Thursday, November 15, 2007

Migratory Bird Deaths Linked to new Invasive Species

More than 100 dead loons and other migratory birds have washed up on New York's Great Lakes shores in the past week, prompting the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to suspect another botulism-poisoning episode linked to the spread of invasive species.

Evidence closely matches die-offs related to Type E botulism that have occurred every year on Lake Erie since 2000 and Lake Ontario since 2002 during fall migration. Those incidents are tied to two invasive species consumed by birds during migration stopovers: the quagga mussel and a fish called the Round Goby. Loons especially feed on the Round Goby. As the Round Gobies have proliferated in in Eastern Lake Ontario, cases of botulism poisoning have increased. This is now an annual event.

Other birds impacted include the Red-breasted Merganser, Ring-billed Gull, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Horned Grebe, Long-tailed Duck, Greater Scaup, Double-crested Cormorant and the White-winged Scoter. The single species with the greatest mortality has differed each year.

New Dioxin Hotspot in Saginaw River

Dow Chemical recently reported a preliminary result of over 1.6 million parts per trillion (ppt) from a single sediment sample in the Saginaw River. Until now, the highest level found in the Saginaw River was 32,000 ppt. Under June 2007 EPA orders, Dow has been removing three dioxin hotspots from the Tittabawasse River which had concentrations of up to 87,000 ppt. The new Saginaw River sample came from a location a half-mile below the confluence of the Tittabawassee and Shiawassee Rivers, near Wickes Park in Saginaw.

"The sediment concentration recently reported by Dow is probably the highest level ever found in the Great Lakes," said Dr. Milton Clark, EPA Region 5's senior health and science advisor. "While not exactly comparable, the concentration is more than 1,000 times higher than EPA's action level of 1,000 parts per trillion that triggers cleanup of dioxin-contaminated soils at residences. It is more than10,000 times higher than the State of Michigan's residential cleanup criterion of 90 parts per trillion."

"Under most circumstances, EPA is more concerned by high levels of dioxin in sediments because they contaminate the aquatic food chain. EPA national dioxin guidance and risk assessment approaches indicate that dioxin levels found in sediments may need to be lower than those in soils to fully protect public health," Dr. Clark added.

Fish consumption is one of the primary exposure pathways in the Saginaw River system. Adverse human health effects associated with exposure to dioxin include impacts to the reproductive, immune and endocrine systems. Dioxin is also a carcinogen.

Since 1978, the state of Michigan has issued fish consumption advisories for the Saginaw River Watershed. A recent University of Michigan study revealed that people consuming fish from the Saginaw River system have higher than average levels of dioxins in their blood.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Auto Workers and dealers lead fight for higher fuel efficiency standards

The Auto Lobby Doesn't Speak For Us website ( went live on Friday in an attempt to enlist industry workers who believe the domestic auto makers not only can but must build more fuel-efficient cars if the industry is to survive.

The campaign includes local and state speaking engagements, blogging to recruit for the sign-on letter to House and Senate leadership, a trip to the nation's capitol to talk with legislators and a few Washington DC newspaper ads.

The website provides links to National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and University of Michigan studies on the feasibility and impact of higher fuel economy standards on the auto industry. The website reads: "An increase in fuel economy standards will not only benefit the country as a whole, it will also move the industry forward, create new jobs and boost profitability."

Check it out here:

See my related post on this effort over on Blue Muskrat: Most Michigan Autoworkers Support 40mpg rule & Climate Curbs

Bad Dow, Bad!

EPA notifies Dow of clean-air and hazardous waste violations

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 5 notified Dow Chemical Co. on Friday that it has found clean-air and hazardous waste violations at the company's Midland facility. EPA issued a 'finding of violation' under the Clean Air Act and a 'notice of violation' under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. The investigation spanned eight weeks over a two-year period.

The Feds allege Dow violated the Clean Air Act by, among other things, "failing to follow regulations aimed at detecting and repairing leaks, as well as failing to conduct a required stack test. Dow was also allegedly found to be in violation of multiple Resource Conservation and Recovery Act requirements for managing hazardous waste."

EPA said Dow's clean-air violations have increased public exposure to organic hazardous air pollutant emissions including, but not limited to, ethyl chloride, toluene, ethylene, perchloroethylene, methanol and hydrogen chloride.

Meanwhile, the Republican legislator from Midland is wasting his time and taxpayer moneyby launching a ridiculous attack on the Michigan Dept of Environmental Quality.

Thursday, November 08, 2007


Overwhelmed with the daily drumbeat of work, commute, family and more, I could use some writing assistance with Black Bear Speaks. The quality and timeliness of The Bear is slipping due to inattention and increasing importance of other projects.

I can't pay anyone, Black Bear Speaks does not turn a profit. But what you'll get from writing for the Bear is name recognition in the environmental community in Michigan. I've worked hard to ensure that many non-profit leaders in the Great Lakes are aware of the site. Right now, Black Bear Speaks gets approximately 600 to 900 unique readers per month (Google Analytics). Black Bear Speaks is influencing decision making on the state level, regional legislators read the Bear. For journalism students out there who want to get your writing noticed, this is an opportunity for you.

I'm looking for writers who can cover the following topics - all or some of them - whatever you are comfortable with:
  • new green businesses in the Great Lakes
  • Great Lakes water quality ( toxics in groundwater and lakes)
  • new government environmental regulation... or government non-regulation and stupidity
  • Non-profit environmental organization activities
  • miscellaneous topics that affect the health of the Lakes.

    So, from this point forward, SUBMISSIONS ARE WELCOMED!!! Click the contact link at the top of the page, and help me take the Bear to the next level.