WBEZ | Michigan http://www.wbez.org/tags/michigan Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en WATCH LIVE: Today's Congressional Hearing on the Flint Water Crisis http://www.wbez.org/news/watch-live-todays-congressional-hearing-flint-water-crisis-114689 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/flinthearing.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Today, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will hold a hearing titled, &quot;Examining Federal Administration of the Safe&nbsp;Drinking Water Act in <a href="http://www.wbez.org/tags/flint">Flint, Michigan</a>.&quot;&nbsp;<span style="text-align: center;">The hearing began at 9:00 am.&nbsp;Watch it below:</span></p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="470" scrolling="no" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/9S-hpXb3Nn4" width="620"></iframe></p><p>At today&#39;s hearing the following people will testify:</p><blockquote><ul><li>Rep. Dan Kildee, D-MI, United States House of Representatives</li><li>Joel Beauvais, Acting Deputy Assistant Administrator, Office of Water, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency</li><li>Keith Creagh, Director, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, State of Michigan</li><li>Marc Edwards, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University</li><li>Lee Anne Walters, former Flint Resident<br />&nbsp;</li></ul></blockquote><p><strong>RELATED STORIES:</strong></p><h5><a href="http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2016-01-22/how-chicago-firefighter-helping-flint-and-how-you-can-too-114582">Chicago Firefighter Sending Aid to Flint (And How You Help)</a></h5><h5><a href="http://www.wbez.org/programs/takeaway/2016-01-22/after-decades-job-losses-failing-schools-and-crime-water-crisis-just">Water Crisis is Just the Latest Catastrophe to Hit Flint</a></h5><h5><a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/flint-mayor-politics-and-profit-perpetuated-lead-tainted-water-crisis-114566">Flint Mayor: &#39;Politics and Profit&#39; Perpetuated Water Crisis</a></h5><h5><a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/lead-poisoning-michigan-highlights-aging-water-systems-nationwide-114352">Lead Poisoning In Michigan Highlights Aging Water Systems</a></h5><h5><a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/researchers-investigating-how-lead-exposure-could-affect-dna-114514">How Lead Exposure Could Affect DNA</a></h5><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 03 Feb 2016 11:31:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/watch-live-todays-congressional-hearing-flint-water-crisis-114689 How a Chicago Firefighter is Helping Flint (And How You Can Too) http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2016-01-22/how-chicago-firefighter-helping-flint-and-how-you-can-too-114582 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Chicago Help Flint.jpeg" alt="" /><p><p>The fall-out over the <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/flint-mayor-politics-and-profit-perpetuated-lead-tainted-water-crisis-114566">Flint Michigan water crisis continues</a>.</p><p>Here&rsquo;s the backstory: for nearly two years some residents have been exposed to toxic waste levels more than 10 times higher than the EPA limit, leading to lead-contaminated drinking water across the city.</p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/programs/here-and-now/2016-01-22/indifference-no-smoking-gun-michigan-governor%E2%80%99s-emails-flint-crisis">Michigan Governor Rick Snyder has come under intense pressure</a>, with calls for him to resign. President Obama has declared a federal state of emergency.</p><p>Yesterday the EPA said it would begin testing the city&rsquo;s water and ordering an independent review of what happened. But it&rsquo;s not just Michigan residents who are concerned. People outside of Flint<a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/more-help-headed-flint-residents-need-lead-free-water-114438"> have been lending a helping hand.</a></p><p>Chicago firefighter Eric Washington is one of them. He&rsquo;s collecting cases of bottled water to send to Flint and joins us to tell us about his effort.</p></p> Fri, 22 Jan 2016 16:49:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2016-01-22/how-chicago-firefighter-helping-flint-and-how-you-can-too-114582 After Decades of Job Losses, Failing Schools and Crime, Water Crisis is Just the Latest Catastrophe to Hit Flint http://www.wbez.org/programs/takeaway/2016-01-22/after-decades-job-losses-failing-schools-and-crime-water-crisis-just <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/flint.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>This week, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder apologized to the citizens of his state and to the residents of the city of Flint &mdash; people who have been dealing with the aftermath of lead-tainted water for more than a year, something that&#39;s led to brain damage in some children.</p><p>&quot;I&#39;m sorry most of all that I let you down. You deserve better. You deserve accountability. You deserve to know that the buck stops here with me,&quot; Snyder said during his State of the State address.</p><p dir="ltr">Snyder is asking the state legislature for $28 million to spend on diagnostic tests, health treatment for children and adolescents, replacement of old fixtures in Flint schools and daycare centers, and a study of the city&#39;s water pipes.</p><p dir="ltr">Ron Fournier, the senior political columnist at the National Journal, interviewed Snyder in December and&nbsp;<a href="http://www.nationaljournal.com/s/126092/refreshing-approach-politics-michigan" target="_blank">praised</a>&nbsp;him for his governing style.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;It&rsquo;s re&shy;fresh&shy;ing to see a politi&shy;cian as pas&shy;sion&shy;ate about gov&shy;ern&shy;ing as he is about win&shy;ning,&rdquo; Fournier wrote.</p><p dir="ltr">But new revelations have surfaced that showed Snyder had ignored the Flint crisis&nbsp;for months.</p><p dir="ltr">Earlier this week, Fournier re-interviewed Snyder, who called Flint his &quot;<a href="http://www.nationaljournal.com/s/352793/snyder-calls-flint-his-katrina-catastrophic-failure-leadership" target="_blank">Katrina</a>&rdquo; and said that losing the public&#39;s trust has been among the worst experiences of his life.&nbsp;Fournier has also&nbsp;<a href="http://www.nationaljournal.com/s/352795/how-government-this-columnist-failed-michigan-city?oref=t.co" target="_blank">done some soul searching</a>&nbsp;of his own and argues that America should be asking itself more than a few questions about this disaster.</p><div id="content-titles" style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-stretch: inherit; font-size: 14px; line-height: 22px; font-family: Georgia, serif; vertical-align: baseline;"><h1 style="margin: 0px 0px 4px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-stretch: inherit; font-size: 16px; line-height: 21px; font-family: inherit; vertical-align: baseline;"><a href="http://www.wbez.org/programs/here-and-now/2016-01-22/indifference-no-smoking-gun-michigan-governor%E2%80%99s-emails-flint-crisis" target="_blank">Indifference, But No Smoking Gun in Michigan Governor&rsquo;s Emails on Flint Crisis</a></h1></div><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Why does a community like Flint get neglected? Why is a community like Flint allowed to be poisoned by its city, its state and its federal government, and nobody seems to care when they get caught?&rdquo; he asks. &ldquo;Why is it that it took the national press so long to get engaged in the story? Why has the president of the United States still not talked about the culpability of his administration? Why did it take Snyder so long to say I&rsquo;m sorry?&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">As relief slowly flows into Flint, Fournier, a Detroit native, says America should have been paying attention &mdash; and getting angry &mdash; long ago as Flint and other Rust Belt cities suffered under the weight of decades of job losses, failing schools&nbsp;and terrible crime.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Why is the city of Flint allowed to waste away? It&rsquo;s poor,&rdquo; Fournier says. &ldquo;There&rsquo;s not a lot of power in Flint and there&rsquo;s not a lot of money in Flint, and we live in a society now where celebrity and money equal power. If you have power, you get attention and you get what you need. If you don&rsquo;t have power, you get left behind.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">In late December, Dan Wyant, the director of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, resigned from his position. Fournier says the agency knew there was too much lead in the water for months and actively minimized the situation &mdash; at times officials even took a &ldquo;dismissive&rdquo; and &ldquo;arrogant&rdquo; tone when meeting with Flint residents who were concerned.