Search Results for: microplastics

The Most Hidden Source of Microfibers in the Great Lakes is Our Laundry

By Dave Long

Plastic bottles, bags, straws, and packaging are often the focus for reducing plastics in Lake Michigan and the Great Lakes. But there’s a smaller, more ubiquitous type of plastic pollution, called microfibers—fibers less than 5 millimeters in length—that may pose a bigger threat and may be harder to solve. Many people are surprised to learn that one major source of microfibers is our laundry.

Synthetic microfibers which are released from plastic-based synthetic fabrics used in clothing, furniture, carpets, cigarette butts and other textiles are a subset of microplastic pollution entering the Great Lakes. Synthetic fabrics include polyester, nylon, and acrylics as well as blends of synthetic and natural fibers. When we wash textiles made from synthetic fabrics in the washing machine, tiny threads break and are released, exiting our homes with wash water where they travel to the wastewater treatment plants or to private septic systems. They are too small to be filtered out, remain in wastewater effluents, and are released to local watersheds, streams, rivers, and lakes.

To quantify the problem, Patagonia Outdoors, based in Ventura, Calif., worked with researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara, in 2014 to explore the extent of microfiber pollution. That research, which culminated in a study published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology in 2016, examined microfiber shedding from four synthetic fleece Patagonia jackets and one from another brand.

The scientists found that when the garments were washed, an average of 1.17 grams of microfibers were released. The study also found that the amount of shedding was influenced by the type of washing machine used: Top-load machines saw seven times as many microfibers released compared to front-load washing machines. This was because front-load washing machines tend to use less water and the tumbling motions are less rigorous.

Washing machines are not the only source of microfibers. Synthetic fabrics shed microfibers all the time. Much of the dust in your home consists of microfibers created by walking on the carpet and sitting on your furniture. Activities such as cleaning carpets and furniture accelerate the shedding of microfibers. No one knows exactly how many or how all the microfibers get into the water. We do know major inputs to the Great Lakes are wastewater treatment plants, streams, rivers, runoff, and the air. A study conducted by the University of Toronto estimated 23 to 36 trillion microfibers may be released into Lake Ontario watersheds each year from washing machines alone.

It has been estimated that even more microfibers enter Lake Michigan because of the significant population centers of Chicago, Milwaukee, Grand Rapids, and Traverse City, and inputs from major rivers that feed the lake. It is not surprising that microfibers are impacting the health of the food chain in Lake Michigan and other Great Lakes. Microfibers are being found in zooplankton at the bottom of the food chain, and in fish that we are consuming.   

Some of the impacts on the food chain have been identified, while other impacts can only be hypothesized. Zooplankton have been observed with microfibers blocking their intestines, which can be fatal. Mussels are filtering microfibers from the water. When these are consumed by predators, the microfibers move up the food chain. Fish stomachs have been found to be full of microfibers and microplastics. As humans we have been consuming microfibers and microplastic from sports fish from the Great Lakes, from beer made with Great Lakes water, and from tap water. Microfibers were found in each of the 12 mainly Pilsner-style beers tested from all five Great Lakes. The number of particles per liter ranged from 0-14.3 and averaged 4.05. 

We all need to be concerned about the long-term impact of microfibers in the Great Lakes. Will the microfibers disrupt the food chain by killing zooplankton at the bottom of the food chain? Or will microfibers and microplastics adsorb persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and pass the toxins up the food chain to the fish we eat from the Great Lakes? We do not know the answers to these and many other questions on the impact of microfibers and microplastics. More research is needed to answer these questions.

The big question is what can we do to stop or reduce the number of microfibers entering the Great Lakes. Steps we as consumers can take to reduce the number of microfibers going into our aquatic environment include the following:

  • Choose natural fibers when you can: Polyester, rayon, nylon and acrylic shed plastic fibers that are not biodegradable.
  • Major clothing manufacturers like Patagonia recommend washing clothes only when needed. A study suggests most Americans wash clothes too frequently which adds to the shedding of microfibers.
  • Use a front-loading washing machine: A study found that clothes shed 7 times more fibers in top-load washers compared to front loaders.
  • Wash at low temperatures: Hot water can cause clothes to break down more quickly than cold or warm water.
  • Use liquid detergents: Powdered detergents can be abrasive to clothes which can mechanically break fibers causing more shedding of microfibers.
  • Wash heavy and light clothes separately: Mixing heavy and light clothing in the washer leads to more abrasion of the lighter clothing increasing the shedding of microfibers.
  • Choose shorter wash cycle: Reducing the wash time reduces the amount of abrasion, which reduces microfiber shedding.
  • Use one of the new microfiber filters: Use a GuppyFriend washing bag, which keeps microfibers inside the washing bag.

Small steps can help reduce the release of microfibers into the Great Lakes and Lake Michigan, but we are not going to stop them or eliminate them completely. We are not going to remove the trillions of fibers already in the Great Lakes. The challenge is to develop technology or filtering systems for wastewater treatment plants to remove microfibers from the treated water.

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

How many Microplastic Particles Do We Consume Every Year?

Bottled water

By Dave Long

As we become increasingly aware of the crisis surrounding plastics in the environment, we need to increase research on the health effects of the microplastics we ingest each year.

Tiny pieces of microplastic ranging from 5 millimeters down to 100 nanometers in diameter are showing up in oceans, lakes, and rivers and being entering the food chain as aquatic and marine organisms consume them. Ultimately, these microplastics will enter our bodies in larger numbers. However, we do not yet have the scientific data to determine the health effects of ingested or inhaled microplastics.

A study published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology has estimated Americans consume more than 70,000 microplastic particles every year from the food we eat and the water we drink. Scientists warn that while the health impacts of ingesting these tiny particles are largely unknown, the plastic could potentially enter human tissues and cause an immune response, as well as release toxic chemicals into the body.

The analysis, done by biologists at the University of Victoria in Canada, examined data from 26 previous studies on microplastic contamination in fish, shellfish, sugars, salts, honey, alcohol, tap water, bottled water, and in urban air. It found that Americans eat and drink an estimated 39,000 to 52,000 microplastic particles every year, depending on age and gender. These numbers jumped to 74,000 to 121,000 when scientists included inhalation of microplastics.

People who drink only from plastic bottles can consume 90,000 microplastic particles annually compared to 4,000 particles for people who drank only tap water. When the 2018 Orb study for Business Insider was originally released, Aquafina and Dasani both told the magazine their bottled water is tested to strict standards and pass through high-quality filtration systems. Nestlé said the company hasn’t found microplastics in its water bottles beyond a “trace level”, disputing the study numbers. Evian did not respond to a request for comment. But studies suggest that particles do, in fact, exist in bottled water. They come out of our taps, too (though likely in smaller amounts than plastic bottle concentrations). The scientists warn that their findings are “likely drastic underestimates overall”.

Another marine food source of microplastics is sea salt, one kilogram of which can contain more than 600 microplastics. If you eat the maximum daily intake of 5 grams of salt, this would mean you would typically consume three microplastics particles a day. New research now shows microplastics in 90 percent of the table salt brands sampled worldwide. Salt samples from 21 countries in Europe, North and South America, Africa and Asia were analyzed, and only three brands did not contain microplastics— refined sea salt from Taiwan, refined rock salt from China, and unrefined sea salt from France produced by solar evaporation. The study was published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology on October 4, 2018.

According to collaborative research done by scientists at the University of Minnesota and the State University of New York at Fredonia, microplastic fibers or particles were present in each brand of beer tested that used tap water drawn from the Great Lakes. In their paper, published in the journal, Public Library of Science, the team found that in each of the 12 mainly Pilsner-style beers tested from all five Great Lakes, the number of particles per liter ranged from 0-14.3 and averaged 4.05.

Fish and shellfish aren’t our only food sources that can contain microplastics. Just 15 percent of a person’s caloric intake is associated with the consumption of up to 52,000 microplastics annually. And the researchers note that several major U.S. food groups—including poultry, beef, dairy, grains, and vegetables—have not been studied for their microplastic contamination. In addition, the scientists weren’t able to assess how much plastic might be entering our bodies from food packaging.

The study’s findings “suggest that microplastics will continue to be found in the majority, if not all, items intended for human consumption,” the scientists wrote. “If the precautionary principle were to be followed, the most effective way to reduce human consumption of microplastics will likely be to reduce the production and use of plastics.”

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

How Big is the Plastics Problem in the Great Lakes?

By Dave Long

Many people realize the world has a serious problem with plastic pollution. The crisis has been featured on television, in movies and articles in National Geographic and many other publications. For example, the news has featured the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which has been estimated to be the size of the state of Texas.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is largely made up of plastics. It contains single-use plastic waste, old fishing nets and buoys, and many other plastics from around the earth that have been caught up in the ocean currents. There have been several efforts to collect the plastics and reduce the volume of the garbage patch, but these efforts have not been very successful. The sad fact is three other garbage patches have been identified in the oceans, and many small islands have been destroyed by plastic waste.

The Great Lakes contain approximately 20% of the world’s surface fresh water. Compared to ocean plastics, not much has been reported about the amount of plastics in the Great Lakes. Based on the 2016 US Geological Survey (USGS) reports, significant volumes of plastics enter the Great Lakes every year, and they are not going away. The United States and Canada together discard 22 million pounds of plastic into the waters of the Great Lakes each year, according to a 2016 Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) study. Much of it washes up along the shores, accounting for 80 percent of the litter found there. Researchers report that Chicago, Toronto, Cleveland, and Detroit are the worst contributors to plastic pollution. Half of the plastic dumped into the Great Lakes—11 million pounds—goes into Lake Michigan. Lake Erie places second, receiving 5.5 million pounds. Lake Ontario gets 3 million pounds of plastic waste a year, with Lake Huron and Lake Superior receiving smaller amounts.

Plastic pollution in Lake Michigan represents approximately the equivalent of 100 Olympic-sized pools full of plastic bottles dumped into the lake every year. Most of the particles from Chicago and Milwaukee end up accumulating on the eastern shores of Lake Michigan, while the particles from Detroit and Cleveland end up along the southern coast of the eastern basin of Lake Erie.

