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Water quality hot spots

December 1, 1999 | By Keith Schneider
Great Lakes Bulletin News Service

Water Quality Hot Spots

Cedar River Atorrent of mud from a golf course under construction at Shanty Creek Resort rushed into one of Michigan's finest trout streams after a heavy rain last August. The wash-out was caused by an inadequate storm water control program that violated a court-sanctioned pollution prevention agreement.

Arcadia Bluffs Golf Course
After a golf course developer clear-cut 80 acres of trees that had stabilized a 160-foot bluff above Lake Michigan, thousands of tons of sandy soil laced with turf chemicals and dirt drained into Lake Michigan following storms last April, August, and November.The erosion is said by state environmental officials to be the worst on Lake Michigan.

Scottville One of the most recent and largest concentrations of hogs in Michigan's industrializing swine industry is an 8,000-head capacity operation near Scottville in Mason County.This hog factory will generate more phosphorus and nitrates per year in its 3.4 million gallons of sewage than the population of East Lansing.

Lake Michigan Coast The DEQ in 1997 issued a Canadian company permits to tap oil and gas reservoirs beneath Lake Michigan, using directional drilling from the shoreline. In response to a citizen outcry, the Michigan Environmental Science Board issued recommendations for safeguarding the coast that included involving citizens and local governments in preparing comprehensive environmental reviews. After initially endorsing the findings, the governor's office and the DEQ have ignored most of the board's recommendations.

Lake Macatawa Elevated levels of phosphorous and nitrogen from sewage and fertilizer runoff are causing rampant plant and algal growth in Lake Macatawa, absorbing oxygen and choking out fish. The recreational value of the lake is further declining as the weeds make it undesirable for swimming and boating. Citizens and local governments are now working on a plan to control the runoff.

Berrien County Berrien County is one of the most intensive users in the Great Lakes region of dangerous agricultural pesticides -- for apples, corn, peaches, raspberries, and squash -- according to a 1996 report published by the World Wildlife Fund and the Great Lakes Commission. People and wildlife also are particularly vulnerable to toxic pesticide exposure in Berrien County because of the highly erodible and porous soils that carry runoff into lakes, streams, and groundwater.

Minden Bog In 1997 the DEQ overturned a previous decision by the DNR and issued a permit to a Texas company to drain nearly 2,000 acres of this unique wetland in Sanilac County to produce peat moss. It was the largest wetland development permit ever issued in Michigan, and came after the company sued the state. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency intervened in 1998 to block the permit, citing violations of the federal wetland protection and water quality laws.

Mill Creek
For eight years, citizens of St. Clair County and the Village of Yale have been struggling to turn back a project to dredge and widen Mill Creek. The Michigan Drain Code, however, gives an inter-county drain board near-absolute power to push the project forward. Engineering studies clearly show that the planned drain enlargement will push large volumes of water downstream from neighboring Lapeer County into Yale and increase the frequency and severity of flooding there. The inter-county drain board has disregarded this finding, and has further decided that residents of St. Clair County should pay nearly two-thirds of the drain's multi-million dollar cost.

Lake St. Clair Fecal contamination caused by sewage overflows, wetland destruction, and runoff from roads and parking lots has consistently closed beaches here since 1994. The pollution causes illnesses, discourages more than 1 million Detroit area residents who regularly visit the beaches, and harms the economy of the lodging, restaurant and recreational boating industries in Macomb County.

Franklin River The Oakland County Drain Commissioner's office is currently covering the banks of this river with metal sheeting so that it can withstand frequent flash floods caused by years of draining, rather than preventing storm water problems.

Humbug Marsh The last intact native wetland along the Detroit River southeast of the city is in danger of extinction as a result of a developer's proposal to build luxury homes and a golf course across the marsh.

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