Michigan Produces More Nuclear Energy than other Sources

Over the next four weeks we will be looking at the energy production and consumption of various states throughout the U.S. to highlight how energy is produced and our reliance on it for consumption. For this series we featured 15 different states, including Michigan. These state are:

  • Michigan
  • Illinois
  • Iowa
  • Indiana
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • Nebraska
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • South Dakota
  • Wisconsin
  • New York
  • Georgia
  • Oregon
  • California

(If one of the above states is not colored in a map it means it produced zero energy for that source. The other 35 states are not highlighted though because they were not chosen for comparison; this does not mean they didn’t produce a source of energy).

These states were chosen either because of their proximity to Michigan, their similarity in size or because they represent a benchmark state with higher production and consumption of renewable energy sources.

In this series we show how Michigan compared to the featured states for energy production and consumption in 2013 (the most recent data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration) and, later, how each of these state’s consumption has changed between 2003 and 2013.

In this post we show how each state’s energy production, in trillion BTUs, differs by source. The production sources shown are: coal, natural gas, biofuels and other renewables (which include solar and wind power). Just because a state produces a certain energy source does not mean all of that energy created in the state is consumed there. For example, you will see in this post that Michigan, along with Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, New York, Georgia, Oregon and California, do not produce coal as a form of energy, but each consume it (as will be seen next week).

US Energy Production

Of the 15 states highlighted in this series Michigan was not the top energy producer for any of the sources. On a national basis Michigan ranked 26th for energy production, producing .8 percent of the country’s energy. Of the 14 other states featured in this post, seven states produced more energy than Michigan did in 2013. North Dakota produced the highest amount of energy at 2,632.3 trillion BTUs, with crude oil being its primary production source. Missouri produced the least amount at 191.8 trillion BTUs.

(On a national basis, Texas produced 19.8 percent of the nation’s energy, giving it the highest level of energy production.)

Nuclear Energy Production

At 302.2 trillion BTUs in 2013, Michigan produced more nuclear energy than any other source of energy. Michigan has three operating nuclear power plants.

The only other featured states that produced a higher amount of nuclear energy in 2013 were Illinois (1014.9), New York (467.7), and Georgia (343.8). States that did not produce nuclear energy were Indiana, North Dakota and Oregon.

Coal Energy Production

More trillion BTUs of coal powered energy were produced by the states featured in this post, and on an overall national basis, than any other source of energy. Interestingly enough though, 10 out of the 15 states featured didn’t produce coal-based energy. Of the five states that did produce coal powered energy though, Illinois produced the highest amount in 2013 at 1149.6 trillion BTUs; Indiana followed at 883.3 trillion BTUs.

Natural Gas Production

Natural gas was a key source for energy produced in Michigan, and in 2013 it produced 129.9 trillion BTUs of it; North Dakota (317.9), California (287.3) and Ohio (196.3) were the only three states featured that produced more units of natural gas than Michigan did. States that did not produce any natural gas as an energy source were Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Wisconsin and Georgia. While not noted on the map, Oregon did produce a small of energy from natural gas in 2013, .8 trillion BTUs.

Crude Oil Energy Production

For crude oil production Michigan produced 44.7 trillion BTUs in 2013; North Dakota produced the most at 1,820.9. The only featured states to produce no energy from crude oil in 2013 were Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Georgia and Oregon.

Biofuel Production

Alternative Energy Production

Biofuels and other renewable forms of energy were the sources of energy production that each state featured produced in 2013. For biofuels, Michigan was more on the low end, producing 37.2 trillion BTUs; New York, Georgia and Oregon were the only other three states featured that produced less. Of the states featured, Iowa produced the highest amount of biofuel energy at 498.3 trillion BTUs.

For other renewable energy production, Michigan ranked somewhere in the middle of the featured states. In 2013 it produced 141.9 trillion BTUs of other renewable forms of energy, which include solar and wind energy (currently Michigan has 21 wind farms). California produced the most at 739.6 trillion BTUs, followed by Oregon at 452.4. Of the energy produced by Oregon, other renewables made up for 99 percent of its energy production.


Next week we will view how much energy each featured state consumes and by what source.