According to an article in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, tiny pieces of harmful plastic called microplastics are prevalent in many rivers that flow into the Great Lakes. Results are also illustrated on a new USGS microplastics website. This study characterized the quantity, size, and shapes of floating micro- and macroplastics in 29 Great Lakes tributaries in six states with adjacent land being forested, farmland, and urban areas. Water contributions came primarily from runoff and wastewater effluent. Rivers ran through areas with varied population densities and hydrologic conditions. Plastic particles were sorted by size, counted, and categorized.

Microplastics were found in all 107 samples, with a maximum concentration of 32 particles/m3 and a median of 1.9 particles/m3. Ninety-eight percent of sampled plastic particles were less than 4.75 millimeters in diameter and therefore considered microplastics. Urban watersheds had the highest concentrations of microplastics, but microplastics were also present in streams in forested and agricultural areas.

In summary, the USGS found 12% of fish from the Great Lakes contained plastic particles, 1,285 plastic particles in a square foot of river sediment, and 112,000 particles per square mile of Great Lakes water.

Where do microplastics come from? One source is photodegradation and/or mechanical breakdown of larger items, such as Styrofoam, plastic bags, bottles, wrappers, cigarette butts, and tires. As these plastics are exposed to sunlight, wind, waves, and water currents, larger pieces get smaller and smaller. Unfortunately, filters from cigarette butts are one of the most common types of plastic pollution found on a beach and lake bottom. Many smokers simply flick their cigarette butts on the ground, or worse, in the lakes. Some 95% of cigarette filters are made of tightly packed white cellulose acetate (a plastic). These small fibers break down into smaller and smaller particles, but it takes hundreds of years for cigarette filters to degrade.

Another source of microplastics, a subgroup called microfiber, comes from washing machines. Mark Browne’s research demonstrated a large percentage of the microplastic pollution comes from synthetic fabrics like nylon and acrylic fabrics. Patagonia, in its self-funded study by the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management, analyzed water and sediment samples from around the world and concluded “Microfibers are ubiquitous in the aquatic environment.” Patagonia in its own laundry study verified that large quantities of microfibers were released when washing synthetic garments, especially fleece. They also verified that wastewater treatment plants receive large quantities of microfibers and the majority of the microfibers pass through wastewater treatment plants because they are too small for treatment plants to filter.

Knowing that aquatic wildlife eat these microfibers is one thing; but seeing the impact on an individual fish brings this crisis to life—or rather, death. Sherri Mason, a professor of environmental chemistry at the State University of New York at Fredonia, is an expert in plastic pollution, having studied its impact on the Great Lakes ecosystem for several years. Through Mason’s research, she has seen the significant impact of the food chain in the Great Lakes. Cutting open fish, she was alarmed at what she found.  The body cavity of the fish was filled with synthetic fibers. Through the microscope, they seemed to be weaving themselves into the gastrointestinal tract.

What are the known risks from microplastics? We know that microplastics and microfibers can be harmful to wildlife. They are often ingested by birds, fish, oysters, mussels, and zooplankton. Ingestion is often a physical hazard blocking the intestine, interfering with reproduction, and even causing death.

They can also be a toxic hazard. Plastic particles can accumulate contaminants such polychlorinated organics, polycyclic hydrocarbons, and pesticides, which can be associated with endocrine disruption and cancer. These contaminants can accumulate within the food chain and end up in the fish we eat. Microfibers from garments have often been treated with toxic chemicals such as formaldehyde, brominated flame retardants and fluorinated fabric treatments. In a 2012 study, Mason found Lake Erie had higher concentrations of microplastics than any other body of water on Earth. Absorbed on these tiny pieces of plastic they found pollutants, such as DDT, polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), too small for treatment plants to filter out.

Are those living around the Great Lakes ingesting microplastics and microfibers? If humans are eating fish and other wildlife from the Great Lakes, they are likely consuming microplastics. Your favorite beer, if manufactured with Great Lakes water, likely contains microplastics or microfibers. Microfibers have been found in bottled water derived from the Great Lakes and microplastics and microfibers have been found in small quantities in some public water systems. Unfortunately, to date, very little research has been conducted on the effects of microplastics being ingested by humans. Much research will be required to determine the health or physical impacts to human ingestion of microfibers and microplastics.

David Long is the founder of Environmental Sustainability Solutions, LLC (ESS) that provides consulting services for environmental, sustainability. He will address potential methods to reduce the volume of plastics entering the Great Lakes and its tributaries in a future article.

Beach Cleanups Protect Water and Health and Raise Awareness

By Holly Wright

The excitement when packing for a trip to the beach is palpable; we select our favorite sun hats, towels and snacks while our children gleefully nestle toys and buckets for sand castles into the day bag. We hope that the sun will shine bright and Lake Michigan not be too frigid or choppy; and we expect that the beach where we recreate and relax will be clean and safe for our families.

The reality is that many of our Michigan beaches are sullied by refuse and littered with food wrappers, soggy cigarette butts, and small plastic pieces of mysterious origin. In an extreme case, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore staff found thousands of pieces of broken glass deliberately spread in April on the Lake Michigan beach near the Good Harbor picnic area.

Whether littered on-site or carried from elsewhere in the watershed, unsanitary garbage on our coasts puts-off beach-goers and infringes upon the public’s right to enjoy the shoreline—a great Michigan summertime tradition that’s protected by the public trust doctrine.

Upon entering a body of water, these bottle caps, balloon fragments and straws tangled in summer berms pose another danger to the health of wildlife and people, threatening public trust uses as waves, wind and sun break down materials into small pieces called “microplastics”. Microplastics are known to be harmful to wildlife and are present in Great Lakes drinking water. The prevalence of plastics on our shorelines and in our waters has prompted local beach cleanup efforts.

Microplastics Present in the Great Lakes

The general awareness of plastic pollution in earth’s oceans (and scientific study of the issue) currently exceeds the awareness and scientific understanding of the effects of microplastics (including microfibers) in the freshwaters of the Great Lakes. As USGS put it, “the microplastics story is large and complex”.

But we do know that microplastics are present in our waters.

A United States Geological Survey (USGS) page based on a 2016 study emphasized that one plastic particle per gallon of water was found in Great Lakes Tributary Water; 1,285 particles were found per square foot in river sediment. 112,000 particles were found per square mile of Great Lakes water. Since 2016, plastics have continued to accumulate in the Great Lakes.

Microplastics and Wildlife, Human Health

The Great Lakes support a multitude of wildlife; aquatic insects, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds; and provide drinking water for approximately 40 million people human and non-human species alike, we all need water to survive; our health is interconnected within the hydrosphere.

Freshwater and marine aquatic wildlife have displayed ill effects from ingesting microplastics. According to National Geographic, “Experiments show that microplastics damage aquatic creatures, as well as turtles and birds: they block digestive tracts, diminish the urge to eat, and alter feeding behavior, all of which reduce growth and reproductive output. Their stomachs stuffed with plastic, some species starve and die.”

Chemical harm from ingesting microplastic causes further concern. Heavy metals, flame retardants and antimicrobials which adhere to plastic surfaces have been associated with endocrine disruption in humans and cancer (via National Geographic).

Since the composition of plastic materials varies greatly, estimating toxicity of plastic is difficult, as is predicting toxicity as chemicals move up, through the food web; and eventually to us, through consumption of wildlife (via National Public Radio).

Drinking Water

We who drink Great Lakes water are ingesting microplastics through our taps. So miniscule in size, microplastics pass through water treatment facilities and into our cups. Microplastics are even turning up in beer brewed from Great Lakes water.

Opting for bottled water may not decrease the risk of ingesting microplastics; in fact, total microplastics in bottled water are evidenced to exceed microplastics in tap water.

Beach Cleanups

Performing beach cleanups supports our community’s right to enjoy our shorelines and can prevent the introduction of some plastics into the Great Lakes. Alliance for the Great Lakes reports that every year, through its “Adopt-a-Beach” program, “15,000 volunteers hit the beach and remove about 18 tons of trash.”

Photos courtesy of NMC Freshwater Society

Mike Seefried and Kathryn Depauw, NMC Freshwater Studies students and members of the NMC Freshwater Society, are participating in the “Adopt-a-Beach” effort this summer by coordinating community beach cleanups.

Seefried and Depauw collected a total 24.36 pounds of trash during their June 1 cleanup at Bryant Park in Traverse City. Local organizations supported the initiative; collection buckets were provided by the Grand Traverse Bay Watershed Center. Volunteers, equipped with gloves and data sheets, combed the shoreline public park and, over an approximate area of 550 feet, removed 707 cigarette filters, 236 foam pieces, and 459 plastic pieces. “When you’re actually on the ground picking it up, there’s kind of a ‘wow’ factor—of how much is actually there,” said Seefried.

A June 29 cleanup performed at Sunset Park yielded 387 cigarette butts, 227 pieces of small foam, and 253 small plastic pieces. Seventy-five food wrappers were also picked up over the area of 261 feet. At the end of the process, 11.7 pounds of trash no longer littered the park—an immediate benefit to the community.

Beach. Cleaning Opportunities, Tools

All are welcomed to participate in future cleanups initiated by NMC’s Freshwater Society. Visit the Freshwater Society’s Facebook page for upcoming cleanup event information.

FLOW can equip you with beach cleanup kits (containing items such as gloves, pencils, clipboards, data sheets, trash bags, and buckets) to use independently. FLOW’s Lauren Hucek encourages anyone interested to rally their friends, families, and coworkers to host their own beach cleanups. Please choose sites that offer public waste receptacles or prepare to dispose of trash privately; recycle when possible. Email Lauren Hucek with questions and requests for kits, or call the FLOW office at 231-944-1568.

Raising Awareness

Plastic is so ingrained and pervasive in our systems, can the independent effort of individuals cleaning beaches make any difference? Are beach cleanups effective?

“Honestly, I think we take the beaches in our area for granted a little bit,” said Seefried. “The point of this work is to clean the beach—but also to raise awareness.”

We know that plastics are in our water—and in our bodies. We know that microplastics are harmful to wildlife, and that it is not understood how they may be harmful to people. But there’s something about actually picking through the refuse on our beaches that sticks with us; we wonder, will a fiber of this cigarette butt; this lost sock; this disposable diaper; one day slip down someone’s throat via a glass of drinking water?

Performing beach cleanups prompts us to consider our own choices and to get involved with the overarching threat to Great Lakes water, wildlife, and our own health—plastics.

