Undercurrents: beneath the obvious

May 21, 2007

DNR (MI) unsure on extent of fish virus’ damage

Filed under: Great Lakes Threats,Invasive Species,Michigan — nemo @ 12:41 pm

The Sheboygan Press reports on the progress of VHS:

Lake Michigan is likely infected with viral hemorrhagic septicemia, which is killing one fish species in Little Lake Butte des Morts near Oshkosh, and officials are taking a wait and see attitude about how destructive it’ll be.

“We are virtually certain that it is in Lake Michigan,” said Randy Schumacher, [Michigan] state Department of Natural Resources Southeast Regional Fisheries supervisor. “It is probably in Lake Winnebago as well.”

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May 7, 2007

Increased Outflow from Lake Superior Despite Record Low Water Levels

Filed under: Great Lakes Issues,Lake Levels,Michigan — nemo @ 12:25 pm

As it has for several months running, Lake Superior’s water level stood at 18 inches below its monthly average for early May and 13 inches below its level at the same time last year. Even so, The Soo Evening News reports that the Army Corps of Engineers has increased the outflow from Lake Superior by almost 9%:

Amid growing accounts of low water worries from around Lake Superior, the Corps of Engineers announced this week that water released to the lower Great Lakes increased by 4,300 cubic feet per second (cfs) at the start of May.

The May increase in water released to the lower St. Marys River was apparently called for in the International Lake Superior Board of Control regulation plan for Lake Superior. The increase accompanies a slight seasonal rise in Lake Superior water levels last month.

In the announcement, the Corps said water released to the lower St. Marys increased from 48,700 cfs to 53,000 cfs for the month of May.

The statement said Lake Superior’s water level is expected to rise again in May, despite continued near-drought conditions across the Big Lake’s watershed.

The Corps reported water supply to all three Upper Great Lakes was below average in April.

Lake Superior remains below chart datum and just a few inches above its long-term record set in 1926. Water levels took a plunge late in 2006 due to widespread dry conditions across its watershed last summer. Relatively light winter snow pack provided only limited relief as the spring thaw set in by March.

Lakes Huron and Michigan rose in April by about two inches, or half the two lakes’ normal April rise. Like Superior, the two lakes stood at 16 inches below their average level for early May when this month began, the Corps of Engineers reported.

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April 12, 2007

Nestle to buy Gerber for $5.5 billion

Filed under: Bottled Water,Great Lakes Issues,Michigan — nemo @ 11:42 am

From the Associated Press:

Nestle SA, the world’s biggest food and drink company, said Thursday it will buy Gerber Products Co. [Gerber is based in Fremont, Michigan] from pharmaceutical maker Novartis SA for $5.5 billion, giving it the largest share of the global baby food market.

The acquisition helps further Nestle’s recent focus on health and nutrition, following its purchases of the U.S. weight control company Jenny Craig and Novartis Medical Nutrition.

Nestle, which owns brands such as Nescafe, Perrier and Dreyer’s [and Ice Moountain], is also the world’s largest manufacturer of infant nutritional products — largely through its leading positions in developing countries such as Brazil and China — but had no presence in baby food in the United States.

Gerber, which Nestle has coveted for more than a decade, dominates the U.S. baby-food market, with a 79 percent share, according to Morgan Stanley.

With much controversy, Nestle pumps 270 million gallons of water a year from underground springs and from the city of Evart’s municipal water system. The company buys water from Evart and hauls it 40 miles south to its Stanwood bottling plant.

Gerber pumps 1,090 million gallons of water a year from the city of Fremont’s municipal water system — that’s FOUR times Nestle’s use — with nary a complaint.

Evart to the Stanwood bottling plant is 40 miles. Fremont to Stanwood is 35 miles. Map locations of Fremont and Stanwood are here.

Does 35 miles separate Nestle from all its problems? Will Ice Mountain become a brand of Gerber?

See also these prior posts:

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April 7, 2007

Nestle seeks other water sources in Michigan

Filed under: Bottled Water,Great Lakes News,Michigan — nemo @ 4:28 pm

The Grand Rapids Press has this update on Nestle’s plans for additional bottling plants in Michigan:

A Nestle spokeswoman said Friday no sites are “on the immediate horizon” after the company has abandoned its plan to pump spring water from a location near the White River’s headwaters.

But don’t rule out future investigations, she added.

“We have made a substantial investment in Michigan, and our brand continues to grow,” said spokeswoman Deborah Muchmore. “As that continues, we will be looking at additional sources of natural spring water that help us provide what consumers are looking for.”

Nestle Waters North America Inc. officials said studies show the water at a Monroe Township site is of a different mineral composition than that currently sold under the company’s Ice Mountain label.

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April 6, 2007

How Michigan intends to control withdrawals

Upper Michigan’s largest daily newspaper, The Mining Journal, provides an update on efforts to devising a method to help determine safe water withdrawal rates:

How much is too much?

