SW Michigan Today: Friday, August 17

Aug 17, 2018

Bottled water distribution during the Parchment PFAS crisis
Credit Gordon Evans / WMUK

A Parchment paper mill used a 3M Company product that contained PFASes, municipalities say the state isn't sharing enough revenue with them, an update on the status of the "Promote the Vote" ballot proposal, and more.

(Kalamazoo Gazette) A paper mill in Parchment used a 3M Company product that contained one of the chemicals known as PFASes. Tests late last month showed high levels of PFASes in Parchment's water system. A 1994 document shows that the Fort James mill used a grease-repellent called "Scotchban." Production of "Scotchban" ended about 18 years ago. But for three decades before that it was used in food packaging. The State Department of Environmental Quality says mill waste dumped in landfills may be the source of Parchment's PFAS problem. In 2002, the state told Parchment officials that the city's wellfield was "vulnerable" to contamination because it was less than a mile from the paper plant.

(St. Joseph-Benton Harbor Herald-Palladium) A judge recently ruled that Southwest Michigan restaurant owner Ibrahim Parlak could stay in the United States for at least another year. But the Saint Joseph Benton Harbor Herald Palladium says the Department of Homeland Security will appeal that ruling. Parlak, who owns Café Gulistan in Harbert and previously owned a restaurant in Kalamazoo, has been at the center of a deportation case for more than a decade. He’s said that if he’s sent back to his native Turkey he could face torture or even death.

(Detroit News) Governor Rick Snyder says he’ll appeal a federal agency’s decision not to grant individual assistance to victims of flooding in the Upper Peninsula earlier this summer. The Detroit News reports that the government issued a disaster declaration and approved public assistance for Houghton, Gogebic and Menominee counties. But this week the Federal Emergency Management Agency said it wouldn’t offer certain grants and low-cost loans to people whose property was damaged. The governor says the damage is severe enough to qualify for more aid.

Kalamazoo County health officials say progress is being made in Parchment's PFAS crisis. But they say an advisory against drinking the city's tap water remains in effect. Tests late last month found high levels of chemicals called PFASes in Parchment's water system. The advisory also affects some residents in Cooper Township. Work is underway to connect Parchment to Kalamazoo's water system. The results of the latest round of water tests are expected on Monday.

The City of Parchment is changing the location and schedule for distribution of bottled water. Parchment’s water system has been shut down because of contamination by chemicals known as PFASes. City officials say there won't be any water distribution today. But it will resume tomorrow in a new location - Haven Reformed Church on Sprinkle Road. Distribution hours will be 2 to 7 P-M. Bottles water will also be available at the church on Tuesdays and Thursdays during the same hours.

A new skateboarding plaza at a city park in Kalamazoo is proving to be very popular. It’s at the north end of the Davis Street Park in the Vine neighborhood. The City's Parks Department designed the plaza with input from local skateboarders. It features sloping sides, concrete benches, and a rail. The plaza isn't big, but skateboarders like Dave Engerer says it doesn’t have to be. The skate park has drawn crowds on evenings and weekends since it opened. Some of the money for improvements at the park came from the city’s privately-funded Foundation for Excellence. A grand re-opening for the park, including a special outdoor Kalamazoo City Commission meeting, is set for September 17th.

(Kalamazoo Gazette) Murders and nonfatal shootings are down in the City of Kalamazoo, according to the Department of Public Safety. The the city has had three murders so far this year. That compares to eight at this time last year. Four years ago the city had nearly 50 nonfatal shootings, but that number dropped to 20 in 2016 and 2017 and is at 14 so far this year. The Department of Public Safety says it has reached out to gang members to encourage nonviolent behavior in recent years. Officials say the drop in crime shows that the campaign is working.

(Gongwer) It's still unclear whether the "Promote the Vote" ballot proposal will appear on the ballot in November. State elections officials didn't find enough valid petition signatures for it to qualify automatically, so they're checking more signatures. The proposal would allow no-reason absentee voting, among other things. Supporters say that would improve voter access at the polls. The campaign says it's confident that the proposal will be certified by the September 7th deadline.

(Gongwer) The fight over a proposed ballot question that targets gerrymandering continues. Supporters and opponents have given the state very different ballot language. The group behind the proposal, Voters Not Politicians, says the new panel that would set political lines should be called "an independent citizens' commission." But opponents prefer "majority partisan redistricting commission." The commission would have people representing Democrats, Republicans, and independents. Political boundaries are currently set by state lawmakers. The State Board of Canvassers has the final say on wording of the November ballot.

(Gongwer) The state is sharing more of its tax revenue with local governments. But those that probably need it the most will get less money. The state is expected to send nearly $21 million to counties, cities, townships, and villages during the fiscal year that starts in October. But a special grant program for "financially distressed" communities will get only $2.5 million. That's half of what it was this year. State officials the cut was needed to meet the state's regular revenue sharing obligations set by Michigan's constitution.

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