Growing the Plastics Conversation towards Meaningful Change

A growing movement is afoot here in the Great Lakes – a broadening recognition and fierce determination to tackle the ubiquity of single-use plastics in our waters. Just in our small neck of the woods in northern Michigan, a number of nonprofit groups, concerned citizens, and conservation districts are seizing the moment and starting conversations through film, public education and strong campaigns to change the way we accept single-use plastics in our everyday lives.

In just the last three weeks, Green Elk Rapids hosted A Plastic Ocean at the Elk Rapids Cinema; the Benzie Conservation District hosted the Smog of the Sea at the Garden Theater in Frankfort; and the local chapter of The Last Plastic Straw hosted a free film screening of Straws at Michael Moore’s State Theatre, followed by a Skype conversation with filmmaker Linda Booker. Groups like Inland Seas that embraced the issue early are no doubt pleased to see their educational efforts on microplastics gain traction among students, citizens, and leaders.

Film organizers from The Last Plastic Straw – Linda Frank, Kathy Daniels, Claudia DeMarco, and Kristine Drake – rightly predicted that plastic straws are an easy way to introduce a community conversation about the impact of single-use plastics on human health, animals, and the environment. Did you know that Americans throw away over 500 million plastic straws every day? It’s staggering facts like this, coupled with visual scenes of plastics pollution, that make for a great film and engage viewers to take meaningful action. The  goal for every committed citizen and organization and every filmmaker is to harness this engagement around plastic straws and shift the way individuals and businesses think about plastic pollution and our society’s disposable culture at a macro scale. 

At FLOW, we too are committed to this global public policy initiative to prioritize protecting the human and ecological health of the Great Lakes ecosystem and combatting climate change. We know that this transition will be hard, but Rachel Carson reminds us why we must act now:

Liz Kirkwood, Executive Director

“We stand now where two roads diverge. But unlike the roads in Robert Frost’s familiar poem, they are not equally fair. The road we have long been traveling is deceptively easy, a smooth superhighway on which we progress with great speed, but at its end lies disaster. The other fork of the road-the one ‘less traveled by’-offers our last, our only chance to reach a destination that assures the preservation of the earth.”  – Silent Spring, 1962.

Join FLOW’s Get Off the Bottle campaign. The response has been incredible. Students, citizens, and businesses are spreading the word with our informative blogs, stickers, yard signs, and pledge to get off bottled water and plastics.

One Word: Pervasive

Mr. McGuire: I just want to say one word to you. Just one word.
Benjamin: Yes, sir.
Mr. McGuire: Are you listening?
Benjamin: Yes, I am.
Mr. McGuire: Plastics.
Benjamin: Exactly how do you mean?
Mr. McGuire: There’s a great future in plastics. Think about it. Will you think about it?
Benjamin: Yes, I will.
Mr. McGuire: Enough said. That’s a deal.
The Graduate, 1967

Plastics have pervaded modern society since those prescient, now-famous lines were uttered between family friend Mr. McGuire and Dustin Hoffman’s disillusioned Benjamin in The Graduate. Industry worldwide has produced more than 9 billion tons of plastic since the 1950s, with only about 9 percent recycled and almost all of it now filling landfills and polluting the landscape and waterways. That’s more than a ton of plastic garbage so far for every person on Earth.

The toll on water alone is shocking and immense, and not just at sea, but also in the Great Lakes watershed too, which we at FLOW have pledged to protect. Consider:

Get Off the Bottle

FLOW is pushing back on pervasive plastic pollution in part with the recent launch of our Get Off the Bottle campaign. It’s designed to help communities and community members kick the bottled water habit. The benefits include saving money and reducing the pile of plastic bottles and other waste pouring into landfills and waterways, considering that the people worldwide buy a million plastic bottles a minute, 91 percent of which are not recycled.

We invite everyone to join in FLOW’s Get Off the Bottle campaign to help push back on plastic pollution and the multi-national companies such as Nestlé in Michigan seeking to privatize our public water and sell it back to us at huge profits. We also are working to debunk the myth that bottled water is safer or healthier than tap water, with the World Health Organization recently launching a health review after a study found microplastics in 90% of bottled water tested, with levels of plastic fibers in popular bottled water brands up to twice as high as those found in tap water.

A Future That Is Different

FLOW’s campaign is part of a solution-oriented reckoning that has begun in the United States and across the globe regarding single-use plastic and its persistent waste. Companies, communities, and countries are realizing that the convenience of plastic is not worth the harm it causes and laying plans to rapidly reduce their plastic consumption; for instance:

We hope you will join FLOW in charting a future that is different from the forecasts and instead includes cleaner water and less plastic pollution in the Great Lakes and around the globe.

Mr. Braddock (Benjamin’s father): What’s the matter? The guests are all downstairs, Ben, waiting to see you.
Benjamin: Look, Dad, could you explain to them that I have to be alone for a while?
Mr. Braddock: These are all our good friends, Ben. Most of them have known you since, well, practically since you were born. What is it, Ben?
Benjamin: I’m just…
Mr. Braddock: Worried?
Benjamin: Well…
Mr. Braddock: About what?
Benjamin: I guess about my future.
Mr. Braddock: What about it?
Benjamin: I don’t know… I want it to be…
Mr. Braddock: To be what?
Benjamin: [looks at his father] … Different.
– The Graduate, 1967

Kelly Thayer, FLOW Contributor

Click here to learn more about FLOW’s campaign to help individuals, families, and communities Get Off the Bottle and here for our work on Bottled Water, Diversions and Exports from the Great Lakes.


Get Off the Bottle

Taking a Look at Bottled Water

Bottled water costs up to 2,000 times more per volume than tap water. About 64% of commercial bottled water is just tap water that’s been filtered or purified. Approximately 70% of plastic water bottles are not recycled -- and still people drink from them.

Getting Off the Bottle is more than a slogan, it's a necessity for the earth and for retaining water as a public resource. In buying bottled water, consumers are inadvertently legitimizing the capture of water that belongs to all of us by private, for-profit companies who reap unearned, enormous riches. Water belongs to the public and cannot be privately owned. Turning water into a product for private profit is inconsistent with the 1,500-year-old public trust doctrine of law and risks putting all water up for grabs.

FLOW's Get Off the Bottle campaign is designed to help you understand what's at stake, occasionally use some humor to make a point, and inspire you to take action in your daily life.









In 2016, 12.8 billion gallons of bottled water were purchased in the U.S.


In many cases, health standards for tap water are stricter than those for bottled water.


Well over half of purchased plastic single-serve bottles are not recycled.


In blind taste tests, consumers often rank tap water ahead of some types of bottled water.


Bottled water costs up to 2,000 times more per volume than tap water.


90% of bottled water contain microplastics. Concentrations in bottled water roughly double those in tap water.


Bottled water companies do not have to produce quality reports for their consumers.

Misleading Labels

About 64% of bottled water comes from municipal water systems.

Environmental Harm

By 2050, it is estimated that there will be more plastic by weight in our oceans than fish.

What You Can Do:

  • Take the pledge and commit to Getting Off the Bottle.

  • Use a reusable water bottle.

  • Ask your city officials to install water filling stations in local parks.

  • Drink from the tap or a drinking fountain & skip the straw.

  • Support policies that promote clean, affordable, and public water. 

  • Participate in FLOW's Get Off the Bottle campaign by spreading the word, buying a sticker or yard sign, or donating.

  • Sign up for FLOW's newsletter to stay up to date on this campaign and other important Great Lakes news.

Stickers & Yard Signs:


Stop by the FLOW office to purchase a Get Off the Bottle sticker or a yard sign to support the cause!

Story of Stuff Bottled Water Videos:

Additional Resources:



News Updates:

  • WHO launches health review after microplastics found in 90% of bottled water

    What's in your bottled water? A new analysis of some of the world’s most popular bottled water brands found that more than 90% contained tiny pieces of plastic. A previous study also found high levels of microplastics in tap water.

    The World Health Organization (WHO) has announced a review into the potential risks of plastic in drinking water.

    In one bottle of Nestlé Pure Life, concentrations were as high as 10,000 plastic pieces per litre of water. Of the 259 bottles tested, only 17 were free of plastics, according to the report.

    Read the full article at The Guardian.

The Public Trust Doctrine in Action


Editor’s note: FLOW’s organizing principle is the public trust doctrine.  What sounds like an exotic concept is quite simple.  This centuries-old principle of common law holds that there are some resources, like water and submerged lands, that by their nature cannot be privately owned.  Rather, this commons – including the Great Lakes — belongs to the public.  And governments, like the State of Michigan, have a responsibility to protect public uses of these resources.  We explicitly address public trust concerns on what we’re calling Public Trust Tuesday. Today’s thoughts are from FLOW’s board chair, Skip Pruss.

“We must connect the dots between climate change, water scarcity, energy shortages, global health, food security and women’s empowerment. Solutions to one problem must be solutions for all.”   — Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, 2011 Address

It’s time that we better manage our natural resources by broadly applying the Public Trust Doctrine.

Our water, air, and other public resources are facing multiple threats and unprecedented challenges. The threats to our environment are complex and systemic, and current government efforts are inadequate and ineffective.  The public trust doctrine provides government with a framework to identify, comprehend, and address environmental threats at their root cause.

Last week at World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, political and business leaders, social activists, and philanthropy came together to assess the current state of the world and prioritize problems and solutions.

To inform the discussions of the attending global elite and set the agenda, a series of reports issued including Harnessing the Fourth Industrial Revolution for Life on Land and The Global Risk Report 2018.  The former indicates that a survey of earth systems science finds that stresses on the planet’s environmental systems have worsened considerably in the last 25 years.  The Global Risk Report – which has measured and categorized global risk annually for the last 13 years – found that environmental challenges from water scarcity, climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution of air, soil and water now pose the greatest global dangers in terms of both potential catastrophic impacts and imminent threats.

The WEF warns that governments thus far are ill-equipped to respond to complex interactions and systemic threats that can quickly cascade into calamitous and costly events.

In the Great Lakes Region, the WEF’s warnings are validated by new emerging science:

A broader approach to address these growing systemic threats is needed; one that focuses on the public interest and on protecting human health and the environment as a fundamental guiding principle.

The public trust doctrine starts with the proposition that the natural resources on which we all depend – our water, air, forests and wildlife – are essential to our wellbeing and must be protected from impairment and degradation.

