Michigan fights to contain emerging chemical contaminant
The Huron River joins 35 contamination sites across the state — a list that includes Lake St. Clair and the Clinton River in Macomb County, a small community water supply in Parchment, residential wells around a Rockford tannery in West Michigan, and marshes, rivers and lakes around military bases in Oscoda, Alpena and Grayling.
State Rep. Winnie Brinks, D-Grand Rapids, introduced legislation last year to lower the health advisory level from 70 parts per trillion —advised by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency — to 5 parts per trillion.
Health officials have said the continued exposure to certain PFAS chemicals in drinking water could harm human health.
Drinking water testing In May, the state’s PFAS response team launched what it called the “most comprehensive statewide study of PFAS in water supplies,” when it began testing 1,841 public water systems and schools operating their own well for the contaminants.
The testing netted a big offender in July, when the city of Parchment’s water supply tested at 1,587 parts per trillion of PFAS chemicals, far exceeding the 70 ppt threshold.
The communities were placed under a state of emergency, and officials warned residents not to drink the water or cook with it until residents were hooked up to the Kalamazoo water supply.
At the federal level, a bipartisan contingent of Michigan U.S. representatives recently introduced a bill that would require federal agencies to develop a plan to address PFAS contamination in affected states.
Aug. 2012: DEQ staffer Robert Delaney pens “Michigan’s Contaminant Induced Health Crisis: Addressing Michigan’s Future by Facing the Challenge of the evolving Nature of Environmental Contamination.” 2012: "Do not eat" fish advisories issued for Clark’s Marsh and part of the AuSable River near Wurtsmith Early 2016: Michigan Department of Health and Human Services tells residents downstream of Wurtsmith to avoid using water for drinking or cooking.
March 2017: Camp Grayling tests positive for PFAS at concentrations higher than federal health advisory level of 70 parts per trillion.
Sept. 17, 2018: Health officials issue advisory against swallowing foam from Huron River.
JC emerges from drought
Drought conditions continue to worsen across Texas as a whole, but recent rain in Johnson County has put a halt on the area’s dry conditions.
Heavy rainfall across the southern region resulted in significant improvements to drought in the mid-South.
Over 10 inches of rain fell across eastern Oklahoma, central Arkansas, eastern Texas and northern Louisiana, filling reservoirs and leading to flooding in many areas.
Cleburne resident Gayle White said she recorded 4.56 inches last week with an official weather gauge NBC DFW sent her to track measurements.
Johnson County Master Gardener Gary Wiley said naturally, all plants like water, but they don’t like to sit in it.
“Drainage is really important,” he said.
“Most of that rain from last week has gone on down into the soil deep enough and shouldn’t affect the roots of the plant.
“It’s more advantageous to plant now that we have moisture in the soil,” he said.
“On our small grain standpoint, it was essential for us to get rain,” he said.
“We had pastures change from a hazy green to beautiful green.” Hale said the county experienced only a minor setback from the rain.
Emergence of winter moths has scientist worried about another spring of defoliation
"Their caterpillars defoliated 27,000 acres in Rhode Island in the spring of 2015, but even though we had winter moths everywhere last year and I saw a zillion eggs, they caused almost zero defoliation."
Faubert believes last year’s strange winter and spring weather negated what she expected to be a dire season for winter moth defoliation.
Winter moth eggs typically hatch during a warm spell in April, but last year they began hatching during a warm period in late March.
With little defoliation occurring last year from winter moths, Faubert said it’s possible that there will be fewer adult moths flying around in the next month.
"Defoliation is very stressful to trees," Faubert said.
The females crawl up tree trunks to lay their eggs.
In an experiment she conducted last year, Faubert placed two tree bands, separated by about a foot, around one tree.
One strategy Faubert is deploying to control winter moth populations is the release of a tiny parasitic fly that lays its eggs on tree leaves.
When the winter moth caterpillar consumes the eggs while eating the leaves, the eggs hatch inside the caterpillar and the fly larva eat it from the inside out.
Faubert released the flies in seven locations in Rhode Island between 2011 and 2015, and she hopes to soon see signs that it is beginning to work.