Search Results for: microplastics

More Progress Needed on Attacking the Threat of Microplastics in the Great Lakes

Photos courtesy of NOAA

By David Long

A January 2021 story by the Capital News Service headlined Microplastics threaten Great Lakes, and not just the water” was one of the first I have seen recently about the threat of microplastics to our precious fresh waters. However, microplastics have been reported in the Great Lakes for more than 15 years.

Researchers started to get interested in microplastics around 2012, but outside the scientific community, microplastic pollution in the Great Lakes hasn’t gained much interest. How much has been done to reduce microplastics? How much has been done to make the general public aware of this serious and growing threat?

In 2016, there was official acknowledgement that plastic debris and microplastics were becoming an environmental and, potentially, a health hazard in the Great Lakes basin.  In September 2016, the International Joint Commission (IJC) published a workshop report with 10 recommendations on microplastics in the Great Lakes. The report’s problem statement underscored the seriousness of the issue: Microplastics come from many sources that are part of our everyday lives and are present in the Great Lakes. These microplastics may cause a range of adverse environmental and human impacts which we are only beginning to understand.”

Neither the IJC nor others have taken significant action on the report’s recommendations. This is not surprising, since many of the recommendations are extremely difficult and expensive to implement. Some recommendations would take millions of dollars even to launch. But we cannot afford to hesitate. Here are some of the workshop recommendations and my status report on each.

IJC Recommendation: Communicate results of research to share information with the public of all ages and decision makers, through the development of Great Lakes-focused educational materials.

Progress: Few K-12 educational materials have been developed on microplastics. There is still very little general public awareness of microplastics issues. Broad communication about microplastics problems and solutions is not happening. Numerous universities around the Great Lakes have been conducting research on microplastics, but results have largely been communicated only within the scientific community. Many environmental organizations have organized beach cleanups annually, although these are generally not targeted towards microplastics.

IJC Recommendation: Encourage prevention of plastic marine debris through changing behavior by using education, outreach, policy and market-based instruments.

Progress: Implementing this recommendation is a daunting task because changing behavior is extremely difficult. Recycling programs have expanded but a 2019 EPA report estimates only 10% of single-use plastic is recycled. Much single-use plastic goes into landfills and the aquatic environment, ultimately becoming microplastics. Operation Clean Sweep has been operating for 25 years. Plastic item manufacturers pledge to prevent plastic pellets, flakes, or dust from entering the environment. This has been successful for manufacturers but does not address the single-use plastics end-of-life issues. Few market-based bans or fees have been enacted to reduce single-use plastics. The most successful ban is on plastic shopping bags, but it is usually a local effort, not state or national. And a Michigan law actually prohibits local governments from banning plastic shopping bags. Numerous beach communities have banned plastic straws.

There hasn’t been a state or Great Lakes regional effort to reduce single-use plastics. Great Lakes states took the lead on a phosphate detergent ban in the 1960s and 1970s, leading to a major reduction in nutrient pollution and reducing eutrophication of the Great Lakes. Could a single-use plastic ban by Great Lakes be effective?

IJC Recommendation: Assess the impacts of ecological and potential human health impacts using an ecological risk assessment framework (exposure/hazard).

Progress: Although slow, this is finally becoming one of the areas of greatest progress. In the last 5 years, universities and health organizations nationally have been researching the ecological and health impacts of microplastics. Universities around the Great Lakes region are leading the microplastics research efforts for freshwater. Recently published articles include material on microplastics in beer brewed with Great Lakes water and the quantity of microplastics found in bottled water and tap water. Recently, research has been published on impacts to various flora and fauna in aquatic environments.

We’re learning about the devastating impact of microplastics on plankton. The reproductive and digestive systems of zooplankton, near the base of the food chain, are being disrupted. Great Lakes fish are consistently found with microplastics in their tissues, circulatory, and digestive systems. 

The study of human impacts from microplastics is both slower and more difficult. A December 2020 article in The Guardian reported a study by scientists in Italy who identified microplastics in the placenta of human babies. The full impact of these studies is not known, but the research is shocking. Finding microplastics in the placenta indicates there were microplastics in the bloodstream of the mothers. 

It is documented that microplastics can be carriers of many pollutants. Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) are a large group of toxic organic pollutants that can attach to the microplastics and then can be transferred to aquatic organisms, enter the food chain and eventually enter the human body. It is very difficult to trace the pathway to humans, but we do know that concentrations of 14 organochlorine pesticides, 7 polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), 14 polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDEs) 4,4′-DDT and some PBDEs such as BDE 99 and BDE 209, brominated flame retardants, and perfluorinated chemicals like PFOS are all found in the human body. 

IJC Recommendation: Compare and analyze existing programs and policies for reduction and prevention of plastic marine debris and promote those that are good models for plastics management.

Progress: In 2014, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) collaboratively developed the first Great Lakes Marine Debris Action Plan, a land-based plan with 26 volunteer organizations participating. The 2018 summary document listed 53 actions in the plan. At the end of 2018, 22 actions had been acted upon. The Great Lakes Marine Debris Plan was very extensive, well-developed, and had many partners and very specific actions. The most disappointing part of the plan was the lack of industrial partners. The American Chemical Society was the only industrial partner identified. Could large industrial partners such as P&G, Unilever, Clorox, and SC Johnson have been recruited?

A new 2020 Great Lakes Marine Debris Action Plan was created by a voluntary, collaborative effort of 39 organizations from the United States and Canada to address marine debris through coordinated actions. This Action Plan encompasses work that will be undertaken in a five-year span (2020-2025). The plan will be re-evaluated and updated in a mid-year review.  Again, there are few industrial partners that could make a positive impact and also help fund the plan.

IJC Recommendation: Invest in solution-based research, including innovative product development and water infrastructure improvements.

Progress: On their own, several textile manufacturers such as Nike, North Face, and Patagonia have been investing millions of dollars in research to understand the extent of the microplastics problem and how to reduce it. Also, some manufacturers such as SC Johnson, P&G, and Unilever have been working on plastic waste reduction for several years.

Very little research has been conducted on removing microplastics and microfibers from wastewater. Several universities have recently identified new methods to remove or degrade microplastics in wastewater. It will take billions of dollars for research to develop effective methods to remove or degrade the microplastics in the aquatic environment. This research needs to focus on the entire aquatic environment, both fresh and saltwater.

IJC Recommendation: Develop and/or adopt standardized sampling and analytical methods for microplastics. For example, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has developed sampling and analytical protocols for microplastic particles in the size range of 0.333–5 mm that can be encouraged to be used in microplastics sampling and research. There is also a need to develop/utilize sampling and analytical methods able to measure plastic particles at sizes smaller than 0.333 mm.

Progress: Many universities and institutions have been developing analytical methods for sampling open water, drinking water, wastewater, and even beer. An excellent review of method by Joana Correia Prata,, is in Methods for sampling and detection of microplastics in water and sediment: A critical review, found in the peer-reviewed journal Trends in Analytical Chemistry, which describes a method for measuring the microfibers from washing machine water. There has been great progress on methods, but little effort to collaboratively agree on standard methods. A review of Standard Methods of Water and Wastewater Analysis indicates standard microplastic methods have not been adopted by the three sponsoring organizations.

