A sampling of recent news coverage involving FLOW
February 11, 2020
Great Lakes Now
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer made the environment and clean water one of her top three priorities last week in her annual budget proposal to the state legislature. After giving environmental and climate issues only a passing mention in her annual State of the State speech, Whitmer’s budget director Chris Kolb told legislators that protecting Michigan’s water will be a “core priority.” Michigan has been beset with legacy environmental issues since long before Whitmer took office in January 2019.
Veteran Michigan environmental policy adviser Dave Dempsey praised Whitmer’s inclusion of $20 million in one-time funding in her budget for rapid response to contamination saying it is “much needed.” But he was circumspect on the overall budget process. “Politics is the art of the possible,” Dempsey said, and “environmental programs are unpopular with the people running the legislature. There’s been a pathetic level of disinvestment on the environment in Michigan going back decades,” Dempsey said. He commended Whitmer for “taking steps, however small, to reverse the long-term trend.”
February 11, 2020
A challenge to the state permits that allow Enbridge to install dozens of screw anchor supports along Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac will proceed after a judge kept some parts of the argument alive. Administrative Law Judge Daniel Pulter dismissed most of the challenges to the placement of screw anchors along the dual oil pipelines, but found there was legal grounding to examine whether the state adequately assessed the risks those supports pose to the bottom lands.
"This decision means Enbridge and the state must now prove they have done that, and that the existing Line 5 does not pose more than a minimal potential for harm,” said Jim Olson, president for For the Love of Water. “We believe a thorough real evaluation of the overall risks of harm and alternatives to avoid that harm will lead to a conclusion that the risks are so far beyond minimal, the Line 5 must be shut down and decommissioned.”
January 17, 2020
Thirty years before toxic green ooze spilled onto a Madison Heights road, the state's Pollution Emergency Alerting System hotline received a complaint about chemical storage pits dug into the basement of Electro-Plating Services (EPS). For three years, it appears the state took no action. Then, in 1993, another complaint was made to the hotline. This time, the state investigated. What followed were 23 years of failed state efforts to force the owner of EPS, Gary Sayers, to follow the law.
Dave Dempsey, senior advisor for FLOW (For Love of Water) said it was "a classic case of the futility of pursuing 'voluntary compliance' with bad actors." In testimony before the Michigan House Appropriations Committee earlier this week, EGLE Director Liesl Clark agreed. She said the state had "pulled its punches" too often and for too long.
January 15, 2020
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel filed a lawsuit against 17 companies. She says those companies played a part in the spread of PFAS in Michigan. It accuses companies like 3M and DuPont of knowingly and recklessly using PFAS in a way to contaminate natural resources—and harm people in Michigan. PFAS have been linked to several health problems, including cancer.
Northern Michigan’s News Leader spoke with FLOW. The group in Traverse City is dedicated to preserving Michigan’s water. They say the clean-up could take years and lots of money. “Taxpayers are going to pay hundreds of millions to clean up the mess made by PFAS, so the attorney general and the governor are trying to recover some of that cost from the companies that made the products or the chemicals. That’ll lessen the burden on taxpayers,” said Senior Policy Adviser of FLOW, Dave Dempsey.
January 13, 2020
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources Director Daniel Eichinger has given Enbridge 30 days to provide details regarding its ongoing violations of a state-granted easement that allows the company’s 66-year-old Line 5 oil pipelines to occupy the Straits of Mackinac. Eichinger’s letter to Enbridge includes 20 questions to be answered by Feb. 12, 2020.
According to For Love of Water FLOW, the Great Lakes law and policy center based in Traverse City, the letter is an “appropriate step” to conclude the DNR’s review ordered by Governor Whitmer last June. “It’s a welcome sign that Director Eichinger and his staff appear to be wrapping up their Line 5 investigation by asking for all other information and documentation that Enbridge has in its possession or control,” said Kelly Thayer, Deputy Director of FLOW (For Love of Water). “At the conclusion of this process, these serious and continuing violations of the easement by Enbridge should trigger the state to shut down the dangerous dual Line 5 oil pipelines in the Great Lakes before it’s too late.”
December 17, 2019
A Swiss company’s water withdrawals in northern Michigan are again stoking long-simmering tensions, with the issue becoming part of a larger debate over who controls water diversion across the Great Lakes region. In a one-two punch, Nestlé Waters North America, Inc. is the target of two state bills designed to increase the state’s control over groundwater supplies shortly after the company lost a court appeal related to its plans to increase pumping rates. It’s the latest turn in a longstanding dispute over whether Nestlé’s groundwater extraction for Ice Mountain bottled water is an acceptable use of the state’s public water supplies.