Wayne Disposal releases highest amount of mercury in the region

According to the Agency of Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, exposure to mercury, a naturally occurring element, can cause gastrointestinal, developmental, neurological, ocular, and renal damage. While the most common way humans are exposed to mercury is through consumption of fish and shellfish, we are also exposed to it when coal is burned. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the largest human cause of mercury emissions comes from burning coal. With this in mind, the EPA issued a mandate for mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants to be limited by 2015. By 2016 the mandate is to be fully implemented and mercury emissions are to be reduced by 90 percent, according to the EPA.

As presented by EnvironmentMichigan.org, above the top 10 mercury emitters by state (this includes coal-fired power plants and other emitters) are shown from 2010. Michigan came in at number 10, with facilities emitting 2,253 pounds of mercury into the atmosphere. Ohio, Indiana, and Pennsylvania were the three Great Lakes States that came in above Michigan. Texas was the state with the overall highest mercury emissions at 11,127 pounds.

Unlike the previous chart, this one shows the 2010 emissions for coal-fired power plants. In parallel with the first chart, Ohio, Indiana and Pennsylvania’s coal-fired power plant emissions were higher than Michigan’s.
In 2010, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council, Michigan based coal-fired power plants emitted 1,924 pounds of mercury into the air. In comparison, the following Great Lakes states produced these emissions from coal-fired power plants: Ohio power plants emitted 2,865 pounds, Pennsylvania emitted 2,720 pounds, Indiana emitted 2,174 pounds, Illinois emitted 1,484 pounds, Wisconsin emitted 1,269 pounds, Minnesota emitted 873 pounds and New York emitted 239 pounds.

The map above displays 2012 mercury releases for the 15 facilities in southeast Michigan that are permitted to release mercury. According the EPA, a chemical release means the material is emitted into the air or water or placed in a type of landfill for disposal.
DTE, released a total of 2,127.8 pounds of mercury from its five power plants in the region. The largest contributor to mercury releases from power plants was the DTE Monroe Power Plant at 985.7 pounds. The St. Clair DTE Power Plant released 426.26 pounds of mercury and the Belle River DTE Power Plant, just a few miles south of the St. Clair location, released 364.7 pounds of mercury in 2012. The Trenton Channel DTE Power Plant released 232.91 pounds and the River Rouge location released. 138.25 pounds.
The largest mercury releaser in 2012 was not a coal-fired power plant,
but a hazardous waste landfill:  Wayne Disposal had the highest mercury releases on a single permit, 2,192.48 pounds. The second largest mercury release site in the region, The Monroe power plant released 965.7 pounds of mercury in 2012, which is higher than what the Natural Resources Defense Council reported was emitted in 2010. Although information from 2010 was presented above, this map offers information from 2012 to show the most recent emissions. This same data was not readily available for 2010 and 2011.

Washtenaw, Macomb counties import most amount of trash

From Washington to Massachusetts to Canada, garbage trucks have been bringing trash into the state of Michigan to fill landfills across the state. The data in this post shows where much of this trash comes from and what counties in the seven-county region take in the largest amount of municipal waste.

The above chart shows the overall volume, in cubic yards, of waste disposed of in Michigan since fiscal year 2004. The overall disposal of municipal solid waste decreased from 2004 (63,183,512) to 2013 (44,914,993) and with that decrease there has also been a decrease in the amount of imported trash. In 2004, 18.1 percent of all waste disposed of in Michigan was from Canada and 10.3 percent was from other states. In 2013, 17.1 percent was from Canada and 6.2 percent was from other states.

The map above further demonstrates that Canada is Michigan’s highest importer of trash. According to the DEQ, in 2012 Canada brought in  6,764,907 cubic yards of trash. In addition, Ohio, the second-highest exporter of trash to Michigan, sent 1,428,651 cubic yards to regional landfills.