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;They were involved in protecting their butts,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;They weren&rsquo;t involved in solving the problem.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Additionally, Fournier argues that the Obama Administration has some culpability in this public health emergency. He says that the Environmental Protection Agency&rsquo;s Mid&shy;w&shy;est Chief Susan Hedman &mdash; an Obama appointee &mdash; &rdquo;buried&rdquo; the results of a test that showed potential problems with Flint&rsquo;s water system as early as February of 2015.&nbsp;Hedman resigned Thursday night.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Whether [these lawmakers and officials] resign or not, frankly I don&rsquo;t care,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;I just want the lead pipes that have been decaying in that city for at least 30 years to be replaced. I want every kid who&rsquo;s going to have a lifetime of brian damage to have the services they need so they can live as decent of a life as they can with the lead that our governments put in their system.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Fournier hopes Flint will get a revival, but he also believes that, fundamentally, the crisis in Flint is an indictment of all us, and something that begs the question: Do Flint lives matter?</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;They do now &mdash; they didn&rsquo;t a few months ago,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;With the history of that state and this country, as soon as we move away from people that are poor and don&rsquo;t have a voice, their lives matter less. And they&rsquo;ve got to matter.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">As people from around the nation watch this slow moving disaster unfold from the comfort of their living rooms, Fournier says that Americans must not forget this tragedy.</p></p> Fri, 22 Jan 2016 10:40:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/programs/takeaway/2016-01-22/after-decades-job-losses-failing-schools-and-crime-water-crisis-just Flint Mayor: 'Politics and Profit' Perpetuated Lead-Tainted-Water Crisis http://www.wbez.org/news/flint-mayor-politics-and-profit-perpetuated-lead-tainted-water-crisis-114566 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/2016-01-21-karen-weaver-flint-mayor-0024edit_custom-4b7da411e1d02607f841bea626642a92d3a8d880-s800-c85.jpg" alt="" /><p><div id="res463868853" previewtitle="Karen Weaver was elected mayor of Flint, Mich., after promising to address the city's water-contamination issues."><div data-crop-type="">High lead levels in Flint, Mich.&#39;s water has led President Obama to declare a state of emergency, as criticism mounts that the problem has not been handled promptly.</div></div><p>&quot;The people weren&#39;t put first, the health of the people was not put before profit and money,&quot; Flint Mayor Karen Weaver says&nbsp;<a href="http://www.npr.org/2016/01/21/463865286/flint-mayor-with-water-crisis-lawmakers-put-profit-over-the-people">in an interview with Ari Shapiro on&nbsp;</a><a href="http://www.npr.org/2016/01/21/463865286/flint-mayor-with-water-crisis-lawmakers-put-profit-over-the-people">All Things Considered</a>.</p><p>The problem started when Flint switched its water source to the Flint River in April 2014. The new supply was harder water, which corroded the city&#39;s pipes and leached lead into the tap water.</p><p>Residents quickly started complaining about the water. General Motors stopped using it in October 2014 because&nbsp;<a href="http://www.mlive.com/news/flint/index.ssf/2015/10/gm.html">it was corroding machinery</a>.</p><p>Even though the city switched back to its original supply in October 2015, the damaged pipes continue to contaminate the water. Weaver says Flint residents don&#39;t know when the city&#39;s water will be safe to drink again &mdash; even though they&#39;re still paying for it.</p><p>The lead levels and complaints about how the problem is being handled have led to the resignation Thursday of Susan Hedman, the regional director of the Environmental Protection Agency.</p><p>Also Thursday, the head of the EPA issued an emergency order directing state and city officials to take actions to protect public health.</p><p>President Obama&#39;s declaration of a state of emergency last week freed up $5 million in federal aid for the city.</p><p>Weaver was not in office when this started. She was elected in November after vowing to address the city&#39;s water problems, and as Michigan Radio&#39;s Lindsey Smith&nbsp;<a href="http://www.npr.org/2016/01/17/463405757/whos-to-blame-for-flints-water-problem">reports</a>, &quot;one of the first things she did was to declare an emergency in the city.&quot;</p><p>Flint residents have consistently voiced frustration over the time it has taken for officials to acknowledge this crisis and respond to it. Flint is a majority-black city, and 40 percent of people live below the poverty line. Weaver tells Ari that she thinks race and poverty &quot;had a lot to do with the response.&quot;</p><p><strong>On meeting President Obama</strong></p><p>Weaver met the president and some of his senior advisers earlier this week to discuss Flint&#39;s crisis.</p><p>&quot;[H]e has pledged to do everything that he can at the federal level and has, in fact, sent people to Flint to get started on this, past the FEMA [assistance] that has already been in place. One of the things he stressed is that he was going to be meeting with the governor the very next day, because the state has such a big role to play in this and we know the state has money. They have a rainy-day fund, a surplus between $500 and $600 million, and Flint needs to be the priority for receiving those funds.&quot;</p><p><strong>On 274 pages of emails about Flint released by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder</strong></p><p>Snyder made the emails public on Wednesday following widespread criticism. He said he was releasing them &quot;so that you have answers to your questions about what we&#39;ve done and what we&#39;re doing to make this right for the families of Flint.&quot;</p><p><strong>Here&#39;s what Weaver had to say:</strong></p><p>&quot;I haven&#39;t seen what&#39;s in those emails but I will tell you this &mdash; it&#39;s something that he needed to do because one of the issues we&#39;ve been dealing with is broken trust. And we&#39;ve been kept in the dark regarding some information regarding our water. We&#39;ve been given misinformation about the water, and the only way the governor can &mdash; if he can &mdash; rebuild trust, is to start doing that. So it&#39;s a start for him, I suppose.&quot;</p><p><strong>On calls for Snyder to resign</strong></p><p>&quot;You know what, I&#39;m glad those high-profile figures are out there, and they&#39;re putting the pressure on the governor and holding him accountable for some things. What I&#39;ve said is, we have an investigation going on and I can&#39;t wait to hear the results of that investigation because everybody that should be held accountable needs to be held accountable. We want to know who knew what and when they knew it. And that&#39;s from the governor, all the way down to if it includes local officials. We want everyone to be held accountable and if it means they have to be removed, so be it.&quot;</p><p><strong>On long-term solutions</strong></p><p>Weaver says the city is receiving badly needed bottled water and filters &mdash; but these are only temporary answers for the larger problem.</p><p>&quot;The other thing we need to do is start looking at infrastructure. Because even though we&#39;ve switched back to Lake Huron water through Detroit, those lead service lines are the issue. And how long are we supposed to wait for biofilm to build back up? Nobody can tell us how long that can take. And we need to be able to drink our water.&quot;</p><p><strong>On her hopes for Flint&#39;s future</strong></p><p>&quot;You know, it&#39;s a terrible thing, no community should ever have to go through what Flint has gone through, but I&#39;m also looking at the possibility of what can come out of this. And I&#39;ve always believed in Flint, I&#39;m excited about the potential, and you know, we&#39;ve got to get this fixed. But there is a lot to look forward to in the city of Flint. And you&#39;re going to have me back, because I&#39;m going to be telling the second part of this story.&quot;</p><p><a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/01/21/463861880/flint-mayor-politics-and-profit-perpetuated-lead-tainted-water-crisis?ft=nprml&amp;f=463861880" target="_blank"><em>&mdash; via NPR</em></a></p></p> Fri, 22 Jan 2016 10:02:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/flint-mayor-politics-and-profit-perpetuated-lead-tainted-water-crisis-114566 Researchers Investigating How Lead Exposure Could Affect DNA http://www.wbez.org/news/researchers-investigating-how-lead-exposure-could-affect-dna-114514 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/drinking_fountain_0.png" alt="" /><p><p>Researchers are looking into the possible ripple effects of lead exposure.