Communities, the media, and K-12 schools have been slow to recognize the serious issue of microplastics in the Great Lakes. Microplastics in the oceans are much more widely acknowledged;  globally, more research is being done on marine environments. 

What Can We Do to Make the General Public Aware of Microplastic Issues in the Great Lakes? 

Can we convince plastic manufacturers and manufacturers of single-use plastic items to join the effort to educate and take responsibility for the items they manufacture so they don’t go into the environment? Will it take legislation on the federal or state level to have enough impact to reduce the volume of microplastic entering the Great Lakes? How do we influence Great Lakes States legislators to pass legislation to control the Microplastics waste entering the Great Lakes?  How do we start to repair the harm that has been done to the Great Lakes and its ecosystem? These are critical questions to address if we’re to attack the microplastics problem seriously. Our Great Lakes deserve no less.

David Long is the founder of Environmental Sustainability Solutions, LLC (ESS), which provides consulting services for environmental sustainability.

Microplastics Invading the Food Chain

Photo: Possible microplastic mass in lower segment of Copepod

By David Long

The Great Lakes face many challenges. Some are well-known, such as Asian carp, but some are almost invisible, such as microplastics.

Small plastic detritus, termed “microplastics” or “microfibers,” are a widespread contaminant in aquatic ecosystems including the Great Lakes.

Research reported in Environmental Science and Technology suggests that marine microplastic debris can have a negative impact upon zooplankton function and health. It can be surmised that the zooplankton communities of the Great Lakes can also be negatively impacted by microfibers. A major concern is that since zooplankton is at the bottom of the food chain microplastics (microfibers) can cause a changes in the zooplankton community. This can harm Great Lakes fisheries.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration defines microplastics as small plastic pieces less than five millimeters long that can be harmful to our aquatic life. They are created by the degradation of larger items, such as discarded single use plastic containers, effluent from wastewater treatment plants and even fallout from the air. Microplastics from wastewater treatment plants comes from discarded plastics, laundering fleece, synthetic fiber clothing, and waste from carpet cleaning. Microplastics in airborne dust can enter the water through wind and runoff from roads and other impervious surfaces.

Ingestion of microplastics by organisms, including mussels, worms, fish, and seabirds, has been widely reported, but the impact of microplastics on zooplankton remains under-researched. It is very difficult to identify microfibers in zooplankton. Microplastics are best identified using 3D bioimaging techniques to document ingestion, egestion, and adherence of microplastics.

Microplastics have been observed adhering to the external carapace and appendages of exposed zooplankton. Ingestion of microplastics can interfere with the digestive system. More research is needed to understand the impact of microplastic debris on zooplankton.

Microplastics and microfibers pollution is well documented in research from universities such as the University of Michigan, Notre Dame, The University of Chicago, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee and the State University of New York, Fredonia. Researchers from these schools as well as the U.S. Geological Survey have documented the presence of microplastics and microfibers in the Great Lakes since 2013.

Researchers have seen the volume of microplastics and microfibers increase over the years. Microfibers and microplastics have been found in beer brewed with Great Lakes water and drinking water taken from the Great Lakes. It is estimated about 22 million pounds of plastics enter the Great Lakes each year. Unfortunately, there is no legislation that protects our valuable Great Lakes water from plastic pollution.

There are no known solutions for cleaning up microplastic pollution in our lakes and oceans. Plastic does not degrade, it only breaks into smaller and smaller pieces. The only solution for the future is to reduce the amount of single-use plastics and increase the percentage of plastic that is recycled. Currently only 9% of plastic in the United States is recycled. It is cheaper to make virgin plastic from oil than to recycle plastic. Until the economics change, the industry will continue to make virgin plastic from oil and the recycle rate for plastics will remain low.

David Long is the founder of Environmental Sustainability Solutions, LLC (ESS) that provides consulting services for environmental, sustainability.

The Geography of Hope Is Anchored in Our Precious Great Lakes

Photo of Maude Barlow by Michelle Valberg.

As the 53rd Earth Day approaches, it is difficult for some to look optimistically to the future. Accelerating climate change, microplastics fouling oceans and the Great Lakes, our stubborn reliance on fossil fuels, and a governance system resistant to the holistic environmental reforms we need are only a few of our worries.

But hope is more critical than ever—and two famous environmental leaders are sources of optimism.  

In his 1960 Wilderness Letter, conservationist and author Wallace Stegner famously coined the phrase “geography of hope,” referring to the impulse that led Americans to the wilderness idea.

Now, in 2022, comes another prophet of hope, Maude Barlow. A lifelong and world-renowned champion of water, Maude has authored a book built on her career of activism. Its title, appropriately, is Still Hopeful: Lessons from a Lifetime of Activism.

“Hope often defies logic and gives us the strength to continue when all the ‘facts’ tell us things are hopeless,” Maude writes. “Hope helps us to put one foot in front of the other when despair would tell us not to move.” If, after decades of advocacy, Maude can remain hopeful, surely we who have not carried such burdens can do so also.

In the book, Maude tells stories of her work on many issues, perhaps most importantly her successful advocacy of water as a human right. Resisted by many governments, this idea faced enormous challenges, but in July of 2010, the work of Maude and allies resulted in a declaration of the human right to water by the United Nations General Assembly. The vote was 122 nations in favor, with 41 abstentions—no nation voted against the resolution.

“Hope often defies logic and gives us the strength to continue when all the ‘facts’ tell us things are hopeless,” Maude writes. “Hope helps us to put one foot in front of the other when despair would tell us not to move.” If, after decades of advocacy, Maude can remain hopeful, surely we who have not carried such burdens can do so also.

Save the Date: FLOW will host a livestream book event featuring Maude Barlow on Wednesday, June 15, from 6 to 7 p.m. Eastern. Registration information coming soon.

In this part of the world, our geography of hope is anchored in the Great Lakes. Despite centuries of neglect and abuse since European settlement began, these lakes remain majestic, a source of inspiration and wonder. We can do better for them, and I know we (FLOW and you) will do so.

We can’t afford to lose hope. Many reasons for hope persist. On Earth Day 2022, let’s make a vow of hope, and remain undaunted by the challenges we face.

Governor Whitmer Has Opportunity to Lead on the Environment

Photo: Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Nov. 9, 2021, joined by Benton Harbor Mayor Marcus Muhammad and construction workers, visited the Benton Harbor site where the first lead service lines were being replaced after her expedited commitment to replace 100% of those lines in the city in 18 months.

As she begins her fourth year in office, Governor Whitmer has an opportunity to build on past environmental successes and set the tone for an historic year of accomplishment. Thanks to significant federal COVID-relief aid and a state economy performing better than forecast, Michigan has a rare abundance of funding to attack the state’s multibillion-dollar backlog of sewer, storm, and drinking water infrastructure needs and attend to other urgent environmental needs. Here are a few ways she can strengthen public health protections and restore our environment.

Declare “The Year of Water”: Setting the stage for an unprecedented year of action on water, the governor should declare 2022 “The Year of Water” for state government. The agenda for the Year of Water approach should be governed by two core principles: 

(1) all Michiganders have a paramount fundamental public interest and right to safe, clean, and affordable water under Art. 4, Section 51 and 52 of the State Constitution; and

(2) Michiganders should expect their government to uphold its solemn public trust duty to protect state waters.