When further breaking down the data, it can be seen that Wayne County, in 2012, generated and disposed of the most waste. However, it was Washtenaw County, followed by Macomb County to import the most waste. Located in Washtenaw County, Veolia ES Arbor Hills, which is now an Advanced Disposal Services landfill, had the second highest amount of waste (4,578,334 cubic yards) deposited in it. The Veolia landfill imported 1,657,156 cubic yards of Oakland County’s waste, and 1,864,878 cubic yards of Wayne County’s waste. In comparison, it imported less than 3,000 cubic yards of Canadian waste; and it disposed of 337,506 cubic yards of its own waste. Located in Macomb County, Pine Tree Acres landfill  had the largest amount of waste by volume disposed of in it in 2012, with 4,818,600 cubic yards of municipal waste deposited, according to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. Of the waste disposed there,  Canada exported 3,466,060 cubic yards. This was more than the 917,962 cubic yards of waste Macomb County residents generated, and then disposed of, into their own landfill. According to the U.S. EPA, the average American generates about 4.43 pounds of waste a day, which totals about 1,617 pounds a year. That amount contributed to the 2.6 trillion pounds of garbage generated by the world in 2012. Of that amount of waste, 46 percent of it was made up of organic matter, according to the World Bank. To read more about where the world’s trash goes to and what its made of click here.

Reported lead releases into the environment up dramatically from 2002 to 2012 in Southeast Michigan

A number of national and international environmental incidents in the early 1980s led to the federal Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) in 1986. EPCRA mandates all facilities that handle or produce at least 10,000 pounds of any of 650 chemicals known to be harmful to humans or the environment annually report any releases into the environment This information is made available to the public via the Toxic Release Inventory (TRI).

In this post we will examine releases of two of those 650 chemicals – lead and lead-based compounds. For those interested in learning the effects of lead please click here.

Below is a map showing the location of the 2012 releases of lead and lead-based compounds in the Southeast Michigan area.

In Southeast Michigan, 38 of 87 reporting facilities indicated they had no on-site releases into the land, water or air (These are 0’s on the map). The largest releases Southeast Michigan was Wayne Disposal, in Belleville, which reported more than 52,000 pounds of lead or lead-based compounds. How much of this stays in landfills versus gets released by air or water is not reported. This facility is a landfill that receives toxic waste, including being the only recipient of polychlorinated byphenols (PCBs) in the State of Michigan. In addition to skilled waste handlers, power generation is another top contributor to lead releases, with DTE and other generating plants along rivers and lakes releasing large quantities of lead and lead-based compounds, well over 60,000 pounds.

Wayne Disposal, the region’s largest reporter of releases lead and lead-based-compounds (52,318 pounds), is located in Wayne County, along with about 35 other facilities. It may be reasonable to assume that the vast majority of this went into their landfill, but no data is provided about the specifics beyond the amounts. There are a total of 36 facilities reporting in Wayne County; altogether these facilities reported releasing a total of 54,366.91 pounds in 2012, as shown on the map below. There is a concentration of facilities reporting releases of lead and lead-based-compound in and near Southwest Detroit. However, the largest reported releases in Detroit were from the GM Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Plant, which is bisected by the southern border of Hamtramck and Detroit.

Releasing just over 455 pounds of lead-based compounds into the air in 2012, the GM Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Plant is large, as well as near areas of dense settlement. Using software developed by the U.S. Military and adapted for use by the Environmental Protection Agency, we used dominant weather conditions to determine the approximate area in which these compounds, emitted from on-site stacks, may fall. The result is shown on the map below. The tri-color cone is the area most likely to be impacted because of dominant weather conditions (Winds 10 mph, 58oF, partly cloudy). The circle includes areas impacted by changing wind directions. Additional clouds, wind or precipitation could create a wider pattern of impact. Within the circle, live 5,963 people in 1,997 housing units (2010 Census). There are also three schools (Hanley, Holbrook and Oakland International) and one park with athletic facilities (Veterans in Hamtramck). Oakland International Academy falls under the cone of dominant exposure.

This set of estimates are based on a centroid in the northern area of the site, near cooling towers, but the results could vary depending on the specific location on the site where releases occur. There appear to be several large stacks and many small stacks on the site.  Some stacks are located further east on the site, which would yield estimates that cover more residential areas in Detroit.

Releasing just more than 455 pounds of lead-based compounds in 2012, the GM Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Plant is large, as well as near areas of dense settlement. Using software developed by the U.S. Military and adapted for use by the Environmental Protection Agency, we used dominant weather conditions to determine the approximate area in which these compounds, emitted from on-site stacks, may fall. The result is shown on the map below. The tri-color cone is the area most likely to be impacted because of dominant weather conditions (Winds 10 mph, 58oF, partly cloudy). The circle includes areas impacted by changing wind directions. Additional clouds, wind or precipitation could create a wider pattern of impact. Within the circle, live 5,963 people in 1,997 housing units (2010 Census). There are also three schools (Hanley, Holbrook and Oakland International) and one park with athletic facilities (Veterans in Hamtramck). Oakland International Academy falls under the cone of dominant exposure.

