Tag: MDEQ

Michigan DEQ Ignores Law to OK Brine Disposal Wells


With neither review nor transparency, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality on June 1, 2018, granted permits to Michigan Potash Operating for three deep-injection wells to dispose of brine waste in the heart of a wetland complex about five miles southwest of the city of Evart, in southern Osceola County.

The latest approval comes after the MDEQ last fall granted the Colorado-based company eight production well permits to extract nearly 2 million gallons of water per day as part of a proposed potash solution mining operation. Potash is a potassium-rich salt used to fertilize crops. The mine would use the fresh water to create a hot brine that dissolves potash underground. After it’s brought to the surface and separated, the waste brine would be injected deep underground.

As a water law and policy center dedicated to protecting the Great Lakes, FLOW (For Love of Water) remains deeply concerned about public trust and other legal concerns regarding the project’s intent and scope, which could involve use of 725 million gallons of water annually, more than triple the quantity that Nestlé is targeting just 8 miles way in the same watershed. FLOW has previously raised objections with the MDEQ over concerns that include potential harm to the water table and local wells, salt-water contamination of the aquifer from below, and reduced flows to streams, lakes, wetlands, the Muskegon River, and Lake Michigan. 

Notably missing from the MDEQ’s approval of Michigan Potash’s permit is any reference to the application’s regulatory compliance with the standards of Michigan Environmental Protection Act (MEPA) and public trust common law, as well as off-reservation treaty rights to fish, hunt, and gather. MEPA prohibits agency authorization of private conduct that may pollute, impair, or destroy the environment if there is a feasible and prudent alternative. MCL 324.1705(2). And proposed actions that affect off-reservation treaty rights require the State of Michigan to consult with the relevant sovereign tribes.

Bottom line, it is the cumulative impact to our fresh water resources that we must vigilantly protect. Contamination of surface and groundwater in Michigan is very real, particularly with the recent discoveries of PFAS contamination sites in Kent County (Wolverine World Wide) and Iosco County (Wursmith Air Force Base). No matter where you live in Michigan – in the most water-rich region in the U.S. and the world – we cannot afford to take our drinking water for granted.

Stay tuned to the FLOW website for period updates on this topic, as well as the website of our allies at the Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation.


Abrupt cancellation of conflict-plagued Line 5 study sparks demand for transparency from DEQ

LANSING – Oil & Water Don’t Mix today said the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s decision to cancel a study that was rife with conflicts of interest amplifies the need to shut down the Line 5 pipelines once and for all – and called on state leaders to disclose all details of the draft study that was plagued by conflicts of interest.

“Citizens groups have been sounding the alarm bells for months about the massive conflicts of interest between Big Oil companies and the departments that are charged with regulating them, and this cancellation raises more questions than it answers,” said David Holtz, Chair of Sierra Club Michigan Chapter and Oil & Water Don’t Mix campaign coordinator. “The State of Michigan owes all citizens a full account of how and why this study was allowed to continue, even in light of the massive conflicts of interest. Michiganders deserve answers.”

“This study was tainted by huge conflicts of interest and a complete lack of transparency from the state, all with Line 5 continuing to pose a clear danger to our Great Lakes, our economy, and our way of life,” said Liz Kirkwood, executive director of For Love of Water. “In addition to a full and complete disclosure of the facts regarding this cancellation, we demand that Attorney General Schuette start acting like the lead attorney for the people of Michigan, who elected him to protect us and the Great Lakes, and shut down Line 5 without delay.”

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Don’t delay! Submit your public comment today!

 

Click here to read the post on the Michigan Petroleum Pipelines website! 

 

 

Action Alert: Enbridge Trying to Squeeze More Life Out of “Line 5” in the Mackinac Straits

Take Action Now!

Urgent Threat: Enbridge is courting an oil spill disaster again in Michigan, and this time the Great Lakes are at risk. The public has until June 29, 2017, to oppose the Canadian energy transport giant’s request for state permission to squeeze more life out of a cracked, dented, and deformed pair of pipelines that push 23 million gallons of oil a day across the bottom of the Mackinac Straits, where Lake Michigan and Lake Huron meet. The request to continue the piecemeal patch up of the 64-year-old “Line 5” pipelines threatens the drinking water source for more than 40 million people, the economic engine for the Great Lakes region, and a way of life for millions of North Americans.

