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E-M:/ More on the Michigan impaired waters list

Enviro-Mich message from "Alex J. Sagady & Associates" <ajs@sagady.com>

It is impressive how devoted the MDEQ Water Bureau
water quality planning staff is to the current Granholm Administration's
goal of getting Michigan citizens used to living with dirty, impaired
waters and violating the Clean Water Act in the process -- 
be less worried through being unaware of dirty water problems.

While the Granholm political people, the top management in the 
MDEQ and the line workers in the Water Bureau would never 
agree to it being described or cast in this way, nevertheless that is what is going on 
here with the year 2008 MDEQ Section 303(d) Impaired waters report just 
published on January 28:


The purpose of the Section 303(d) report is to delineate which 
waters are impaired and are violating water quality standards
and for what reason and what planning and regulatory decisions
must take place to address these problems.

The new year 2008 Draft Impaired Water List has hidden much 
of the major policy decisions in a mass of database tables, but 
look closely and you may begin to see how MDEQ is using this 
process to escape accountability on cleaning up Michigan's 

The 2008 report shows many new areas in the first 7 pages of 
Appendix D with new dioxin, pathogen and mercury contamination 
problems since the 2006 report, but MDEQ's draft 2008 report doesn't show the name of the 
watercourses and expects you to take a 14 digit hydrological code
and try to find out yourself where it is.   So much for being public 
friendly, but I fear the real purpose is to obscure public disclosures
of such impairment.   Such obfuscation serves political, corporate, agriculture
and development interests, but not the public interest since it 
frustrates a primary purpose for why Congress enacted Section 303(d) 
in the first place -- a motivation for public pressure to clean up dirty 
waters.   It would take hours and hours to go through the first 7 pages
of Appendix D and identify the streams, rivers and lakes where MDEQ 
now says there are newly discovered mercury, PCB, pathogen, 
chlorinated dioxin/furan and other problems it discovered in the last 
2 years.

A few listings for chlorinated dioxin/furan (PCDD/PCDF) I found in the new problem list....
....PCDD/PCDF in South Branch of Macatawa River, Morrow Lake/Kalamazoo River;
Davis Creek-Kalamazoo River; Spring Brook- Kalamazoo River; Silver Creek - 
Kalamazoo River; TRowbridge Dam and Pine Creek - Kalamazoo River; Tannery 
Creek - Kalamazoo River; Lake Allegan/Dumont Creek - Kalamazoo River; 
Averill Creek, Prairie Creek, Snake Creek and Tittabawassee River; 
Lingle Drain, Sarle Drain, Shaffner and Major Drainand Tittabawassee River; 

Many new listings in the last two years for mercury, PCBs and other pollutants
are shown, but it would take hours to identify them by the common name 
of the river, lake or stream because MDEQ didn't provide that.

Other states produce easily viewed maps graphically showing 
impaired water features under Section 303(d) of the Clean Water Act,
but not Michigan -- the Great Lakes state.

In the 2006 report, MDEQ designated 3263 miles of rivers and 
streams under Category 4c, which means the fish and biotic communities
are impaired because of so-called "management" through channelization
by drain commissioners.  Allegedly, no pollutant is involved, even through 
such "management" causes significant turbidity and siltation that destroys 
aquatic habitat for fisheries and beneficial aquatic organisms.   Michigan 
has a rule against causing excessive turbidity and siltation in its narrative 
water quality standards.   Many southern Michigan rivers are choked with 
turbidity from poor practices from agricultural and development sources.
But Michigan isn't showing this to be impaired water quality from a pollutant
for thousands of river and stream miles in Michigan which have these impairments.

Now, in year 2008, MDEQ proposes to designate over 6900 miles of 
rivers and streams under Category 4c to be the playland for  county drain commissioners to 
create agriculture and development sewers out of Michigan's 
streams and rivers----  more than a doubling from year 2006.

In year 2006, no other Great Lakes state had anywhere near as many
stream and river miles under category 4c as Michigan had, and now 
Michigan DEQ in 2008 proposes to more than double these river and stream 
sacrifice areas.

Because MDEQ's water database people mixed the table displays
of categories 5, 4a, 4b and 4c together, it is impossible to easily 
determine which streams and rivers 
are the ones to be newly condemned to Category 4c and 
non-accountability for fish and biotic damage by drain commissioners.

Even though development, agricultural and drain commissioner
activities cause pollution problems with turbidity and sediment, 
the failure to designate such watercourses under Category 5 
as impaired and needing a total maximum daily load plan means
that all of these entities, as well as industry and municipalities, escape
requirements for water quality based effluent limitations for 
total suspended solids.   

When MDEQ considers beneficial use impairments for 
purposes of partial and total body contact recreation, Water
Bureau water quality planners have put blinders on when 
addressing serious water quality problems/impairments from nutrients 
in Saginaw Bay and Western Lake Erie.

In MDEQ's 2008 Draft report, the evaluation 
process for beneficial use impairments as to partial and 
total body contact recreation (i.e. wading and swimming)
is absolutely restricted to two and only two factors....whether
there is the presence of untreated combined sewer overflows/
untreated sewage and the results of e-coli monitoring.

MDEQ water quality planners sitting in Constitutional Hall  contemplate
for citizens on the shores of Western Lake Erie and Saginaw Bay
and make no finding that there is no obvious water 
quality impairment for partial and total body contact 
recreation -- saying it is "Not Assessed".....when it is 
quite apparent that such waters are tragically impaired.

They do look at hydrological subunit designated Saginaw Bay beach
areas, but mostly it is either "Not Assessed" or "Insufficient

Since they don't have comprehensive e-coli data on the 
beach areas and don't have indications of raw sewage or 
untreated CSO's, their decisionmaking calculus fails to 
consider the mounds of algae washing up on the shores, and 
thus allows an MDEQ finding that there is no water quality 
impairment for partial or total body contact recreation in 
Saginaw Bay and Michigan waters of Western Lake Erie.

Somehow, MDEQ water quality planner forgot to include 
as a criteria for recreational water quality degradation the 
aspect of an esthetic recreational experience of water quality....
.....that turbid waters with obnoxious odors and piles of 
decaying algae constitute water quality impairments.   Any 
child visiting Saginaw Bay knows this, but MDEQ Water
Bureau somehow does not....and does not include such 
consideration as water quality impairment findings for 
Saginaw Bay for impairments affecting recreation.

MDEQ does acknowledge that a toxic algae, microcystist, is interfering
with public water supply intakes....introducing objectionable
tastes and odors from algae brought on by excessive 
nutrients.   But MDEQ then refuses to say that this 
is a Category 5 water quality impairment, saying that
a 27 year old alleged water quality plan for Saginaw
Bay and Western Lake Erie prevents the 
need for a total maximum daily  load plan for nutrients
in the Saginaw Bay watershed.   Thus, MDEQ sets the 
stage for refusing to impose water quality based 
effluent limitations on municipal, industrial and agricultural 
sources of phosphorus pollution that area actually required
under the Clean Water Act.  

What illegal bureaucratic nonsense!!

Alex J. Sagady & Associates        http://www.sagady.com

Environmental Enforcement, Permit/Technical Review, Public Policy, 
Expert Witness Review and Litigation Investigation on Air, Water and 
Waste/Community Environmental and Resource Protection
Prospectus at:  http://www.sagady.com/sagady.pdf 

657 Spartan Avenue,  East Lansing, MI  48823  
(517) 332-6971; (517) 332-8987 (fax); ajs@sagady.com

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