NOTE:The software Aloha and Marplot were used to used to estimate the spread of lead pollution in the area.  In Aloha lead pollution can not be estimated so mercury was used as a proxy. The weight of lead per cubic inch is 0.39 lbs; the weight of mercury is 0.49 lbs. per cubic inch.

To better understand the increase in lead pollution, we examined how lead was released into Wayne County. TRI documents releases into all mediums of the environment, breaking them down into details. Aggregating the categories into the three major environmental mediums – air, water and land, we can see that which methods of lead pollution has changed dramatically over the decade. In 2002, air pollution was the predominant medium, accounting for 99 percent of all lead pollution (455 pounds in total from stack releases and fugitive emissions). Since 2002, this amount has increased in aggregate (1,453 pounds in 2012, a 319 percent increase); however, the proportion of reported lead releases into the air has decreased in relation to the total, from 99 percent in 2002 to 3 percent in 2012.

The dramatic increase in reported lead releases has come from land releases – or that stored in landfills or otherwise held on site. In 2012, 96 percent of the total emissions for the region came from a single facility – Wayne Disposal, a toxic waste facility located on the Wayne/Washtenaw border near Belleville. As explained earlier, a facility must report if it handles more than 10,000 pounds of a toxic chemical, whether or not the facility releases the chemical or handles it without a release. Opened in 1997, Wayne Disposal was not handling enough lead or lead-based compounds in 2002 to require TRI reporting. By 2004, Wayne Disposal was handling enough to trigger reporting requirements. Eight years later, it is the largest single reporter in the region, reporting more than 52,000 pounds of lead or lead-based compounds. In future posts we plan to investigate the sources of the lead maintained at the facility. In general, we expect to find that most of the lead is from lead-based paint that is part of demolition debris from older houses in the metropolitan area.


The effects of lead poisoning

What is lead poisoning?

  • Lead is a home health and safety hazard that can harm a child’s brain, causing lifelong learning and behavior problems. When lead dust is ingested or inhaled, even in miniscule amounts, it can cause significant and irreversible brain damage as well as other health problems. Lead dust equivalent of only three granules of sugar can begin to poison a child.1

What are the sources of lead in Detroit?

  • There are two main sources of lead within dwellings – paint and water pipes, though recent research has indicated a substantial portion may come from air pollution, particularly in the summer. In Detroit, most childhood lead poisoning comes from paint. Other sources of lead include soil, particularly around older buildings contaminated by flaking external paint, and adjacent to industrial facilities using (or previously having used) lead or demolished buildings.2
  • Homes built before 1978 have a good chance of containing lead-based paint. In 1978, the federal government banned consumer uses of lead-containing paint, but some states banned it even earlier. Lead from paint, including lead-contaminated dust, is one of the most common causes of lead poisoning.3 Approximately 94% of all houses in Detroit were built before 1980.4

How do kids get poisoned?

  • Deteriorating lead-based paint (peeling, chipping, chalking, cracking, damaged, or damp) is one of the key causes of lead poisoning.  It is especially hazardous when found on surfaces that children can chew or that get a lot of wear-and-tear, such as windows and window sills, doors and door frames, stairs, railings, banisters, and porches. Toddlers who crawl through dust laden floors are particularly vulnerable.3
  • Air-borne lead paint particles can also be inhaled as dust.  Lead can also be ingested through drinking water that has been contaminated as a result of lead pipework or lead-based solder. 12
  • Lead is particularly dangerous to children because their growing bodies absorb more lead than adults do and their brains and nervous systems are more sensitive to the damaging effects of lead. Babies and young children can also be more highly exposed to lead because they often put their hands and other objects that can have lead from dust or soil on them into their mouths.5

What are the impacts of lead poisoning?