Create a “Clean Water Trust Fund”: A one-time investment in sewage and drinking water systems is not enough to assure clean, safe, affordable, and accountability when it comes to the rights of citizens to Michigan’s public water. A Clean Water Trust Fund, established by statute or state constitutional amendment, would provide a long-term answer for cities and rural communities. Modeled in part after Michigan’s constitutionally protected Natural Resources Trust Fund, which dedicates a portion of state oil and gas revenue to the purchase of recreational and ecologically important land for the public, a Clean Water Trust Fund would be one of the first of its kind in the nation.

End Water service shutoffs: The pandemic has underscored the danger to human health of cutting off water service to households unable to pay their bills. Water is essential to personal health, sanitation, and dignity. Governor Whitmer took action to assure water service to thousands of households early in the pandemic. This policy should be made permanent, with funding and the trust fund oversight required to back it up. 

Remove all lead service lines and lead household connections in drinking water systems: The crises in Flint and Benton Harbor have made it clear that lead in drinking water is a major public health risk, especially to our most vulnerable Michiganders—children. The governor should set a goal of replacing all lead service lines and household connections statewide within the next five years.

Aggressively tackle threats posed by PFAS “forever chemicals”: With part of the federal relief funding, the governor should propose a three-year plan to clean up orphan PFAS contamination sites where no private polluter can be identified and should call for the legislature to restore Michigan’s polluter pay law to hold accountable those who have contaminated Michigan’s land and waters. Further, she should pledge state government leadership in promoting alternatives to PFAS in products and manufacturing and firefighting.

Developing a plan to prevent further microplastics contamination of Michigan’s waters—including the water we drink: In the United States, we ingest the equivalent of one credit card a week in plastic. Tiny breakdown particles from plastics use and disposal are an environmental and public health risk. The governor should convene a working group to come up with solutions that take effect at the earliest possible time.

Continue to protect and sustain Michigan’s Great Lakes and water resources from the effects of climate change: The governor launched an integrative approach to the Great Lakes, water resources, environment and energy in MI Healthy Climate Plan. To address the devastating effects of climate change, the state must accelerate and lead this effort by building resilient green infrastructure, identifying and improving protection of floodplains and wetlands, and promoting renewable and efficient energy and services, such as net-zero carbon buildings.

The year 2022 is a chance for the governor to secure her Great Lakes, environmental, energy, and climate legacy, and to make the Year of Water a turning point for the better in Michigan’s history.

FLOW in the News

A sampling of recent news coverage involving FLOW

Volunteers clean up State Park Beach over the weekend

Up North Live— May 16, 2022

Volunteers organized by M-22 gathered at the State Park Beach in Traverse City on Saturday morning for a clean-up.  More than five large burlap bags were filled with trash. Organizers said it's important to collect it now before it breaks down into microplastics.

"Tourists also have a big impact on the beaches by bringing new trash to the areas and not remembering to take it with them when they leave,” For Love of Water Development Specialist Tessa Diem said. “So, this was a great spring cleaning to get the beaches to a nice base level."

The ethics and economics of trading water futures

Interlochen Public Radio— April 29, 2022

“I think water is a human right, and I don’t think we should be speculating or trading in human rights,” FLOW senior policy advisor and "Great Lakes for Sale" author Dave Dempsey told Interlochen Public Radio (IPR). Ninety percent of North America’s surface freshwater is in the Great Lakes. So every now and then, the Great Lakes are proposed as a solution to drought in the American West. There’s been speculation about piping water to Idaho, Phoenix or Las Vegas. FLOW believes the more immediate danger is commodifying water, including trading water on a futures market.

“That's a taste of what's to come,” Dempsey told IPR. “And these diversions are legal under the compact if they're within Great Lakes states,” adding that such legal diversions are a concerning loophole in the Great Lakes Compact.

State bill provides funding for water infrastructure

The Petoskey News-Review— April 23, 2022

In March, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed the Building Michigan Together Plan, which included the largest infrastructure investment in state history. 

“We were particularly pleased with the septic system money, $35 million, because it's really the first time the state has made a commitment to helping property owners, homeowners pay for the replacement of septic systems. We got at least 130,000 failing septic systems in Michigan and we need to begin addressing that problem,” For Love of Water (FLOW) Senior Advisor Dave Dempsey said. FLOW is also pleased with the $10 million to implement recommendations by the Water Use Advisory Council, which will help gather data on groundwater so it can be better understood and managed.

Kicking Off Earth Day Celebrations at Northwestern Michigan College in Traverse City

TV 9&10 News — April 22, 2022

Happy Earth Day! Coverage of Northwest Michigan College's Earth Day festivities in Traverse City, including a free concert on the main campus and other activities focussing on environmental issues, especially water. Information tables were set up by campus and community groups, including NMC Water Studies, the NMC Green Team, FLOW (For Love of Water) non-profit, Title Track, and more.

Great Lakes region marks half a century since adoption of Water Quality Agreement

Daily Kos — April 15, 2022

Over the years, additional provisions have been added to the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement to address invasive species, environmental and health threats, and climate change, the latter of which For Love of Water (FLOW) executive director Liz Kirkwood has especially kept an eye on. “The biggest threat to the Great Lakes is undoubtedly climate change,” Kirkwood said in a statement. “It will alter the waters of the Great Lakes Basin in many ways, only some of them not foreseeable. Warming groundwater, changes in the aquatic food web, and increasing algae blooms are among the expected impacts.” Being that the Great Lakes make up 20% of the planet’s fresh surface water, those changes could severely impact the ecosystem. Around 40 million people rely on the Great Lakes region for drinking water, and the lakes are considered a vital carbon sink.

Our Drinking Water Lacks the Protection It Deserves

Lansing State Journal — April 2, 2022

Opinion article by Dave Dempsey, FLOW Senior Advisior

A natural resource on which nearly half the population of Michigan depends every day is one that most of us rarely think about: Groundwater, and it’s especially critical in mid-Michigan. The tri-county area depends almost exclusively on groundwater as a drinking water source—both from public wells managed by the Lansing Board of Water and Light and the City of East Lansing, and thousands of private wells in outlying areas.

UN urges the world to give groundwater the attention it needs

Toledo Blade — March 22, 2022

“The Great Lakes can never be restored if groundwater isn't protected,” Liz Kirkwood, executive director of the Traverse City, Mich.-based environmental group called FLOW said.

House Democrats introduce bills to protect Michigan groundwater

Michigan Radio — March 21, 2022

A new package of bills introduced in the Michigan State House would direct the state to treat groundwater as a public trust. That’s among the protections for groundwater included in the bills, which are sponsored by four House Democrats. Environmental groups applaud the move. They say that in an increasingly thirsty world, it’s important to ensure that water isn’t turned into a commodity like oil.

 “The bills will direct the Department of Natural Resources to be strong public trustees of the lands and water it manages,” said Liz Kirkwood, head of the Traverse City-based For Love of Water, or FLOW. “The Great Lakes must never be for sale. And Michigan's groundwater must never become privatized and siphoned away. We must protect every arc of the water cycle for the benefit of the public today and for generations to come.” Kirkwood said the legislation would also close what she called a “loophole” in the current Great Lakes Compact. That loophole allows private companies and others to extract groundwater in the state, so long as it uses containers no larger than 5.7 gallons.