Terrible Track Record: Recall that Enbridge in 2010 caused the largest inland oil spill in U.S. history when its southern Michigan pipeline ruptured and dumped more than one million gallons of heavy tar sands oil into the Kalamazoo River watershed. That failure sickened 150 people, and permanently drove 150 families from their homes, taking four years and over $1.2 billion to clean up to the extent possible. Enbridge’s Line 5 has a similar dark history, with at least 29 spills totaling more than one million gallons of oil spread along its path in Michigan and Wisconsin since 1953.

Damage Done: Now Enbridge has applied to the State of Michigan for a permit to install more underwater anchor supports on its antiquated Line 5 pipelines in the Mackinac Straits, which the University of Michigan calls the “worst possible place” for a Great Lakes oil spill. The 22 anchor supports are another belated attempt to keep Line 5 from shifting, bending, and grinding on the bottom in the powerful underwater currents at the Straits, but the damage is already done. These supports are merely the latest in a series of stopgap measures that ignore decades of metal fatigue and stress on the pipeline, which is now well past its 50-year life expectancy and should be permanently shut down as soon as possible.

Follow the Facts

Public records reveal that…

  • From the 1970s through the 1990s, Enbridge installed grout bags to prop up Line 5, attempting to meet the state’s requirement under the 1953 easement to support the steel pipeline at least every 75 feet along the publicly owned bottom of the Great Lakes.
  • In 2001, Enbridge declared an emergency on Line 5 in the Straits to stabilize stretches or spans of the pipeline that had become dangerously unsupported for over 130 feet because of “washouts” of the lake bottom and grout bags caused by swift currents that, records show, were underestimated when the pipeline was designed. 
  • Recently it was revealed that Enbridge was out of compliance likely for decades with the legally required safety margin, allowing 16 spans of Line 5 to go unsupported for lengths greater than 140 feet, with the longest being 224 feet on the east pipeline and 286 feet on the west pipeline – nearly four times the legal limit.
  • With no reliable model to predict lakebed washouts due to the highly dynamic nature of currents in the Mackinac Straits, Enbridge cannot meet its legal duty under the state easement to prudently operate this pipeline.
  • Enbridge incorrectly categorizes its proposed patchwork response to Line 5’s major structural defects as “routine maintenance” when the company has, in fact, been systematically expanding the capacity of Line 5 and Line 6b in southern Michigan to carry Canadian oil heading mostly back to Canadian refineries and to overseas markets.

This strategy has previously enabled the company to avoid State of Michigan review of the safety and necessity of the pipeline itself, and dodge the legally required consideration of alternative routes and methods that do not threaten the Great Lakes.

Take Action Now

The public has until June 29, 2017, to submit comments to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality opposing Enbridge’s bid to keep Line 5 on life support and seeking to prevent a Great Lakes oil spill disaster.

  • Submit comments at http://www.oilandwaterdontmix.org/anchor_structure_public_comment
  • Draw upon information in this Action Alert, and from www.OilandWaterDontMix.org, to offer objections that are specific and factual.
  • Be sure to demand a public hearing and call for the Michigan DEQ’s full review of the environmental impact of the Enbridge request and feasible and prudent alternatives to Line 5, as required by law.
  • Written comments will be made part of the record and should reference application number 2RD-DFDK-Y35G.

 

Thank you! 

Media Release: FLOW Urges State Rejection of Nestlé Corporation’s Bid to Increase Water Extraction

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                              April 21, 2017

Contact: Liz Kirkwood, Executive Director                                                Email: Liz@FLOWforWater.org
FLOW (For Love of Water)                                                     Office: (231) 944-1568; Cell: (570) 872-4956

Contact: James Olson, Legal Advisor                                                                         Office: (231) 944-1568
FLOW (For Love of Water)                                                                                               Cell: (231) 499-8831

 

TRAVERSE CITY, MI – Nestlé Corporation’s bid to massively accelerate its drawdown of groundwater in Osceola County for sale as bottled water falls far short of the bar set by Michigan water law, and must be denied, FLOW said today.

