Water Pollution in Michigan Proposal

PRE-PROPOSAL 1. Media Artifact

Link to your media artifact(s) giving background on the issue:

  2. Persona and POV-statement Persona: Persona name: Sarah Jennings Age: 36 School/occupation: Nurse Location: Flint, Michigan   Quote: "I want to be the best mom I can be"   About:
  • Mom of two young kids
  • No husband
  • Middle-class family
Goals:
  • Wants to raise good children
  • Wants to excel in her career
  • Wants to maintain a good work/personal life balance

 

POV Statement:
  • User: Sarah, a single mother of two
  • Need: ...needs to make sure her of her children's health
  • Insight: because she wants to maintain and grow her family.
 

 

3. Potential Solutions:

Describe three reasonable, feasible potential solutions or approaches that would help address this problem.

SOLUTION 1: After conducting extensive research on mechanisms that can combat water pollution, one potential solution that we came up with was governmentally implementing ditch checks that will slow the velocity of runoff and also decrease the erosion rate of our soil. By requiring these ditch checks to be in place, there will be less sediment pollution as well as a decreased amount of trash. An addition to this solution would be requiring a large number of dewatering bags to additionally prevent sediments from eroding quickly.

SOLUTION 2:  One potential solution to the issue is to promote education campaigns. You could have a class for high school students and government enforced commercials and advertisements warning people about the dangers of drinking polluted water. For example, if the water looks or tastes off then not to drink it and call your local health department. You could teach people the dangers of polluting into rivers, lakes, or other water bodies, and how to properly dispose of wastes. 

SOLUTION 3: While a large presence of technological mechanisms is a great solution to reducing water pollution, another effective solution deals with wildlife and agriculture. Requiring all Michigan farmers and other cattle owners to graze their cattle only on highly vegetated land will significantly aid in decreasing water pollution. Strict legislation would need to be passed and would need to be heavily regulated in order for the overgrazing of land to cease. This means that there would be a large system of overseeing the upkeep of farmland for the benefit of the environment.  

SOLUTION 4: Michigan, an agricultural, rustbelt state, is known for its heavy contamination from industrial and environmental toxins. After speaking with Laura Rubin and doing research on polluted waterways, Michael and I concluded that a great solution is to deploy scientists to conduct research on PFAS levels and then implement a maximum contaminant level of PFAS in drinking water. While Michigan has made efforts to locate this PFAS contamination, there has been no set standard put in place. 

 

BACKGROUND AND RESEARCH PROCESS Context

Reference to a current Michigan bill or law that relates in some way to your proposal: Michigan House Resolution 351 calls on the Trump Administration to "immediately release the draft toxicological profile on the dangers of PFAS to human health." This bill requests that detailed information on the harms of PFAS is available to the public. This relates to our proposal as a supplement, providing more information to the general public while installing scientists to research a suitable maximum PFAS contaminant level. 

Why this proposal will make a difference in the lives of students of all ages across Michigan, or a significant subgroup (by age, background, economic status, and/or region, etc.) of students in Michigan:  Our proposal will make a difference in the lives of all residents in Michigan. After conducting extensive research and consoling with outside sources, we decided that the most feasible and effective solution would be to set a standard for PFAS in the drinking water. However, as students and not scientists, we are unable to know what the exact number of PFAS should be. So part of our proposal is to deploy a team of scientists to investigate what the proper level should be, and then set it a standard at that number. Setting a standard for PFAS will make the drinking water much cleaner. This long-term solution will greatly benefit our future generations by ensuring families that the water they drink on a daily basis will be safe to drink. 

How and where did you learn about the issues underlying your proposal?

I learned about the issues underlying my proposal when I learned about the flint water crisis in high school. I listened to the news and read many stories about how devastated families were and the health effects that may have resulted from drinking contaminated water. It saddened me a lot to hear these stories. When I finally arrived in Michigan, I saw how close Flint was to Ann Arbor and this issue became very real to me. I and my friend Bryan then thought about how we could take actions into our own hands and researched potential solutions to the problem. 

How has your service activity influenced your thinking about this proposal?

