August 22, 2018, Adrian, Michigan – In response to recent rollbacks of regulations by the Environmental Protection Agency, the General Council of the Adrian Dominican Sisters has issued the following statement:
The elimination of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules aimed at reducing air pollution from coal-burning power plants not only continues the Trump Administration’s dangerous assault on efforts to address the long-term impacts of deleterious climate change – it also presents a clear and present danger. According to news reports, the rollback of rules could lead to as many as 1,400 deaths, 15,000 cases of respiratory problems, and up to 180,000 school days missed annually by 2030.
This decision comes on the heels of an EPA rollback of fuel-efficiency rules intended to double the fuel economy of US-made cars by 2025, which would have significantly reduced greenhouse gas emissions and tailpipe pollution. It, in turn, follows the Trump Administration’s decision last year to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement.
These troubling actions move us, as a people and nation, away from the “new and universal solidarity” that is required to address the existential threat of global climate change. That solidarity, as Pope Francis wrote in Laudato Sí, is with the whole community of life on God’s Earth. “We have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the Earth (cf. Gen 2:7); our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters” (Laudato Sí).
September 14, 2017, Adrian, Michigan – Citing recent tests that showed the presence of microcystin, a dangerous toxin, in a creek that feeds Lake Adrian, and elevated levels of other harmful nutrients in area waterways, the General Council of the Adrian Dominican Sisters urged elected officials in Michigan to take immediate enforcement and regulatory steps to protect those waterways and ensure the safety of the city’s drinking water.
The September 11, 2017, letter was addressed to Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, State Senator Dale Zorn (R-District 17), and State Representative Bronna Kahle (R-District 57), with copies sent to elected officials of Adrian and officials of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
“We urge that you take immediate steps to enforce existing regulations limiting total E. coli loads in our waterways and act to establish limits for other harmful nutrients under the impaired declaration of Michigan’s Lake Erie waters,” the General Council wrote.
The letter cited tests conducted by Environmentally Concerned Citizens of South Central Michigan on Aug. 17, which found the presence of microcystin in Wolf Creek, a waterway that feeds into Lake Adrian, one of the city’s primary sources of drinking water. Microcystin, even in small amounts, can pose a serious health threat, causing vomiting, diarrhea, and liver-function problems. Microcystin was the source of Toledo’s water crisis in 2014, when nearly half a million people lost their drinking water for numerous days.
A total of seven samples were taken from the north/mid-portion of Lenawee County’s South Branch of the River Raisin watershed, including sites in Wolf and Bear Creeks. All seven samples contained cattle DNA and cyanobacteria. Microcystin was found in three samples, two in Wolf Creek. Additionally, E. coli amounts were above safe levels for even partial body contact in six of the samples, along with excessive levels of orthophosphate and ammonia. Findings of the test are at available at http://nocafos.org/water-sampling-data.
In light of the presence of cattle DNA in all samples, the General Council called on the elected officials to “establish comprehensive and effective waste management regulations” of industrial cattle operations, and to put an end to taxpayer subsidies of Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). “Current CAFO permit regulations and voluntary best-management practices are clearly failing to protect Michigan waterways, putting the health and well-being of Michiganders at risk,” the Sisters wrote.
Serving on the General Council are Sisters Patricia Siemen, OP, Prioress; Sister Mary Margaret Pachucki, OP, Vicaress and General Councilor; Fran Nadolny, OP, Administrator and General Councilor; and Patricia Harvat, OP, and Elise D. García, OP, General Councilors.
Feature photo: Photo by NOAA (Public Domain) - Microcystis bloom in Hamilton Harbor, Lake Ontario, taken on Aug. 18, 2006.