News Feature | March 2, 2016

Amid Flint Controversy, Snyder Moves To Algae

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

Widely rebuked for his failure to adequately address the lead contamination crisis in Flint, Governor Rick Snyder is being urged to toughen up on water policy by revising key proposals and by bringing tougher watchdogs into his administration.

Snyder is getting criticized not just for Flint, but also for his proposals around algal blooms. Conservation groups say his proposals to mitigate algal blooms on Lake Erie are watery at best.

“In November, state officials rolled out their plan for reducing the amount of phosphorus that reaches the lakes and helps generate the green blooms that foul beaches and interfere with boating. Algae has become particularly problematic in Lake Erie, where it contaminated Toledo’s water supply in 2014,” The Detroit News reported.

The plan, per the News:

  • Keeping discharge reductions enacted in recent years at the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department.
  • Reducing discharge limits at the Wayne County Downriver Wastewater Treatment Plant, bringing them more in line with the limits placed on DWSD.
  • Working with Indiana and Ohio to cut phosphorus in the Maumee River basin.
  • Studying the cause of algal blooms as well as the role played by invasive mussels in amplifying their impact.

National Wildlife Federation and other conservation groups say that the proposals are inadequate. Mike Shriberg, an official at National Wildlife Federation, weighed in.

“While we appreciate the state of Michigan putting forward some ideas for protecting Lake Erie, this plan fails to deliver for the people of Michigan, Lake Erie, and our economy,” he said in a statement. “Gov. Snyder needs to protect our drinking water and implement an action plan that cuts nutrient runoff and significantly reduces harmful algal blooms. The current plan is mostly a recognition of past efforts without any significant new proposals. The limited nature of this plan pales in comparison to the threat harmful algal blooms pose to our drinking water, recreation and way of life in the Great Lakes.”

Advocates are also pressuring the governor to appoint an official to his administration who would be strong on water and environmental policy. The former head of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) resigned in December over the Flint crisis, according to Michigan Live.

“Environmental and conservation groups are pressuring Gov. Rick Snyder's office to appoint a long-term environmental cop who will lead a top-down culture change at the Department of Environmental Quality in the wake of the agency's mishandling of the Flint lead-contaminated water crisis,” according to Michigan Live.

Eleven groups from Michigan, including public interest and conservation advocates, wrote a letter urging the governor to appoint a DEQ director who will “boldly commit the agency to making decisions based upon human health, science, and the enforcement of existing law.”

For more stories about combating algal bloom, visit Water Online’s Nutrient Removal Solutions Center.