Our nation’s highest courts have long embraced the public trust doctrine as an overarching legal principle.  In a landmark case involving Lake Michigan, the United States Supreme Court spoke unequivocally to government’s fundamental duty to protect public trust resources:

“The State can no more abdicate its trust over property in which the whole people are interested like navigable waters and the soils beneath them…than it can abdicate its police powers in the administration of justice and the preservation of peace.”

The Michigan Supreme Court has found that the doctrine establishes a “high, solemn and perpetual duty” of proactive environmental stewardship.  The protections afforded by the public trust doctrine are recognized by Michigan’s Constitution, which states: “The conservation and development of the natural resources of the state are hereby declared to be of paramount public concern in the interest of the health, safety and general welfare of the people.”  Wisconsin’s highest court has found that the public trust doctrine “requires the law-making body to act in all cases where action is necessary, not only to preserve the trust but to promote it,” and has applied the doctrine to protect public rights in sailing, rowing, canoeing, bathing, fishing, hunting, skating, and “scenic beauty.”  California’s highest court has found that the doctrine demands that the best science must inform government’s responsibility to protect public trust resources and that prior governmental decisions must even be reexamined in light of new scientific knowledge if such information indicates public trust interests are affected.

The Public Trust Doctrine at Work

Our nation’s courts have been clear and unambiguous, stating repeatedly that the public trust doctrine creates an affirmative legal duty to protect public resources from degradation and impairment.  So how might government apply the public trust doctrine to address complex and challenging environmental threats?

The doctrine operates as a shield to prevent activities that impair the public’s interest in public trust resources or conveys public rights in public trust resources to private parties.  But beyond that, the public trust doctrine also empowers local, state and national governments to proactively manage and supervise activities that threaten public resources.

It provides, for instance, government with legal authority to require septic systems to be inspected and repaired if they are failing.  If fish or aquatic resources are threatened by harmful wastes or chemicals, government is empowered to stop the pollution at its source.  When it was found in the 1980’s that the operation of the Ludington Pump Storage Facility killed large numbers of fish in Lake Michigan, the then attorney general asked the courts to require measures that abated the fish mortality.  The Michigan Court of Appeals stated, “Because the fish resources destroyed by the plant are held in trust by the state for the people, the state is empowered to bring a civil action to protect those resources.”

Similarly, Attorney General Bill Schuette could bring and action to close Line 5, the 65-year-old oil pipeline crossing the Straights of Mackinaw, because it presents a known catastrophic risk to public trust resources and waters of the Great Lakes.

The public trust doctrine could be used to address climate change by requiring utilities to transition to available, low-cost, zero-carbon energy resources.  Because clean energy is now widely acknowledged to be the energy source of the future, there is no good reason to allow the continued loading of acid gases, heavy metals, and carbon pollution into our Great Lakes, rivers and streams.

Skip Pruss

The public trust doctrine will become increasingly important as issues of water availability, water quality, and water scarcity become more frequent and more contentious.  The doctrine could provide a means of directly countering the present actions of the federal government to dismantle environmental laws and regulations.  The doctrine can also enable communities to maintain high standards for the protection of natural resources and environmental values while being proactive in preventing problems before they arise.

The public trust doctrine is uniquely compelling as a means to address large-scale complex problems.  With so much at stake, a broad application of the public trust doctrine is needed now.

I Live Near Lake Michigan

I live near Lake Michigan.

I am among the lucky ones, as is my neighbor, Tom Shaver, who has said more than once that he pinches himself as a reminder not to take living next to Lake Michigan for granted. Like most of my neighbors, Tom has a deep appreciation for the awesome grandeur and natural majesty of Lake Michigan; its morning brilliance, stunning sunsets, ever-changing moods, and the sounds and fury of its winds and storms.

I savor the opportunity to introduce strangers to the Great Lakes – folks from outside the Midwest or from other countries who have never had occasion to experience the Lakes up close. They are invariably impressed, if not astonished. “How come I can’t see the other side?” is a common question. “You mean there is no salt?” asked an exchange student from Montenegro.

We are so fortunate as Michiganders to live in the heart of these extraordinary fresh water seas. The Lakes are a phenomenal geologic anomaly and a magnificent natural endowment. Sculpted by ancient retreating glaciers that left the largest interconnected body of fresh surface water in the world, the Great Lakes are globally unique. Harboring 84 percent of all fresh surface water in North America, the Lakes provide direct health, economic, environmental and ecological services to 40 million people.

As science measures the lifecycles of freshwater bodies, the waters of the Great Lakes are largely considered both young and pristine, but the geologic timeline only obscures the many immediate challenges facing the Great Lakes.

The Lakes’ complex, dynamic ecosystems endure a growing list of human impacts. Nutrient loadings from industrial farming propagate algae, stormwater overflows discharge human waste, and elevated water temperatures transform ecosystems – all injurious impacts exacerbated by climate change. New science reveals that fish and other aquatic life are affected by recently discovered, yet ubiquitous, pharmaceutical chemicals and microplastics still concentrating in our waters. Invasive species, shoreline development, and non-point source pollution present intractable, long-term challenges. Commodification and privatization of the waters of the Great Lakes present serious future risks.

The threats to the Great Lakes are manifold, diverse and systemic. Meeting these threats requires concerted action by informed citizens and responsible government operating with common purpose and employing common strategies. It requires citizens and government policy-makers who understand that the Great Lakes – their waters, bottomlands and shorelines – belong to all of us, and that government has a clear legal duty to protect and preserve the Great Lakes for the benefit of the citizens they serve.

FLOW’s mission is to safeguard the Great Lakes through strategic application of the Public Trust Doctrine. The PTD establishes three principles that are deeply embedded in our jurisprudence:

  1. The Great Lakes are owned by the people;
  2. The people’s ownership interest is held in a legal trust for the benefit of the people;
  3. Government has a “solemn and perpetual” fiduciary responsibility to protect and preserve the trust for future generations.

With public ownership comes special duties of stewardship for both citizens and government – duties that are reciprocal and interdependent: Citizens have the responsibility of protecting and preserving this natural endowment for future generations through vigilance, holding government accountable, and demanding sound policy. Government has a corresponding duty as trustee and fiduciary to ensure that the public’s interest in the Great Lakes is not injured, diminished, or alienated.

The Public Trust Doctrine is a foundational principle that has long informed the development of our environmental laws. It is also a paradigm that can and should be extended to imminent societal challenges like water scarcity and climate change.

Skip Pruss, FLOW Chair

FLOW’s unique contribution is to use the Public Trust Doctrine to cultivate principles of good stewardship by increasing public awareness and knowledge of the Great Lakes, by nourishing the mutual inclination of citizens and government to protect the waters of the Great Lakes, and by undertaking strategic actions based upon the doctrine to advance model policies that yield real world solutions.

Protecting and preserving the integrity of our water resources is our common bond and shared responsibility to future generations.

Archive of FLOW in the News

A sampling of recent news coverage involving FLOW

Research shows Great Lakes algae and microplastics connect

March 21, 2021

Scientists discovered plastic microfibers in the Great Lakes are sticking to green algae that grows along the bottomlands in a way that could help keep the pollution out of the environment. Liz Kirkwood, executive director for Traverse City-based nonprofit For Love of Water, said this is a remarkable revelation by the Valparaiso University research team. And it offers multiple benefits, she argued. “This is an extraordinarily important scientific discovery and it really illustrates how interwoven our actions are to the water itself and how something as small as a microfiber could have impacts on the environment,” she said.

Reality check: Line 5 threatens more jobs than it sustains

March 18, 2021

The United States and Canada are not only close friends and neighbours, but are also committed to resolving their differences with civility and common purpose. The 112-year-old International Joint Commission (IJC), which prevents and resolves disputes over boundary waters, is an example of this special relationship. So is the groundbreaking agreement among Ontario, Quebec and the eight Great Lakes states to ban water diversions from these shared and treasured waters. The two nations, however, are clashing over energy policy and the effects of Line 5, the Canadian petroleum pipelines in the open waters of the Straits of Mackinac, a major shipping lane and important whitefish spawning ground where Lake Michigan meets Lake Huron. If both Canada and the U.S. take a hard look at these issues together, they will swiftly realize that co-operation, not confrontation, is in the best interests of both — and, significantly, the interests of the planet, write Maude Barlow and Jim Olson in this op-ed published in Canada’s National Observer.

Canadian officials testify Line 5 shutdown would have big impact on the region during Michigan Senate committee

March 16, 2021

A joint Michigan Senate committee meeting heard testimony Tuesday from Canadian officials and business leaders as a potential shutdown of Enbridge’s Line 5 oil pipeline is on the horizon. President and a legal adviser of For the Love of Water, an environmental advocacy group, Jim Olson said state legislatures have a duty to protect Michigan’s natural resources because of the Public Trust Doctrine. “Pipelines for oil and hydrocarbon transport are important, but they are not dependent on or part of the rights and protected uses of the Great Lakes,” Olson said. “Gov. Whitmer has, under the rule of law, fulfilled the mandatory duty to prevent grave harm to the public trust.”

Gov. Whitmer offers propane plan for Upper Peninsula after Line 5 shutdown

March 12, 2021

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration released its plan Friday to heat Michigan homes without depending on the Line 5 oil pipeline to deliver propane. The plan calls for millions of dollars of investment in rail infrastructure and storage to help wean propane suppliers off the pipeline, plus other programs to reduce propane demand, help low-income customers pay their propane bills, and increase the state’s ability to monitor propane supplies. Liz Kirkwood, environmental attorney and executive director of Traverse City-based water advocacy group FLOW (For Love of Water), called Whitmer’s announcement the “right plan at the right time,” and emphasized the risk to Michiganders of keeping the “dangerous and outdated” pipeline in place at the bottom of the Straits.

State of Michigan announces MI Propane Security Plan, others respond

March 12, 2021

Friday, the State of Michigan announced the MI Propane Security Plan. The plan is a multiagency effort with the Michigan Public Service Commission; the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy; the Michigan Department of Transportation, and the Department of Technology, Management and Budget. The state says the five-point plan is focused on ensuring Michigan’s energy needs are met when Enbridge’s Line 5 oil pipelines that run through the Great Lakes is possibly shut down. “The administration’s plan protects the health and safety of Michiganders by moving us away from the ticking time bomb of an old, damaged, dangerous oil pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac and embracing concrete actions to secure the state’s propane supply and protect energy consumers,” said Liz Kirkwood, Executive Director for FLOW. “Michigan’s energy needs can be met without Line 5, and we can’t afford another Enbridge disaster like the Kalamazoo River oil spill.”