&nbsp;</p><div><div><div>After the city of Flint switched to the Flint River for its drinking water<a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/lead-poisoning-michigan-highlights-aging-water-systems-nationwide-114352" target="_blank">, experts found the number of kids with elevated levels of lead in their blood doubled</a>.</div></div></div><p>Even low levels of lead can cause kids to lose IQ points and end up with behavior problems.</p><p><strong>Lead and DNA</strong></p><p>A recent study suggests lead exposure can cause changes to DNA that might affect several generations.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>Doug Ruden is the Director of Epigenomics at the Institute of Environmental Health Sciences at Wayne State University. He tested 35 moms and their babies in Detroit.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>To do this, he tested blood lead levels in neonatal blood spots from the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.mnbb.org/">Michigan Neonatal Biobank</a>. The biobank collects blood spots from all newborn babies in the state, and has done so since 1984.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;We recruited young mothers who were born after 1984 and got permission to measure their blood lead levels,&rdquo; Ruden says.</p><p><a href="http://www.nature.com/articles/srep14466">They observed</a>&nbsp;a correlation between elevated blood lead levels in the mothers and changes in DNA.</p><p>&ldquo;If the mothers had high blood lead levels when they were born, then their grandchildren have changes in their DNA,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;And the changes in the DNA we were looking at weren&rsquo;t mutations &mdash; they weren&rsquo;t permanent changes &mdash; but they&rsquo;re what we call epigenetic mutations. They&rsquo;re changes in DNA methylation.&rdquo;</p><p>Ruden says these sorts of changes control gene expression.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s thought that&rsquo;s how lead causes neurobehavioral defects &mdash; or loss of IQ in children,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s not by directly mutating the DNA, but altering their DNA methylation.&rdquo;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p><strong>What does this mean?</strong></p><p>Ruden says they don&#39;t know if these changes in DNA are good, bad or neutral. He says they need to do more studies to learn what this could mean.</p><p>&ldquo;Mothers who are exposed to lead in the water, for instance, can not only affect their children&rsquo;s IQ but can also affect, potentially, the IQ of their grandchildren,&rdquo; Ruden says. &ldquo;We know the DNA is affected, but we don&rsquo;t know right now &mdash; we&rsquo;re continuing to study this &mdash; we don&rsquo;t know right now whether these changes in the DNA in the grandchildren can also affect their IQ.&rdquo;</p><p><strong>A Russian nesting doll</strong></p><p>Ruden says they&#39;re studying how exposures in pregnancy can affect not just the baby a mom is carrying, but also her grandbabies.</p><p>&ldquo;The way you think about it is: if a mother is pregnant with a baby, she&rsquo;s also carrying the baby&rsquo;s children too,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;Because it&rsquo;s like a Russian doll.&rdquo;</p><p>He says a fetus develops fetal germ cells while still inside its mother.</p><p>&ldquo;So all of the eggs that a person has in life are actually developed in the fetus, during the fetal period, and all the sperm progenitor cells in the boy babies, the boy fetuses, are also present in the fetus,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;So when a mother drinks leaded water, like what happened in Flint, she&rsquo;s exposing her fetus, so that&rsquo;s going to directly affect brain development of her baby.&rdquo;</p><p>But he says, there could be effects on the next generation too.</p><p>&ldquo;What most people don&rsquo;t realize is that you&rsquo;re also expressing the germ line cells, and that can affect the grandchildren, and even potentially beyond that,&rdquo; he says.</p><p>One important caveat here: this study is small. Ruden says it will need to be repeated on larger scales and in different populations.</p><p>&ldquo;It is well established in animal models, though &mdash; like in mice and rats &mdash; that environmental exposures to compounds such as lead can have effects for many generations,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;So this isn&rsquo;t entirely surprising.&rdquo;</p><p>&mdash; <em><a href="http://michiganradio.org/post/researchers-investigating-how-lead-exposure-could-affect-dna#stream/0" target="_blank">via Michigan Radio</a></em></p></p> Tue, 19 Jan 2016 12:12:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/researchers-investigating-how-lead-exposure-could-affect-dna-114514 Who Will Pay for Michigan's Orphaned, Contaminated Sites? http://www.wbez.org/news/who-will-pay-michigans-orphaned-contaminated-sites-114478 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/image003.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Michigan has&nbsp;<a href="http://www.audgen.michigan.gov/finalpdfs/13_14/r761021714.pdf">more than 280 contaminated sites&nbsp;</a>that are &ldquo;orphans.&rdquo; That means the company that made the mess no longer exists and the state has to deal with it.</p><p>But Michigan is running out of money to tackle these environmental problems. That was not good news for Antrim County, home to one of the largest contaminated sites in the country. State management of an underground plume of trichloroethylene (TCE) has been crucial here for years and will be needed in the future.</p><p><strong>A lack of state funding to clean up the plume is causing concern</strong></p><p>It&rsquo;s been more than a decade since residents like Ruth Ann Clark went onto city water because of the TCE contamination. Her water comes from Mancelona, about eight miles away from her house.</p><p>Clark has a small farm with llamas and donkeys. She says she spends more than $100 a month on water. She doesn&rsquo;t know if the TCE plume has reached her land yet, but she&rsquo;s not worried because she has clean water.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s been okay,&rdquo; she says with a smile.</p><p>But it&rsquo;s not okay for everyone in Antrim County. In fact, millions more dollars must be spent to keep all her neighbors safe. Where that money will come from is a critical question for this community.</p><p><strong>An expanding legacy of pollution</strong></p><p>Not far from Clark&rsquo;s home is Summit Village, part of Shanty Creek Resort. The resort is one of the main drivers of economic growth in this area. It was purchased in 2007 and the new owners say they&rsquo;ve put another $15 million into it.</p><p>Realtor Donna Gundle-Krieg says a lot of money has been spent in Summit, one of three villages in Shanty Creek, where there&rsquo;s a hotel and conference center.</p><p>&ldquo;This is probably the area with the most expensive homes,&rdquo; she says.</p><p>But homes here will need to hook up to city water soon, because the TCE plume is moving towards them.</p><p>Gundle-Krieg has a vacant lot listed in Summit Village for $10,000. She doesn&rsquo;t expect to see a house on it anytime soon. She thinks it will be bought by someone who wants the beach access that goes with it on Lake Bellaire.</p><p>There is some confusion about exactly what is happening with the water. Gundle-Krieg says she frequently comes across homeowners who say they weren&rsquo;t told anything about the plume when they bought property and ask her what the situation is.</p><p>Property owners between Mancelona and Bellaire have this trouble today because of a degreaser used to clean machinery 50 years ago.</p><p>Herb Tipton got a job at Mount Clemens Metal Products in the 1960s.</p><p>&ldquo;The cleaning fluid was kind of a last resort,&rdquo; Tipton says. &ldquo;It was expensive.&rdquo;<br />&nbsp;<br />He says what they did use, they poured down the drain.</p><p>&ldquo;But I don&rsquo;t think anybody really knew the after-effects,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;&#39;Course, that&rsquo;s true all over the world.&rdquo;</p><p><strong>Michigan comes up short for clean water</strong></p><p>The TCE plume spreading across Antrim County might be the largest in the country, contaminating trillions of gallons of water.<br />&nbsp;<br />That&rsquo;s too expensive to clean up, so the state has spent $18 million to keep people from drinking the stuff. More will be needed to get clean water to everyone who will eventually need it. That&rsquo;s why community leaders were surprised in 2014 when they were told there wasn&rsquo;t enough money to extend more water lines.