- Associated Press - Monday, December 17, 2018

Times-Herald(Port Huron). December 13, 2018

Mercury finally getting cleaned up

Those of us who lived through the 1970 mercury scare might be surprised to learn that the hazard still lies on the bottom of the St. Clair River where Dow Chemical dumped it decades ago.

In 1970, all fishing on the St. Clair River and Lake St. Clair was prohibited because of extraordinary levels of the toxic metal in Lake St. Clair fish. At the time, the United States did not even have a consumption limit for mercury, even though mercury-contaminated fish was a known risk.

In what became known as the Minamata disaster, 900 Japanese died in 1956 and more than 2,200 were sickened because they ate fish from a bay where a chemical company had been dumping tons of mercury, a byproduct of chlorine production. Dow Sarnia used the same process and dumped its mercury into the St. Clair River.

In 1970, Canada was prohibiting eating fish with mercury contamination greater than 0.5 parts per million. Then it found fish in Lake St. Clair averaging almost triple that. Today, the EPA warns against eating fish containing 0.15 ppm.

Some game fish in Lake St. Clair - particularly those at the top of the food chain - still carry more than that. People should not eat them.

And that is all largely due to the mercury that Dow dumped into the river until it stopped almost half a century ago. Now, Canadian officials are putting together a plan to clean up the three remaining mercury hot spots on the bottom of the river between Sarnia and Stag Island. The delay hasn’t been procrastination. It has long been thought that leaving it undisturbed was less risky than disturbing it to flow away in the St. Clair River’s muscular currents. Now, crews will use powerful vacuums to remove the contaminants from the riverbed.

We on the Michigan side need to support this project with whatever resources necessary to remove this menace from our doorsteps. Yes, a U.S. company operating in Canada is responsible, but the mercury in the river is still poisoning us all - including people many miles downstream.

That brings up a just-released International Joint Commission report on oil spill risks to Great Lakes habitat.

No surprise, it pinpoints the St. Clair River as one of 15 areas of particular concern.

And the greatest risk isn’t to Port Huron, Sarnia or Marysville where the pipelines, trucks, trains and refineries are. The threat is to downstream habitat for wildlife and people.

A petroleum spill at Marysville will stop at Harsens Island and what is called the largest freshwater delta in the world.

It has taken 50 years to figure out how to clean three isolated spots on the bottom of the St. Clair River. Imagine how long it would take to clean up hundreds of miles of marshy coastline at the mouth of the St. Clair River.


The Mining Journal (Marquette). December 12, 2018

Marquette high schoolers wake up to business experience

A lot of people need their cup of coffee in the morning.

News flash: High schoolers are people too.

A student-run coffee shop called Wake U.P. operates in conjunction with Christine Columb’s marketing class at Marquette Senior High School. Located on the second floor, the shop is open about 30 minutes before the first bell Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Although not every student involved in the project has aspirations of being a barista, the coffee shop gives them an opportunity for hands-on business experience.

About six students, including a student manager, work a shift. Although they aren’t paid, their work is part of their marketing class grades.

It’s not just about pouring black coffee into a cup. They make items such as mocha coffee and Italian soda. They choose the menu. They manage inventory and accounting, and create and analyze business reports based on the data they collect.

Just like real businesspeople.

And the students are involved in ways typical businesspeople might not consider. For example, a student who enjoys videography created a commercial to run during student announcements.

Being in a school setting also has its advantages. Students in geometry and industrial education classes designed and built benches for the shop, and the advanced construction class is working on an additional countertop.

The prices are set to continually meet supply but yet be affordable to students. Profits then go back to the coffee shop that, it is hoped, will grow and evolve - the goal of many businesses.

As with many school endeavors, though, making money is not necessarily the primary goal. With Wake U.P., students are getting a taste of marketing a product, which should give them insight on how to proceed with their post-high school careers.

As Columb told The Mining Journal in a Tuesday story, the coffee shop is a lot of work, but it’s worth it to see the students’ ambition, motivation, ideas and creativity.

Even if the students don’t enter the marketing field, those qualities certainly will come in useful in any walk of life.


Petoskey News-Review. December 14, 2018

End the lame duck embarrassment

We find ourselves greatly ashamed of our local legislators, and the Republican legislators as a whole in this state this month.

These legislators - including our own representatives Lee Chatfield, Triston Cole and senator Wayne Schmidt - took part and are taking part in one of the most divisive and partisan lame duck sessions of state government that we have ever seen. It seems because the state-wide elections for governor, secretary of state, attorney general and propositions one, two and three did not go the way these nakedly partisan politicians wanted, they are having a full-blown temper tantrum and ramming poorly thought-out bills through the government process before a new party takes power in the state’s executive branch next year.

These bills strip power from the executive branch, attempt to rewrite propositions voted on by voters in November and are an all out assault on clean water and the environment in Michigan.

They are bills written by lobbyist and partisans, for lobbyist and partisans. Chatfield, Cole and Schmidt are embracing them with glee. These bills attack the environment that makes Michigan a wonderful place to live and visit, attack our system of government in this state simply because one party did not like the results of the November election and have made our state a mockery on the national stage.

Chatfield, Cole and Schmidt counter these bills are very important and needed - although we fail to understand why a bills that would make it easier to pollute the waters of Michigan - such as one pushed by Cole and another by the term-limited anti-environmental Senator Tom Casperson - are very important and needed for the state. Further, if these bills are so important and needed and good government - as Chatfield, Cole and Schmidt maintain - why shove them through the government in less than a month? And if these legislators can do so much work in less than a month in pushing bills, what have they been doing the rest of the year? Apparently not the people’s business.

Lame duck legislative sessions in Michigan are an embarrassment for the state and a disservice to the voters. It is time the state voters put a stop to them and these partisan power plays that take place during them.

Sure, some Republicans gloat, they have been beneficial in pushing through red-meat partisan policies that are beloved by the base over the past decade. But what if the Republicans are no longer in power in the state legislature? With the redistricting proposal that was passed by the voters in November, there is a very real possibility the state legislature could flip to Democratic control in the near future. And then Democrats will have control during lame duck sessions.

What then, Republicans?

Lame duck needs to end. We have three proposals to consider:

1) Move up the swearing in of newly election politicians to the day after the November election results are certified. This would greatly limit any future lame duck sessions.

2) Following a November election, forbid the state legislature from meeting, except in cases of emergency.

3) Following a November election, allow the legislature to meet, but only in “caretaking mode.” This means they can only do business that would keep the government running - such as paying bills - for the next government to take over. During this time, no new bills may be introduced or voted on.

If our legislators really want to be “for the people” and really want to promote good government and really want to put state over political party, then they should look at ways to end the lame duck sessions that have become a national joke.


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