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Tag Archive | "Michigan Department of Environmental Quality"

Tri County School tests positive for PFAS


Tri County County Area Schools received testing results from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality last week that showed Tri County Middle School tested positive for PFAS.

According to Superintendent Allen Cumings, the Middle School tested at 62 parts per trillion (ppt), which is slightly below the EPA required limit of 70 ppt. Tri County High School was negative for PFAS, and the elementary schools are on municipal water, which is currently being tested.

“Tri County Area Schools is committed to providing our students, staff and community with quality drinking water,” said Superintendent Al Cumings. “We are working closely with MDEQ and are taking immediate steps to provide bottled water while investigating the source of the PFAS issue.

Cumings went on to say that even though the test results at the Tri County Middle School are below federal limits, the district is taking the following measures to ensure safe drinking water is available: 

1. Providing bottled water for drinking and meal preparation (immediately drinking fountains will not be available for use) 

2. Retaining an independent Environmental Engineering firm 

3. Working with the MDEQ to identify a plan with a timeline to address this issue 

4. Working with MDEQ to evaluate alternative water sources 

5. Cooperating with the MDEQ with regard to additional water testing and its investigation 

District officials noted that with safe drinking water an issue of concern across the state, they had been cooperating on an initiative with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) to test drinking water from schools using well water and community water supplies. The initiative is designed to determine if public health action is needed.

The testing process identifies man-made chemicals called per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). Since PFAS break down slowly and move easily into water, it is not uncommon to find low levels of PFAS in drinking water. They are also found in stain repellants, nonstick cookware, waterproof clothing, food wrappers, and other household products.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has suggested limits for two PFAS in drinking water, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS). The EPA has not set health advisory levels for other PFAS compounds. All Tri County Area Schools are being tested by AECOM, the MDEQ’s contractor.

“We will keep our community updated as we work with MDEQ to resolve this issue. Look for a Frequently Asked Questions document soon to come,” said Superintendent Cumings. “The health and safety of our students and staff members remains our number one priority.”

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March maple syrup making is good family fun


 

Michigan DNR and DEQ partners make maple syrup

A “sugar stove” used by the LeSages to boil down maple sap.

A “sugar stove” used by the LeSages to boil down maple sap.

There’s an old saying that goes, “From tiny acorns grow mighty oaks.” In this case, it was maple trees and the seed that was planted was that of inspiration.

Last March, Christian LeSage, a Michigan Department of Natural Resources fisheries biologist, and his family went to Fenner Nature Center in Lansing for its annual Maple Syrup Festival.

That glimpse into how sap is turned into treats like syrup and maple cream sparked an interest in starting his own sugar bush at home in Holt, where LeSage has 1.5 acres and seven nice maple trees.

He bought a book about maple sugaring and $30 worth of gear from the local store that sells sugar-bush supplies, and his syrup-making endeavor was off the ground.

“Last year we tapped five trees and got 40 gallons of sap in one week, which boiled down to almost a gallon of syrup,” LeSage said.

LeSage has since learned that his trees are big enough to tap multiple times.

“I thought we could double production this year by placing two bags for sap collection on each tree,” he said.

In one week’s collection time, the seven trees he’s tapped yielded 85 gallons of sap.

Gather: Leona and Silas LeSage out on a maple sap gathering outing.

Gather: Leona and Silas LeSage out on a maple sap gathering outing.

The process of making maple syrup usually begins months before spiles (taps) are knocked into tree trunks in February or March. The first steps are to identify trees for tapping and collecting supplies.

Next comes the actual tree tapping, followed by boiling of the sap to kill bacteria and evaporate excess water, which turns the sap into syrup.

Last year, LeSage did some Internet research and figured out how to create a wood-powered outdoor “oven,” using cement blocks, to boil down the sap. This year, he made the stove 30 percent larger and is now running three steam trays, versus two last year, to aid in reducing the sap boiling time.

“We had to resort to using a turkey fryer for part of the boil-down this year, when the stove malfunctioned due to an electrical issue,” he said. “It’s not really a good idea to boil a lot of sap down in the house, as it will turn your house into a sauna.”

While he enjoys his family’s new hobby, LeSage admits that it can be labor-intensive.

Boiling maple sap nearing the finishing point.

Boiling maple sap nearing the finishing point.

“It takes about eight hours to boil down 40 gallons of sap,” he said. “We did 60 in one day earlier this year and that added several more hours. I ended up having to bring some lights outside after it got dark.”

It’s a process that requires constant sieving—so that the sap that burns when it bubbles up doesn’t end up giving the syrup a bad flavor—and stoking the stove with wood.

“My lower back was screaming at the end of that day,” LeSage said.

One tricky part about making syrup is determining at which point in the boiling process it is finished.

“My wife, Sarah, has that tough job. When do you have syrup? If you go too far, it crystalizes. Barometric pressure and elevation factor in too,” he said.

But LeSage’s nose helps tip him off when it’s close to syrup stage.

“It smells like cotton candy when it’s almost done,” he said.

