAFO waste may be applied in watersheds already impaired by nutrients and bacteria.

[caption id="attachment_3030" align="alignnone" width="936"]Solid manure application on snow-covered, frozen ground. South Branch – River Raisin TMDL reach. See next photo – on March 30, 2019, melting snow and manure ponding around tile riser which drains to the South Branch of the River Raisin. Photo Credit ECCSCM Solid manure application on snow-covered, frozen ground. South Branch – River Raisin TMDL reach. See next photo – on March 30, 2019, melting snow and manure ponding around tile riser which drains to the South Branch of the River Raisin. Photo Credit: ECCSCM[/caption] [caption id="attachment_3031" align="alignnone" width="556"]Manure from field application shown in January 17 photo above on snow-covered, frozen ground melting into the orange tile riser pipe, which carries it through sub-surface drain tile to the South Branch of the River Raisin. Photo Credit ECCSCM Manure from field application shown in January 17 photo above on snow-covered, frozen ground melting into the orange tile riser pipe, which carries it through sub-surface drain tile to the South Branch of the River Raisin. Photo Credit: ECCSCM[/caption]

People downstream are impacted by excessive manure applications.  Great Lakes tourism is negatively impacted by closed beaches due to excess E. coli, and no sport fishing because of harmful algae blooms caused by excess nutrients.   Inland lakes summer tourism is affected in the same way.  The majority of Michigan’s citizens get their drinking water either directly from the Great Lakes, or from inland surface water sources.  The cost of degraded source water is externalized by polluters to the detriment of downstream municipalities and residents. Contaminated surface water is unsuitable for crop irrigation.  Nutrients and bacteria in manure contribute to the destruction of aquatic life (plant and animal) and the eutrophication of tributary streams.

[caption id="attachment_3029" align="alignnone" width="1112"]Inlet to Lime Lake. Stream passes through manure application fields. Lime Creek/Bean Creek/Tiffin/Maumee watershed. Sample analyzed by MDEQ lab showed E. coli at 730/100mL, more than twice the limit for total body contact, in this TMDL watershed. Samples analyzed by Helix Biolab showed two genera of Cyanobacteria (harmful algae), two cyanotoxins, and Bacteroides with cattle DNA. Grass buffers along stream bank. Photo credit ECCSCM Inlet to Lime Lake. Stream passes through manure application fields. Lime Creek/Bean Creek/Tiffin/Maumee watershed. Sample analyzed by MDEQ lab showed E. coli at 730/100mL, more than twice the limit for total body contact, in this TMDL watershed. Samples analyzed by Helix Biolab showed two genera of Cyanobacteria (harmful algae), two cyanotoxins, and Bacteroides with cattle DNA. Grass buffers along stream bank. Photo credit: ECCSCM[/caption]

While the 2020 CAFO General Permit is in contested case status, the Department maintains use of the 2015 General Permit standards.   All parties – EGLE, the Farm Bureau, and Intervenors have filed initial testimony and responded to other testimony through rebuttal.  After cross examination, the record will be closed, and the parties will have an opportunity to brief their arguments based on the contents of that record.  We do not yet have a final briefing schedule, but it will likely take several months to complete briefing. After briefing is complete, the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) will issue a decision on the permit.  There is no prescribed time frame for this decision, but with a case this complex, it will likely take him several months to reach conclusions.  Once the ALJ issues the permit, it will go to the EGLE Director for signature.  There is then a possibility that the permit would go to the review board, who would have an opportunity to overrule both the ALJ and the EGLE Director. In other words, the ALJ decision is just the first step in a longer procedural process to getting a final permit.



The misbegotten promise of anaerobic digesters – The Counter

March 9, 2021

by Jessica McKenzie

Federal agencies and state governments are spending millions on anaerobic digesters to wring renewable energy from animal poop. But critics say “cow power” from factory farms is neither clean nor green.

At a glance, anaerobic digesters seem like the perfect solution to one of society’s many messes: They take the waste from cows, pigs, and chickens raised en masse for human consumption, and from literal shit generate energy to power our cars, homes, and electronics. What could be more renewable than manure?

To that end, last year, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) announced $16 million in funding for new and existing on-farm anaerobic digesters, an additional windfall for a sector that has already received more than $26 million from the agency. It’s a big investment, but NYSERDA is just one government agency bankrolling the digester industry: A database of renewable energy policies and programs across the country lists 96 financial incentives for anaerobic digesters, including property tax reductions, corporate tax credits, loan programs, grant programs, and performance-based incentives.

Every day, a 1,400-pound dairy cow will generate about 120 pounds or 14 gallons of feces and urine. At larger dairies, that can really add up. Take Fair Oaks Farms in Indiana, for example, home to 38,000 dairy cows. One of Fair Oaks’ on-site digesters takes in 650,000 gallons of manure from 15,000 cows every day—and that is less than half of the manure the farm produces. It is an almost unfathomable amount of cow crap. Without a digester, disposing of it all is tricky, and the more you have, the harder it is.




