Environmentalregulation in the state of Michigan
Regulationof issues dealing with environment in the state of Montana ismandated to DEQ (Michigan Department of Environmental Quality). Thisbody is charged with the responsibility of protecting the environmentas guaranteed to the state’s citizens by their constitution. Theirgoal is to maintain Michigan’s quality life and protecting publichealth for both current and future generations [ CITATION Mic15 l 1033 ].
TheEPA (United States Environmental Protection Agency) is a country widebody that is tasked with the responsibility of regularly monitoringand taking action to protect human health and the environment. Toachieve this end, it has regional offices across the country servingeach and every state. Michigan lies in EPA’s region 5, Chicago thatserves the states of Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Wisconsin,Minnesota and 35 Tribes. Their main office for this region is locatedat the Ralph Metcalfe Federal Building in Chicago, IL with a branchin Westlake, OH [ CITATION EPA15 l 1033 ].
EnvironmentalIssue in Michigan State
One of the major environmentalconcerns in Michigan is the pollution of Lake Erie which is part ofthe great lakes. It is estimated that one third of the great lake’stotal population live in the Erie watershed accounting for almosttwelve million people and seventeen metropolis harboring 50, 000people. These people depend on the lake for drinking water,recreational purposes among other uses. Since the 1960’s concernshave been raised concerning the quality of the lake’s water thatwas depreciating on a massive scale. This led American and Canadianauthorities to get into agreements aimed at reducing loads ofphosphorus deposited into the lake from industrial activities whichwas essential in controlling the excessive growth of algae in thelake. Efforts by both governments, communities in the area,non-governmental organizations and volunteering individuals piled uprecourses to curb the problem with major success. The Lake Erieproject was viewed as a major environmental victory by all thestakeholders involved, restoring life in the lake.
Fast-forwardto the 21stcentury and the problem cropped up again and once more the Lake isgoing on a decline. In fact, it has been established that one of theworst algae blooms ever recorded on the lake took place in 2011covering a large portion of the lake. In 2014, toxic algae blooms onthe lake disrupted water supply to over 400,000 people in Michiganand Ohio. The problem that had presumably been solved in the lastcentury came back to haunt the people who had tried so hard tocontain it. This presumption is attributed to the introduction ofimproved sewage treatment procedures and low-phosphate detergents.The current problem has emerged from change in the ecosystem as aresult of climate change and an invasive species of algae that hasrecurred blooms. It is speculated that modern land-use practicescannot sustain the lake’s watershed.
Algal blooms take place whenalgae growth goes out of control, reproducing rapidly over a shortperiod of time. The blooms float on water like a blanket that looksscum or foam with a brown, blue-green or neon green color to them.Rapid algal growth occurs only when PH, light, nutrient levels andtemperatures are suitable for them. Phosphorus is one of the majoringredients that helps in creating this environment for them. Theamount of phosphorus in the lake determines how big and bad the bloombecomes hence, the key to controlling the bloom lies in the level ofphosphorus allowed into the water. In Lake Erie’s case, thephosphorus comes from a variety of places with the largestcontributor being agricultural complexes that use it to help plantsgrow. This positive effect on farmer’s yields has a correspondingnegative effect on the lake when sediments are deposited in the waterover time.
Largealgae blooms make the water unsafe for swimming or domestic use as itis harmful to people, fish, pets and wildlife whilst disrupting thewhole lake’s ecosystem. When ingested, they have a characteristicof releasing a variety of neurological, skin and liver toxins. Thealgae also quickly deplete the supply of oxygen in the water whenthey die creating zones that cannot accommodate aquatic life. Inextreme cases, dead fish have been witnessed washed up on the shoresas a result of poisoning from the algae.
Additionally,blooms have a significant impact on the economy in a variety of ways.For example, depletion of fish that were harvested for commercialpurposes and it wouldn’t be suitable for domestic purposes hencehaving looking for alternative purposes. Additionally, the lack ofrecreation activities such as swimming and fly fishing that wouldhave otherwise generated income for local communities wouldnegatively implicate the local economy. Algae blooms would also costmunicipalities tons of money to unclog water intake pipes and treatwater contaminated by algae-related toxins. The algae problem is ahuge threat to the environment and society as a whole on a massivescale.
Thesource of phosphorous ending up in the lake is harder to addressbecause the nutrients come from an area spread out across thewatershed. Run-off water emanating from rain and water carries thesesediments into rivers and lakes from urban and agricultural landssome of which are not near the lake itself. Non-point sources as isthe case here are harder to control compared to point sources as theyrepresent the largest percentage of phosphorus reaching the lake.Some of the point sources blamed for this include the use ofsub-surface tile drains that carry high loads of phosphorusdepositing them directly in water bodies. Finding appropriatesolutions to the problem is essential to further reduce the amount ofnon-point sources contaminating the lake and restoring it healthwhilst containing degradation of other lakes in the country.
