Freshwater Weekly – July 21st, 2018

This week: Guelph-Eramosa Township Council Shut Down Water-Intensive Glass Plant + Ohio Governor Cracks Down on Algae-Fueling Pollution + Poll Shows Strong Support for Great Lakes + Michigan Ignores Early PFAS Warning + Great Lakes Plastic Pollution

Guelph-Eramosa Township Council Shut Down Water-Intensive Glass Plant Proposal, Received Pressure from Local Activists

A proposal to build a massive glass plant outside the western border of Guelph, Ontario was rejected by the Guelph-Eramosa Township council in a 4-1 vote this past Monday. Xinyi Glass, the company behind the proposal, said the two-million-square-foot facility would need 1.56 million litres of water per day, an unacceptable amount for many residents in an already stressed watershed.

An activist group named GET Concerned collected 1,700 resident signatures on a petition opposing the glass plant and helped organize a turnout of 300 people to the township council meeting. Their argument centered around enforcing a zoning bylaw that dictates industrial development must be “dry use,” meaning it does not use significant water. Ultimately, the Township Council agreed that the project proposal did not comply with that zoning bylaw.

Are the Great Lakes Plastic Dumping Grounds?

Plastic pollution in the world’s oceans is well-documented. Now, there’s an increased interest in examining plastic in the Great Lakes. Read more.

Ohio Governor Orders Lake Erie Nutrient Pollution Reduction After Legislature Falters

Ohio’s farming industry is worth an estimated $2.4 billion—it’s massive. It’s also the primary source of nutrient pollution in Ohio watersheds emptying into Lake Erie. That’s why Ohio Governor Kasich’s recent announcement is significant.

On July 11th, Kasich signed an executive order that aims to place strict restrictions on nutrient pollution that fuels Lake Erie’s algae growth. It’s a result of months of threats that he would act if the legislature did not, stating that the state needed tighter rules to satisfy an agreement to decrease phosphorus in Lake Erie by 40 percent.

Given that the Governor bypassed the legislature, we can expect strong pushback and potential delays—or even a policy reversal under the next administration. Freshwater Future is enthusiastic about this positive step forward, but we’ll be working to make sure these changes are implemented in a more permanent fashion.

Poll: 88 Percent of Great Lakes Residents Agree that Lakes Deserve Bigger Investments

The International Joint Commission (IJC)—a bi-national commission that reports to both the U.S. and Canadian governments—released new poll results that show stronger support for the Great Lakes than in its last basin-wide poll in 2015. 4,250 residents across Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, New York, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Ontario were randomly sampled by the IJC’s Great Lakes Water Quality Board.

Overall, 88 percent believe more should be done to protect the lakes, an uptick of 3 percent. More than half of respondents believe there are too few regulations to protect the lakes, compared with 46 percent in the 2015 poll. Some 55 percent said they are willing to have costs for some consumer products rise to get greater protection of the lakes. Most believe additional rules will either have no impact on the economy or will help improve it. Four of every five respondents agreed citizens have responsibility as individuals to help protect the lakes. Read more.

New Documents Show the State of Michigan Ignored Early PFAS Warning

Robert Delaney, a 30-plus year employee at the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, delivered a 93-page report outlining his concerns about shockingly high PFAS levels in fish and documenting known pollution that indicated “a significant exposure to Michigan citizens and ecosystems.” “Communities with fire training facilities, other Department of Defense (DOD) bases, metal platers, other major airports, major transportation corridors, and other industrialized areas all could have extensive contamination by (PFAS),” Delaney wrote. According to the DEQ, of the 15 recommendations in Delaney’s report, only the proposal for statewide surface water sampling was acted upon before the fall of 2017.

Now a national concern—particularly at military bases—PFAS has been detected at 31 sites in 15 Michigan communities. Contamination sites have also been detected in each of the other Great Lakes states. While Michigan is now considered a leader on PFAS contamination response relative to other states, many affected communities are raising questions about the missed opportunity for earlier action.

While PFAS have useful commercial and industrial applications, these chemicals also persist in the environment and in people (they do not break down into less harmful forms), and a number of them have been shown to be very toxic even at low levels.