An important reminder of the need for taking better care of our waterways, The Atlantic Wire and Washington Post report on a new report from the Environmental Protection Agency labeling 55 percent of our nation’s streams “poor” and another 23 percent as “fair.”
In 2008, the Natural Resources Defense Council filed a lawsuit against the Los Angeles County Flood Control District over the discharge of polluted water into local rivers and bays. The environmental group contends the county is responsible for the water as it passes by a monitoring station and empties into the ocean. The county questions this as the water is an accumulation of discharges coming from thousands of drains in 84 different municipalities. The Los Angeles Times reports the case has been taken up by the U.S. Supreme Court, which will decide who is ultimately held responsible. This case underscores the difficulty of regulating nonpoint source pollution, and could have far-reaching effects on how municipalities approach stormwater management.
— Ron Sharp, Professor at Delta College.
Have you ever considered working in the water treatment industry? Click on over to The WMEAC Blog to learn about a new opportunity to do so through an articulation agreement between Grand Rapids Community College and Delta College.
An article by Allison Arnold at The Rapidian focuses on the senior thesis of Alissa Krumlauf, a Photography and Natural Resource Management major:
Fashion Meets the Storm (Water) is a narrative depicting the effects of storm water on the environment and people.
This exhibition will be on display starting today and running through December 8th at the Grand Valley Performing Arts Center. For more, check out the original article, here.
The East Hills Center (Of the Universe), located in Grand Rapids at the intersection of Lake Drive and Diamond Avenue is a Double Gold LEED Certified building housing the offices of the West Michigan Environmental Action Council and two other local businesses. The site of a former service station, and highly contaminated, much effort was put into remediation and redevelopment making the location an asset to the neighborhood.
The site’s low impact development features are particularly innovative. The East Hills Center was the first building in Grand Rapids to have zero stormwater discharge, meaning that all runoff is contained and filtered on-site without using the city drainage system. This is done through a cistern, rain gardens, and a 7,140 square foot green roof.
The green roof manages about 138,547 gallons of rainwater annually, or the equivalent of 3,000 bathtubs. Planted with Sedum plants, the roof can hold one inch of rainfall before sending overflow to the primary rain garden. The green roof also acts as insulation and helps reduce energy use by fifty percent.
A primary rain garden is located in the rear of the property with smaller ones on the east bordering Paddock Street. The East Hills Center parking lot is designed to send water into these rain gardens instead of letting it run off into the streets and city catch basins. Soil and mulch break down any pollution in the runoff, and a loose rock base allows for quick absorption. The rain gardens are planted with a variety of native plants including Brown-Eyed Susan, Butterfly Weed, Blue Flag Iris, and New England Aster. All of this means less polluted water is directly entering our valuable rivers and streams.
Stormwater is the number one leading source of water pollution in West Michigan, and the East Hills Center serves as a fantastic example of how low impact development helps reduce runoff and pollution in our waterways.
Alliance for the Great Lakes - headquartered in Chicago with a West Michigan office in Grand Haven - has a petition posted on their website to help keep sewage out of the Great Lakes. Many cities in the region use combined sewer overflows that, during larger storm events, dump untreated water into our streams leading to the Great Lakes.
Many of the municipalities have planned improvements to these systems. Evidence of this exists in Grand Rapids where the city has been proactive in disconnecting storm drains from the municipal sewage collection system minimizing overflows. However, such changes are expensive and municipalities rely on assistance from the Clean Water State Revolving Fund. This fund is in danger of being cut, so the petition urges Congress and the president to offer sustained support for it.
To read more about and sign the petition, check it out, here.
Last Thursday, the Clean Water Act turned 40 years old. On October 18, 1972, Congress overturned a veto by President Nixon to improve the quality of our surface waters. Primarily regulating point-source discharges from industrial and municipal facilities, the Clean Water Act has reduced pollution and reinvigorated many urban waterfronts - Grand Rapids included. However, rivers and lakes still suffer from non-point source pollution such as fertilizers and oil (HYDROFILTH) in stormwater causing algae blooms and other problems. The Clean Water Act has not been revised in 25 years, and some people are calling for an update of its regulations. In addition to overhauling regulations, communities can work from the bottom up. One such way is the increased use of green infrastructure. The West Michigan Environmental Action Council rain barrel workshops and steps taken by the City of Grand Rapids with bioswales along Plainfield Avenue are a sign that West Michigan is investing in the quality of its streams.
The final WMEAC rain barrel workshop of the season is this Wednesday, October 24th, Treehuggers (947 Wealthy St. SE) at 7pm. If you are interested in attending, you can register with this form. Cost is $20 per barrel.