Nestlé is likely to appeal the decision, but environmentalists applauded it. The ruling is “really significant,” and sets an important precedent, said Liz Kirkwood, executive director of For Love of Water (FLOW), a water conservation nonprofit organization based in Traverse City.
December 6, 2019
New bills in the Michigan legislature would limit distribution of the state’s water resources to the Great Lakes watershed by removing an exemption that currently allows companies like Nestle to ship bottled water outside the basin. Sponsored by state Reps. Yousef Rabhi, D-Ann Arbor, Laurie Pohutsky, D-Livonia, and Rep. Rachel Hood, D-Grand Rapids, the three-bill package would also designate groundwater as part of the public trust and would give the Department of Natural Resources more authority in water resource management.
As freshwater becomes more in demand around the globe, ensuring that water isn’t viewed as a product is crucial to protecting the state’s water resources, said Jim Olson, founder and president of the environmental group For Love of Water. “A lot of states are not realizing what’s coming and what is happening,” he said. “I don’t care who you are or what political side of the aisle you’re on, what business you’re in. Unless you’re trying to export water for a lot of money, you want public trust protection for all of us.”
December 5, 2019
Michigan’s second-highest court has dealt a legal blow to Nestlé’s Ice Mountain water brand, ruling that the company’s commercial water-bottling operation is “not an essential public service” or a public water supply. The court of appeals ruling is a victory for Osceola township, a small mid-Michigan town that blocked Nestlé from building a pumping station that doesn’t comply with its zoning laws. But the case could also throw a wrench in Nestlé’s attempts to privatize water around the country.
If it is to carry out such plans, then it will need to be legally recognized as a public water source that provides an essential public service. The Michigan environmental attorney Jim Olson, who did not represent Osceola township but has previously battled Nestlé in court, said any claim that the Swiss multinational is a public water utility “is ludicrous”.
We've Been Here Before: In 1986, Lake Michigan's up north shores looked a lot like now. Will 2020 be worse?
November 16, 2019
We didn't learn the important lessons from the record-breaking high water levels of 1986, FLOW senior policy adviser Dave Dempsey told the Northern Express. That's the last time Lake Michigan water levels were this high. The Express devoted last week's cover story to high water levels and a comparison of 1986 vs 2019. Dempsey worked as the environmental policy director for Gov. Jim Blanchard in 1986, when the high-water record was set. “It was very dramatic and basically an emergency for a lot of people,” Dempsey recalled. When homes started to fall into Lake Michigan that year, Dempsey said he helped the Blanchard administration craft a policy to offer low-interest loans for homeowners to protect their shoreline or move their home away from the edge. Ultimately, lawmakers did not address the possibility that the new high-water level could come back or even be washed away by a new record (which is possible in 2020). “You’ve got to adapt and learn lessons from the experience,” Dempsey said.
November 16, 2019
The Northern Express has an in-depth and upbeat interview this week with our new development director, Diane Dupuis, who "is here to help us fund the fight of the Great Lakes' life," writes the Express. She joins FLOW at a propitious time; the organization has been in the forefront of two high-profile legal fights. One concerns the drawing of water by Nestle in Mecosta County, and the other is the dispute over Line 5 running under the Straits of Mackinac. The Express talked with Dupuis about ground water, high water, water justice, and the critical flow that moves — or drains — the people’s fight: money.
November 7, 2019
Traverse City Record-Eagle
The Michigan Septic Summit in Traverse City was a lively, sold-out affair with experts and organizers attending from around the state and beyond. Sessions focused on how septic systems are sited, work, and fail. Multiple presenters described the scientific detective work used to trace contamination to its source. And nearly every presenter, panelist, and participant spoke to the need for a mix a statewide septic code or law to set minimum standards (Michigan is the only state without such a law) and local regulations to go further in tailoring protections for public health and the environment to local soil conditions and other factors.
November 5, 2019
November 2, 2019
Traverse City Record-Eagle
In this piece, FLOW's Senior Advisor Dave Dempsey points to the problem of, and solutions to, unregulated septic systems fouling Michigan's fresh water. On the solution side, FLOW and our co-sponsors are hosting the Michigan Septic Summit on Wednesday, Nov. 6, from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at NMC’s Hagerty Center in Traverse City. This one-day conference will explore emerging research on human health and environmental risks presented by old and failing septic systems in Michigan -- and local and regional programs and regulations adopted in response.The agenda features a variety of perspectives from public health officials, Realtors, representatives of lake associations, and others.
November 1, 2019
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, and some environmental advocacy groups like For Love of Water (FLOW), believe the 60 year old pipeline is a liability. “We cannot risk our greatest, greatest gift, and that’s the Great Lakes. That’s what this is a battle for,” said Liz Kirkwood, executive director of FLOW. Kirkwood pored over a more than 120 page study, commissioned by the state, which looked into Enbridge’s financial assurances. AG Nessel and Kirkwood both believe the findings show Enbridge would not be accountable for an environmental disaster.