Whitmer officials bet on storage, rail transport to weather Line 5 closure

March 12, 2021

Michigan released a plan Friday meant to help the state weather expected propane shortages after the ordered May closure of Enbridge’s Line 5 through the Straits of Mackinac. The report recommends companies find other means to transport the heating resource, better ways to store it and measures to protect customers from price gouging when Line 5 is closed. “Michigan’s energy needs can be met without Line 5, and we can’t afford another Enbridge disaster like the Kalamazoo River oil spill,” said Liz Kirkwood, executive director of For Love of Water.

Why the Line 5 Issue Should Concern Everyone

February 24, 2021

“Line 5’s products mostly serve Canada, with less than 10 percent of the oil used in Michigan,” FLOW Executive Director Liz Kirkwood told Downtown Publications. “The Line 5 easement–essentially a shortcut for Enbridge to move Canadian oil products from their western regions to their eastern refineries, was never intended to be a vital energy source for Michigan. Instead, it threatens the drinking water supply for 5 million Michigan residents, the Pure Michigan tourist economy, and a way of life. It is time for the state of Michigan to evict Enbridge from the Straits of Mackinac and shut down Line 5 because of the oil spill danger to the Great Lakes.”

February 24, 2021

Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s notice to shut down Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac by May won’t prompt some of the changes many environmental groups hoped for, reports Interlochen Public Radio. It won’t affect how the state reviews a plan to replace the pipelines and build a tunnel beneath the lakebed, according to a ruling from Judge Dennis Mack this week. FLOW and other environmental nonprofits plan to appeal the judge’s decision.

Points North: Michigan’s apolitical conservation legacy

February 12, 2021

A century ago, Michigan decided politics was not useful for protecting the state’s forests, water and wildlife. A commission was set up to manage natural resources without much influence from elected officials. That was a key part of a plan that worked–Michigan was an environmental leader in the following decades. The state restored large forests, transformed the fisheries in the Great Lakes and created a massive endowment to protect more land. The Natural Resources Commission turns 100 next month, but much of its power has been chiseled away. On this episode of Points North, FLOW’s Dave Dempsey talks about Michigan’s conservation legacy and future. He’s the author of Ruin and Recovery: Michigan’s Rise as a Conservation Leader.

The Battle Over Michigan’s Water

February 6, 2021

Water advocates fighting a Nestle permit are frustrated by the environmental regulators under Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s watch, reports the Northern Express. After two years and more than $200,000 in litigation spent to stop Nestlé Waters from ratcheting up the amount of spring water it pumps from a well in central Michigan, water advocates are flummoxed; the state’s environmental regulator shot down their objections. In late January, Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation and the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians filed suit in Ingham County to reverse a decision by the director of the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy that dismissed MCWC’s case.
FLOW founder and president Jim Olson, who helped put limits on Nestlé Water’s Michigan operations when they began in the 2000s, said it also concerns him that EGLE is forcing a nonprofit to do the job of protecting the state’s water. “This was probably expected under the Snyder administration to be honest with you,” Olson said. “It was not what anybody expected under the Whitmer administration and came as quite a shock.” Nonetheless, Olson said he believes water should be a nonpartisan issue. “If anything is important to the people of Michigan, I don’t care what party you’re in, it’s water,” he said.

Line 5 pipeline controversy pits jobs against the environment

January 28, 2021

“People come to Michigan and Canada because of the Great Lakes, not because of an oil pipeline,” FLOW executive director Liz Kirkwood told The Sarnia Journal. “And they’re certainly not going to come if there’s a black stain in our Great Lakes.” FLOW commissioned a University of Michigan study that concludes 70% of a spill would never be recovered, resulting in an economic hit of $6.3 billion over five years. Kirkwood said the threat isn’t hypothetical. Line 5 has suffered more than 30 spills in its lifetime. “It’s quite remarkable that the Canadian response has really just focused on jobs and the economy related to the fossil fuel industry, rather than talking about the incredible responsibility of protecting the Great Lakes,” she said. Kirkwood said Line 5 is just one of multiple pipelines servicing Sarnia. Enbridge pipeline Line 78, for example, carries 500,000 barrels of oil daily and could cover the shortfall.

Michigan pipeline fight intensifies as permit deadline nears

January 14, 2021

Enbridge is defying Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s move to shut down the Line 5 underwater pipeline, which environmentalists and tribes fear could cause an environmental disaster. Before 2010, most Michiganders didn’t know Line 5 existed, FLOW executive director Liz Kirkwood told Drilled News. Whitmer ordered a review of the original 1953 easement that allowed Line 5’s construction, which concluded the state had never demonstrated that Line 5 abided by Michigan’s public trust doctrine. This legal principle requires Michigan to protect navigable waters and other “natural resources that are inalienable and belong to all of us,” Kirkwood said, allowing the state to give private companies use of such waters and lands only if it improves or doesn’t harm them.

2020 in Review: Climate change, COVID-19, and Michigan’s governor

January 1, 2021

Great Lakes Now‘s 2020 Year in Review story includes the work of FLOW and other environmental groups who pressured Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer to take action on the water agenda she articulated in her election campaign. FLOW wrote to Whitmer asking her to strengthen the Great Lakes Compact, the eight-state agreement designed to prevent diversions of water out of the region. Noting that Whitmer was recently elected chair of the governors and premiers group known as the Compact Council, FLOW said her “leadership gives Michigan, the Great Lakes state, the opportunity to further strengthen protections of the world’s largest freshwater ecosystem.”

After years of tough talk, 2020 was the year Michigan moved against Line 5

December 29, 2020

The moment FLOW and many environmental groups in Michigan had been waiting for more than a decade for happened this year when Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced she was shutting down Enbridge Energy’s Line 5 pipeline. “Unexpected” is the word FLOW executive director Liz Kirkwood told to describe the Nov. 13 move by Whitmer. Kirkwood and others have spent years trying to get the state to end its easement with Enbridge and shut down the oil and natural gas line. “Line five is a race against time,” Kirkwood said. “And so the action of the governor comes at a moment, at a really critical moment.”

Pipelines and plastic bottles: Michigan advocate focuses on Line 5 and Nestle bottled water issue

December 16, 2020

When Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer took office in January 2019, she immediately put a spotlight on the Enbridge Line 5 oil pipeline and started the process that would eventually lead to her ordering it shut down. In her 2018 campaign, Whitmer also pledged to remedy the inequities related to water withdrawal issues, specifically a Nestle Waters case being fought by grassroots advocates that originated in the administration of former Gov. Rick Snyder. Both are among the most high-profile environmental issues in Michigan in recent times and are at the heart of the public trust advocacy work Liz Kirkwood does, writes Gary Wilson for Great Lakes Now.

The fight against Line 5 intensifies

December 12, 2020

“The state of Michigan is the legal guardian of the public trust waters,” Liz Kirkwood, executive director of the nonprofit FLOW (For Love of Water), tells The Progressive Magazine. “They have a paramount duty to the public and to the waters and all the uses of fishing, swimming, navigation, commerce, and more. … (The tunnel) is not an alternative we should be embracing. With the construction of the tunnel you have the impact on wetlands and the discharge of wastewater directly into the straits. On top of all that, the continued operation of Line 5 is in conflict with Michigan’s goals for reducing carbon emissions,” said Kirkwood, citing an executive order from Governor Whitmer that targets 2050 as a goal for the state’s carbon neutrality.

Whitmer shifts Line 5 dynamic ahead of legal dispute, tunnel uncertainty

November 22, 2020

In a move sought for years by environmental advocates, tribes, and hospitality and tourism businesses, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer this month notified Enbridge Inc. that it would no longer have the state’s permission to operate the Line 5 pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac.“I think (the state) is very much on the offensive,” said Liz Kirkwood, an attorney and executive director of For Love of Water (FLOW), which has long advocated the pipeline’s closure. “They’re affirmatively saying under public trust law that the 1953 easement never incurred the proper public trust evaluations. As the public trustee, the state’s duty is ongoing and continuous.” Kirkwood called it an “exceptional case” and unique, since public trust issues typically involve areas where land and water meet. “They’re typically beach-walking cases,” she said.

Michigan upholds Nestle permit to withdraw 576K gallons of groundwater daily

November 20, 2020

Michigan environmental regulators will not reconsider their decision to let Nestlé Waters North America increase groundwater withdrawals to support the company’s Ice Mountain bottling operation in Stanwood, state officials announced Friday. Instead, the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy has dismissed a complaint challenging the 2018 permit that allows the company to increase its withdrawals form the Osceola County well by 60 percent. Jim Olson, founder and president of the nonprofit For Love of Water, said EGLE’s action “undercuts citizens’ faith and trust. There was no reason for the Department or Attorney General’s office to after-the fact argue there was no jurisdiction,” Olson said, “other than punish citizens’ good faith participation in government.”

Experts: Whitmer has upper hand in Line 5 case, but May shutdown is uncertain

November 18, 2020

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has a strong case against Enbridge Energy, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the oil will stop flowing through Line 5 anytime soon, writes Bridge Michigan. Ultimately, the most important question in the case may not be WHETHER Enbridge must shut down Line 5, but WHEN. “Delay is their biggest weapon here,” said FLOW Executive Director Liz Kirkwood. She added that if Whitmer succeeds in her shutdown quest and Michigan’s propane and oil industries find other ways to transport petroleum products, Enbridge will have a harder time convincing the Michigan Public Service Commission a new pipeline is necessary. “Making a decision about whether to let Enbirdge relocate a piece of pipeline from Point A to Point B is a very different question than ‘are we going to let you restart this pipeline that has already been shut down?’”

Line 5 shutdown order ‘creates a scenario’ for stopping Enbridge tunnel

November 14, 2020

Liz Kirkwood, executive director of FLOW (For Love of Water), a Traverse City nonprofit that’s long opposed the pipeline, said the Army Corps has yet to decide whether it will conduct a full environmental impact assessment of Enbridge’s proposal oil tunnel or a more limited review under federal statutes. “I think the whole tunnel permitting process is just a nightmare,” said Kirkwood, noting that it’s being done by two state agencies and a federal agency that aren’t coordinating.
Kirkwood questioned whether Enbridge is actually serious about wanting to build a tunnel, or whether the company is just going through the motions in order to extend operation of the existing, highly profitable pipeline.