Northerners You Need to Know: Katherine Corden: The Lakeside Painter

Northern Express — March 5, 2022

Because she lives in northern Michigan, painter Katherine Corden finds inspiration everywhere she goes. Her loose, layered style gives viewers the feeling of “hanging out at the beach” or enjoying the “social culture that surrounds our Great Lakes region.” Corden also makes sure to connect back to the natural world she loves. “I donate a small percentage of my proceeds to FLOW,” Corden says, referring to the environmental nonprofit For Love of Water. “I live here in Traverse City, and the Great Lakes are so important to me. They inspire my work significantly, and [FLOW is] a cause that’s close to my heart.”

Comments overwhelmingly against AquaBounty project

Toledo Blade — March 2, 2022

Plans to build an enclosed salmon-rearing facility in this Williams County village have drawn a sharp rebuke from hundreds of residents who live within a short drive of the proposed site, according to publicly available written statements submitted to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

Even in water-rich Michigan, there's no guarantee of enough for all

Associated Press — February 27, 2022

Some futurists depict Michigan and the Great Lakes as "climate havens" that will lure people and businesses weary of worsening drought, wildfire, hurricanes and other disasters. Not so fast, skeptics say. Amid images of abundance lurk problems with pollution, overuse and deteriorating infrastructure. Outsiders "see these five enormous lakes and assume there's more than enough water for everybody," FLOW senior policy advisor David Dempsey told the Associated Press. "But we have tons of unresolved problems."

Enbridge gets green light to seek proposals for Line 5 tunnel

Toledo Blade — February 16, 2022

FLOW is urging the Mackinac Straits Corridor Authority “to suspend further consideration of this ill-conceived project until Enbridge seeks and obtains legal authorization to occupy state bottomlands from appropriate state agencies," The Blade reported last week. FLOW contends that Enbridge has never received authorization from the state of Michigan to occupy state-owned bottomlands, citing the Great Lakes Submerged Lands Act. The state has never made required public trust findings to authorize a public utility easement “Without such authorization, Enbridge does not have a ‘legal warrant’ to occupy state-owned bottomlands."

Dempsey: Great Lakes Compact ‘2.0’ necessary to protect against water commodification

Michigan Advance — February 3, 2022

Scientists predict that by 2050, Michigan will be the safest state in the country to escape from increasingly severe effects of climate change. According to FLOW senior policy advisor Dave Dempsey, that may not be such good news for the Great Lakes State itself. “If you turn the Great Lakes into a product, you’re going to, in essence, begin draining the Great Lakes for the Southwest or other areas that are climate impacted,” Dempsey said. With a keen eye on water scarcity, climate change and the increasing pace of water commodification as it pertains to Michigan and its five lakes, Dempsey has emerged from a 30-year career as perhaps the most well-known figure in Michigan’s realm of environmental policy.

Madcap Coffee joins 1% for the Planet

Grand Rapids Magazine — January 28, 2022

A Grand Rapids-based coffee company became a member of an initiative that supports environmental advocacy through donations to nonprofits. Madcap Coffee Company said Thursday, Jan. 27, it now is a member of 1% for the Planet, effective Jan. 1. As part of its membership in this initiative, Madcap is committing to donate 1% of its annual sales to support nonprofits focused on defending the environment, combatting climate change and conserving water. To celebrate its 1% membership and to highlight its retail expansion into northern Michigan’s Leelanau Peninsula with the acquisition of Blue Boat Coffee in September, Madcap is partnering with Traverse City-based nonprofit and 1% partner For Love of Water (FLOW) to launch a seasonal Lake Effect winter coffee blend and associated merchandise collection. Ten percent of café and online sales from Madcap’s Lake Effect coffee and collection will benefit FLOW, which is dedicated to protecting and preserving waters in the Great Lakes Basin through education; policy; and solutions to pressing energy, water and climate issues.

Madcap Coffee acquires Blue Boat Coffee in Leland

Glen Arbor Sun — January 26, 2022

Grand Rapids-based Madcap Coffee Company has acquired Leland-based Blue Boat Coffee and will open its fourth café location in Michigan and its first in Leelanau County. Prior to Madcap’s acquisition, Blue Boat—the Fishtown-adjacent café and coffee destination known both for its blue to-go cups and its popularity with locals and vacationers in Leland—had been a highly collaborative and successful wholesale partner of Madcap Coffee since opening its doors in 2014.

This week Madcap also announced its initial membership in 1% for the Planet and the company’s intent to donate 1% of annual sales to support nonprofit organizations focused on the environment, climate change, and water conservation. To celebrate its 1% membership and to highlight its retail expansion into Leelanau County, Madcap is partnering with FLOW to launch its seasonal Lake Effect winter coffee blend and a supporting merchandise collection. 10% of café and online sales from Madcap’s Lake Effect coffee and collection will directly benefit FLOW, whose mission is protecting and preserving waters in the Great Lakes Basin through public trust principles like education, policy, and solutions to urgent energy, water, and climate issues.

Why the water in the Great Lakes should not be "for sale," according to one Michigan author

WMUK — January 11, 2022

In the drought-stricken West, some people are turning toward the Great Lakes and asking, what if we could bring some of that water out here? It wouldn’t be the first time water’s been diverted from the Lakes. Would-be buyers might also point to commercial water bottling in Michigan, says conservationist and Western Michigan University graduate Dave Dempsey. "The bottled water industry has, I think, lulled people into a state of numbness about the idea of water as a product," Dempsey said in a recent interview with WMUK.

Shifting political winds could send Great Lakes water sailing to other states, new book warns

MLive — January 4, 2022

As the effects of climate change continue to scorch the thirsty West and bake the Sun Belt, politicians and pundits in recent years have turned envious eyes toward the Great Lakes. The Great Lakes Compact was hailed as the ironclad ban on diversions of America’s freshwater seas, but FLOW senior policy advisor Dave Dempsey reminds readers in "Great Lakes For Sale, Updated Edition" that political winds shift, particularly as negative climate impacts compound. The book argues for the agreement to be revisited as environmental conditions have changed in the dozen years since the Compact’s adoption. “We have a growing chorus of voices in the West, suggesting the Great Lakes might be an answer to their water scarcity,” Dempsey told “We need to be awakened again to that threat and devise new strategies to combat it.”

Reconnecting America: What can the trillion dollar infrastructure bill achieve?

BBC — January 3, 2022

"In the past decade, we as a state have faced extraordinary water crises, and the poster child that was a wakeup call for American water infrastructure was the Flint lead crisis. That tragedy was absolutely unconscionable; the water color changed; people's hair started falling out, the smell was foul," FLOW Executive Director Liz Kirkwood told the BBC News World Business Report. "There is this urgent need to replace these lead service lines. We need to focus on the most elemental things, ensuring that everyone has safe water, clean water, basic necessities. It's a very positive development that we're seeing bipartisan support at the federal level, but also at the state level, to move and advance water infrastructure agenda that prioritizes rebuilding our system to ensure safe, affordable water for all."

The Michigan Senate last month unanimously passed the largest water infrastructure investment in the state's history. "A transformational $3.3 billion," said Kirkwood. Following decades of underinvestment. Michigan's water systems are hopelessly out of date. Kirkwood and others are urging major upgrades to massive water systems. The hope is that federal money will kickstart those upgrades.

Reconnecting America: What can the trillion dollar infrastructure bill achieve?