October 22, 2019
In this commentary for Bridge Magazine, Dave Dempsey, FLOW’s senior policy adviser and author of the award-winning biography of Gov. William G. Milliken, traces the arc of Gov. Milliken's life of service in protection of democracy, civil rights, and the environment.
October 20, 2019
Traverse City Record-Eagle
Michigan has a poop-in-the-water problem, writes the Traverse City Record-Eagle. The Great Lakes State boasts more freshwater resources than any other state in the nation, yet has no statewide oversight to protect those waters from human fecal contamination that escapes faulty septic systems. Of Michigan’s approximately 1.3 million rural septic systems, an estimated 130,000 to 300,000 are failing. Only a smattering of townships and counties require septic tanks and drain fields be inspected after installation, and then only when property is sold or transferred. Join FLOW at the Michigan Septic Summit on Nov. 6 in Traverse City to learn more about our state's septic problem.
October 18, 2019
The state of Michigan on Friday lost a great leader and true champion of decency, humanity, and the environment. We mourn the loss of Gov. William G. Milliken and honor his lasting legacy. FLOW Senior Advisor Dave Dempsey, author of a biography of Milliken, told Michigan Radio that civility in public life was an important part of Gov. Milliken's contribution. "He consulted regularly with legislative leaders of both parties. And he did not dictate to the legislature what they needed to do, but tried to reach agreement on things," said Dempsey. "And he was a hard man to dislike. People from various political philosophies looked at him and really just found him to be somebody who was agreeable and eager to do the right thing for the citizenry."
October 14, 2019
Energy News Network
Jim Olson, longtime environmental attorney and founder of FLOW, said the case against the tunnel deal and for getting Line 5 out of the Straits of Mackinac is simply about the “rule of law.” Enbridge is free to go through a state environmental regulatory process to try and build the tunnel, which hasn’t happened, advocates say. Nessel credited Olson and other advocates for raising the public trust legal argument around Line 5, a theory that essentially says private companies can’t use public resources — in this case, the Great Lakes — for private benefit.
October 11, 2019
Traverse City Record-Eagle
Great story in today's Traverse City Record-Eagle about the "Artists for FLOW" show at Higher Art Gallery, which runs until November 5. “This is my first year doing this and I felt like something pertaining to the Great Lakes would be something everybody cares about,” said gallery owner Shanny Brooke. The exhibition features 26 pieces from 19 artists. All artwork is for sale with price tags ranging from $200 to $3,600. FLOW gets 10 percent of art sales.
September 28, 2019
FLOW senior advisor Dave Dempsey told the Northern Express there is a renewed push for state-mandated septic inspections, and Kalkaska County eliminating a local requirement for septic system inspections proves why a state-wide remedy is necessary. Michigan is the only state in the country that does not have a state law mandating inspections. That’s astonishing given that Michigan is the Great Lakes State. “It’s both appalling and tragic,” Dempsey said. “I think it’s embarrassing to some lawmakers that Michigan has this huge hole in our water protection system.”
September 27, 2019
If you love fine art and want to contribute to the safety and vitality of our Great Lakes, join us at Artists for FLOW- A community fundraiser on Oct. 11 at Higher Art Gallery in Traverse City, and check out this great story by Melissa Smith of 9&10 News. Higher Art Gallery will feature 21 artists whose work highlights their love of the Great Lakes. During the event, 20% of all sales go directly to FLOW.
September 28, 2019
Traverse City Record-Eagle
Liz Kirkwood, executive director of Traverse City-based nonprofit For Love of Water, said she agrees with officials from those environmental nonprofits about rules being needed for the entire class of PFAS chemicals. “The health-based values the state derived through scientific work is important but doesn’t fully recognize class-based regulation and the cumulative effects of multiple PFAS chemicals over a lifetime of exposure,” she said.
September 17, 2019
FLOW executive director Liz Kirkwood tells MLive.com that the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) should change its mind about Nestle's applied permit to pump groundwater at an increased rate of 400 gallons-per-minute from a well near Evart in Mecosta County. The outgoing Snyder Administration last year moved to approve Nestle's request.
September 15, 2019
New York Times
September 12, 2019
“Honestly it’s quite astonishing that the federal government is considering dialing us back to the standards of 1986,” says Liz Kirkwood, the executive director of For Love of Water (FLOW), a group that works to protect Michigan’s fragile wetlands.
September 10, 2019
International Joint Commission
Poetry and public comments don’t usually go together, especially when it comes to consultations under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. The IJC has been holding public meetings this summer to gather input in places like Traverse City, Michigan.
