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E-M:/ RE: / News Release: Michigan's Watersheds At High Risk from Polluted Runoff--PIRGM Report

Dear EMers:


For those of you interested in reading the full report, here is a link to the complete PDF version.  I can recommend it highly.









Thomas K. Rohrer, Asst. Professor & Director

Environmental Studies Program

318 Brooks Hall

Central Michigan University

Mt. Pleasant  MI  48859

U. S. A.


Ph. (989) 774-4409

email = tom.rohrer@cmich.edu


CMU Environmental Studies Program information is available at:





"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world: indeed it is the only thing that ever has!

                     -- Margaret Meade


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                                ~~ Teddy Roosevelt



From: owner-enviro-mich@great-lakes.net [mailto:owner-enviro-mich@great-lakes.net] On Behalf Of Mike Shriberg
Sent: Monday, November 14, 2005 11:23 AM
To: enviro-mich@great-lakes.net
Subject: E-M:/ News Release: Michigan's Watersheds At High Risk from Polluted Runoff, New Report Shows



Public Interest Research Group in Michigan


News Release: November 14


Mike Shriberg, PIRGIM - (734) 662-6597

Gary Belan, American Rivers - (202) 347-7550 ext. 3027


Michigan’s Watersheds At High Risk from Polluted Runoff, New Report Shows

Low-Impact Development Offers Local Solutions


Ann Arbor—A new PIRGIM and American Rivers study released today found that one quarter of Michigan’s watersheds were at risk due to contaminated stormwater runoff.  The dominant cause of this runoff is Michigan’s burgeoning urban sprawl.


“This study clearly shows how sprawling development is impacting Michigan’s water quality,” said PIRGIM Director Mike Shriberg.  “It also shows how local governments can use innovative low-impact development to greatly reduce runoff and prevent harm.”


The report, Waterways at Risk: How Low-Impact Development Can Reduce Runoff Pollution in Michigan, is the first-ever to combine new land use data (impervious surface area) and sprawl data (new building permits), and make a statewide assessment of the health of watersheds.  The trends are staggering: Michigan is predicted to add over 4 million acres of new development by 2040, nearly tripling the amount of developed land.  More developed land means poorer water quality because of the increase in polluted stormwater runoff that paving natural areas brings.  


“This report predicts dramatic increases in contaminated drinking water, degraded wildlife habitat, flooding and sewage overflows,” said Shriberg.


Polluted stormwater runoff stems largely from treating rain as a waste product that needs to be disposed of quickly – this allows pollutants from roads, rooftops, and parking lots as well as raw sewage to be carried swiftly into rivers, lakes and streams.  Waterways in southeast Michigan, greater Grand Rapids, and Grand Traverse County are especially threatened by polluted stormwater runoff because of their rapidly increasing sprawl.


“Michigan’s most rapidly growing municipalities are the places where watersheds are at greatest risk,” said Gary Belan, Conservation Associate at American Rivers.  “The good news is that local governments have a choice: They can either continue the current trends and the attendant declines in water quality, or they can change this dynamic by making sure development proceeds smartly and responsibly.”


The report urges local government to choose the path of low-impact development, a technique that makes a built environment function more like the natural environment, allowing stormwater to be managed close to where it falls and naturally infiltrate into the ground.  Low-impact techniques include:

§         Incorporating green spaces into new and existing development

§         Using native plants to landscape and absorb stormwater where it falls

§         Using absorbent surfaces, like pervious concrete, to allow stormwater to infiltrate into the ground

§         Retaining stormwater for future use through the use of rainbarrels


“We don’t need to sacrifice water quality at the altar of suburban sprawl,” said Shriberg.  “Low-impact development is a great policy because it turns stormwater runoff from a serious problem into a positive asset.”


PIRGIM and American Rivers urge municipalities that are struggling with polluted stormwater runoff to establish low-impact development and smart growth policies, including ‘no net runoff’ standards for new development.  By demanding that stormwater is controlled onsite, local governments would take taxpayers off the hook for subsidizing infrastructure improvements for new development, and they would ensure environmental benefits by keeping pollution out of local waterways.


“‘No net runoff’ is a win-win.  It’s good for taxpayers and it’s good for the environment,” concluded Shriberg.


These win-win, least-cost solutions at the local level are particularly important as the Great Lakes Regional Collaborative wraps up its Action Plan to Restore and Protect the Great Lakes and provides funding recommendations to Congress, the states and municipalities.  All polluted runoff in Michigan eventually winds up in the Great Lakes, where stormwater runoff is the fastest growing source of pollution and one of the most intractable problems the state and region face.



PIRGIM is a statewide, nonprofit, nonpartisan public interest advocacy organization.


Electronic copies of the report are available at www.pirgim.org