BBC — January 3, 2022

"In the past decade, we as a state have faced extraordinary water crises, and the poster child that was a wakeup call for American water infrastructure was the Flint lead crisis. That tragedy was absolutely unconscionable; the water color changed; people's hair started falling out, the smell was foul," FLOW Executive Director Liz Kirkwood told the BBC News World Business Report. "There is this urgent need to replace these lead service lines. We need to focus on the most elemental things, ensuring that everyone has safe water, clean water, basic necessities. It's a very positive development that we're seeing bipartisan support at the federal level, but also at the state level, to move and advance water infrastructure agenda that prioritizes rebuilding our system to ensure safe, affordable water for all."

The Michigan Senate last month unanimously passed the largest water infrastructure investment in the state's history. "A transformational $3.3 billion," said Kirkwood. Following decades of underinvestment. Michigan's water systems are hopelessly out of date. Kirkwood and others are urging major upgrades to massive water systems. The hope is that federal money will kickstart those upgrades.

New Leonard Podcast: The Pursuit of FLOW

New Leonard Podcast — December 28, 2021

Mark Wilson and Ryan Buck's latest "New Leonard" podcast features FLOW Executive Director Liz Kirkwood.

Can a bottled water royalty help preserve the Great Lakes?

Great Lakes Echo — December 28, 2021

Michigan residents would pay 3 to 6 cents more for a bottle of water under a plan to sustain Great Lakes water improvements. In addition, bottled water companies would pay 25 cents per gallon of water they pump from the ground to package and sell under the plan proposed by For Love of Water, a nonprofit environmental organization in Traverse City. The plan would put an estimated $250 million annually into a water trust fund to replace lead lines, create water affordability plans and emergency water funds, said Liz Kirkwood, FLOW’S executive director.

More than 100 Groups Call on CFTC To Shut Down Dangerous ‘Water Futures’ Market

Daily Kos — December 20, 2021

FLOW joined 138 other organizations in petitioned the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) to suspend the Chicago Mercantile Exchange’s water futures market, which is based on the availability of water rights in California. The letter from Food & Water Watch details a range of serious problems with Nasdaq Veles California Water Index Futures, which were self-certified by the CME before their launch one year ago. It is the world’s first market for water futures contracts. The comment was co-signed by FLOW, The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Southern California Watershed Alliance, Americans for Financial Reform Education Fund, Center for Biological Diversity, National Family Farm Coalition, Public Citizen, and more than 130 other organizations.

"FLOW unequivocally supports Food & Water Watch's efforts to stop the commodification of water,” said Executive Director Liz Kirkwood. “Water is a fundamental human right held in trust by the states for the public, not something to be speculated on by profiteers."

Enbridge seeks to have Nessel's Line 5 lawsuit heard in federal court

Toledo Blade — December 17, 2021

Traverse City-based For Love of Water, agreed with Ms. Nessel that Enbridge missed its chance to file a transfer request more than two years ago.

State Opts To Drop Federal Suit Over Line 5, Focusing on Michigan Case Instead

St. Ignace News — December 7, 2021

“The State of Michigan took a strategic step today in the race to prevent a catastrophic Line 5 oil spill in the Straits of Mackinac by concentrating its legal efforts in state, not federal, court,” FLOW Executive Director Liz Kirkwood said. “The state’s legal fight and the citizen led movement to protect the Great Lakes, jobs, and a way of life continue full speed ahead.” FLOW said it expects that dropping the 2020 case will result in a quicker decision regarding Line 5 since it will avoid potentially protracted federal court litigation. It said in a release that it finds Judge Neff remand decision was “legally deficient.”

“It’s vitally important to recognize that the action by Governor Whitmer and (DNR) Director Daniel Eichinger in November 2020 to revoke and terminate Line 5’s 1953 easement remains valid,” FLOW Legal Director Zach Welcker said. “While Enbridge continues to trespass in state waters and on state bottomlands, the State of Michigan can now move forward on Attorney General Nessel’s case filed on behalf of the citizens of Michigan in 2019 to shut down the dual pipelines in the Straits.”

TC could declare water a human right

Traverse City Record-Eagle — December 5, 2021

A nonprofit that focuses on clean water issues wants Traverse City commissioners to declare access to water and sanitation as a basic human right. For Love of Water, a Traverse City-based organization that has been active in the fight against Enbridge’s Line 5, wants city commissioners to adopt a resolution acknowledging water is necessary for life, rejects treating markets as a tradable commodity and affirms the city’s support for keeping the Great Lakes in the public trust, among other points. East Grand Traverse Bay is the source of the city’s drinking water, as well as a handful of townships that buy it in bulk from the city. The resolution points to a United Nations estimate that future water scarcity will impact 1.8 billion people by 2025 because of climate change, population growth and water overuse.

Can a bottled water royalty help preserve the Great Lakes?

Spartan Newsroom — December 3, 2021

Michigan residents would pay 3 to 6 cents more for a bottle of water under a plan to sustain Great Lakes water improvements. In addition, bottled water companies would pay 25 cents per gallon of water they pump from the ground to package and sell under the plan proposed by For Love of Water, a nonprofit environmental organization in Traverse City. The plan would put an estimated $250 million annually into a water trust fund to replace lead lines, create water affordability plans and emergency water funds, said Liz Kirkwood,  FLOW’S executive director. The model legislation would do so by putting a royalty on bottled water — not a tax.

Great Lakes for Sale: Veteran activist and author puts renewed spotlight on diverting Great Lakes water

Great Lakes Now — December 1, 2021

Tracking Michigan’s environmental issues has been a long, rewarding and at times arduous undertaking for Dave Dempsey. He was an environment adviser to former Michigan Gov. James Blanchard in the 1980s and now provides policy advice to the Traverse City non-profit For Love of Water. In between were stops at the Michigan Environmental Council and the International Joint Commission.

Governor Whitmer drops federal lawsuit seeking to shut down Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline

Michigan Radio — November 30, 2021

Governor Gretchen Whitmer has dropped a federal lawsuit seeking to shut down Enbridge’s Line 5 oil and natural gas liquids pipeline. But that’s not the end of the legal effort to shut down the line that runs through the Straits of Mackinac.

For Love of Water, a group that wants the pipeline shut down, said in a statement: “The State of Michigan took a strategic step today in the race to prevent a catastrophic Line 5 oil spill in the Straits of Mackinac by concentrating its legal efforts in state, not federal, court,” said FLOW Executive Director Liz Kirkwood. “The state’s legal fight and the citizen-led movement to protect the Great Lakes, jobs, and a way of life continue full speed ahead.”

Whitmer directs state agencies to prepare to use federal infrastructure funds

Detroit News — November 22, 2021

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Monday directed state government to work with the Michigan Legislature and prepare to launch lead service line replacement and other water projects when federal money from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is dispersed. “We appreciate Governor Whitmer’s leadership and determination to prioritize water-protection work in the Great Lake State with the new federal infrastructure funds. Michiganders' urgent water needs can’t wait,” said Liz Kirkwood, executive director of FLOW. “We must use this once-in-a-generation infrastructure investment to replace lead lines, modernize drinking water and sewage plants, and clean up PFAS contamination right away. This investment is essential to the public health and prosperity of families and communities, and will support good-paying jobs that cannot be outsourced.”