The Groundwater Conservation Advisory Council (GWCAC) is developing computer models that would measure stream flow rates and other hydrological characteristics near places where big users want to pump.

‘‘It should be kind of an education tool, so a user can put a water withdrawal where it would have the least impact on natural resources and neighbors,’’ said James Clift of the Michigan Environmental Council, a member of the panel.

Michigan in 2006 became the last Great Lakes state to enact a law governing large water withdrawals. But officials say its groundwater council is setting the pace for determining when a withdrawal would have an ‘‘adverse environmental impact.’’

The computer models being developed … would provide early warning that a site might need closer inspection to determine whether it’s suitabile for large pumping operations.

The models would estimate the effect on stream flow, water volume, groundwater connections and other factors, said David Hamilton, water management chief in the state Department of Environmental Quality.

The system won’t help restore waterways that are already degraded. ‘‘It’s aimed at minimizing change from here forward,’’ Seelbach said.

The council is scheduled to report to the Legislature by July.

Michigan industries, municipalities, farms and other businesses pumped about 730 million gallons of groundwater daily in 2000 (266 billion gallons annually). That amount represented about 2.6% of an estimated 27 billion gallons of water that flows each day into underground aquifers.

Related links: MSU’s Groundwater Mapping Project

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March 27, 2007

Phosphorus in Detergent Causing Algae Blooms Again

A blast from the past comes this news article in the South Bend Tribune. Phosphorus was a big problem during the 1960s and 1970s when most major brands of laundry detergent used it. That was then. Now phosphorus has become a leading ingredient in dishwasher detergent with devastating affects:

Some Michigan beaches may be covered with rotting green scum instead of white sand and frolicking children this summer, environmentalists warn.

State law doesn’t limit the amount of phosphorus in dishwasher detergents, which has led to widespread algae blooms and fish kills. … Algae mats are also a problem in Wisconsin, in the Saginaw Bay area, Little Traverse Bay and Lake Erie.

Sen. Patricia Birkholz, R-Saugatuck Township, and Sen. Liz Brater, D-Ann Arbor, have introduced bills to establish a limit of 0.5 percent phosphates in dishwasher detergents by 2010. If the legislation passes, Michigan would be the second state, after Washington, to impose such tight restrictions on phosphorus in dishwasher detergents.

The federal Clean Water Act, passed in 1977, set the basic structure for regulating discharges of pollution, including phosphates in laundry and other soaps. Although the situation has improved, the federal law allows continued use of high levels of phosphates in dishwasher detergents.

Environmental groups and businesses, including Procter & Gamble, are pushing passage of the legislation. Michigan is leading the charge.

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March 24, 2007

Michigan facing loss of seat in U.S. House

The Detroit Free Press carried this story on losses of Congressional seats due to population shifts:

Michigan is likely to lose one of its 15 seats in Congress after the 2010 U.S. census — meaning the possibility of a little less clout in Washington, a little less attention from presidential candidates and the smallest delegation from Michigan in about 100 years, based on census numbers released today.

Based on Bensen’s [Clark Bensen researches population numbers] projections for 2010, Michigan will be among a handful of states likely to lose a seat — Pennsylvania, Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota among them. New York and Ohio stand to lose two, he said.

His projections show Texas gaining four seats and Florida and Arizona two apiece.

Michigan has lost at least one representative after each of the last four censuses, from a peak of 19 after the 1960 census. The number determines how many Electoral College votes a state gets for president, with one for every Congress member and each of two senators.

The projection is that the Great Lakes Basin may loose as many as 7 seats after the next census in 2010 as those seats follow the population south and west. That translates into a LOT less clout in Congress for important Great Lakes water issues including cleanup, invasive species, water quality, diversions, …

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March 12, 2007

Michigan issues first ballast water permits

Filed under: Ballast,Great Lakes News,Great Lakes Threats,Michigan — nemo @ 12:05 pm

The Times Herald (Port Huron, MI) carries this report on the first issuance of permits to international shipping compaines for ballast water handling per the Michigan law that went into affect January 1:

The state Department of Environmental Quality has issued its first permits to international shipping companies that have agreed to meet new ballast-water requirements.

By buying the permit, owners of the ships agree not to dump ballast water in the Great Lakes or use a state-approved method to clean the water before flushing it into the lakes.

One of the first of two companies to apply for the state permit was NaviBulgar-Smolyan, a Bulgarian shipping company. The company’s ships will be able to move through Michigan ports with ease when the St. Lawrence Seaway opens sometime this month.

The Michigan bill mandates that all ships with ballast tanks that have floated on salt water and then expect to use Michigan ports must either keep their ballast onboard or use a state-approved method to treat the aquatic life in outgoing water.

See also this prior post: Michigan ballast water law takes maiden voyage

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