That’s where writer Anne-Marie Oomen of nearby Empire, Michigan, mixed art with sound to deliver a short program on “Love Letters to the Lakes,” enlisting the help of area musicians to deliver a message to Commissioners and others.
September 9, 2019
For a state whose destiny is so intertwined with clean freshwater, it's surprising how Michigan has lagged in treasuring and protecting this resource in the past. Thankfully this has changed, especially in southeast Michigan.
Today, we have an opportunity to put water at the center of our civic life and personal lives. We are the freshwater capital of the world — if we choose to be.
August 22, 2019
MyNorth.com / Traverse Magazine
This is this story of Liz Kirkwood, executive director of the nonprofit FLOW and a protector of the Great Lakes.
First told at the October 2018 Fulfillament Storytelling event in Traverse City and featured in the August 2019 issue of Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine.
August 20, 2019
9 & 10 News
With August being National Water Quality month, the staff at For Love Of Water or FLOW in Traverse City is talking about their campaign to keep plastic out of northern Michigan waters.
In fact, according to FLOW, bottled water costs up to 2,000 times more per volume than tap water and 70% of plastic water bottles are not recycled and yet still people drink from them.
August 13, 2019
9 & 10 News
January 2, 2019
April 5, 2018
March 4, 2018
February 27, 2018
Detroit Free Press
Michiganders fight back against against water privatization as Nestlé tries to increase water intake
February 17, 2018
Nation of Change
February 13, 2018
President Trump proposes a 90% cut in the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative for the 2018-19 budget. The initiative has bipartisan support in many Great Lakes states.
January 17, 2018
The Oil & Water Don't Mix campaign released a plan Tuesday to decommission Enbridge's Line 5 while finding alternatives to supply the Upper Peninsula with propane and transport crude oil pumped in the northern Lower Peninsula. For Love Of Water Executive Director Liz Kirkwood said she and others with the Traverse City-based nonprofit helped with the five-step plan that implores Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and Attorney General Bill Schuette to take action.
January 16, 2018
"Simply put, the state must stop the delays and stop kicking the can," said Liz Kirkwood, executive director of For Love of Water (FLOW). "The 65-year-old Line 5 pipelines pose too great a threat to the Great Lakes."
December 19, 2017
Jim Olson speaks to the "tunnel vision" of our state leaders when it comes to the alternatives for Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac.
October 31, 2017
Great Lakes Now
While federal funding is important to help fund Great Lakes protection, the states should be prioritizing the Great Lakes and funding them, says FLOW advisor Dave Dempsey.
October 22, 2017
Traverse City Record Eagle
FLOW's Liz Kirkwood authored this piece in the Record Eagle illustrating how Michigan should follow Minnesota's lead pertaining to Enbridge. The state has the authority to shut down the Line 5 pipelines in the Straits of Mackinac - and they should do so immediately.
October 10, 2017
Midwest Energy News
The lengthy state review of safety issues associated with the Enbridge Line 5 pipelines at the Straits of Mackinac continues -- but the case for a shutdown is building. In Midwest Energy News, FLOW's Liz Kirkwood comments on the delay in a risk assessment of the line. There is more than enough evidence for the state to act.
September 21, 2017
Bloomberg takes a look at Nestle's profit of bottled water, paying nearly nothing for the water it sells and seeking out areas with lax laws to conduct business. Jim Olson points out how Nestle's data does not reflect real world conditions in Michigan and the importance of water as a public right.
September 14, 2017
"Patches of bare metal larger than dinner plates" are found on Line 5. FLOW and officials express their concern about the state of the line and the need for action.
September 3, 2017
Gaps are found in the coating of the Line 5 pipeline. FLOW's Dave Dempsey and others stress that the Great Lakes cannot be entrusted to Enbridge, and that it is time for the state to decommission the pipeline.
August 3, 2017
Kaye LaFond takes a look at Coke, Pepsi, and other bottlers of Michigan's water in this story. Concerns are expressed about diversions of water outside of the Great Lakes Basin and the privatization and commodification of water.
Joint Fundraising Event with Groundwork Center at Betsie Bay Furniture
August 3, 2017
On Thursday, a group of area residents and visitors gathered at Betsie Bay Furniture in Frankfort, Michigan, to learn about the status of Line 5 and the 64-year-old pipelines pushing nearly 23 million gallons of oil through the heart of the Great Lakes. In this short audio clip (produced by Leslie Hamp, Frankfort), many shared their thoughts, concerns and why they are imploring Governor Rick Snyder and Attorney Bill Schuette to Shut Down Line 5. Take a listen to the Voice of the People.