In children, the main target for lead toxicity is the nervous system. Even very low levels of lead in the blood of children can result in:

  • Permanent damage to the brain and nervous system, leading to behavior and learning problems, lower IQ, and hearing problems
  • Slowed growth
  • Anemia5

In rare cases, ingestion of lead can cause seizures, coma and even death.5

Lead poisoning can also result in:

  • Inattentiveness, hyperactivity, disorganization, aggression, and increase risk of delinquency
  • Headaches, loss of appetite, agitation, clumsiness, or somnolence6

A lead poisoned child is:

  • Seven times more likely to drop out of high school7
  • For every 5 μg/dl increase in blood lead levels at six years of age, the risk of being arrested for a violent crime as a young adult increased by almost 50%.13
  • Fifty percent more likely to do poorly on the MEAP6

More than half of the students tested in Detroit Public Schools have a history of lead poisoning, which affects brain function for life, according to data compiled by city health and education officials.  About 60 percent of DPS students who performed below their grade level on 2008 standardized tests had elevated lead levels.7

Groups of children that have been followed from womb to adulthood show that higher childhood blood lead levels are consistently associated with higher adult arrest rates for violent crimes.8

Prevalence of Lead Locally and Nationally

  • Detroit is one of the worst cities in the country when it comes to lead poisoning. Although only 20% of Michigan’s children younger than 5 years lived in Detroit in 2010, childhood lead poisoning in Detroit has consistently accounted for more than 50% of the state’s total lead burden.9
  • In 1998, 15,769 children under 6 tested in Detroit had elevated levels of lead in their blood.  In 2012 this number was 2,755 children.14
  • In 2012, 7,560 children under 6 tested statewide had elevated levels of lead in their blood.10

Information Sources

  1. Olden, K., PhD. “Environmental Risks to the Health of American Children.” Preventative Medicine 22 (1993): 576-578.
  2. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Healthy Homes and Lead Hazard Control. “Healthy Home Rating System—Operating Guidance.” http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/documents/huddoc?id=operating_guidance_hhrs_v1.pdf
  3. United States Environmental Protection Agency. (2013). http://www2.epa.gov/lead/protect-your-family#sl-home
  4. U.S. Census Bureau Selected Housing Characteristics, 2007-2011 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates, Detroit city, Michigan (http://factfinder2.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?pid=ACS_11_5YR_DP04)
  5. United States Environmental Protection Agency. (2013).  http://www2.epa.gov/lead/learn-about-lead#lead
  6. Zubrzycki, J. “Lead-Exposure Problems Spotlighted in Detroit.” Education Weekly Vol. 32, Issue 5 (2012): 6-9.
  7. Lam, T. and Tanner-White, K. “High lead levels hurt learning for DPS kids.” Detroit Free Press (May 16, 2010).
  8. Drum, K. “America’s Real Criminal Element: Lead.” Mother Jones (Jan. 3, 2013).
  9. Zhang, N., PhD, Baker, H., MPH, Tufts, M., MPH, Raymond, R., MS, Salihu, H., MD, PhD, and Elliott, M., PhD. “Early Childhood Lead Exposure and Academic Achievement: Evidence From Detroit Public Schools, 2008–2010.” American Journal of Public Health 103.3 (2013): 72-77.
  10. Michigan Department of Community Health Healthy Homes and Lead Poisoning Prevention Program 2012 Data Report on Blood Lead Testing and Elevated Levels, Childhood Lead Poisoning Data Facts All Counties in Michigan — Calendar Year 2012 — Children less than Six Years of Age: http://www.michigan.gov/documents/mdch/2012AnnualDataReportOnBloodLeadLevels_419508_7.pdf
  11. Farfel, M., Orlova, A., Lees, P., Rohde, C., Ashley, P., and Chisolm, J. “A Study of Urban Housing Demolitions as Sources of Lead in Ambient Dust: Demolition Practices and Exterior Dust Fall.” Environmental Health Perspectives Vol. 111, Issue 5 (2003): 1228-1234).
  12. United States Environmental Protection Agency. (2013). http://water.epa.gov/drink/info/lead/
  13. Wright, J., Dietrich, K., Ris, M., Hornung, R., Wessel, S., Lanphear, B., Ho, M., and Rae M. “Association of Prenatal and Childhood Blood Lead Concentrations with Criminal Arrests in Early Adulthood.” PLOS Medicine (May 27, 2008).
  14. Robert Scott, Michigan Department of Community Health (2013).