Whitmer directive: Michigan must accelerate plans to replace lead pipes

Michigan Advance — November 22, 2021

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued an executive directive Monday ordering state agencies to ready plans to quickly replace lead pipes using an influx of federal dollars from the new Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. “We must use this once-in-a-generation infrastructure investment to replace lead lines, modernize drinking water and sewage plants, and clean up PFAS contamination right away,” said Liz Kirkwood, executive director of FLOW.

Enviros, tribal leaders face right-wing, pro-Line 5 ‘echo chamber’ 

Michigan Advance — November 22, 2021

However, a 2015 composite report from scientific advisors for FLOW concludes that a Line 5 shutdown at the Straits would not disrupt propane in the U.P. or Wisconsin. “No more than 5-10 percent of the [light to medium] crude oil in Line 5 is going to the Detroit and Toledo refineries. In reality, it is most likely closer to 5 percent than 10 percent,” the report reads, noting that the “overwhelming majority” of Line 5 oil goes back into Canada rather than Michigan and other states.

Line 5 legal proceedings to remain in federal court, judge rules

The Blade — November 17, 2021

Enbridge’s challenge of Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s Line 5 shutdown order will remain in federal court, as the giant Canadian-based pipeline company wanted. In a 15-page ruling issued late Monday, U.S. District Judge Janet Neff of Grand Rapids rejected efforts to remand the case back to state court, where it began.

New angles emerge in controversy over Line 5

The Blade — November 15, 2021

Crude oil continues to flow — for now — through Enbridge’s controversial pipeline that serves Toledo-area refineries, among others. But several officials agree that recent events in Washington and elsewhere have kickstarted more controversy, leaving both sides wondering what the long-term outlook is at a time in which climate change, access to clean water, and rising fuel prices have loomed large on the minds of many North Americans.

Business Memoranda

Traverse City Record-Eagle — November 10, 2021

FLOW announced the election of new officers on its board of directors. Renee Huckle Mittelstaedt becomes the first woman to chair the Traverse City-based Great Lakes law and policy center, which celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2021. Mittelstaedt, the former president and CEO of Huckle Media, LLC/Huckle Holdings Inc., joined FLOW’s board in 2015 and previously was treasurer. Organizational consultant Sarah Naperala is FLOW’s new vice chair. Alma College emeritus professor of Communication, Public Affairs and Environmental Studies and former board chair Mike Vickery is treasurer. Lisa Wyatt Knowlton, an executive advisor and learning leader in leadership, management and policy, is secretary.

EPA Orders Benton Harbor, Michigan to Protect Residents from Lead-Contaminated Drinking Water

Natural Resources Defense Council — November 2, 2021

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today issued an enforcement order directing the City of Benton Harbor to take specific steps to bring its water system into compliance with federal drinking water law, just months after nearly 20 groups (including FLOW) petitioned the agency to take emergency action. Due to high levels of lead in tap water, the State of Michigan is providing free bottled water to residents.

Green Lights: Meet 11 Of Northern Michigan’s Environmental Leaders

Traverse City Business News — November 1, 2021

Northern Michigan has no shortage of impressive green leaders, from nonprofit leaders whose organizations are aimed specifically at protecting the environment, to local businesspeople who have taken it upon themselves to embrace sustainability as a core value. FLOW Executive Director Liz Kirkwood was named among 11 of the local folks leading the charge in areas of green business, alternative energy and environmental preservation.

Trust issues linger over PFAS response

Traverse City Record-Eagle — October 24, 2021

Ingesting PFAS causes health effects ranging from high cholesterol to impaired immune responses and liver function, FLOW senior advisor Dave Dempsey said. It has also been linked to kidney and heart disease, osteoarthritis and fertility issues, among others.

Coast Guard to launch freshwater oil spill research in Michigan

MLive — October 20, 2021

A new military research agency will come to Michigan to study the effects of oil spills in freshwater and develop plans to respond to such an environmental disaster, reports “It’s ideal to have this center located so close to the point where the three Upper Great Lakes flow together and where there is an aging pipeline which has caused great concern,” said FLOW senior policy advisor Dave Dempsey.

Dave Dempsey: Protecting Michigan wilderness is one of Dale Kildee’s enduring legacies

Michigan Advance — October 20, 2021

When former U.S. Rep. Dale Kildee died last week at the age of 92, admirers celebrated his work on behalf of the community of Flint, his support for education and labor and his personal decency. Each of these merited praise, but one aspect of his career escaped mention in most quarters – his environmental values. A lifetime 89% supporter of the environment as measured by the League of Conservation Voters scorecard, Kildee led the successful fight to protect over 90,000 acres of wilderness in 10 areas on Michigan’s National Forest lands. It wasn’t easy.

Michigan environmental law pioneer Jim Olson stepping down after 50 years

Great Lakes Notebook — October 18, 2021

Canadian social justice and environmental advocate Maude Barlow praised Olson saying he “has been one of the most important voices in the world promoting the public trust doctrine and is widely respected for both his legal analysis and his tireless advocacy.” Barlow, formerly a senior adviser to the United Nations on water, said Olson has brought energy and commitment to every court case and issue where he has engaged. Olson is “one-of-a-kind,” Barlow said.

Michigan's failing septic system is 'slow motion catastrophe' for groundwater

Detroit Free Press — October 14, 2021

"Septic systems are a chronic problem that Michigan has continued to fail to address statewide," FLOW senior advisor David Dempsey told the Detroit Free Press. Dempsey authored our report on threats to Michigan's groundwater which FLOW released earlier this year. "We don't know what we want of our groundwater. We want to use it for drinking water, and we want to be able to use it as a waste receptacle as well. We don't allow people to just dump their waste into streams, but that's essentially what's happening in slow motion with septic systems."

Lake Huron Zoom program tonight

The Alpena News — October 7, 2021

The Wonders of Lake Huron will be presented at 7 p.m. tonight in a live online format, featuring Katie Wolf and Dave Dempsey. The public is invited to join in this second event with Great Lakes Inspired, featuring NOAA’s Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary’s Katie Wolf and author Dave Dempsey as they share their respective stories related to Lake Huron. Their presentations will focus on the scientific and ecological wonders of Lake Huron and on living along the lake in all its majesty. The interactive event will feature photos and short videos displaying some of the lake’s qualities, with time for questions and answers from attendees.

Lead Contamination: This Small Michigan Town Hasn’t Had Safe Drinking Water Since 2015

Gander Newsroom — October 6, 2021

Yet another Michigan town’s water supply is contaminated with lead. Every day, residents in Benton Harbor need to drink bottled water or cope with dire health consequences, reports The 'Gander Newsroom. The state has officially urged residents to use only bottled water for cooking, drinking, and brushing teeth. Previously, local authorities had passed out water filters, but now the federal government is reviewing their effectiveness. Through Michigan’s newest budget, the city will receive $10 million to replace pipes, as part of a larger package for clean water. The state also set up an emergency drinking water fund, which is designed to provide clean bottled water and filters in the meantime.

FLOW executive director Liz Kirkwood said this type of fund is the first of its kind she’s heard of, but that long-term the goal should be to prevent problems before stopgap measures are necessary. Kirkwood’s long-term hope is that all groundwater becomes public property, which currently is not the case, so that bottled water companies cannot profit by going around government. In this scenario, people would have ownership of their local water, and water companies couldn’t gouge the prices. FLOW has drafted model legislation to these ends, but only parts of the bill have been touched on so far.

