Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Mystery Trash Washups On West Michigan Beaches Solved

Nov 21: A release from the Alliance for the Great Lakes and Milwaukee Riverkeeper indicates that the suspected source of two massive mystery trash washups along west Michigan beaches in 2008 and 2010 has been identified. An investigation by the U.S. Coast Guard and EPA cites the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District's (MMSD) combined sewer overflows into Lake Michigan -- a foul mix of sanitary sewage and storm water -- as the "logical suspect" behind both summer washups.

    The finding comes more than six months after the Alliance for the Great Lakes filed a federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for the information, seeking answers on behalf of the many Alliance volunteers who responded to the incidents and helped the Coast Guard in its initial investigation. In total, the Coast Guard located 266 pages of documents from its investigation and shared the bulk of them with the Alliance.

    The records show MMSD released an estimated 686 million gallons of combined sewer overflow June 7-9, 2008 and an estimated 1.9 billion gallons July 22-25, 2010. Flooding summer rains struck the region both times, overwhelming the plant and prompting major releases into Lake Michigan. In the days that followed, tons of "mystery trash"-- including food wrappers, bottle caps, plastic bits, syringes and woody debris -- was found on beaches along some 50 miles of the west Michigan coastline. Alliance Adopt-a-Beach™ volunteers and shoreline property owners were among the first responders, clearing beaches and reporting to the Coast Guard  any mailing addresses, bar codes and other identifiable markings they found -- information that ultimately helped the Coast Guard pinpoint the source. 

    The FOIA documents say plastic materials found on the beaches likely originated from a recycling center; the source of the medical waste has not yet been explained. Alliance Water Quality Program Manager Lyman Welch, who filed the FOIA request said, "Solving sewage overflows in the Great Lakes is complex work that requires innovation, funding and regulation. These findings are troubling, particularly because the problems aren't unique to any one city or lake."
For example, the same flooding rains that forced the Milwaukee sewage discharge in July 2010 also hit Chicago, overwhelming the sewage treatment plant there and prompting the release of 6.5 billion gallons of sewage-laced stormwater into Lake Michigan. The probe reported no waste from the Chicago discharge among the west Michigan debris, however.
Access a release from the Alliance and link to more details on the Coast Guard & EPA probe (click here).

New Website For Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee

Nov 22: The Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee (ACRCC), announced a new website -- AsianCarp.us -- as the new home for up-to-date information on ACRCC actions to protect the Great Lakes from bighead carp and silver carp. The ACRCC, with support from federal, state, local agencies and other private stakeholder entities, was formed to implement actions to protect and maintain the integrity and safety of the Great Lakes ecosystem from an Asian carp invasion via all viable pathways. The goals and actions of the ACRCC are outlined in the 2011 Asian Carp Control Strategy Framework and the 2011 Monitoring and Rapid Response plan.
    Access the new ACRCC website to access documents and more information (click here).