Saturday, June 22, 2013

Shiawassee River clean water

Michigan’s environment cleanest in 20 years
 tri-county area no exception  

Posted: Friday, June 21, 2013 8:54 pm
 Linden — Rex Mathewson’s chainsaw roared, biting into a fallen tree and spitting
woody froth into the Shiawassee River.
 The river is deep, with an urgent current following the heavier rainfall this spring.
This heavier rainfall and weather also dropped debris into the river, which is the focus
 of the Keepers of the Shiawassee on Saturday morning.
 Aside from removing fallen timber, there’s always the garbage. On Saturday,
a jacket, bottle, plastic bags and a pair of flip-flops were found and bagged by 9 a.m.
“We find quite a bit of junk in here,” said Ian Marsh, of Fenton.
 Jack Hrbek of Linden pulled out a brown glass bottle from near the shore,
placing it into garbage bags and then a kayak. He protects his hands
with rubber gloves. Garbage is a concern, and so is runoff from roads,
septic tanks and farms after heavy rainfall.
 The river is in better shape than it used to be — as many of these
 “keepers” would attest, and the statewide picture in water and air quality
 is also improved. Ambient air and water quality are the best they’ve
been in Michigan in 20 years, according to Brian Wurfel with the
Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ).
  Water is much easier to sample and rate.
If water has 300 parts coli per 100 milliliters, the Genesee County
Health Department (GCHD) will recommend closing the attached beach,
as occurred at Clover Beach in Fenton Township three times in 2010.
 “The water quality is very good at Clover Beach on Byram Lake,”
said Shannon Briggs of the MDEQ. “The beach has been monitored in
1999, 2001, and 2003 to 2010 with only three exceedances of the
water quality standard.” She added that the water in Seven Lakes State Park
in Holly Township is also very clean.
  Fenton Department of Public Works (DPW) Director Dan Czarnecki is
proud of how Silver Lake Park Beach — the only public beach in Fenton
— rates in cleanliness. Czarnecki has the lake tested every week by the GCHD,
and it recently tested at 27. The worst the beach has been is 97, which
was July 23 last year.
 “It’s natural water. You’ve got animals, the houses and the geese.
Our water’s in pretty good shape,” said Czarnecki, who said the
water is constantly clean.
 In Michigan, individual parks departments are advised to send in samples
periodically to be tested by the local health departments said Mark Valacak,
health officer of the GCHD.
 The MDEQ is concerned with the Great Lakes and groundwater more
than inland lakes like Lake Fenton or Ponemah. Managing farm runoff and
monitoring residential septic systems are important for groundwater protection.
 “Michigan’s bid for the future is predicated on our water resource,”
said Wurfel. The world of environmental quality is huge in the state.
Countless organizations and local governments are working under the
surface to keep water clean through grants and volunteer work.
 “People care, people who live in Michigan understand that water is
fundamental to our way of life, everything about living in Michigan
eventually comes back to our water, economy and recreation.”
 Statements like that ring true for groups like the Keepers of the Shiawassee,
who regularly meet at 8 a.m. to canoe, kayak and walk the river back to
cleanliness, and witness the connection between people’s habits and the environment.
 To measure air quality, the MDEQ tests for ozone, dust and particulate matter.
Air quality is up — and not in small part to the economic downturn that shuttered
a lot of manufacturing plants, which were heavy polluters.
The remaining manufacturers have become more aware of the
environmental impact they have, as the laws have pushed for cleaner air.
  Wurfel said the MDEQ implements federal Clean Air Act laws inside the state.
Measuring air quality is more difficult. Most of it has to do with manufacturing facilities.
 “We go in and permit and inspect facilities for air quality,” he said.
Air quality in the state is pass or fail, and Michigan seems to be passing.
 Anecdotally, Fenton, Linden and Holly look, smell and feel clean,
with stars you can see at night and safe water. Wurfel said that “small and rural”
don’t necessarily mean “cleaner and greener” when compared to big cities.
“Some cities are more into recycling than other cities, some counties
are more populated,” he said. “People impact the environment, period.”
  Though the picture is improved, Wurfel said the work is never done.
He said in the end, managing pollution is about managing people and their habits.
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