NMEAC Awards features virtual format

Traverse City Record-Eagle — September 24, 2021

FLOW senior policy advisor Dave Dempsey accepted NMEAC's first Greg Reisig Award last Thursday as the Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council hosted its first virtual nod to good work done on behalf of the region, reports the Traverse City Record-Eagle. The Sept. 23 Environmentalist of the Year celebration was done on Zoom, with musical performances by brotha james, a keynote address by Michigan Climate Action Network's Kate Madigan, a history of NMEAC and Neahtawanta Inn by Sally Van Vleck and the presentation of awards.

Question of Diversion: Great Lakes governors group silent on future water threats

Great Lakes Now — August 27, 2021

Do water diversions pose a threat to the Great Lakes basin, now or in the future? Gary Wilson of Great Lakes Now spoke to FLOW senior policy advisor Dave Dempsey about this vexing issue. “We know that access to water is a major issue in the west and southwest and will only grow in importance," said Dempsey. "Long-range diversions are economically unfeasible right now, but water’s value and pricing will only grow.” Dempsey authored the book Great Lakes for Sale in 2009 and is finalizing an updated version for release in late 2021.

Michigan author & illustrator explore the depths of the Great Lakes

Fresh Perspective — August 23, 2021

The author of The Accidental Reef and Other Ecological Odysseys in the Great Lakes, Lynne Heasley, and the illustrator of the book, Glenn Wolff, explore the dark depths of the Great Lakes in the Fresh Coast State. The artistic duo will headline a virtual book launch from 5:30-6:30 on August 25, the newest event in FLOW’s Art Meets Water series.

The Globe and Mail — August 3, 2021

Michigan’s governor and the Canadian oil company Enbridge are at odds over a decades-old pipeline and the risks that it might spill. The Globe and Mail asked the people who live alongside it where they stand. “I think what is really telling is that Canadians don’t want pipelines in their own country,” says FLOW executive director Liz Kirkwood. “It’s enormously disappointing to see the Canadian government failing to stand up for the Great Lakes.”

Sewer line work continues; Bryan Park beach OK'd for swimming, infrastructure repair costs unknown

Traverse City Record-Eagle — July 28, 2021

A major sewer transmission main leak that prompted a water-contact advisory at a popular Traverse City beach still seeps up through the ground as workers prepare to literally unearth and fix the problem, the Traverse City Record-Eagle reported. FLOW senior advisor Dave Dempsey said it’s definitely a troubling situation, “spawned by years of disinvestment in sewer and water at the federal and state level.”


Dave Dempsey: It’s raining PFAS in the Sleeping Bear Dunes

Michigan Advance — July 2, 2021

Every now and then, an environmental news headline jumps out at you as though it was printed in 12-inch lettering on a newspaper front page or website. That personal reaction comes not because the news is a surprise, but because it is a symbol. “It’s Raining ‘Forever Chemicals’ in the Great Lakes,” said one website recentlyNot only that, but the chemicals discussed in the story are being detected at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, just 25 miles down the road from where I live near Traverse City.

Epic paddling journey chronicles fresh water concern

Traverse City Record-Eagle — July 1, 2021

Several local entities back the “Troubled Water” mission. The Traverse City-based advocacy organization For Love of Water (FLOW) got onboard early on as an adviser helping to lift the project from concept to targeted action. “We see the power of artists, filmmakers, and others inspired by the water, inspiring others to protect waters,” said FLOW Deputy Director Kelly Thayer. FLOW’s Executive Director Liz Kirkwood gives voice on film to the organization’s commitment to protect the public resource. FLOW and the M22 store align their passion for the lakes in support of the film. Proceeds from the M22’s For Love of Water T-shirts and hats benefit the trio’s effort.

Fish, propane, cash: Not everyone loves Enbridge generosity in the Straits

Bridge Michigan — June 28, 2021

Barbara Brown is not a fan of Enbridge. But for her friend, about 40 bucks worth of free whitefish from Enbridge was reason enough to set differences aside, if only momentarily. Brown felt differently, viewing the whitefish as an effort to woo residents to Enbridge's side. “I thought it was an aggressive influence campaign,” said Brown, a former state judge who serves on the board of FLOW, a northern Michigan nonprofit that opposes Line 5.

Proposed Michigan PFAS public notice policy drafted; public should know of suspected contamination

Traverse City Record-Eagle — June 10, 2021

Environmental advocate Dave Dempsey, senior advisor at FLOW, said he agrees with CAWG members who wanted the wording changed. PFAS plumes with "likely" impacts to residential water supplies or surface waters won't include as many cases as those "with potential" for such ramifications.

A leaky pipeline operates illegally on tribal land. Will the White House please speak up?

Grist — June 2, 2021

Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline is threatening the Great Lakes and treaty-protected land. Biden needs to back his promises to Indigenous communities, write Whitney Gravelle, David Arroyo, and Jamie Stuck for Grist. Whitney Gravelle is the president and chairwoman of the Bay Mills Indian Community. David Arroyo is the chairman of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians. Jamie Stuck is the chairperson of the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of The Potawatomi.

According to an Enbridge report, only about 30 percent of the oil and gas transported through Line 5 will be used in the U.S., with 70 percent serving Canada. But neither country needs this oil to meet its energy needs, as experts at the Great Lakes advocacy nonprofit For Love of Water have stressed. The White House must send a clear message to Canada and abroad: Jeopardizing the health, natural resources, and treaty rights of Indigenous Americans to provide oil to a foreign country is in direct opposition to America’s economic, energy, and environmental justice goals.

Ohio Lawmakers Make Plea to Keep Line 5 Open Citing Potential Toledo Area Job Losses

Toledo Blade — May 18, 2021

One of the more vocal Enbridge critics has been Traverse City-based For Love of Water, or FLOW. FLOW attorney and president, Jim Olson, told The Blade that the group’s research shows the Great Lakes region has the capacity and flexibility to meet its energy needs “without threatening our public waters and the economy.”

“Just because Enbridge and some refineries don’t want to change their oil supply strategies, [that] doesn’t mean that change is not feasible,” he said. “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” Mr. Olson said a spill in the Straits “would have profound, negative impacts on the regional economy” and he wishes Ohio would support “its sister Great Lakes state, Michigan, not Enbridge and its political tactics, especially when Ohio bears none of the risk of a spill that will ruin the upper one-third of Lake Huron and Lake Michigan, with long-term damage exceeding $6.2 billion dollars, not to mention the potential $45 billion to the steel industry because of the likely shutdown of shipping through these waters.”

Enbridge defies Michigan governor's order to close Line 5

Associated Press — May 14, 2021

Environmentalists and native tribes planned rallies in Detroit, Lansing and the Straits of Mackinac area. They accused the company of flouting the law and endangering the world’s largest freshwater system.

"The scale and impact of a Line 5 oil spill would be an unprecedented ecological and economic disaster," said Liz Kirkwood, executive director of Traverse City-based For Love of Water.

Traverse City National Writers Series Announces 2021 Lineup — May 14, 2021

The National Writers Series' summer season kicks off June 10th with Dr. Robin Wall Kimmerer, author of the remarkable Braiding Sweetgrass, a collection of ecological essays that spent nearly all of 2020 on the New York Times bestseller list. This special ticketed event is presented in partnership with For Love of Water (FLOW), and we’re also honored to welcome Chairman David M. Arroyo of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians for a blessing at the beginning of our event.