Ona more positive light, investigations show that the concentration ofchemicals such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons andpolychlorinated biphenyls levels in the lake are on the decrease butwill take approximately 10 to 30 years to completely remove them.This decrease has been reflected in the significantly lowerconcentration of PCB in the lake’s atmosphere. In many areas,strict waste disposal measures are being developed and enforced tocurb this menace. The great lakes provide an important source ofdomestic water for both Americans and Canadians and should thereforebe protected at all costs.
Theproblem in Lake Erie is a diverse one considering the many peopleaffected. The root of the problem cannot be pin-pointed to oneindividual or organization but is a lifestyle and technologicalinduced problem by almost everyone. This is because the phosphorusthat is to blame for the algae bloom comes from farms that producefood for the economy and household goods such as detergents that areused in most if not all homes. Another source that has beenidentified is waste disposal treatment plants that are not able tocompletely clean sewage of all chemicals before depositing it inwater bodies. None the less, there are a number of agencies andindividuals in Michigan and other affected states who are in themidst of fighting the menace. These include the NRDC (NaturalResource Defense Council), DEQ (Michigan Department of EnvironmentalQuality), EPA (United States Environmental Protection Agency),farmers and industries along rivers feeding the lake, residentsaround Lake Erie among other stakeholders outside of the state.
IncentivesThat Have Led To the Problem
Withsuccess in controlling the bloom in 1960, authorities let their guarddown allowing the rate of phosphorous deposited in the lake to riseagain without taking proper action. This led to the problem beingfaced currently as the bloom is reaching unprecedented levels.Additionally, farmers, industries and waste treatment plants haven’tput enough effort to control the level of phosphorous used.
Anumber of solutions have been proposed to curb the algae menace overthe past years. With the tremendous success in containing the problemback in the 1960’s stakeholders are anticipating that the currentsituation will also be controlled. The main aspect of focus is thephosphorus levels in the lake which have been blamed for the problem.In 2014, the IJC (International Joint Commission) concluded that themost important solution to restore water quality in Lake Erie is toreduce Phosphorus inputs. This is the same solution that revived thelake decades ago but is today on a larger scale due to higher levelsof contamination. The challenge is made even harder by new factorssuch as invasive species and climate change[ CITATION Env14 l 1033 ].
InNovember 2015, the DEQ in Michigan released a draft plan aimed atreducing phosphorus inputs into the lake by 40 percent. This effortis in collaboration with the states of Ohio and Ontario that are alsodirect affected by the menace signing the ‘Western Basin of LakeErie Collaborative Agreement’ [ CITATION DEQ15 l 1033 ]running until 2025. Michigan’s plan focuses on reducingcontamination levels into Detroit River, River Raisin and MaumeeRiver Basin in its territory. This will be achieved through controlof waste treatment plants and through physical extraction of algaeand mussels in the lake. Additionally effort will be made towardsresearch to get a better understanding of these organisms to enableauthorities control them effectively. The cost of this project willbe covered by the government at a yet to be disclosed amount. Theenvironmental and socio-economic costof the lake’s pollution however is already high and still rising interms of lack of tourism, spillage on shores and rises cost of watertreatment for domestic use. Comments regarding this draft are stillbeing received by the agency awaiting review.
In addition to the policiesbrought forward by relevant agencies, there are additionalrecommendations that can be used to help solve the problem. The firstway is taking control of market forces to assist farmers in reducingnutrient run-off. Considering most of the phosphorous comes fromfertilizers, authorities should try to transfer funds fromundesirable activities that cause pollution to desirable activitiesthat do not pollute. Secondly, cities should be restructured tocontrol runoff water in a way that nutrients are able to dissolve insoil before reaching water bodies. Finally, scientific understandingregarding blooms and their implications should be enhanced to havebetter control of them today and in future.
Deq . (2015, November 4). Deq Announces Plan To Reduce Phosphorus To Lake Erie. Retrieved December 7, 2015, From Michigan Deq: Http://Www.Michigan.Gov/Deq/0,4561,7-135–368655–,00.Html
Environmental Defense. (2014). Clean, Not Green. Toronto, Ontario: Freshwater Future.
Epa. (2015, November 30). Epa Region 5. Retrieved From United States Environmental Protection Agency: Http://Www.Epa.Gov/Aboutepa/Epa-Region-5
Michigan Deq. (2015). Retrieved From Department Of Environmental Quality: Http://Www.Michigan.Gov/Deq