In official independent scientific and legal comments as the state today closes its public comment period, FLOW said the permit application submitted by the world’s largest bottled water company lacks key information legally required by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to approve the request. Impartial scientific analysis of a complete application likely would show significant harm to natural resources, according to a review of Nestlé’s submission by scientists hired by FLOW.

“The more deeply you look at this application, the more superficial it proves to be,” said James Olson, founder of FLOW, a Traverse City-based water law and policy center dedicated to upholding the public’s rights to use and benefit from the Great Lakes and its tributaries. “Nestlé has self-servingly offered more baseless assumptions than substance in its application. They’ve put clay material to minimize effects without finding out if it’s really there. They’ve put 14 inches into their groundwater model, when it’s probably closer to 9 inches.”

Nestlé Ice Mountain is seeking a state permit to increase its spring water withdrawal from 150 to 400 gallons-per-minute (gpm), or as much as 576,000 gallons-per-day, from a well in the headwaters of Chippewa and Twin creeks in Osceola County, threatening public resources in the Muskegon River watershed.

“While Flint residents continue to be deprived of safe public drinking water and struggle to pay $200 a month for their home and health, the state is contemplating the giveaway to Nestlé of 200 million gallons of groundwater a year in exchange for a $200 state filing fee,” said Olson. “State regulators are required under public trust law to protect the public’s water resources for sustainable use by the public, not give it away to a private corporation for resale back to the public to which it belongs.”

FLOW legal and scientific team found that Nestlé’s application:

  • Fails to fully evaluate existing conditions. Data collected between 2001 and the onset of pumping in 2009 were not evaluated, nor were the seven years of data gathered since pumping at 150 gpm began. The data provided are insufficient for the public or the DEQ to fully assess the impacts of either past pumping or to provide an adequate baseline for identification of future harm to natural resources.
  • Lacks adequate information about the predicted effects of their requested pumping. The validity of the groundwater model predictions of the pre-pumping conditions of the system is not adequately established, nor are the predictions of effects of existing pumping within the system adequately established.
  • Neglects to consider, or provide a reasonable basis to determine, the individual and cumulative harm from pumping. The application does not address the cumulative effects of pumping at the proposed 400 gpm rate, but rather solely discusses the effects of the increase in pumping from 150 to 400 gpm.

Because of these gaps, the application skirts potentially significant environmental harm, with Nestlé failing to report:

  • Cumulative reductions of stream flows, which would exceed 15 percent in several locations, according to FLOW’s analysis.
  • Significantly reduced, seasonal wetland flooding that likely would occur and that is essential to the proper function of the natural system.
  • Increased harm to natural resources during years of low precipitation.

“If Michigan’s water withdrawal law has any meaning, the DEQ must deny the application,” Olson said.

The DEQ will close the public comment period at 5 p.m. on April 21. Written comments before the deadline can be emailed to deq-eh@michigan.gov or mailed to: MDEQ, Drinking Water and Municipal Assistance Division, Environmental Health Section, P.O. Box 30421, Lansing, Michigan, 48909-7741.

Nestlé’s application, supporting data and documents are posted on the DEQ website: http://www.michigan.gov/deq/0,4561,7-135-3313-399187–,00.html

To learn more about FLOW’s efforts to challenge the Nestlé permit and protect the Great Lakes and Michigan’s groundwater, visit our website at www.FLOWforWater.org.

To read our Letter and Expert Report to the DEQ on Nestlé’s application, please click here.

 

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FLOW Letter to Michigan DEQ regarding Nestlé

On December 16, 2016, FLOW (For Love of Water) wrote a letter and formally requested that the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) cancel its approval of Nestlé’s application to more than double its groundwater pumping for commercial water bottling from a well northwest of Evart, in Osceola County.

After conducting an independent assessment, FLOW’s environmental attorneys determined that the MDEQ made a serious legal error in January 2016, when it approved the Swiss food and beverage giant Nestlé’s site-review request for increased pumping under the state Safe Drinking Water Act, but failed to require a parallel application and review under the Water Withdrawal Law.

