Tag Archive for 'Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ)'

Tom Ewing’s Environmental Update

*  The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), is seeking comments on its Draft Toxicological Profile for Glyphosate, “a phosphonoglycine non-selective herbicide, first registered for use by the EPA in 1974.”  Roundup is one common product containing glyphosate in concentrations ranging from 0.96% to as much as 71%.  In 2007, U.S. agricultural use of glyphosate was approximately 82,800 tons and non-agricultural use was approximately 9,300 tons. In 2014,  agricultural use was approximately 124,953 tons and non-agricultural use approximately 13,260 tons.  All toxicological profiles issued as ‘‘Drafts for Public Comment’’ represent ATSDR’s best efforts to provide important toxicological information on priority hazardous substances.  ATSDR wants comments and additional information about the health effects of glyphosate for review and potential inclusion in a final profile. Comments are due on or before July 8, 2019.
*  In a somewhat related development the Michigan PFAS Action Response Team (MPART), established within Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), selected three experts to work with a Science Advisory Workgroup to recommend PFAS drinking water standards.  PFAS = per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), a group of industrial compounds used in production and on finished consumer products, e.g, non-stick cookware.  The Workgroup is developing health-based recommendations for the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) to consider as part of a rulemaking process for Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs) for PFAS in drinking water.  The new members of the team are specialists in toxicology, epidemiology and risk assessment.  The Workgroup’s recommendation is due July 1, 2019.
*  Have you ever heard of Nature’s Notebook Plant and Animal Observing Program, run by the Department of Interior?  Neither had I.  It’s sponsored by the US Geological Survey using standardized forms for tracking plant and animal activity. Nature’s Notebook forms are used to record phenology (e.g., the timing of leafing or flowering of plants and reproduction or migration of animals) as part of a nationwide effort to understand and predict how plants and animals respond to environmental variation and changes in weather and climate.  DOI wants to know: Is this worthwhile?  Should we keep it going?  The bigger question – who knows about this?  Last October DOE asked the same questions.  They received one comment, from a science educator who wrote: “This program provides critical data on changes in seasonality and plant and animal patterns. Phenology is incredibly important to understand—for people, wildlife, and industry—and the USA–NPN is the best resource for compiling, analyzing, and distributing this information.”  A year ago I wrote a report on challenges faced by wild bees and honeybees.  One big problem: observational data.  Could this Notebook effort teamed with citizen science help establish critical bee data…?   Comments are due May 13.
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Tom Ewing’s Environmental Update

*  Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) had good news last week regarding the State’s 2018 state-wide sampling of public, school, and tribal water supplies for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).  This was the first such study in the nation, and it was extensive, including 1,114 public water systems, 461 schools that operate their own wells, and 17 tribal systems.  Importantly, 90 percent of these supplies showed no detection for any PFAS. Very low levels, below 10 parts per trillion (ppt) were detected in 7 percent of systems. Levels between 10 and 70 ppt were detected in 3 percent.  Work will continue: MI will pay for quarterly monitoring of the systems with levels above 10 ppt.  In addition, the ad-hoc “Michigan PFAS Action Response Team” (MPART) will continue with a new, more formal status.  In 2019, Governor Gretchen Whitmer established MPART as a permanent body within the MDEQ.
*  U.S. Department of Energy announced a rather generous version of its own Green New Deal last week: up to $51.5 million for new and innovative research of technologies for trucks, off-road vehicles, and the fuels that power them.  This FOA – “funding opportunity announcement” – is focused on gaseous fuels research, including natural gas, biopower, and hydrogen; heavy-duty freight electrification; hydrogen infrastructure and fuel cell technologies for heavy-duty applications; and energy efficient off-road vehicles.  The FOA has five topical areas, including novel materials for high-density gas storage and transport, advanced waste to energy technologies, and technology integration that focuses on lowering costs and overcoming technical barriers to the use of medium- and heavy-duty natural gas and hydrogen-fueled vehicles.  Another focus is on battery electric heavy-duty freight and technical barriers to advanced batteries, electric drive systems, and charging systems.  Concept papers are due to DOE by March 29; full applications by May 15.
*  There is a fascinating story out of “9to5Google” about how two Alphabet divisions are working together to “train a neural network on weather forecasts and historical turbine data.”  Scientists there then use the DeepMind system to “predict wind power output 36 hours ahead of actual generation.”  Variability with wind and solar electric generation is a critical weakness.  Civilization doesn’t run on electricity, it runs on electrical systems, with dependability and timeliness two of the most critical factors.  If you know when the wind is going to blow you can plan on using it.  On the other hand, if you know wind won’t be there, 36 hours is plenty of lead time to make other, non-panicky arrangements.  Google’s report states that its algorithm is still being refined, but Google notes how machine learning — compared to no time-based commitments to the grid — has “boosted the value of our wind energy by roughly 20 percent.” The company is applying this optimization to its wind farms in the central United States that generate 700 megawatts of wind power.