Environmentalist groups applaud Gov. Whitmer over Line 5 decision

November 14, 2020

FLOW Executive Director, Liz Kirkwood says, “To finally and permanently remove these aging pipelines out of our Great Lakes is unprecedented and truly extraordinary. This moment didn’t just happen. This took years in the making.” Kirkwood says the 67 year-old pipe is deteriorating and it’s only time before it creates a disaster from “pipeline coating loss, to curvatures and bends in this pipeline, because remember this pipeline is moving and undulating with these incredibly powerful currents,” said Kirkwood.

Line 5 shutdown order heralded as ‘enormous victory’ by pipeline opponents, but ‘irresponsible’ by others

November 13, 2020

“As public trustees of our waters, the State of Michigan is affirmatively upholding the rule of law and protecting the public’s treasured Great Lakes from the clear and present danger of an oil spill catastrophe from Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline,” said Liz Kirkwood, executive director for For Love of Water (FLOW), a Great Lakes law and policy center in Traverse City. “People of diverse backgrounds have come together to work tirelessly on a common purpose — protecting the Great Lakes, drinking water, fishing rights, the economy, coastal communities and a way of life from the most dangerous oil pipeline in America.”

Fire & Ice Don’t Go, Neither Do Oil & Water

November 1, 2020

It is impossible to sum into a couple of words the grandeur of the five Great Lakes. These are by far the largest sources of fresh water in the world, specifically 21 percent of the world’s fresh water. It is home to more than 3,500 species of plants and animals, and 170 species of fish. Not to mention over 30 million people rely on the Great Lakes for drinking water – that’s 10 percent of the U.S. population and 30 percent of the Canadian population. Advocacy groups such as Oil & Water Don’t Mix and For Love of Water (or FLOW) continue to push for the complete elimination of Line 5, which seems like one of the only solutions to effectively protect the Great Lakes and the surrounding environment.

Activists put pressure on Nestle’s water operations

October 26, 2020

There’s an effort underway to take back the pumping site in Michigan’s Osceola County where Nestle draws groundwater for Ice Mountain bottles, reports WOOD TV8. Earlier this year, the multinational corporation’s CEO shared the company is considering selling most of its bottled water operations in the U.S. and Canada. In response, several organizations including FLOW sent a letter requesting Nestle divest from certain operations before any potential sale. “Michigan is literally giving away our water for free,” said FLOW Executive Director Liz Kirkwood. “It is imperative that our states and that our nation claim these public waters for the people and not for profit.”

‘Troubled Waters’ campaign calls for Nestle to give up water rights

October 24, 2020

Cadillac News

Just go home. That’s the message from Peggy Case, president of Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation, to Nestle Waters North America. Nestle said this summer that the company was thinking about getting out of the regional bottled water business. Ice Mountain, the Nestle brand bottled in Stanwood, Michigan, and withdrawn from wells near Evart, is one of the brands. The time is ripe, according to Case, for action. “This is a good opportunity, when they are trying to negotiate sales to these places, to tell them to just return the permits. Return whatever they think they own back to public entities,” Case told the Cadillac News. “It’s a good time for them to just go home. That’s all we want. Just go home. Leave the water where it is.” “But we do take a strong position on the privatization of water anywhere in the country,” said Jim Olson, FLOW’s founder and president. “As we enter into the 21st century, there’s a huge demand for water,” Olson said. If water is privatized for sale, it’s a slippery slope leading to people losing control of their right to use water, he added.

Regulators begin PFAS investigation in East Bay Township

October 21, 2020

Traverse City Record-Eagle

About 20 homes and one business in Traverse City’s East Bay Township may have for years been using drinking water contaminated with PFAS chemicals, and state environmental regulators now launched efforts to find out for sure. Officials said the new investigation comes after a series of state-installed groundwater monitoring wells returned elevated results for various PFAS chemicals. The worry is some residents of the nearby Pine Grove neighborhood may have been drinking and cooking with PFAS-laden water for decades. FLOW executive director Liz Kirkwood said the latest PFAS discovery in the Traverse City area is a “disturbing reminder of the systemic statewide health issues raised by the past and present use of these forever chemicals. On a broader level, this emergency provides additional evidence that prevention and precaution must guide the use of hazardous chemicals in our state and that polluters, whether public or private, must be held accountable and pay to clean up their pollution.”

Line 5: an unnecessary and imprudent investment

October 19, 2020

Bridge Magazine

What are the full costs of our continued dependence on fossil fuels? The answer should inform the Whitmer administration’s decisions on the future of Line 5 — the 67-year old pipeline system transporting crude oil across Michigan and under the Straits of Mackinac, writes Skip Press in Bridge Magazine. The burning of fossil fuels affects the environment and public health in ways that are well documented by scientists, economists, and public health officials. The impact from fossil fuel uses include respiratory diseases from air pollution, environmental degradation of surface and groundwater, and acidification of oceans and lakes.

Enbridge outlines plans to burrow under Straits of Mackinac in new animated video

September 30, 2020


Enbridge’s video is a sleek and misleading sales pitch to the people of Michigan, FLOW tells UpNorthLive. The company continues to hammer a narrative that isn’t accurate. Line 5 and its proposed tunnel are not critical energy infrastructure. It benefits Enbridge, not the citizens of Michigan. The state’s UP Energy Taskforce and multiple independent reports over the past 5 years have concluded that Line 5 is not vital energy infrastructure. This is a system with multiple pipelines. There are lots of ways to move energy. Plus, we are shifting to a new energy system with renewables. Governor Whitmer is moving us to become energy neutral by 2050. But we must do it decisively and intentionally to make sure the UP has the energy it needs at affordable rates.

Enbridge now inspects freighters to avoid another anchor strike on Line 5

September 28, 2020

Michigan Radio

Enbridge tells Michigan Radio it will ensure the Straits of Mackinac are protected and safe while it pursues the Great Lakes Tunnel Project which is planned to house Line 5 one hundred feet below the lake bed. But there’s reason for concern. “This is just yet another effort, I think, to kind of distract the public and our state leaders on the ongoing crisis that continues in the Straits of Mackinac,” FLOW Executive Director Liz Kirkwood tells Michigan Radio. She says the only safe answer is to shut down Line 5. “Here we are 10 years after Enbridge’s Kalamazoo disaster and Line 5 is still operating. It’s quite extraordinary to think we still have an oil pipeline in the middle of our Great Lakes.”

In perpetuity: Toxic Great Lakes sites will require attention for generations to come

September 21, 2020

Great Lakes Now

It’s convenient to think of fixing a problem and it’s done. But that doesn’t apply to the long-neglected legacy polluted sites in the Great Lakes region. In simple terms we think of a cleanup as removal of something that, left unattended, will become a nuisance or a problem. But cleanup of toxic sites, especially in water, is not that simple, writes Gary Wilson for Great Lakes Now. In 1987 Michigan Gov. Jim Blanchard launched a Great Lakes 2001 program designed to clean up the toxic sites in Michigan by 2001, according to David Dempsey, FLOW senior policy advisor and former Blanchard adviser. Dempsey said funding for the project ended when Blanchard, a Democrat, lost his reelection bid to Republican John Engler.

Be Smart About Your Septic System

September 14, 2020

Ludington Daily News

Home owners with septic systems don’t think much about them — unless the system quits working. During Septic Smart Week, now through Sept. 18, the Mason-Lake Conservation District asks people using septic systems to think about what they put down drains, flush down toilets, how they use water, and to consider having their system inspected and pumped if that hasn’t been done in the past few years. This op-ed in the Ludington Daily News quotes FLOW as reporting that Michigan is the only state that lacks a uniform sanitary code requiring periodic inspection and maintenance of septic systems — even though 30% of Michiganders rely on such systems.

5 Groups Working to Protect and Restore the Great Lakes

September 14, 2020

Wiki Ezvid – The World’s Video Wiki

The interconnected series of lakes bridging Canada and the United States is the largest group of its kind on Earth by area, containing about a fifth of the world’s supply of surface fresh water. Unfortunately, these resources are under attack from threats including chemical spills, microplastic pollution, and invasive species. However, there are dedicated people working to combat these problems. In no particular order, here are some organizations striving to repair the damage before it is too late.

Defending the Great Lakes by day, writing about them by night

September 10, 2020

Soo Today

Author Sally Cole-Misch used her memories of summers spent in the region as a youth as the backdrop to her first fictional novel, The Best Part of Us. Until late May, Cole-Misch was the Public Affairs Officer at the International Joint Commission (IJC), a Canadian-US organization formed by the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909 to help the two countries prevent and resolve issues concerning the waters flowing across their boundaries. Cole-Misch will be virtually promoting her new book at FLOW-For Love of Water, an environmental organization that works on Great Lakes issues, at 5 pm ET on Sunday, September 27 as part of its Art Meets Water series, entitled: Exploring The Best Part of Usthrough words and water.

Safe Water: Learning from Flint

September 7, 2020

The Sault News

Mary McKSchmidt: ​I heard a knock on the door while I was editing this video about safe water and handed my first-ever “boil water” alert. The utility considered it a precautionary measure—expressing concern about a broken water main nearby and the potential for bacterial contamination in our water. Coincidence? I don’t think so. It was a wake-up call.

Epic Swim 2020 completes 60-mile swim across Lake Michigan

August 13, 2020

Up North Live

Ludington marked the finish-line for six swimmers on Wednesday as they wrapped up their 60-mile swim across Lake Michigan. The Epic Swim 2020 overnight adventure started on Tuesday night in Two Rivers, Wisconsin and finished on the shores of northern Michigan just under 21 hours later. Epic Swim 2020 teamed up with FLOW (For the Love of Water) as their charity partner to help not only honor the lakes but also raise awareness for Great Lakes protection and preservation.

Six local swimmers to attempt swim across Lake Michigan

August 6, 2020

Holland Sentinel

Jon Ornée has had the same dream for the past seven years. He’s hoping it becomes a reality in the near future. Some time between Aug. 9-23, the team will depart Two Rivers, Wisconsin, and swim continuously, relay style until they reach the shore of Ludington, Michigan. The team hopes to complete the 60-mile swim in 24-28 hours. A support boat — a 39-foot Sea Ray motor yacht — will accompany and assist them on the trek. The swim will support the charity, For Love of Water (FLOW), which is based in Traverse City, Michigan. FLOW is dedicated to protecting and preserving the Great Lakes as an extraordinary and essential natural resource endowment. They aim to apply public trust principles to educate, advance policy, and provide solutions to the pressing water, energy and climate issues facing the region, nation and planet.