Our guest host is Matthew L.M. Fletcher, Foundation Professor of Law at Michigan State University College of Law, Director of the Indigenous Law and Policy Center, and a frequent instructor at the Pre-Law Summer Institute for American Indian students.

Canada: Stall Line 5 shutdown due to treaty discussions with U.S.

Detroit News — May 12, 2021

Environmental groups have praised Whitmer for her decision and lambasted Enbridge for ignoring her order. Officials with the For Love of Water group said Enbridge had a “troubling track record and that the governor was just trying to protect the state’s air, water and other natural resources from a potential oil spill."

"Michiganders have not forgotten Enbridge’s epic failure and legacy of the million-gallon, Line 6B oil spill disaster into the Kalamazoo River that drove about 150 families permanently from their homes and properties,” said Liz Kirkwood, the executive director of FLOW and an attorney in Traverse City. The pipeline, FLOW officials said, is at risk of a rupture from anchor strikes given rough currents in the Straits.

Dave Dempsey: Stop polluting and neglecting Michigan’s groundwater

Michigan Advance — May 11, 2021

Michigan prides itself on superior water stewardship. But the state cannot make that claim without a new approach to groundwater. That would include everything from articulation of a single, protective state groundwater policy to passage of legislation pending in the Michigan Senate and House of Representatives requiring that parties responsible for groundwater pollution clean up their contamination unless this is technically infeasible, and adoption of a state sanitary code legislation. Groundwater feeds the Great Lakes, fuels the economy and fulfills our need for drinking water. It serves us well. It is time we return the favor so that current and future generations can depend on its quality and quantity.

Michigan tribes plan peaceful gatherings for Enbridge ‘eviction day,’ LaDuke to speak

Michigan Advance — May 10, 2021

“A spill from Line 5 at the Straits of Mackinac could deliver a blow of over $6 billion in impacts and natural resource damages to Michigan’s economy, according to a study commissioned by FLOW [For Love of Water]. … While this astroturf group’s report claims it is Ohio — not Michigan — that will bear the brunt of a Line 5 shutdown economic impact, even that conclusion seems largely based on anecdotal stories from biased sources with an agenda to keep Line 5 operating,” Sean McBrearty said.

As Line 5 debate continues, residents weigh risks to shorelines, economies

The Alpena News — May 8, 2021

According to Enbridge, employees of the company own rings made out of pieces of Line 6 [which spilled 1 million gallons of heavy tar sands oil into the Kalamazoo River watershed in 2010] to remind them of the importance of safety. Intentions to do better aren’t enough, according to Liz Kirkwood, executive director of environmental group For Love of Water, or FLOW. An oil leak could cost 1.5 million jobs tied to the Great Lakes and destroy a unique freshwater ecosystem, clobbering a $7 billion fishing industry and shutting down one of the busiest shipping lanes in the Great Lakes, Kirkwood said. More than 1.1 million gallons of oil have leaked from Line 5 in more than 30 on-land spills, according to a report released in 2017 by the Pipeline Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. The pipeline travels 645 miles, from Superior, Wisconsin, across Michigan to Sarnia, Ontario.

WGVU Public Radio's Eco Insider Program Talks about Shutting Down Line 5 with FLOW's Liz Kirkwood

WGVU — May 7, 2021

Listen to FLOW's Liz Kirkwood, who spoke Friday morning with Shelley Irwin on WGVU Public Radio's Eco Insider show about why Enbridge must shut down the Line 5 oil pipelines in the Straits of Mackinac. Gov. Whitmer has set a Weds., May 12, deadline for Enbridge to comply with her lawful shutdown order to protect the Great Lakes.

Residents near three Michigan airports to get quicker PFAS water tests; citizen volunteers say faster, broader public notice is best

Traverse City Record-Eagle — April 29, 2021

Grand Traverse County residents can learn more details about the ongoing PFAS investigation in East Bay Township during a free webinar tonight at 7 pm hosted by FLOW and the Michigan League of Conservation Voters. Discussion is expected to include frustrations about the delay from the state in notifying the public. “I don’t question the good intentions of MPART, but the basic principle should be to disclose investigations and resulting data as soon as they are known. That’s not complicated. It’s just basic common sense,” said FLOW senior advisor Dave Dempsey. Residents who drink groundwater and live nearby three Michigan airports may have their well water tested for PFAS contamination by state officials about a year sooner than they otherwise might have. That’s because a group of citizen volunteers tasked with improving the way and rapidity with which state environmental regulators tell residents about PFAS contamination suggested they should do so, reports the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

Oil pipeline disputes raise tensions between U.S. and Canada

ABC News — April 28, 2021

Months after President Joe Biden snubbed Canadian officials by canceling Keystone XL, an impending showdown over a second crude oil pipeline threatens to further strain ties between the two neighbors that were frayed during the Trump administration.Critics say most economic benefits go to Canada, while Michigan risks a rupture that could foul hundreds of miles of waters. “The Canadians are awfully silent about our shared responsibility to protect the Great Lakes, which hold 20% of the world's fresh surface water,” said Liz Kirkwood, director of a Michigan group called For Love of Water.

16 states, 4 tribes back Whitmer’s lawsuit over Line 5 shutdown

Michigan Advance — April 23, 2021

As the state of Michigan continues to battle Canadian oil company Enbridge in court over Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s impending shutdown order for the company’s Line 5 oil pipeline, Attorney General Dana Nessel announced Friday that 28 entities have so far thrown in their support for the state’s motion to remand the case back to the Ingham County 30th Circuit Court. Those entities include four tribes (Bay Mills Indian Community, Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians and Nottawaseppi Huron Band of Potawatomi); the Great Lakes Business Network and six environmental organizations, including FLOW, the Environmental Law and Policy Center, the Michigan Climate Action Network, the Great Lakes Law and Policy Center, the National Wildlife Federation and the Straits of Mackinac Alliance.

Michigan Regulator to Weigh Climate Impact of Enbridge Oil Line Tunnel

Reuters — April 22, 2021

A state of Michigan regulator said on Wednesday it will consider the impact of climate-warming greenhouse gas emissions when deciding whether Enbridge Inc can build an underwater tunnel to rehouse a four-mile (6-km) section of its Line 5 oil pipeline. The Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) agreed with interveners, including environmental groups, that GHG emissions are pollutants  whose impact must be considered under  the Michigan Environmental Protection Act. Environmental campaigners opposed to Line 5 hailed the decision as a win. "It recognizes that the Michigan Environmental Protection Act applies to consideration of greenhouse gas emissions that would be spurred by Enbridge's proposed oil pipeline tunnel," said Liz Kirkwood, executive director of For Love of Water.

Showing Great Lakes Love on Earth Day — April 19, 2021

“The Great Lakes are vast and vulnerable,” FLOW senior advisor Dave told Traverse City Tourism. “They contain 20-percent of the world’s fresh water. We need to be careful with them and not take them for granted.” Dempsey offered the following suggestions for what we can do to protect the Great Lakes during Earth Day and every day: conserve water; water your lawn at night when there is less evaporation; don’t let the water run when brushing your teeth; avoid single-use plastics since more of that trash finds its way to the lakes; wash your boat bottom to avoid transporting invasive species; don’t use the lakes as an ash tray; learn about the Great Lakes – they are remarkable.