Here is the letter that was submitted:

 

Public Comments to MI DNR, DEQ, and DARD on Aquaculture in the Great Lakes and Tributaries of Michigan

Aquaculture –often in the form of networks of enclosed pens that exclusively occupy a large area of surface water and underlying bottomlands—raises substantial legal, environmental, aquatic resource, and water use impact issues. Specifically, the use of public waters and bottomlands for the occupancy and operation of concentrated fish production raises a number of grave concerns, including: (1) exclusion of public access and other uses, (2) likely impacts from wastes and nutrient loading, (3) escaped fish pumped with antibiotics, and (4) interference with rights of boating, fishing, swimming, and other forms of paramount public uses that are protected by the public trust doctrine.

By definition concentrated aquaculture or fish farms that occupy surface and deeper water areas and occupy or are anchored or supported by bottomlands of the Great Lakes are subject to the common law public trust doctrine. Accordingly, any decision involving enclosed, pen concentrated fish-farming operations must be framed through the standards set forth under the public trust doctrine. This comment outlines the public trust framework critical to any state decision involving aquaculture in the Great Lakes and connected navigable waterways. Read the full comments here.

An Overview of the Flint Water Crisis

By Meredith Murray, FLOW intern

What are regulatory agencies doing to fix the problem?

Currently, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is conducting an investigation over the steps taken to address Flint’s drinking water issues following State Representative Dan Kildee (D-Flint) and State Minority Leader Jim Ananich’s (D-Flint) written requests. Along with the EPA investigation, Michigan legislators are pushing for a review of the controversy over the EPA’s oversight on Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ).

State Representatives Sheldon Neeley (D-Flint) and Phil Phelps (D-Flushing) assert that MDEQ withheld information on the water quality from the Flint River in order to meet federal drinking water quality standards. The legislators are also requesting for the dismissal of Dan Wyant as the Director of the MDEQ.

What went wrong?

Flint’s drinking water crisis began in April of 2014 when the city of Flint decided to stop receiving their drinking water from the Detroit water supply. The plan was to switch over to a new water supplier (Karegnandi Water Authority). The high water rates imposed on Flint residents and budget cuts in the Flint financial management plan were the reasons behind the switch in suppliers.

But there was a problem: Karegnandi will not be done constructing their new water lines to draw water from Lake Huron until sometime in 2016. In the meantime, Flint officials decided to temporarily draw their drinking water from the Flint River. However, as soon as the switch was made from the Detroit water supply to the Flint River, Flint residents complained about the odor and coloration of their drinking water.

Resident complaints grew, and ‘boiling advisories’ were soon issued to kill off harmful bacteria  in the water due to the aging water lines. Water tests soon revealed high levels of a chlorination byproduct linked to cancer and other associated health problems.

Even with the drinking water advisory notices, residents were told by city officials that the water was safe to drink.

In September of 2015 – over a year after extracting water from the Flint River – a group of researchers from Virginia Tech tested hundreds of water samples and found 40% of the samples to contain high levels of lead. Due to the corrosive nature of the Flint River water, lead from the aging pipes was leaching into the City’s drinking water, and blood tests of Flint children showed elevated lead levels.

These results clearly indicated that Flint had to stop receiving their drinking water from the Flint River, and reconnect to the Detroit water supply. The switch was made October 16, 2015 to the Detroit water supply with the help of $9.35 million authorized by Governor Rick Snyder.

Is the problem fixed?

The problem to Flint’s water crisis is not resolved. Even after three weeks with the city of Flint reconnected to the Detroit water supply, advisories are being given to hold off on drinking the tap water unless there is an installed water filter. Leaching of lead into the drinking water from old pipes is still possible because the protective layer to prevent corrosion in the pipes is worn away.

Flint residents are also facing the issue of water shutoffs. Many Flint residents stopped paying their water bills once they found out their water was not drinkable. But after Flint reconnected with the Detroit water supply, the city started notifying those residents that they will issue shut offs if bills are not paid.

For up-to-date information on the Flint water crisis you can visit: http://flintwaterstudy.org/

 

MDEQ Supervisor of Wells issues Oil and Gas Instruction

According to a press release issued by Citizens for Oil-Free Backyards, earlier this week the Supervisor of Wells, Harold R. Fitch, issued an instruction concerning the regulation of oil and gas drilling in high population density areas. The instruction, aptly named Oil and Gas Development in High Population Density Areas, is an important legislative step in the right direction to regulate oil and gas development. That being said, the instruction’s scope is extremely narrow. For example, due to population minimums stated in the instruction, it applies to only three Michigan counties. For more information, read the full press release here.