Childhood lead poisoning: Progress and accelerating risks based on budget cutbacks

Reduction of childhood lead poisoning is one of the great successes in Detroit in recent years, a product of strong collaboration by non-profit agencies, funders and the City of Detroit. In this update on lead poisoning we show the progress that has been made, explain the risks and then demonstrate how the cutbacks in funding are putting Detroit’s and the region’s children at risk.

Lead is a heavy metal that accumulates in the body when ingested, and has toxic effects on the nervous system, cognitive development, and blood production. It can be ingested through dust or paint (pica, usually in small children) can also be ingested through drinking water that has been contaminated  as a result of lead pipework or lead-based solder. Within dwellings, the main sources of lead come from paint and water pipes, though paint is almost exclusively the source of poisoning in the Detroit area.  Outside the home it can also come from soil, especially around older buildings or near thoroughfares where lead is still residual in dust from the era in which lead was used as an anti-knock agent in gasoline. Other sources include flaking external paintwork or former smelters.

The most prevalent effect from lead exposure is reduction in cognitive capacity in children – even with relatively low lead levels in blood, it negatively affects children’s IQ. The most vulnerable age group is children under 3 years old because of potential effects on neurological development, and because young children’s bodies more readily take up lead. Other risk groups include pregnant women and fetuses.

As shown below lead poisoning cases have been declining.



The chart above shows the number of children under age 6 who had a blood lead level greater than or equal to 10 μg/dL from declined tremendously from 1998-2012 . The decline was from 4,846 to 428 children. This occurred as a result of direct intervention by the City of Detroit Department of Health and Wellness Promotion to work with families, by the City Department of Planning and Development to abate lead paint in existing housing, by the Wayne County Prosecutor’s office to charge rental owners who rent lead poisoned property to families with young children and because of the massive numbers of demolitions of lead poisoned properties over the last decade. In addition, many families have taken the opportunity of lower prices on properties to move into better housing, abandoning many of the worst properties in the city.



The second chart shows the number of children under six who had a blood lead level of 5-9 μg/dL, 10-19 μg/dL and greater than 20 μg/dL in 2012. The two higher categories sum to the total of 428 in the previous chart. Recently the Centers for Disease Control has begun counting children in the 5 to 9 ug/dl category as lead poisoned, based upon accumulating research that lead poisoning at these levels has substantial effects in reducing cognitive capacity.

The next several maps show the distribution of lead poisoned children in Detroit.







These first three maps show the locations of cases of the higher levels of lead poisonings—those greater than 20 ug/dl first, followed by those greater than 10-19 and 20 ug/dl and finally all those above 10 ug/dl.  There is clear concentration of these cases in the areas where older  housing still remains in the city, particularly in the closer in areas of the east side, southwest Detroit and the area between the Lodge and I-96.





These first of these two above maps show where the lower levels of lead poisoning exist among Detroit’s children.  The ssecond map shows all the lead poisoning cases. While the highest concentrations are similar to the previous maps, the important point is that lead poisoning cases are occurring in every part of the city, consistent with the fact that  older housing—homes built before 1978 when lead was banned from house paint—exist all over Detroit.

This is demonstrated by the next two maps.





As can be seen in the first of the two maps above, much younger housing is located in the inner core where housing demolition and replacement has been intense since the 1940s and 1950s. However, the majority of the city is covered in dark brown, which represents Census tracts where between 96 and 100 percent of the homes were built before 1980. In Detroit, 62.2 percent of housing was built before 1950, a substantially higher percentage than any other county in Michigan.

Importantly, the same risks exist in the inner suburbs of Wayne County as demonstrated by the second map above.

One crucial way of intervening early with lead poisoning is by testing of young children. The next three charts speak to this.





The two line charts above show lead testing in Detroit and Wayne County, respectively, over 2012 and 2013 (to date). The data for 2013 are substantially below those for 2012, reflecting drastic cuts in the public provision of testing since the closure of these service by the Detroit Department of Health and Wellness Promotion as part of cuts implement in 2012. We may expect some recovery in testing as children head back to school, but the bar chart above shows that testing in Detroit has consistently declined in volume over the last several years. (The 2013 numbers are just for the year to date.) Part of this decline may be because of a decline in Detroit’s population.