“We really wanted to partner with an organization that’s committed to protecting and preserving Lake Michigan and FLOW is doing that and for the Great Lakes as a whole,” Ornée said. “None of this is possible unless we care for the amazing resource and gift the lake is, so we want to make sure we use our swim to encourage people to keep the lake clean and keep it a gift that keeps giving for generations to come.”

Opinion: Kalamazoo oil spill 10 years ago taught Enbridge nothing

July 29, 2020

Detroit News

Saturday marked the 10th anniversary of Enbridge’s spilling almost a million gallons of heavy tar-sands oil into the Kalamazoo River from its 41-year-old Line 6B — causing one of the worst inland oil spills in U.S. history, writes FLOW executive director Liz Kirkwood. The July 25, 2010, disaster awoke Michigan from its complacency by revealing an even older and more dangerous set of oil pipelines lurking in the open waters of the Straits of Mackinac — Enbridge Line 5. Today the overwhelming consensus across party lines is that Enbridge’s 67-year-old Line 5 threatens Michigan resident’s drinking water, economy and our way of life.

How a Spill From One Oil Pipeline Launched a Movement to Shut Down Another

July 24, 2020


“At the very beginning of this awakening, there was this sense that because (Line 5) was an interstate oil pipeline, that the feds were kind of the key decision makers,” FLOW Executive Director Liz Kirkwood told WMUK. Kirkwood says even the state seemed to think so. She recalls what happened when she called the Department of Natural Resources. “I was calling the Department of Natural Resources and I said, ‘I’m looking for this pipeline, it’s located in the Straits of Mackinac and I think there’s some kind of deed,’ and the guy on the other end of the line said, ‘We have this policy, we throw away all the documents after 40 years.’ And I said, ‘As a lawyer, I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t be throwing this one out.’ Sure enough, we hung up the phone and he got back to his office and he found this 1953 easement.”

Groups Call for Stronger Response in Enbridge Line 5 Saga

July 23, 2020

Public News Service

Some water-quality groups say Michigan needs to take a stronger stance against Enbridge for its refusal to assume responsibility for losses related to a Line 5 oil pipeline failure in the Great Lakes. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources announced yesterday that the pipeline company has not agreed to provide a minimum of $900 million in liability insurance to cover all damages and losses caused to property or individuals due to the operation of the pipelines through the Straits of Mackinac. Liz Kirkwood, executive director of FLOW, says that while financial assurances are nice, they can’t keep the Great Lakes whole. “But ultimately the fate of Line 5 is really a race against time,” says Kirkwood. “We’re either going to act with the kind of prudence and precaution that we should or we will end up with a catastrophic disaster.”

What Lurks Beneath: Line 5 on Trial

July 11, 2020

Northern Express

Liz Kirkwood, the executive director of FLOW (For Love of Water) and one of the central attorneys opposing Enbridge in this case, said questioning the project as a matter of infrastructure is critical. “We haven’t, as a state, even sat down and asked the question, ‘Do we need Line 5 for our energy future?’ Not ‘Does Enbridge need it?’ but ‘Do we need it?’” Kirkwood said. “We’re going to be asking ourselves the most important public questions, such as, ‘Is there a public need for this type of pipeline?’” Kirkwood disputes Enbridge’s claims that the Upper Peninsula and the state as a whole rely on energy from Line 5. She cited a 2018 National Wildlife Commission study that found that decommissioning the pipeline would not have huge economic impacts. She said it is time for Line 5 to have its day in court.

Six Feet Apart: Glen Arbor Arts Center’s fresh take on exhibits

July 10, 2020


Join us outdoors in Glen Arbor on Friday, July 31, for the “Words For Water” Poetry Throw-Down at the Glen Arbor Arts Center. “Who owns the water?” People? Communities? Corporations? Nobody? That question is the basis for the Words For Water open-air poetry throw-down at the Glen Arbor Arts Center. This event is part of the GAAC’s 6ft Apart Art program, a series of outdoor pop-up events, and is offered in collaboration with FLOW. Participating poets and writer are challenged to create a short, original poem that answers this question: Who Owns The Water? Poems will be performed or read outdoors on Friday, July 31, at 7:00 p.m., before a live audience. Each writer may read up to five minutes. No pre-registration is required. Poets will be added to the evening’s readers list on a first-come basis.

EGLE permits Line 5 support replacement

July 2, 2020


Liz Kirkwood, executive director of Traverse City water law nonprofit ‘For Love of Water’ (FLOW), called the continued addition of screw anchor supports to Line 5 an “ongoing crisis in the making.” “Why on earth are [they] granting another permit?” said Kirkwood. “This response is, in my opinion, really not adequate, given the magnitude of harm and … duties to protect our public waters.” FLOW and other environmental watchdog groups have long contended that the dual lines weren’t designed to be supported by the screw anchors, which were added over time to secure the pipes as the Straits’ strong currents eroded the lakebed. They’re calling on Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to revoke the 1953 easement with the state of Michigan that allows Enbridge to operate the lines.

Line 5 faces scrutiny from public service commission, judge

June 30, 2020

Toledo Blade

Liz Kirkwood, environmental attorney and executive director of the Traverse City-based environment group FLOW (For Love of Water) said the public service commission’s decision is “a big win for all Michigan residents that upholds their public trust rights in the Great Lakes.” “Enbridge now has the burden to show a public need for this proposed oil pipeline under the Great Lakes, ensure no harm or pollution to our public trust waters and lands, and fully consider feasible and prudent alternatives to this project,” she said.

Line 5 Decision Time: Livestream event

June 11, 2020

The Daily Mining Gazette

Join The Energy Show, an Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition (UPEC) livestream with guests Jim Olson, Founder and President of the group FLOW (For Love Of Water), and Joe Kaplan of Common Coast Research & Conservation. Olson will discuss issues surrounding Enbridge Energy’s Line 5, a major oil and gas pipeline that crosses the length of the Upper Peninsula, passes through the Straits of Mackinac on the lakebed, and continues through the Lower Peninsula to Sarnia, Ontario. Kaplan will talk about the potential dangers large-scale solar farms pose to migrating birds.

Protecting the Water for Now and Forever

May 14, 2020

Title Track

Musician, environmental activist and community builder Samuel Seth Bernard and the Clean Water Campaign for Michigan spoke recently with FLOW Executive Director Liz Kirkwood and posted this inspirational video interview. A deep lover of Michigan lakes and waters, Kirkwood is a champion of public trust solutions, cutting edge policy, and strategic partnerships to protect the waters “for now and forever.” Enjoy this video!

New: Enbridge’s Line 5 tunnel application hits snag with state

May 5, 2020

Michigan Advance

“We agree with EGLE that Enbridge’s application falls woefully short of complying with legal requirements,” said FLOW executive director Liz Kirkwood. “Now the state of Michigan should require Enbridge to apply for and obtain authorization for an easement to occupy state-owned bottomlands with a tunnel before any construction permitting proceeds. Enbridge is putting the cart before the horse, which suits their interests, but not the public interest in protecting the Great Lakes. The company’s haphazard rush during the pandemic is alarming.”

Nestle prevails: Law judge sides with water bottler in water withdrawal case

April 30, 2020

Great Lakes Now

An administrative law judge ruled this week in favor of Nestle in the long-running dispute over whether the company would be allowed to increase its withdrawals of groundwater to support its water bottling operation in Michigan, reports Great Lakes Now. Grassroots activists challenged the 2018 decision by Michigan’s then Department of Environmental Quality under former Gov. Rick Snyder.

FLOW president and law attorney Jim Olson, whose firm represented Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation in the case, said it’s important to know that the law judge works for the agency and that they rarely overturn an agency’s approval of a permit. It’s a step in the process that now allows the plaintiffs to take legal action in court. But Olson expressed disappointment in Gov. Whitmer and EGLE for not correcting the “foot-loose interpretations of the water withdrawal and bottled water standards by the Snyder administration in approving the permit in the first place.”

Enbridge pushes for Line 5 tunnel permits during coronavirus pandemic

April 30, 2020


“This is a strategic decision to move forward aggressively on all permitting,” FLOW executive director Liz Kirkwood told “When you have a state of emergency, it’s a fact there’s going to be less public engagement because people are physically not able to gather together.”

Canadian pipeline giant Enbridge is undeterred by the global coronavirus pandemic as it seeks approvals for controversial plans to build a $500 million tunnel to house its Line 5 oil pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac, reports Enbridge submitted three applications this month for state permits needed to begin construction and is asking the Michigan Public Service Commission to declare that it already has the authority to relocate the pipeline in a tunnel. The public service commission is taking public comment until May 13.

Nestle wins legal challenge to Michigan groundwater extraction

April 28, 2020


Jim Olson, FLOW’s founder and president—and a Traverse City environmental attorney who represented citizens in a lawsuit that resulted in a 2009 settlement limiting the amount Nestle can pump in Mecosta County—said the Whitmer administration is “perpetuating” errors made under Snyder. During her 2018 campaign, Whitmer criticized “poor water policy” in Michigan, citing Nestle’s ability to source water at essentially no cost. “Everybody in the election knew darn well this was a major issue that needed to be corrected,” Olson said. “We’re really no further ahead than we were before.” Olson said the state owns groundwater as a sovereign for reasonable public use, but it has never asserted its authority to prohibit or allow its sale for public benefit. “The failure of the legislature and the administration to assert that position is a de-facto capitulation to the continuing grab of public water by bottled water companies, both from private wells or use fee taps on public water systems,” he said. “It’s a massive subsidy.”

The Earth Day Celebration that Wasn’t

April 25, 2020

Northern Express

This year’s 50th Earth Day didn’t arrive with the fanfare that many environmental activists had hoped. After all, it wasn’t just a milestone for Earth Day, it was also the 40th anniversary of the Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council, reports the Northern Express. The nonprofit’s Environmentalist of the Year award celebration scheduled for April 24 in Traverse City had to be canceled. If there could possibly be something good to all of this, Liz Kirkwood, executive director of FLOW, said it’s that some water utilities across Michigan have stopped shutting off people’s water for lack of payment. “It’s taken a global pandemic health crisis for the state of Michigan to open its eyes and recognize the harsh and inhumane consequences of water shutoff,” Kirkwood said. “I think the silver lining of this terrible public health crisis is that we have an awakening as to the vital role that water plays in our society and the obvious conclusion that water and clean health and access to clean water are inseparable.”