Ohio EPA agrees to TMDL for western Lake Erie – Toledo Blade

February 13, 2020

The state of Ohio appears ready to institute something environmental groups have been clamoring for since Toledo’s 2014 algae-driven water crisis: a Total Maximum Daily Load, or TMDL, for western Lake Erie.

TMDLs are so-called “pollution diets” for ecosystems. They are designed to track down specific sources of pollution, and hold polluters accountable. In the case of Ohio’s agricultural industry, a TMDL would, in theory, limit the amount of phosphorus, nitrogen, and other fertilizers that farmers are allowed to let into area waterways on a case-by-case basis. Such nutrients grow algal blooms in Lake Erie’s western basin.

The former Kasich administration and, more recently, the current DeWine administration, resisted calls for a western Lake Erie TMDL. But late Thursday, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency said it “will develop a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) for the Western Basin [of Lake Erie] over the next two to three years.”

That statement was contained in the fourth paragraph of a news release in which the Ohio EPA announced it had released the draft 2020 water quality report about the general status of state waterways for discussion. Such reports are required to be submitted to the U.S. EPA once every two years.


U.S.- CANADA Board: The Great Lakes Have a Manure Problem

January 26, 2020

The Center for Public Integrity - Jamie Smith Hopkins, Environment Editor and Senior Reporter

“It is a profound injustice that the citizens of Toledo have had to clean up a mess that other people have made,” Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz said in an interview.

An advisory panel for a U.S.-Canada commission is calling for government agencies in the Great Lakes region to overhaul how they manage farm animal manure, recommendations intended to protect people from toxins fouling area water.

The report by the International Joint Commission’s Great Lakes Water Quality Board was completed in September but made public Jan. 24, the day after an investigation by the Center for Public Integrity, Grist and The World into Lake Erie’s manure problem. The board’s report found that manure running off farm fields “contributes significantly” to the overloading of nutrients such as phosphorus that fuel toxic algae blooms in the region, Lake Erie included.

That manure must go somewhere. Too often, it’s being applied to fields at elevated levels that increase the risk of runoff, according to a review of Ohio permit documentation for farms in the western Lake Erie region by Public Integrity and its partners.


Lake Erie Turns Toxic Every Summer. Voluntary Approach Total Failure

January 23, 2020

The Center for Public Integrity - Jamie Smith Hopkins, Environment Editor and Senior Reporter

OREGON, Ohio — It was sunny and 82 degrees, a perfect August day for a trip to the public beach just outside Toledo. But hardly anyone was here. And no one was swimming. “DANGER,” warned a red sign posted in the sand near the edge of Lake Erie. “Avoid all contact with the water.”

The reason: The water was contaminated with algae-like cyanobacteria, which can produce toxins that sicken people and kill pets. This is the noxious goo that cut off about 500,000 Toledo-area residents from their tap water for three days in 2014 and made at least 110 people ill

It suddenly seems like harmful algae blooms are everywhere. In some cases, they’re hard to miss, forming a colorful layer of muck on waterways; in others, they lurk below the surface, fortifying themselves before bursting back into view.  

Hazardous algae scuttled swimming at Mississippi’s mainland beaches on the Gulf of Mexico for most of the last summer. They killed dozens of dolphins and hurt tourist-dependent businesses in Florida over a 16-month stretch that finally ended in February 2019. Scientists suspect they’re causing clusters of deadly liver disease across the country. In rare cases, they’ve killed people shortly after contact.

Even as toxic algae triggered no-drink orders in at least three more communitiesin 2018, data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency shows just how much worse the problem could get: Nearly 150 public water systems in 33 states have reported spotting algae blooms near their intakes in reservoirs or other water sources since 2017, in many cases multiple times, according to an analysis by the Center for Public Integrity, Grist and The World.




Slip-slidin’ Away

November 19, 2019

Livestock sewage dumping on farm fields continues in the Western Lake Erie Basin.  Today, we have two more examples of manure application on snow, thawing, saturated ground.  Snow from last week is melting, freeze/thaw soil conditions, ground is saturated.  The roads around these fields are a mess, with a trail of manure and mud on Beecher Rd. in Hudson Township.

Cash crops won’t be planted until next spring, so there’s no need for fertilizer.

First up - Last week before roughly 8" of snow fell here, Hartland Farms applied liquid manure on corn stubble.  It wasn't incorporated.  If this field is designated as "no-till" (and many of them are), they don't have to incorporate this within 24 hours; in fact/ they don't have to incorporate it at all.  (This is true both in Michigan and for Ohio's "not-a-ban" rule.) East side of Hughes Hwy., south of Beecher Rd., Bear Creek/Raisin watershed.