After originally selecting Food Gatherers as our non-profit service activity, we decided to pivot towards an activity that would better correlate to our proposal on water pollution. Thus, we contacted Clean Water Action of Ann Arbor, a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting the health, economic well-being, and standard of living in communities in Michigan. Clean Water Action has shown us the importance of building a future consisting of clean water and energy, and that it is imperative to have the utmost clarity and strength within the written legislation. By participating in Clean Water Action, it has become apparent how impactful environmental organizations are in shaping and fortifying laws that have already been put in place.

 

Link to your media artifact(s) giving background on the issue:

Newsletter: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Qp1qlRpyjmgtDHUmS0KFT5WnED8W52DT1q9XUnOS3B4/edit?usp=sharing

 

Consultations

Talk directly with at least 3 real live people who have special knowledge about this topic or the impact your proposal would have, and summarize their comments. These may include people appearing in your media artifact (video, podcast, etc.).

CONSULTATION 1: Laura Rubin, executive director at the Huron River Watershed Council. We spoke with her on the phone briefly and asked her what kind of legislation she would like to see passed. She explained that many of the clean water groups have been pushing for a bill that puts a standard on the amount of PFAS allowed in drinking water. PFAS is a global pollutant that is extremely dangerous to consume in large quantities. Many states have a standard for PFAS, but Michigan does not. This solution would be to deploy scientists to research what a safe level of PFAS is in drinking water, and set that as a standard. 

CONSULTATION 2: Jennifer Schlict, who is an office manager at Clean Water Action, where we did our service work. We spoke briefly on the phone with her and she told us one of the major things that they focus on. This issue arises when the amount of rainfall exceeds the sewer systems capacity. When the capacity is exceeded, it floods into the local water systems without treatment. This causes bacteria and other substances to get into the clean drinking water. There is a solution, however, and that can be to upgrade the sewage system infrastructure. Our proposal would be able to help this issue and make drinking water safe. 

CONSULTATION 3: Earl J. Kenzie. Earl is the manager of Wastewater Treatment Services of Ann Arbor. Earl shared with us the various projects that the Treatment Plant is working on, including renovations to the plant. These renovations include updating aeration systems, electrical structures,  stormwater pumps, and discharge facilities.

 

Reaction or advice from a Topic Coordinator:

You must solicit a critique from a topic coordinator, and explain the impact that advice has had on the final draft of this proposal.

Max gave us advice during the process when we had to decide what kind of legislation we wanted to achieve. He explained to us that we could either go with two options, legislation for the clean-up and legislation for the prevention of the issue. Michael and I thought long about this and decided that we would focus on the prevention of water pollution. Additionally, Max also gave us great advice regarding our resolutions. He suggested we add a little more specification to each one, and in turn, we provided detailed information regarding a fund name, types of scientists, and measurement units. This is important, as this proposal has the potential of being brought to the Michigan legislature and therefore must be as specific as possible.

  Research process:

Describe your research process — indicate who you talked to (including but not limited to consultants), what you read, what your thinking was, how it changed over time, and how your consultants changed your thinking. This description of your research process definitely could include “dead ends,” or ideas you had that didn’t ultimately bear fruit.  In short, we want to know what you did and how it led to your legislation, and we also want you to give us a window into your thought process.

Throughout our research process, we spoke to various individuals who work in the governmental sector, ranging from employees of the Ann Arbor Water services to managers at the non-profit environmental organization Clean Water Action. Ever since hearing about the Flint water crisis in the spring of 2014, Michael and I had both taken an interest into the impact that catastrophe had on the surrounding environment. Once beginning this class, we figured it would be beneficial to further research water pollution, more specifically drinking water, in other areas of Michigan that affects us and our fellow students on campus. Originally we searched for legislation that involved implementing education programs on the importance of water safety into schools, however, we realized that that would not suffice the effect we want our proposal to accomplish. After speaking with Laura Rubin, the executive director of Huron River Watershed Council, she explained how large an issue it is that there is no current maximum PFAS contaminant level put in place. PFAS, perfluorooctanesulfonic acid, is a global pollutant that is linked to kidney disease, cancer, and other health issues. We decided that an optimal solution would be to fund research dedicated to setting a maximum PFAS contaminant level. 

We also had to do research when deciding how we were going to get money for the fund and where it was going to come from. We went on to the Michigan government site, and eventually got to the Department of Environmental Quality page, where we were able to find their spending data. The pdf document clearly stated how much each fund had, and we were able to see all the different clean water funds laid out side by side. This gave us a good idea of how much we wanted in our fund. 