Enbridge submits permit application, prepares to start work on Line 5

April 8, 2020


Enbridge has officially submitted a permit application to begin its Line 5 tunnel project. They sent the application to the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy and the Army Corp of Engineers.

“Until Enbridge receives such legal authorization from the State of Michigan, the Canadian company has no business applying for the construction permit, and many other permits and approvals, they would need to locate and build an oil pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac,” said Jim Olson, FLOW Founder and Legal Advisor.”

“A 10-year tunnel construction project will not prevent an oil spill disaster that grows more likely every day. The State of Michigan has a perpetual and paramount public trust duty to its citizens, not a private Canadian corporation whose uninterrupted oil transport threatens grave consequences for 95 percent of America’s fresh surface water supply,” said Liz Kirkwood, FLOW’s Executive Director and an environmental attorney.”

Michigan Water Shutoffs: A test of governor’s commitment to social, environmental justice

March 9, 2020

Great Lakes Now

Drinking water rights advocates pushed back hard on the governor’s decision.“The state has a duty to turn the water back on,” said Jim Olson, an attorney and founder of For Love of Water, a Traverse City water advocacy group, reacting to the governor’s decision in a blogpost. “Not only was the rejection wrong on moral grounds, it also should never have been the residents’ burden to prove life without water is a crisis,” Olson wrote.

Olson used the opportunity to point out Michigan’s glaring inequity on public water supplies. He called for bottled water companies like Nestle to pay royalties with the money going to a “trust fund for public water and social justice needs.”

“After all, when it comes to our shared public water, we are all citizens of Detroit,” Olson said.

Enbridge hires companies to design, build Great Lakes tunnel

March 6, 2020

Associated Press

FLOW urged the corridor authority to halt further work on the tunnel plan. The Traverse City-based organization argued that Enbridge had failed to seek authorization for the project through the Great Lakes Submerged Lands Act as required under a common-law doctrine that holds navigable waters and soils beneath them in trust for public uses.

Bypassing those laws is “one of the most egregious attacks on citizens’ rights and sovereign public trust interest in the Great Lakes in the history of the state of Michigan,” said Jim Olson, FLOW’s president.

Water Activism: Detroit, Flint, and the Great Lakes

February 27, 2020

Columbia University School of the Arts

FLOW founder and president Jim Olson will speak at Lenfest Center for the Arts at Columbia University in New York City on Thursday, February 27, about “Water Activism: Detroit, Flint, and the Great Lakes”.

Michigan Environmental and Community Groups Urge ERRC to Adopt PFAS Drinking Water Standards

February 26, 2020

Michigan Environmental Council

The Environmental Rules Review Committee (ERRC) will meet today at 1 PM to vote on the draft rules that set limits for PFAS in drinking water. Under Michigan law the ERRC can vote to approve the draft rules, approve the draft rules with modification, or reject the draft rules. The ERRC vote comes after a month-long public comment period during which thousands of Michigan residents weighed in to support the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy’s effort to adopt PFAS drinking water standards. Environmental and community groups issued the following statements urging the ERRC to approve the draft rules as is.

“Given that it will take years for the federal government to set drinking water standards on just two PFAS chemicals—if they act at all—it’s imperative for state government to act now to protect the health of Michiganders from this imminent threat,” said FLOW senior policy advisor Dave Dempsey.

Michigan environmental, health advocates react to federal PFAS announcement

February 24, 2020

Traverse City Record-Eagle

Environmental and health advocates in northern Michigan, including FLOW senior policy advisor David Dempsey, reacted to news that federal authorities intend to regulate some PFAS chemicals. It’s a sea change from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s longtime policy of setting a lifetime health advisory standard for the chemicals — meaning what concentration would not be expected to cause adverse health effects over a lifetime of daily PFAS exposure at that level, reports the Traverse City Record-Eagle. Instead, the EPA announced Thursday that it plans to regulate two nonstick and stain-resistant compounds in drinking water amid growing concerns the chemicals — found in everything from pizza boxes to carpet — pose a health hazard.

“It will take three to four years before there’s a final standard, if there is one,” said Dempsey. “My fear is that this announcement is intended to head off state actions. If there is a second Trump term, EPA can always change its mind and not regulate PFAS. In the meantime, those opposed to regulating PFAS can try to block state initiatives like Michigan’s. They can say that we should wait for the federal government to act based on what EPA decides is the latest science. And as we just saw with the gutting of the clean water rule, EPA’s science is political science.”

Core priority: Michigan environmental budget boosts funding for EGLE

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.”

Judge lets challenge to Enbridge Line 5 supports proceed

February 11, 2020

Detroit News

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.”

Timeline: State officials knew about the problems at Electro-Plating Services for 30 years

January 17, 2020

Michigan Radio

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.

FLOW gives thoughts on PFAS lawsuit

January 15, 2020

9&10 News

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.

Michigan DNR takes steps to hold Enbridge accountable

January 13, 2020

WLNS (Lansing)

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.”

Michigan Democrats take aim at Nestle. Farmers urge caution.

December 17, 2019

Bridge Magazine

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.

Bills would ban Nestle from distributing Michigan water outside Great Lakes watershed

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.”

Nestle cannot claim bottled water is ‘essential public service’, court rules

December 5, 2019

The Guardian

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

Northern Express

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.

Make it rain: Diane Dupuis is here to help us fund the fight of the Great Lakes’ life

November 16, 2019

Northern Express

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.

Summit participants talk statewide septic code

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.

Opinion | Enbridge is not working to protect Michigan waters

November 5, 2019

Bridge Magazine

FLOW Executive Director Liz Kirkwood in this op-ed for Bridge Magazine shines a very bright spotlight on the Enbridge playbook of distraction and deception, including false advertising and a lack of insurance to cover a Line 5 oil spill disaster in the Great Lakes. #ShutDownLine5

Forum: Michigan fails to address septic systems

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.

Judge Rules Line 5 Tunnel is Constitutional, Lawmakers React

November 1, 2019

9&10 News

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.

Opinion | Gov. Milliken’s enduring legacy: civility, bridging divides

October 22, 2019

Bridge Magazine

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.

Experts to discuss septic science, policy for Michigan

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.

William G. Milliken, Michigan’s longest serving governor, is dead at 97

October 18, 2019

Michigan Radio

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.”

Michigan AG focuses on clean energy, ratepayer support in shift for office

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.

Water-inspired: Great Lakes theme of art show

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.

A septic battle in Kalkaska

September 28, 2019

Northern Express

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.”

Help Protect Our Great Lakes at “Artist’s for FLOW”

September 27, 2019

9&10 News

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.

State steps closer to PFAS standards for drinking water

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.

Legal gears on Nestle water cases grind slowly in Michigan

September 17, 2019


FLOW executive director Liz Kirkwood tells 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.

Bottled Water is Sucking Florida Dry

September 15, 2019

New York Times

Nestlé has incensed other communities in the United States. In Michigan, the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians and the grass-roots nonprofit organization Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation filed an appeal of a decision to allow Nestlé to increase water pumping from 250 gallons per minute to to 400 gallons per minute from a spring aquifer in Osceola County.

Trump admin decision to drop Obama-era wetlands rule draws mixed reactions in Michigan

September 12, 2019

Michigan Radio

“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.

Love Letters to the Lakes: Public Comments from the Heart

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.

Opinion: Michigan Should Become Global Freshwater Capital

September 9, 2019

Detroit News

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.

Liz Kirkwood, Executive Director of FLOW, is our Great Lakes Guardian

August 22, 2019 / 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.

Get Off the Bottle with FLOW in Traverse City

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.

National Water Quality Month with FLOW

August 13, 2019

9 & 10 News

It’s always a good time to talk about water quality, especially having the Great Lakes providing 20-percent of the world’s fresh water.  August is National Water Quality Month, so we stopped by to chat with the staff of For Love of Water or FLOW in Traverse City to see how they’re working to create an awareness of protecting Michigan’s waterways. The organization works to inform governments and citizens about how we all play a role in keeping our water clean.

Gov. Whitmer: Research tunnel legality

January 2, 2019

Record Eagle

“It was almost mandatory on her part as governor to take this action,” said Jim Olson, founder and president of Traverse City-based nonprofit For Love of Water.

Nestle Wins Permit to Pump More Michigan Groundwater

April 5, 2018

The Takeaway

Liz Kirkwood, executive director of For Love of Water (FLOW), discusses the implications of Nestle’s involvement with a local water supply.

Amid transition to clean energy, utilities tackle water conservation

March 4, 2018


In February, Consumers Energy pledged to save one billion gallons of water in the next five years. Water usage is a huge, often underlooked, part of the energy sector.

Nestlé-style water withdrawals would be easier in Michigan under new bill, critics say

February 27, 2018

Detroit Free Press

Michigan state house representative, Aaron Miller’s bill would let businesses and farms use their own experts’ analyses to gain approval for large-scale water withdrawals. It would be more difficult for the public to learn the farmers’ and businesses’ analyses, as they would be exempt from disclosure under the Michigan Freedom of Information Act.

Michiganders fight back against against water privatization as Nestlé tries to increase water intake

February 17, 2018

Nation of Change

Residents of Michigan are writing letters, holding meetings, and going door-to-door to demand clean, public water for Michigan.

President’s proposed budget cuts Great Lakes Restoration Funding

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.

Campaign releases Line 5 removal plan

January 17, 2018

Record Eagle

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.

Advocacy group: ‘State must stop the delays,’ shut down Line 5

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.”

Michigan leaders have tunnel vision on Line 5

December 19, 2017

Bridge Magazine

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.

Washington waffles; Should states take lead on Great Lakes?

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.

Op-Ed: Enbridge losing credibility across region

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.

The ‘long game’: How Michigan could be building a case to close Line 5

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.

Nestlé Makes Billions Bottling Water It Pays Nearly Nothing For

September 21, 2017

Bloomberg Businessweek

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.

Inspections show Line 5 coating gaps larger than disclosed

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.


Officials call for Line 5 repairs

September 3, 2017

Record Eagle

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.

Reporter’s Notebook: How much Detroit water do Coke and Pepsi use?

August 3, 2017

Michigan Radio

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.