In addition to cuts in testing there have been cuts in case management, elevated blood level investigations, prosecution and abatement.

Given all these cuts in services and interventions, one might reasonably expect an increase in lead poisoning cases among young children. It is likely, however, that because fewer children are tested, fewer of those with lead poisoning will be identified. Social and health problems may appear to diminish if they are not measured properly.




Lead and Housing: Homes built before 1980

Here we complete our examination of  the percent of housing built before 1980 in the 7-county SEMCOG region. The intent is again to shed light on the potential for lead poisoning as lead was banned from house paint after 1978.

The overall percentages across the seven counties include:


•Livingston 42.2%
•Macomb: 62.1% 
•Monroe: 61.8%
•Oakland: 64.0% 
•St. Clair: 61.8% 
•Washtenaw: 59.3%
•Wayne 84.4%
•Livingston County had the lowest percent of homes built before 1980 of the seven-county region with 42.2 percent, according to the American Community Survey. The overall percentage of homes built before 1980 in Monroe, St. Clair and Washtenaw counties was more in line with the overall Macomb and Oakland county percentages.

 Overall, there is about a 42.2 percent difference between the percent of homes built before 1980 in Livingston (42.2%) and Wayne (84.4%) counties. 





In both Washtenaw and St. Clair counties nearly all the municipalities had between 42.1 and 63 percent of the homes built before 1980 up through 2011.  In Washtenaw County only Ann Arbor had a percentage of homes built before 1980 that put it in the highest bracket ( 84.1-100 percent). The only municipality in the same bracket in St. Clair County is Port Huron. In Monroe County, where majority of the municipalities are in the 63.1 to 84 percent bracket, only the City of Monroe has a percentage of homes built before 1980 in the highest bracket. Livingston County has no municipalities where between 84.1 and 100 percent of the homes were built before 1980.

In general the percentage of housing built before 1980 is rather substantial, indicating a fairly high risk for lead poisoning from lead-based paint even in the out-counties of the region. The significance of this is that it implies there will be a long term necessity for careful surveillance of young children’s blood lead levels and an equally strong need to maintain code enforcement relative to older dwellings lest lead based paint deteriorates and triggers more childhood lead poisoning cases. 


Finally, here is a comparison of housing age in the region compared to the state and the nation. In the above chart the percent of homes built before 1980 is shown for each of the seven counties in Southeastern Michigan region, along with the state and national percentages. As can be seen, Wayne County has the highest percentage at 88.4 and the state of Michigan comes in second at 67.2 percent. The percent of homes built before 1980 in the U.S. is 57.5%; Livingston County has the lowest percent of homes built before 1980 at 42.2.   By this measure Wayne County’s and Detroit’s housing is very old compared to the state or nation, which would not mean as much if the housing were well maintained. However, because job losses and wage cuts have reduced incomes, the amount of disposable income for housing maintenance is much reduced. Therefore there are likely increasing health and safety risks not only from lead paint, but from other housing repair issues as well.   




Lead and Housing Age: Homes Built Before 1980

In the following post we will examine the percent of homes built before 1980 for the city of Detroit and Wayne, Oakland and Macomb Counties to examine the risk of lead poisoning among children. Prior to 1978 there was no ban on the use of lead based paint, and 1980 is the closest available Census data on housing age. The older the homes and the higher percentage of older homes, the higher the risk that lead based paint was used in the homes.

Detroit has the highest percent of homes built before 1980 of all the areas examined. Since Detroit has such a high percentage of older homes (a majority of the Census tracts in Detroit have 86 percent or higher of the homes built before 1980), the Detroit map uses different breakpoints in the legend than the County maps presented below.



There are only three Census tracts in Detroit where none of the homes in the city were built before 1980. These are locations such as Belle Isle and the Coleman A. Young International Airport, which generally do not have housing stock, though some people were found to have taken up residence in these areas.

One of the especially interesting features of this map is that much of the younger housing is located in the inner core where housing demolition and replacement has been intense since the 1940s and 1950s.

Much of the city is covered in dark brown, which represents Census tracts where between 96 and 100 percent of the homes were built before 1980.







According the maps presented above, Wayne County has the highest number of Census tracts with homes built before 1980; in total 84.4 percent of the county is made up of homes built before 1980.