Author contributions:

Please delineate--in detail--who made what contributions to the process and to the finished proposal? Who took on which responsibilities in researching ideas, drafting language, etc.?

Throughout our proposal, Michael and I delegated ourselves to certain jobs but also did a lot of work together. Michael spoke to Laura Rubin on the phone, collecting great advice and insight from someone who has been involved with the Huron Council for over 20 years. I spoke to Earl Kenzie on the phone, who provided me with a foundation of how the Ann Arbor Water Treatment Plant works and the current condition/cleanliness that employees work in. Together, we spoke to Jennifer Schlict at Clean Water Action. I focused on researching PFAS and the many chemicals that fall under this umbrella term. Michael conducted research on previous bills and laws that have been passed in Michigan regarding PFAS, as well as controversial topics over setting a contamination level. After completing each part of the proposal, with the two of us answering different questions, we then went through the entire thing together and made sure that it sounded like a cohesive proposal with matching ideas.

FORMAL PROPOSAL

The sections below should comprise your final proposal language, submitted for consideration by your peers and potential inclusion in the MSC Platform.

Preambulatory clauses

These set up the PROBLEM, but not the solution.

WHEREAS....More than 30 sites in 15 communities across Michigan have confirmed PFAS contamination in the soil, groundwater, or surface water. 

WHEREAS....Michigan already has maximum contaminant levels for PFOS and PFOA, but not PFAS. 

WHEREAS....PFAS includes many other chemicals besides PFOS and PFOA, like GenX, PFNA, PFDA, PFHxS, and more. 

(Add more "Whereas" clauses if necessary.)

Operative clauses

These describe in detail, the solution you are proposing (not the problem itself; those should go in the "Whereas" clauses above).

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED....

1. Create a new fund, the PFAS Water Quality Management Fund, that directly pays for research by technician scientists on the proper level of allowed PFAS in drinking water.

2. Set a state drinking water standard, measured in parts per trillion, at the level which the scientists determine.

3. Monitor the drinking water every six months and determine whether the standard should be changed by assessing the deviation from the originally determined maximum contaminant level.

(Add more "Resolved" clauses if necessary.)

Counter-arguments:

What are three reasonable arguments against this proposal?

1. One reasonable argument against this proposal is that adequate testing can be done to further identify harmful chemical compounds and research to determine a contaminant level is unnecessary.

2. Instead of the cost to implement this proposal into Michigan, the state should focus on getting a national standard in place to instill widespread awareness and regulation.

3. It could take years to pass a standard given the slowness of Michigan's legislative body, and the PFOS and PFOA contamination levels are sufficient.

Costs and funding:

What will your proposal cost (in direct expenses, lost tax revenue, lost economic opportunity, and/or non-monetary costs)? How will you pay for your proposed legislation? Where will/could the funding for your proposal come from?  Who might object to dedicating resources to your proposal (competing interests)?  

Because Bryan and I emphasized that we do not want Michigan residents to pay extra taxes, we want to take the money out of existing places. In 2017, Michigans Department of Environmental Quality spent over 1.7 billion dollars. The Clean Water funds ranged from $500,000 to $41,000,000. We plan to draw money out of any of these funds, where the government best sees fit, and establish a new fund called the PFAS Water Quality Management Fund. We cannot be sure exactly how much money this fund will cost, because we do not know how long the scientists will need to conduct research. The majority of clean water funds are between $2 and $8 million, so I would assume something near that. After our consultations, it sounds like all clean water groups have been pushing for a standard for PFAS, so I think they would be in support of this. However, if there are groups that only push for certain funds, they will be upset that money is being taken out of theirs. But I believe out of the 1.7 billion that the Department of Environmental Protection spends, we could find room for $5 million dollars. 

 

References:

These can include websites or other information you have found about the issue.

https://www.mlive.com/news/index.ssf/page/michigans_water_crisis_pfas.html

http://www.saferstates.com/toxic-chemicals/pfas/

https://www.epa.gov/pfas/basic-information-pfas

https://www.michigan.gov/documents/deq/FY17_Consolidated_Report_FINAL_620461_7.pdf

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Total votes: 19