Finding the right window of time for tapping trees can be complicated too.

“It’s a race against time,” LeSage said. “Since the temperature has to be above freezing for sap to flow but sap gets bitter when the trees start to bud.

“And once you tap trees, they’re good for only six to eight weeks before they seal up or start to develop bacteria, from what I read.”

The syrup-making hobby has become a special family affair, with Sarah, the kids and in-laws helping. Sarah works as the aquatic invasive species coordinator for the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

“It’s fun to get in touch with one of the first signs of spring that’s happening right outside our backdoor,” she said.

The LeSage kids get a kick out of being involved too.

Silas LeSage demonstrates one way to eat maple cream.

Silas LeSage demonstrates one way to eat maple cream.

“My son talked about it in his kindergarten class when they were learning about trees,” he said.

Besides syrup, the family has tried making maple cream, a thick confection also known as maple butter or maple spread.

“My kids each ate a jar of that in about two days,” LeSage said.

Sarah LeSage said her kids help empty the containers of sap, but by far their favorite part of the process is enjoying the “maple cream.”

“It’s a specialty product you won’t find in grocery stores and is delicious spread on just about anything,” she said.

The family makes the syrup mostly for their own consumption. As the weekday breakfast-maker, LeSage uses a lot of it on waffles and pancakes. What he doesn’t use, he gives away.

“It’s neat because you did it in your own backyard,” he said.

Interested in getting an up-close look at maple sugaring?

Check out Maple Syrup Day at Hartwick Pines Logging Museum in Grayling on Saturday, April 1—with tree-tapping demonstrations, information on how to start your own sugar bush and kids’ activities—or visit one of the other local maple syrup festivals around the state.

Find out more about making maple treats from maple trees at several online websites, including www.tapmytrees.com.

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$200,000 grant will help restore wetlands


 

The 50-acre conservation easement will protect lakes and emergent wetlands in the watershed from development. Nelson Lake, just off Division, and east of Sparta, is one of the lakes in the conservation easement. Photo Credit: Pete DeBoer

The 50-acre conservation easement will protect lakes and emergent wetlands in the watershed from development. Nelson Lake, just off Division, and east of Sparta, is one of the lakes in the conservation easement. Photo Credit: Pete DeBoer

Cedar Springs and Sparta to benefit

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality recently announced more than $4.3 million in grants to protect Michigan lakes and streams from pollution, and a group working on projects in Cedar Springs and Sparta received a portion of it.

Trout Unlimited received $239,449 to restore wetlands, and to protect a 50-acre property with a permanent conservation easement in the Rogue River watershed, as part of the Rogue River Home Rivers Initiative project. The City of Cedar Springs and the Cedar Springs Community Building Development Team has contributed $22,000 to this project. Additional project partners include the Land Conservancy of West Michigan, SouthPeat Environmental LLC, the Rogue River Watershed Partners, and the Kent County Drain Commissioner Office.

Specific wetland activities include restoring approximately 5 acres of wetlands in the Cedar Springs and Sparta area. Two wetlands will be restored in Cedar Springs, both on City of Cedar Springs property. One is a half acre by the fire barn, where the new library will built (between the firebarn and Cedar Creek) and two acres at North Park, just east off of Main Street (between Oak Street and Cedar Springs Mobile Estates).

Two wetlands will also be restored in the Sparta area—one acre on the corner of M37 and Main St, and 1.5 acres off of Phelps, on private property.

Once restored, these sites will play a huge role in reducing sediment in Cedar and Nash Creeks and helping to stabilize water temperature by controlling stormwater runoff.  In addition, identification and prioritization of historically lost wetlands will be done and potential wetland restoration areas in the entire watershed will be quantified for future projects.

A second portion of the project is the completion of a conservation easement, permanently protecting approximately 50 acres in the watershed. The 50-acre conservation easement is located just east of Sparta, off of Division, on private property.

This property is directly adjacent to 124 acres of permanently protected land. The area just outside of the property is experiencing development pressure. The conservation easement will eliminate all development in this area, as well as provide buffer zones to the waterways and wetland areas.

These grants will help restore impaired waters and protect high-quality waters by reducing nonpoint sources of sediment, nutrients and other contaminants. Nonpoint source pollution is runoff that picks up both natural and human contaminants as it moves across the ground and eventually deposits it into waterways.

This two year project will begin in October 2016 and will be part of the current Trout Unlimited Rogue River Home Rivers Initiative project. This project is a multi-year collaborative watershed restoration project. Local foundations, businesses and other donors have contributed funds towards the Rogue River Home Rivers Initiative project. The City of Cedar Springs and the Cedar Springs Community Building Development Team has contributed $22,000 to this project. Additional project partners include the Land Conservancy of West Michigan, SouthPeat Environmental LLC, the Rogue River Watershed Partners, and the Kent County Drain Commissioner Office.

A Trout Unlimited Project Manager and Project Coordinator work to improve existing river conditions through restoration actions, work with local governments to improve municipal planning, and increase capacity to help ensure advocates for long-term protection of the Rogue.

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