</p><p>They went to Lansing and proposed the state spend another $2 million to expand and upgrade the city water system. The state offered $500,000.</p><p>The idea that the state couldn&rsquo;t afford to protect drinking water in Antrim County sent shockwaves through the community last year.</p><p>Dean Branson, with Three Lakes Association, says the state&rsquo;s ability to manage this problem is critical. Without it, he says property becomes worthless since nobody will build a home on a lot that might not have clean water one day.</p><p>&ldquo;You aren&rsquo;t going to pay anything for that lot,&rdquo; Branson says. &rdquo;You aren&rsquo;t even going to pay your taxes. You&rsquo;re basically going to let it go back to the bank.&rdquo;</p><p>Branson helped work out a novel solution last spring. It involves the county sharing some of the costs of the next phase of work on the water system. Local governments seldom finance this kind of project. It&rsquo;s usually left to the state or federal government.</p><p>The agreement was not easy to get. Some county commissioners said the state would find the money one way or another and voted against the plan. County officials insisted this is the only time they&rsquo;ll spend money on this problem.</p><p>The agreement will protect everyone for a few years before more work is needed. Dean Branson says he&rsquo;s confident the state will be there to help.</p><p><strong>Who will pay?</strong></p><p>That&rsquo;s because at a meeting this summer, a division chief from the Department of Environmental Quality told a room full of people that the state will protect their drinking water. On videotape, Bob Wagner said if anyone asks the DEQ whether it&rsquo;s safe to buy property in Antrim County, the answer will be &ldquo;yes.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s safe. It&rsquo;s fine,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;There is no risk. It&rsquo;s all managed. That&rsquo;s our message.&rdquo;</p><p>Where the money will come from to keep that commitment is the question.</p><p>More than 280 contaminated sites were identified in Michigan in 2014 that still need work, including the TCE plume coming from Mancelona, and there is no more money to start new projects. In fact, Wagner says the state might have to pull back on groundwater monitoring at some of these sites next year.</p><p>The pool of money that has been used for this work in recent decades came from voter approved bonds. Voters have agreed to let Michigan borrow more than $2 billion since 1988 for an array of environmental initiatives.&nbsp; &nbsp;</p><p>Finding a new long-term funding source is one of the goals laid out in Michigan&rsquo;s new water strategy, a comprehensive approach to a variety of water-related issues. Conversations about how that could happen are just beginning in Lansing.</p><p>&mdash;<a href="http://michiganradio.org/post/who-will-pay-michigans-orphaned-contaminated-sites#stream/0" target="_blank"><em> via Michigan Radio</em></a></p></p> Thu, 14 Jan 2016 10:19:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/who-will-pay-michigans-orphaned-contaminated-sites-114478 More Help Headed to Flint Residents in Need of Lead-Free Water http://www.wbez.org/news/more-help-headed-flint-residents-need-lead-free-water-114438 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/flint_fire_stationgiveaway_011116_002.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><img src="http://michiganradio.org/sites/michigan/files/styles/x_large/public/201601/flint_fire_stationgiveaway_011116_002.jpg" style="height: 465px; width: 620px;" title="An American Red Cross volunteer stacks cases of bottled water at Flint fire station #3. (Michigan Radio/Steve Carmody)" /></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><figcaption><div><div><div>This week, state and local&nbsp;<a href="https://www.cityofflint.com/2016/01/10/flint-city-leaders-county-state-officials-announce-relief-effort-expansion/">efforts are being stepped up&nbsp;</a>to help people in Flint have clean water.</div></div></div></figcaption></p><p>Flint&rsquo;s tap water is not safe to drink because of lead contamination. &nbsp;The problem dates back to the city&rsquo;s switch to the Flint River as its primary drinking water source. Mistakes with the way the water was treated allowed corrosive river water to seriously damage aging water pipes. The city switched back to a less corrosive water source last fall, but the damage was done.&nbsp;</p><p>This month, Gov. Snyder declared a &lsquo;State of Emergency&rsquo; in Flint.&nbsp;</p><p>This morning, American Red Cross volunteers helped a steady stream of people walking into Fire Station #3 in Flint to pick up free water filters and cases of bottled water. People patiently waited in a bitterly cold garage as volunteers filled out paperwork and helped them carry cases of bottled water to cars in the parking lot.&nbsp;</p><p>Like other people standing in line, Tateionia Rice says she&rsquo;s glad to see help finally coming.</p><p>&ldquo;Hey, can&rsquo;t turn down free water,&rdquo; says Rice, &ldquo;and can&rsquo;t turn down what the city of Flint is trying to do for us.&rdquo;</p><p>In addition to extended hours at water distribution sites around Flint, teams of state workers will fan out across the city this week to reach people who need water filters and bottled water.&nbsp;</p><p>&mdash; <a href="http://michiganradio.org/post/more-help-coming-people-flint-need-lead-free-water#stream/0" target="_blank"><em>via Michigan Radio</em></a></p></p> Mon, 11 Jan 2016 10:35:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/more-help-headed-flint-residents-need-lead-free-water-114438 Lead Poisoning In Michigan Highlights Aging Water Systems Nationwide http://www.wbez.org/news/lead-poisoning-michigan-highlights-aging-water-systems-nationwide-114352 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/23705421_h41048116_wide-897e7c6156fa66399c19311285c10b1a856ab65b-s800-c85.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Gov. Rick Snyder of Michigan apologized this week for how the water crisis in Flint has been handled. Residents there were exposed water with high levels of lead for months after the city switched water suppliers. The city has since switched back to the Detroit water system.</p><p>Snyder also said the state has to learn from Flint, as many other cities in Michigan also have an aging infrastructure.</p><p>Robert Puentes, director of the Metropolitan Infrastructure Initiative at the Brookings Institution, tells NPR&#39;s Scott Simon that the problem of aging water systems plagues many suburbs and smaller cities in the United States.</p><div align="center"><hr align="center" size="2" width="100%" /></div><p><strong>Interview Highlights</strong></p><p><strong>On the scope of our water infrastructure problem</strong></p><p>It can be a really challenging. The one big problem that we have now: We have a quarter-million water mains that break every single year in this country. We waste about 15 percent of our drinking water &mdash; about 2 trillion gallons are wasted just from leaks in the existing system.</p><p>So having to dig up these roads, having to dig up pipes, having to replace them and then monitor them is very challenging. ... We have new technologies, we&#39;re starting to do better at this, but we have a long, long way to go.</p><p><strong>On whether other cities are vulnerable to these issues</strong></p><p>There&#39;s lots of places that are doing the right things. Chicago has a 10-year plan to reinvest in their system, Baltimore has just gotten money from the state to invest in their water infrastructure; there are small towns in Pennsylvania &mdash; that&#39;s coming from the state; in Massachusetts it&#39;s coming from the state.</p><p>So there&#39;s a lot of places that are starting to do this, but again, we&#39;ve got a long way to go, and we&#39;ve got to start putting more urgency behind this.</p><p>Warren, Mich., just recently as 2008, had to declare basically a state of emergency &mdash; to bring in consultants to expedite the repairs on the water infrastructure there, because they were just having too many water main breaks.</p><p>So this is not a unique problem to Flint. Flint has its own unique challenges for lots of different reasons, but this is something that &mdash; particularly in the Northeast and the Midwest &mdash; we&#39;ve got to give more attention to.</p><p><strong>On how and why water systems are neglected</strong></p><p>I think the water infrastructure we have in this country is seriously neglected. ... It does live in this different world, where it&#39;s so intrinsic, but given the fact that it&#39;s buried, it&#39;s literally underground, it&#39;s easy to ignore.