A closer look shows that majority of these Census tracts fall within the Detroit City limits and the inner suburbs, such as Redford and Lincoln Park. According to the legend, between 84.1 and 100 percent of the homes in the darkest shade of brown, in areas like Detroit and Lincoln Park, were built before 1980. Inner suburbs of Oakland and Macomb such as Ferndale and Eastpointe, respectively, follow this same pattern. This means these inner suburbs are at substantial risk of lead poisoning of children, particularly when older housing stock is not fully maintained.

In Oakland and Macomb counties though there are far fewer Census tracts where over 84 percent of the homes were built before 1980. For example, Macomb Township, which has seen the highest population growth in the last two years, is mainly made up of Census tracts where 0-20 percent of the homes were built before 1980. In total, 62.1 percent of Macomb County is made up of homes built before 1980 and 64 percent of Oakland County is made up of homes built before 1980.


The Detroit Incinerator and its emissions

In 1986, Detroit built the world’s largest municipal trash incinerator; it officially opened three years later, in 1989.  According to the East Michigan Environmental Action Council, the incinerator was considered by many politicians and residents as something that would attract new businesses to Detroit because at the time, incineration was considered the safest and most cost-effective way to dispose of trash (http://www.emeac.org/2012/04/trash-and-incinerator-detroits-dirty.html).  Instead, the incinerator has been a controversial issue in Detroit politics over the past 20 years. According to environmentalreport.org and greatmichigan.org, the incinerator was able to be created through about $440 million in bonds that were issued for financing. It is said to burn about 2,800 tons of trash daily at a cost of about $150 per ton, according to to environmentalreport.org and greatmichigan.org,

The incinerator is located  near the intersection of the Chrysler and Edsel Ford Freeways (X marks the spot on the map); This is just outside Midtown Detroit, an area that has experienced a renaissance of new development and repopulation over the past few years.

The following table describes selected pollutants reported by facilities to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) in 2010. The chart which follows depicts the share of the overall reported pollutants attributable to Detroit Renewable Power. The incinerator generated approximately 25% of all pollutants reported by the 56 facilities in Detroit, Michigan, that made reports to MDEQ. It was also responsible for 30% of the carbon monoxide, 41% of the nitrogen oxide and 16% of the sulfur dioxide reported to the MDEQ.

As can be seen in the next chart, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, and sulfur dioxide make up the overwhelming majority of chemicals emitted from the incinerator. Other pollutants reported to the MDEQ include ammonia, particulate matter, lead, and volatile organic compounds.

According to the Great Detroit Resource Recovery website,  the incinerator is below their regulation limit for the various pollutants it produces. It should be noted though that is information is an average from 2004-2006 and and does not include carbon monoxide emissions.



Several Detroit environmental groups and residents have blamed the incinerator for Detroit’s high prevalence of asthma among children and adults.

We will examine this assertion more closely in a future post.

Great Lakes water levels

As has been shown in earlier posts, Michigan has experienced a hot and dry summer. These conditions have not only affected Michigan’s land, but also the Great Lakes. The chart above shows the historical long-term averages and record highs and lows for the each lake in the Great Lakes basin for the month of September. The month of September was chosen because it is the end of summer and the current month. Lake Michigan and Lake Huron are grouped as one throughout this post as they are hydraulically the same body of water. Also, throughout this post it must be kept in mind that Lake Superior is the largest and deepest of the lakes followed by Lake Michigan/Huron, Lake St. Clair, Lake Erie, and then Lake Ontario.

The above five charts show the historical data on water levels in the Great Lakes since 1918; each chart only looks at water levels in the month of September. All the charts show there has been an overall trend of water levels declining from where they are at in previous years. This trend began in 2009 for lakes Superior, Huron, and Michigan while the remaining three have seen water levels begin to steadily drop only about a year or two ago. Keith Kompoltowicz, chief of watershed hydrology at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Detroit office, said some researchers and media outlets like to look for a 15 or 30 year trend to the flucuation of the water levels. However, he said no short-term or long-term trends can be determined since U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has only been keeping data since 1918. Currently, U.S. Army Corp of Engineer data shows that if September, October, and November continue to experience low amounts of precipitation lakes Michigan and Huron will likely drop below record water levels. As water levels begin to drop this also has an affect on the ecosystems which live in and around these lakes.