Today, more than a week later, Hartland is applying dry solids on a different part of this same field.  The sludge you see along the bottom of the picture is actually the road itself, a mixture of mud and manure and runoff.  Southeast corner of Hughes and Beecher, Bear Creek/Raisin watershed.  Hughes Highway just south of Beecher is a mess right now.

Moving west, Hartland is also applying dry solids on the west side of Dowling Highway between Beecher and Cadmus Rds., Bean Creek/Tiffin/Maumee watershed.  Poop wagon dropping its load just went over the top of the hill, out of view, as this photo was taken.

Farther south on Dowling, same application. You can see the snow hasn't entirely melted yet.

We promise you, this isn’t just happening here.  Our CAFOs aren’t the only ones who have to dispose of their waste in these conditions.

The one sure thing about manure farming is that production never stops, and it has to go somewhere.  Just like flushing your toilet, except instead of going through the appropriate wastewater treatment, this sewage goes right onto farm fields.



Ohio cities want pig manure treated like human waste to protect Lake Erie from harmful algal blooms

October 3, 2019

By  -

CLEVELAND, Ohio – The cities of Toledo and Oregon, as well as surrounding Lucas County, want to stop manure from causing harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie.

So they’re asking the state to require two proposed confined-animal feeding operations -- with a total of 14,400 swine in the Maumee River watershed -- to treat pig waste to the same standards as human sewage.

“For communities in the western basin, we’re bearing the cost of the algae problem in the lake,” Oregon City Administrator Mike Beazley said in a phone interview. “The state loves to talk about it. And likes to spend money on things that don’t really work... We’re just asking that they hold those facilities and industries to the same standards that they hold cities.”

Ohio has spent millions of dollars to address the annual scourge of toxic algae in Lake Erie. Family farmers have adopted new practices, to cut back on phosphorus from commercial fertilizers flowing into the water. Cities have added expensive technology to treat drinking water for toxins.

Still, EPA research shows no decrease in phosphorus flowing into the lake.

The bloom this year was extensive, despite the fact that a rainy spring kept many farmers from planting fields and spreading fertilizer.

The Chicago-based Environmental Law and Policy Center is suing the U.S. EPA over the pollution, arguing the agency must force Ohio to set a total maximum daily load of phosphorus allowed in the Maumee River. Lucas County has joined the lawsuit, and the cities of Toledo and Oregon have been recognized as interested parties.

“The state has spent way over $1 billion and it’s manifestly not working,” said Rob Michaels, an attorney for the Environmental Law and Policy Center. “New confined animal feeding operations have been springing up all over the watershed… The idea that they want to pursue alternatives and build on that is plainly incorrect. It’s like a kid’s excuse for not doing their homework. It makes no sense.”

Last week, during a four-hour hearing, a federal judge said he did not understand how Ohio plans to meet its pledge of reducing phosphorus by 40 percent by 2025, under a 2016 pact with Ontario and Michigan. The state is nowhere near meeting an interim goal of 20 percent by 2020.


Toledo officials spurred by prospect of more livestock farms – Toledo Blade

October 2, 2019

Toledo Blade - Tom Henry

Elected officials in the Toledo area have taken a new approach in their ongoing battle against large livestock operations that contribute to Lake Erie’s harmful algae blooms.

They’re asking the Ohio Department of Agriculture to require that all manure from such facilities get treated to the standards of human-made sewage before it’s spread on fields as fertilizer.

Toledo City Councilman Nick Komives also addressed the county board, stating that Toledo shouldn’t have to keep spending “layers upon layers of money” keeping algal toxins out of the city water supply when nutrients that grow algae could be better controlled at the source.

“CAFOs impact both water and air quality,” Mr. Komives said. “These are factories we’re talking about that are producing as much waste — if not more — than cities.”

All three commissioners spoke out against CAFOs.

Commissioner Pete Gerken said Ohio appears to be “engaged in almost a whack-a-mole policy” when it comes to addressing algae-forming nutrient runoff, being more reactive than proactive and waiting to address problems as they pop up.

“We are never going to get to that 40 percent reduction with the policies in place today by the state of Ohio,” Mr. Gerken said, referring to a non-binding goal the states of Ohio and Michigan signed with Ontario a few years ago to reduce phosphorus releases into area waterways 20 percent by 2020 and 40 percent by 2025, compared to 2008 levels. Scientists also have said the state is nowhere close to meeting those goals yet.

Mr. Gerken also referenced a federal court lawsuit that Lucas County has going against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency with the Environmental Law & Policy Center, as well as Advocates for a Clean Lake Erie. It centers around allegations that the U.S. EPA is failing to enforce the federal Clean Water Act by requiring Ohio to adopt a program with mandatory controls on CAFOs and other major sources of runoff.