</p><p>And while we have large infrastructure problems in this country, the water infrastructure problems loom particularly large. ...</p><p>Some of these systems were built a hundred years ago. Some of the pipes are made out of wood. Some of them were built the times when metropolitan areas were expanding and decentralizing. And we just need to reinvest in these existing systems.</p><p>But because we don&#39;t do a good job in this country investing in the infrastructure that&#39;s already built &mdash; we do a good job building new stuff, we don&#39;t do a good job taking care of what&#39;s on the ground &mdash; things like water infrastructure are seriously neglected. ...</p><p>It&#39;s so intrinsic, and folks expect that we&#39;re going to have clean, fresh water anytime we turn on the tap &mdash; but unless we do something very, very soon, that may not be the case in many communities for much longer.</p><p><strong>On paying for upgrades</strong></p><p>We&#39;ve got to figure out different ways that we can raise the revenue to invest in the system, and do it in a way that doesn&#39;t impact the most vulnerable households.</p><p>We know that things like, in Los Angeles, that the rich households get a lot of attention for the water they&#39;re wasting during the drought out there. But in places like Milwaukee there have been studies that show that, because low-income households can&#39;t invest in new efficiency systems &mdash; in upgrading their own household water systems &mdash; they wind up paying more because they&#39;re wasting more water, just because the systems are older.</p><p>So we&#39;ve got to make sure that, while we&#39;re raising this revenue, that it doesn&#39;t impact low-income households disproportionately hard.</p><p><em>&mdash; via <a href="http://www.npr.org/2016/01/02/461735226/lead-poisoning-in-michigan-highlights-weakened-water-systems-nationwide?ft=nprml&amp;f=461735226">NPR News</a></em></p></p> Mon, 04 Jan 2016 08:38:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/lead-poisoning-michigan-highlights-aging-water-systems-nationwide-114352 Ferry-tale: Could a Chicago-to-Michigan Ferry Return from Extinction? http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/ferry-tale-could-chicago-michigan-ferry-return-extinction-114151 <p><p>Barbara Laing is a vibrant, five-cups-of-coffee-a-day kind of person. And that caffeine does not go to waste; Barbara owns and operates a small <a href="http://paintedlightphotoframing.com/" target="_blank">photography and framing shop</a> in Chicago&rsquo;s West Andersonville neighborhood, and she has to hustle to keep all the balls in the air.</p><p>Come summertime, Barbara needs a breather. An escape. So, occasionally she&rsquo;ll set aside a weekend and venture to Southwestern Michigan to get away from the stress of her business and to-do lists: &ldquo;I just love to kind of poke around. I love to relax ... take walks down by the lake. There&rsquo;s lots of beautiful rocks that you find on Lake Michigan over there on the sands.&rdquo;</p><p>But when Barbara gets in her car to head back to Chicago on Sunday, I-94 looks more like a parking lot than a freeway. That&rsquo;s when her internal dialogue begins: &ldquo;I&#39;m just like, take yourself out of this moment, keep your eyes on the road, but just remember that walk you took on the lake. Remember that nice meal you had ... and remember it will be over in, oh, I don&#39;t know, three or four hours.&rdquo;</p><p>One day while strolling along Lake Michigan, Barbara dreamed of an alternate way to make the trip, and asked us to investigate: &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>Has there ever been a ferry between Chicago and Michigan, and why isn&#39;t there one now?</em></p><p>Barbara has always had a certain reverence for Lake Michigan (&ldquo;It&#39;s kind of poetic to be out on the water,&rdquo; she says), but even if you don&rsquo;t share her feelings, you&rsquo;ve probably been stuck in a horrible car trip at some point and can relate to rooting for an alternative.</p><p>So could a lake ferry be that alternative &mdash; a waterborne savior, if you will? Are your finger&rsquo;s crossed?</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">When Lake Michigan was Chicago&rsquo;s superhighway</span></p><p>Turns out, there was an alternative! It&rsquo;s just that, at the time, people called them steamers, not ferries.</p><p>In the mid-19th century, back before cars or trucks paved roads, the Great Lakes were the region&rsquo;s superhighways. Grand steamships darted from harbor to harbor, making money by moving products and people.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/FOR%20WEB%20The-excursion-boat-Theodore-Roosevelt-heads-east-under-the-State-Street-bridge-in-1910.jpg" style="height: 395px; width: 620px;" title="The excursion boat Theodore Roosevelt heads east under the State Street bridge in 1910. (Source: The Lost Panoramas, published by CityFiles Press) " /></div><p>Ted Karamanski, a public historian at Loyola University, emphasizes that both revenue streams were vital to the profitability of the steamship industry.</p><p>&ldquo;These were steamships that carried excursionists out for a day of fun on Lake Michigan, or they would carry light manufacturing goods and then, of course &hellip; fresh fruit from Southwest Michigan to the Chicago produce markets,&rdquo; he says.</p><p>In the 1880&rsquo;s, passenger traffic was thriving. There were two different kinds of tourists on the lake: the daytrippers and the overnighters.</p><p>Daytrippers went from &ldquo;Chicago to Michigan City, or Chicago to St. Joseph, relatively short three, four, five hour trips&rdquo; across the lake, says Karamanski. St. Joseph, Michigan, even became known as <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/30/travel/lake-michigan-tour.html" target="_blank">Chicago&rsquo;s Coney Island</a>. People would picnic and lounge and splash about and then jump on the boat at 5:00 p.m. and be back in Chicago by nightfall.</p><p>The overnighters took 12-hour trips up to Northwest Michigan, bringing tourists to destinations like Grand Traverse Bay, Little Traverse Bay, even some to Mackinac Island for longer stays, Karamanski says. These were usually wealthy travelers who could afford to spend weeks or even months away from the city. &nbsp;</p><p>But not all of the region&rsquo;s tourists traveled simply to unwind. Before antihistamines, many Chicagoans escaped their allergies in the crisp air of Northern Michigan. Little tent cities popped up along the shore; they were called &ldquo;achoo clubs.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;They would usually be organized by different religious denominations,&rdquo; Karamanski explains. &ldquo;So the <a href="http://www.bayviewassociation.org/" target="_blank">Methodists</a> would have a club where people could go, and the Presbyterians would be in another place, the Baptists somewhere else.&rdquo; That way, husbands who stayed in the city for the summer to work could rest assured that their wives and children were escaping the heat and histamines in a safe, morally righteous place. Over time the small tent colonies developed into clusters of cottages, and eventually those cottages became enormous Victorian manors.</p><p>At the turn of the last century, Petoskey was just one of the many popular destinations that catered to Chicago tourists along the northern shoreline of Michigan. (Fun fact: In 1882 the Western Hay Fever Association christened Petoskey as its official headquarters.)</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/petoskey%20image2.png" style="height: 366px; width: 620px;" title="A postcard from the New Arlington Hotel, in Petoskey, Michigan, where many Chicagoans flocked in the summer months to escape the summer heat and histamines. (WBEZ/Courtesy of Little Traverse Bay History Museum)" /></div><p>Jane Garver, Co-Executive Director of the Little Traverse Bay Historical Museum in Petoskey, imagines the area offered a literal breath of fresh air to jaded Chicagoans: &ldquo;If I got off the boat from Chicago &hellip; I would be so relieved to arrive here on Little Traverse Bay: cool breezes, a beautiful area, million-dollar sunsets, and plenty to do without being so overwhelming that you wouldn&#39;t know what to do.&rdquo;</p><p>There was an opera house and dance halls and tea rooms &mdash; you name it.</p><p>&ldquo;People might be surprised to know that there were so many well-known names that visited here,&rdquo; Garver says. &ldquo;In fact, I&#39;m surprised when I go through records and see ... &lsquo;Oh yes, Amelia Earhart, she came here and spoke here.&rsquo;&rdquo; <a href="http://twain.lib.virginia.edu/onstage/wrldtr6.html" target="_blank">Mark Twain</a> gave a lecture, and <a href="http://www.petoskeyarea.com/ernest-hemingway-192/" target="_blank">Ernest Hemingway</a> wiled away his childhood summers at his family&rsquo;s cottage. The list goes on.