Tom Ewing
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Tom Ewing’s Environmental Update

*  Last week’s Update mentioned that of the public water systems tested so far (50%) by Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) just one – City of Parchment – showed elevated levels of the contaminant PFAS (Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances).  On 08/27 DEQ updated that investigation, lifting the “Do Not Drink” order for Parchment.  Agencies concluded that the water met the requirements of the Safe Drinking Water Act for Parchment water system customers “who have flushed their homes according to instruction.”  The advisory remained for Parchment residents using wells, pending further testing. Those residents received “authorized filters.”  DEQ wrote that the Parchment system is “stabilized and capable of delivering water to customers that is compliant with Lifetime Health Advisory levels, with sampling results well below 70 parts per trillion (ppt).”  Recall that 1 ppt is roughly analogous to 1 second in 32,000 years or, for an additional comparative, you can work upwards (downwards?) from this swimming pool analogy.
*  US and Chile negotiators meet this week for the eighth meeting of the Environment Affairs Council established under the US-Chile Free Trade Agreement, as well as the sixth meeting of the U.S.-Chile Joint Commission on Environmental Cooperation, meetings last held in August 2015.  The agenda includes finalizing an updated Environmental Cooperation Work Program for 2018-2020.  New Work Program details are not part of the meeting announcement but the concluding Program dealt with four substantive topics: (1) strengthening implementation and enforcement of environmental laws and regulations; (2) promoting conservation and the sustainable and inclusive management of natural resources, including biodiversity and ecosystem services, protected wild areas, and other ecologically important ecosystems; (3) promoting environmental education, transparency, and civil society participation in environmental decision-making and enforcement; and (4) encouraging development of low emissions technology, improving resilience to large-scale disasters, and encouraging the adoption of sound environmental practices and technologies.
*   The impact of climate on the oceans and fish is a closely watched topic.  There are concerns that the oceans, because of climate, are changing in ways deleterious to fish stocks, even causing species loss.  However, that set of questions is finally answered (if ever) the Fishery Management Plan for the Gulf of Alaska presents statistics which pretty clearly show how fish-loving humans impact numbers of fish.  Consider Pacific cod, for example.  In 1964, the first year a total catch number is available, commercial fishermen caught 196 metric tons.  In 1992, the total catch was 80,100 metric tons, the peak year.  In 2004, 55,638 metric tons, the last year for which a number is available.  For pollock, the 1964 harvest was 1,126 metric tons.  1985 – 284,823!  2004 – 62,200.  Yeah, maybe (maybe not) there’s an inexhaustible supply of fish in the huge oceans, but temperatures aside, no wonder they’re getting harder and harder to find.
Tom Ewing
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Tom Ewing’s Environmental Update

*  Exposure to Polyfluoroalkyl Substances – PFAS – is an emerging issue at state and federal levels.  Michigan has had to move quicker than most states or localities because of reports of high PFAS levels or the stuff is actually threatening public water supplies.  PFAS compounds are used in thousands of applications including firefighting foam, food packaging, and many other consumer products, by industries such as tanneries, metal platers, and clothing manufacturers.  Last week, Michigan announced reaching the mid-point in collecting samples statewide of PFAS levels in public water supplies.  Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has collected samples from 892 of the state’s 1,841 public water systems and schools that operate their own wells. Pretty good news, so far, luckily.  To date, of 341 laboratory test results only the City of Parchment’s (just north of Kalamazoo) test results exceeded the EPA Health Advisory of 70 ppt for PFAS in drinking water and the DEQ’s action level of 70 ppt in groundwater; 318 samples were between 0 and 10 ppt, 22 between 10 and 70 ppt.
*  The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is one of the federal agencies taking a close look at PFAS and health risks.  In June, ATSDR published a Draft Toxicological Profile for Perfluoroalkyls.  The Agency is seeking public review and comment as well as additional information, reports, and studies about the health effects of PFAS.   The comment period closed on August 20 and the Agency received 65 sets of comments from a range of reviewers – including state environmental agencies, the American Water Works, trade associations, and individuals.  This work is linked to the formal toxicological profiles prepared for hazardous materials most commonly found at facilities within the National Priorities List, the set of hazardous waste sites that make up the Superfund list, top priorities for EPA’s enforcement and clean up.
*  EPA released its proposed “Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) Rule” last week.  This is the successor to the Clean Power Plan presented by the Supreme Commander to Moses on stone tablets, actually a couple hundred of them.  Because of its sacrosanct Origin, the CPP could not be questioned by the rabbis, priests and holy people writing and instilling the catechism in those ancient times.  Many ages later, though, because of lightning from Zeus, the CPP was cast from the Temple of Righteousness and replaced by the Tweeted One’s ACE.  Is ACE better than CPP?  Worse?  You’d think the Scribes would have questions and maybe even seek answers – What?!.  But no, there are no emojis created yet for “best system of emission reduction (BSER)” or New Source Review and so Darkness Dogma remains, and reigns.  [Hey c’mon, my Peeps, it’s Monday – lighten up! *:D big grin]
Tom Ewing
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