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">The decline of steamships</span></p><p>But, you should know, a voyage on a steamship was not all fun and games. Karamanski noted that, in high winds, it could get a little bouncy on the lake, &ldquo;which could make this nice little cruise ship what sometimes they used to call a vomit comet.&rdquo;</p><p>And sometimes, the boats were just plain unsafe. Like the <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-eastland-disaster-kc-met-0726-20150725-story.html" target="_blank">S.S. Eastland</a>. You may have heard about this: On July 24, 1915, about 2,500 people boarded the Eastland for Western Electric Company&rsquo;s annual employee picnic when the boat <a href="http://chicagoist.com/2015/02/26/more_graphic_footage_of_eastland_di.php" target="_blank">tipped into the murky Chicago River</a>.</p><p>844 people died in the accident, 20 feet from dry land. &ldquo;You would think that this might be sort of the death knell of steamships,&rdquo; Karamanski explains. &ldquo;But it wasn&#39;t.&rdquo;</p><p>Cars were.</p><p>Steamships took a huge hit after the introduction of the automobile. People and products &mdash; the two legs that the steamship industry stood upon &mdash; were no longer bound to the waterways. Karamanski emphasizes that not everyone defected from the steamers right away: &ldquo;Steamers were still very popular through the early &lsquo;20s, but beginning in about 1925, we see a steep decline in the number of people traveling by steamship, and this is tied to the improvement of roads, particularly in Michigan. Since Michigan was the center for the automotive business, they invested a lot of money in good, modern roads.&rdquo;</p><p>And, over time, it only got worse. During the 1950s, the interstate highway system began to zigzag across the nation. As infrastructure improved, more and more people abandoned lake ferries in favor of their cars.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/ferry-tale-could-chicago-michigan-ferry-return-extinction-114151#mapnotes"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/ferry%20graphic5.png" style="height: 444px; width: 620px;" title="This map depicts 1947 and 2015 travel times from Chicago to St. Joseph and South Haven, Michigan, via ferry and car travel. For details on data and sources, click on image. " /></a></div><p>There were consequences for people and communities on both sides of the lake.</p><p>Karamanski believes Chicagoans lost a historic, intimate connection to the lake, which had helped the city develop in the first place.</p><p>&ldquo;Just steps away from the pavement of Chicago, we got three-hundred miles of wilderness, an alien environment, which if you don&#39;t take care, it will kill you,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;Most Chicagoans just don&#39;t appreciate that. It&#39;s just taken for granted like the water in our taps.&rdquo;</p><p>On the Michigan side of the equation, Garver says that the highways drastically changed the face of Petoskey. Back in the day, &ldquo;when travelers arrived by steamship or by train here ... they had their choice of 15 different luxury hotels,&rdquo; all centrally located in the heart of downtown. Since the age of the automobile, all but one of the those 15 hotels either went out of business or burned down and was never rebuilt. Today, plenty of hotels dot the interstate on the way into town, hoping to be the first place you see well before you reach Petoskey&rsquo;s historic city center.</p><p>The ferry-less fate of the Chicago region was sealed in 1958 with the completion of the <a href="http://www.chicagoskyway.org/" target="_blank">Chicago Skyway</a>. As Karmanski explains, the Skyway was &ldquo;designed specifically to get people, fast, from downtown Chicago via the Dan Ryan Expressway to Southwest Michigan. So why take a boat when you can do it in an hour and a half?&rdquo;</p><p>But these days, in bad traffic, that same trip might take closer to three hours. Which leads one to wonder: Could ferries make a comeback?</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Is there a case to be made for a Chicago lake ferry revival?</span></p><p>Remember: Questioner Barbara Laing&rsquo;s interest in the history of lake ferries is not simply nostalgic. She&rsquo;s a business woman and she knows a money-making opportunity when she sees one.</p><p>&ldquo;Here&#39;s the thing,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;As a small business owner, you look for business ventures, and you think well what else could I do?&rdquo;</p><p>A Chicago ferry came to mind, she says, but, &ldquo;I don&#39;t have a captain&#39;s license, so it&#39;s not within my realm of experience. But somebody should do it.&rdquo;</p><p>After all, there are two ferries that operate on the lake today. <a href="http://www.lake-express.com/">Lake Express</a> runs from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to Muskegon, Michigan. <a href="http://www.ssbadger.com/" target="_blank">The S.S. Badger</a> operates between Manitowoc, Wisconsin and Ludington, Michigan. It stands to reason that Chicago, with its lakeside location and enormous metropolitan population, brimming with potential customers, could have a modern ferry service, too.</p><p>Right?</p><p>Wrong, says Ken Szallai, president and founder of Lake Express. His professional opinion: &ldquo;Running a ferry parallel to the interstate highway system is not a feasible ferry operation.&rdquo;</p><p>Szallai explains that a Chicago ferry would compete with the interstate and <a href="http://www.amtrak.com/michigan-services-train" target="_blank">Amtrak&rsquo;s Pere Marquette line</a>. Milwaukee&rsquo;s ferry doesn&rsquo;t have that problem; the Lake Express&rsquo; route is a straight shot across the water, which helps customers cut out hundreds of miles of travel around the lake.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/FOR%20WEB%20lake%20express.jpg" style="height: 413px; width: 620px;" title="The Lake Express is a high-speed ferry from Milwaukee, Wisconsin to Muskegon, Michigan. President and founder Ken Szallai says the business is feasible from Milwaukee, but would compete too much with the Interstate if he opened up shop in Chicago. (Flickr/Lake Express)" /></div><p>Szallai says when you factor in the fierce competition, plus operating expenses and the short operating season thanks to the region&rsquo;s fierce winter &hellip; Well, he&rsquo;s not going to invest in a Chicago ferry anytime soon.</p><p>But that hasn&rsquo;t stopped other people from trying. Douglas Callaghan of Grand Rapids, Michigan, chuckles when asked about a business venture he pioneered over a decade ago: &ldquo;Oh yes, the infamous ferry.&rdquo;</p><p>Why was it infamous, you might be wondering? &ldquo;Well, because it never made it into the water,&rdquo; Callaghan retorts.</p><p>In 2003 and 2004, Callaghan&rsquo;s small company, <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2003-01-12/news/0301120281_1_lake-michigan-passenger-and-vehicle-ferry-new-york-harbor" target="_blank">LEF Corp (Lake Express Ferry)</a>, attempted to reinstate a ferry service between Chicago&rsquo;s Navy Pier and Benton Harbor in St. Joseph, Michigan. They conducted a <a href="http://www.sname.org/HigherLogic/System/DownloadDocumentFile.ashx?DocumentFileKey=b07d8b5d-54a8-4577-9203-a3d728680a19" target="_blank">feasibility study</a>, analyzing travel demand and what type of boat would be best suited to the project. And, as Callaghan puts it, &ldquo;there were about five super-rich lovers of catamarans &mdash; not all American &mdash; who invested in our proposal.&rdquo;</p><p>Kim Gallagher of the <a href="http://www.swmpc.org/" target="_blank">Southwestern Michigan Planning Commission</a> was a consultant on LEF Corp&rsquo;s proposal at the time. She remembers that the local community was delighted when investors were brought in for a tour of the port: &ldquo;The Benton Harbor, St. Joseph area was very supportive of the project because it offered an additional mode of transportation to get around the lake in two and half hours.&rdquo;</p><p>Both Gallagher and Callaghan agree that the primary reason for the proposal&rsquo;s failure originated on the other side of the lake. &ldquo;I think somewhere along the line, a message came down from on high in Chicago that said we&rsquo;re not going to do it,&rdquo; Callaghan recalls. &ldquo;Every time we turned around, another issue would come up.&rdquo;</p><p>After awhile, it became clear to Callaghan that the proposal was dead in the water and LEF Corp disbanded.</p><p>When asked to comment on the reasons that Callaghan&rsquo;s proposal fell through, Nick Shields, Director of Communications for Navy Pier, Inc., has this to say: &ldquo;It is our understanding that the company went out of business in 2004 and we did not receive a final proposal before then.&rdquo;</p><p>Still, Shields affirms that Navy Pier remains open to the idea of a ferry revival: &ldquo;Yes, Navy Pier, Inc. would consider a future investor&rsquo;s proposal. We view the idea as a unique opportunity to bring new visitors to Chicago.&rdquo;</p><p>Who knows? If maritime technology improves and ferries get faster while Chicago-area traffic gets worse, and global warming heats up the planet and eliminates our icy winters, maybe, just maybe, someone will revive a Chicago-Michigan ferry.</p><p>Should that day come, Barbara Laing will be the first in line to go out on the water and float all the way to Michigan, just like the generations of Chicagoans before her: &ldquo;It&#39;s something that people long to do, I think. If there&#39;s water there, you want to go out in it.&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/FOR%20WEB%20chloe%20and%20barbara.jpg" style="height: 414px; width: 620px;" title="Reporter Chloe Prasinos and questioner Barbara Laing at WBEZ. (Logan Jaffe/WBEZ)" /></div><p><em>Chloe Prasinos is an independent reporter and producer based in Chicago. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/chloeprasinos" target="_blank">@chloeprasinos</a>.</em></p><hr /><div><strong><a name="mapnotes"></a>Notes on map:</strong></div><div><p dir="ltr">Ferry travel times for 1947 were calculated with an average speed of 19 mph and based on the routes depicted in <a href="http://archives.chicagotribune.com/1947/04/24/page/7/article/how-ferry-would-cut-mileage/" target="_blank">a related infographic from <em>Chicago Tribune</em> archives</a>. Ferry travel times for 2015 were calculated with an average speed of 35 mph and informed by our interview with Ken Szallai, president and founder of the Lake Express ferry in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Car travel routes from Chicago (Navy Pier) to St. Joseph and South Haven, Michigan, depict general directions, not exact directions over specific streets, highways and interstates. The 1947 route includes US 41 and Red Arrow Highway, with an average speed of 45 mph established in consultation with Joseph Schwieterman of DePaul University&rsquo;s <a href="http://las.depaul.edu/centers-and-institutes/chaddick-institute-for-metropolitan-development/Pages/default.aspx" target="_blank">Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development</a>. The 2015 car travel time was suggested by Google Maps with a route via I-90/94.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the timeframe during which the U.S. Interstate Highway System affected transportation options and habits. The correct decade for delineating the start of that program is the 1950s. &nbsp;</em></p><div>&nbsp;</div></div><div>&nbsp;</div><p>&nbsp;</p><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><p>&nbsp;</p><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div></p> Fri, 11 Dec 2015 17:07:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/ferry-tale-could-chicago-michigan-ferry-return-extinction-114151 Common Core means 3 tests in 3 Years for Michigan kids http://www.wbez.org/news/common-core-means-3-tests-3-years-michigan-kids-111718 <p><p><em>This story was produced by&nbsp;<a href="http://hechingerreport.org/">The Hechinger Report</a>, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education.&nbsp;Read more about </em><a href="http://hechingerreport.org/special-reports/common-core/"><em>Common Core</em></a><em>.</em></p><p>Partisan bickering over the Common Core has pushed Michigan legislators in recent years to&nbsp;<a href="http://www.mlive.com/education/index.ssf/2013/05/common_core_education_funding.html">freeze</a>&nbsp;&mdash; then&nbsp;<a href="http://www.mlive.com/education/index.ssf/2013/10/common_core_approval_sails_thr.html">unfreeze</a>&nbsp;&mdash; spending on the new standards. They&#39;ve&nbsp;<a href="http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/state_edwatch/2014/06/common-core_test_dropped_.html">banished</a>the new exam that education officials had been planning to introduce this year and forced the creation of a second new test for 2015 as well as a third one for 2016.</p><p>And through it all, Jennifer Bahns and her students have just been trying to keep up.</p><p>Bahns teaches seventh-grade math at the University Prep Academy Middle School in Detroit &mdash; a highly regarded charter school that draws kids from some of this city&#39;s most struggling neighborhoods.</p><p>She has no influence over the politics of the Common Core &mdash; slammed by critics on the right as an overreach by the federal government and by critics on the left as a profit engine for testing companies &mdash; and she can only guess how ongoing conflicts and confusion over Common Core in state legislatures and education agencies will ultimately play out in American schools.</p><p>But as Michigan and&nbsp;<a href="http://www.edweek.org/ew/section/multimedia/map-the-national-k-12-testing-landscape.html?intc=highsearch">more than 40 other states</a>&nbsp;plan to administer new exams linked to the standards for the first time this spring, Bahns is among hundreds of thousands of teachers across the country who have had no choice but to plow ahead with implementing changes in their classrooms.</p><p>The transition is especially tough in Michigan where political one-upmanship has resulted in the likelihood that students here will take three different state exams in three years, repeatedly changing the measures that determine which kids are destined for success and which ones are falling behind.</p><p>To meet the new Common Core standards, Bahns&#39; seventh-graders this year are grappling with algebraic equations that used to be taught in the eighth or ninth grade. They&#39;re being asked to learn multiple solutions for each equation and to write sentences explaining how they computed their answers.</p><p>In their English classes, they&#39;re being asked to delve into nonfiction articles and learn to cite evidence from those texts in their writing.</p><p>It&#39;s a lot for these kids,&nbsp;<a href="http://bridgemi.com/2015/02/asc-resultspage/?Dbcode=82702-9888">many of whom</a>&nbsp;face the trials of poverty on top of their schoolwork, but on a recent afternoon as Bahns took her students through a series of problems, most were catching on.</p><p>&quot;Oh, this is easy!&quot; one student exclaimed as Bahns showed him how to break down an expression like 3(2x) + 4y(5) to the simpler 6x + 20y.</p><p>Other students nodded in agreement as they worked through a group of equations. But when Bahns told the students to plug in numbers for each of the variables:</p><p>y = 2 and x = (-1)</p><p>The sounds of confidence around the room sputtered into confusion.</p><p>&quot;Wait! I&#39;m lost!&quot; one student said.</p><p>&quot;Hunh?&quot; queried another. &quot;I&#39;m confused on that, bro.&quot;</p><p>The problem was negative numbers: These kids hadn&#39;t worked with negatives in months and couldn&#39;t remember how to handle them. Bahns tried to quickly remind her students that two negative numbers multiplied together make a positive number, but the class remained so stumped that she had to improvise. She scrapped the lesson she was teaching and launched into a review of negatives. That meant she&#39;d have to spread over two days a lesson that was intended to be taught in one. And it meant her students would be yet another day less prepared for the new, unknown &mdash; and utterly mystifying &mdash; state exam that was looming just two months away.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/468-edit-b248def1723a3eab37a83dae9c89855834362afd-s400-c85.jpg" style="height: 239px; width: 320px; float: left; margin-left: 5px; margin-right: 5px;" title="Teacher Jennifer Bahns helps her seventh-graders work through algebraic equations that, before the Common Core, were taught in eighth or ninth grade. (Erin Einhorn/Hechinger Report)" /></div><p>The class showed the Common Core delivering on its promise: a teacher pushing her students to learn more advanced material so they&#39;ll be better prepared for college and careers. It also showed why the new standards have made so many educators so upset. For older students especially, who have had to switch to the new rigorous material halfway through their school careers, such impromptu reviews are constant. In Bahn&#39;s class, there won&#39;t be enough time to cover all the material her students are expected to know before test time.</p><p>&quot;It&#39;s hard because you only have 60 minutes, and we have these expectations to get through this, get through this, get through this,&quot; Bahns said. &quot;They want us to go deeper, but it&#39;s impossible ... There&#39;s no give anywhere. Do they want us to go deep and really make sure they [students] understand how to persevere through these difficult problems? Or do they want us to cover five different strands? Because we&#39;re not going to be able to do both.&quot;</p><p>This year&#39;s test &mdash; the first state exam to be administered entirely online &mdash; presents a daunting challenge. Students who perform poorly could have trouble getting into top high schools. Schools like University Prep &mdash; which must aggressively compete for students in a city where kids can freely choose from a long list of charters, city schools and suburban schools &mdash; could lose students and resources if they drop on the annually published state rankings. At some schools, low scores could jeopardize job security for teachers and principals.</p><p>And while every school in Michigan is facing the same ordeal, research shows that schools like University Prep, which have high numbers of kids living in poverty, tend to take a bigger hit on new exams than schools with more affluent students. The online test format is&nbsp;<a href="http://hechingerreport.org/a-core-dilemma-will-the-littlest-learners-be-able-to-type/">expected to only exacerbate that disparity</a>.</p><p>And then there&#39;s the political maneuvering.</p><p>Michigan was one of the first states to embrace the Common Core. The Michigan Board of Education (eight officials chosen in statewide elections) unanimously adopted the standards in 2010. The state soon joined the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, one of two state coalitions that received federal funding to develop Common Core-aligned exams that are being administered across the country this spring.</p><p>There was so little controversy around the board&#39;s decision, the move barely rated a mention in local news reports. Elected officials who later raised alarms said they were not aware that their state had adopted the new standards.</p><p>But by 2013, the politics around the Common Core had changed and the Common Core had become a talking point for Tea Party activists who blasted the standards as an effort by the Obama administration to snatch control from local schools. Parents and teachers worried the Common Core would mean more high-stakes testing for kids.</p><p>And a group of opponents in the state legislature made Michigan one of the first states to slow Common Core implementation when they slipped language barring spending on the new standards into the state budget at the eleventh hour.</p><p>Michigan&#39;s Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, a Common Core supporter,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.mlive.com/politics/index.ssf/2013/06/michigan_gov_rick_snyder_signs_3.html#incart_river_default">had no power</a>&nbsp;to remove the language from his $49.5 billion spending bill. And so, for the next few months, schools were thrown into limbo, unsure if they could continue to pay for teacher training or materials related to the Common Core. The state Education Department even wondered if it had to take down part of its website.</p><p>&quot;Confusion was the watchword of the day,&quot; said Michigan State University education professor Robert Floden.</p><p>Funding was restored in October 2013 after four months of hearings, but Common Core opponents were emboldened by their brief victory. Last year, just nine months before Michigan planned to administer the Smarter Balanced exam to students in grades three to eight, the Republican legislature shut the test down, barring the Smarter Balanced test and joining a growing number of states that have pulled out of Common Core consortia in favor of single-state exams.</p><p>Michigan didn&#39;t have enough time to create a new exam &mdash; a process that typically takes three years &mdash; but the legislature left enough legal wiggle room to allow the Education Department to repackage the Smarter Balanced exam for 2015, just under a new name.</p><p>When students in grades three to eight take the new Michigan Student Test of Educational Progress (M-Step) this spring,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.michigan.gov/documents/mde/Assessment_Transition_FINAL_11-13-14_473989_7.pdf">all the reading and math questions that will count toward their scores</a>&nbsp;will be drawn from Smarter Balanced exam materials. Michigan is still listed as a full member of the Smarter Balanced consortium and will pay its full $4.9 million fee for 2015.</p><p>Smarter Balanced Deputy Executive Director Luci Willits says Michigan&#39;s 2015 scores will be directly comparable to those from other Smarter Balanced states.</p><p>Plans for 2016 are still underway as the state talks with test makers and considers its options, but the testing turmoil most likely means that Michigan kids will end up taking three different tests in three years: the state&#39;s traditional MEAP in 2014, the Smarter Balanced-based M-Step in 2015 and a new, unknown M-Step in 2016.</p><p>Asked about the 2016 test, state education officials issued a vague response saying only that they were &quot;required by legislation to develop a [Request for Proposals] for a new assessment.&quot; They added that, until that process is complete, &quot;it is unknown if this year&#39;s assessment data could be compared to next year.&quot;</p><p>The constant changes will likely make it impossible to track student progress from one year to the next &mdash; a problem that has forced the state to seek a waiver from federal rules requiring states to hold schools accountable for student progress over time. The confusion has also put on hold another legislative priority: a plan to use student test data in teacher evaluations.</p><p>Still, teachers fear they&#39;ll be blamed for the resulting tumult and school leaders worry the commotion will affect their schools&#39; standings in annual state rankings.</p><p>The rankings are especially crucial in Detroit, where population loss and the charter boom&nbsp;<a href="http://educationnext.org/fixing-detroits-broken-school-system/">have forced schools into heated recruitment wars</a>. A single year of bad scores here can sink a school if too many students &mdash; and the education dollars they bring with them &mdash; decide to go elsewhere.</p><p>So for teachers like Bahns and her colleagues at University Prep, the politics around testing have added an extra layer of anxiety to the already formidable challenge of teaching to the more rigorous standards.</p><p>&quot;There&#39;s a lot of chaos and there&#39;s a lot of uncertainty, which negatively affects the kids,&quot; said Sara Muchmore, a University Prep English teacher. &quot;When teachers are unsure about what to teach, that kind of uncertainty trickles down to the kids.&quot;</p><p>Both sides of the debate in Lansing, the state capital, say they regret the way the political dispute has affected classrooms, but are quick to blame each other.</p><p>&quot;Legislators should not be guiding educational decision making or second-guessing the good [decisions] we make,&quot; said John Austin, who now heads the state&#39;s Board of Education. &quot;Their gumming up the process of moving ahead with the Common Core certainly does not help advance the goal of educating our kids.&quot;</p><p>Tom McMillan, who led Common Core opponents in the state house before leaving office this year due to term limits, shot back that the mess could have been avoided if the Board of Education had held a more public process when it adopted the standards in the first place.</p><p>&quot;The chaos was created by the state Board of Education and the Michigan Department of Education sneaking it through in 2010 without looking for a debate and making sure people were signed onto it,&quot; said McMillan, a Republican who represented the wealthy Detroit suburb of Rochester Hills.</p><p>Uncertainty in schools may be exacerbated by the arrival of new legislators with new priorities every few years since, under Michigan law, legislators are term-limited to eight years in the senate and six years in the house.</p><p>But experienced educators say they do their best to tune out the noise.</p><p>&quot;I&#39;m 71 years old, and I&#39;m so used to this,&quot; sighed Narda Murphy, the superintendent of the Williamston school district in a suburb of Lansing. &quot;If somebody decides on a political level to throw out the Common Core, they&#39;ll bring in some other framework. To me, it&#39;s a lot of wasted energy.&quot;</p><p>As for Bahns, this is her eighth year in a classroom, and she&#39;s not about to let politics or outside pressure affect her students.</p><p>&quot;It&#39;s really, really ridiculous to me,&quot; she said. &quot;But what I tell the new teachers is just do the best you can do because that&#39;s all you can do.&quot;</p><p><em>This story was produced by&nbsp;<a href="http://hechingerreport.org/">The Hechinger Report</a>, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education.</em></p><p><em>- <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/ed/2015/03/18/389772922/common-core-means-three-tests-in-three-years-for-michigan-kids">via NPR ED</a></em></p></p> Wed, 18 Mar 2015 09:37:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/common-core-means-3-tests-3-years-michigan-kids-111718