Summer 2016
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Inside this Issue
AAATA TheRide Partner Spotlight ~ 2016 E2P2 Award Ceremony a Success! ~ Ann Arbor Green Fair ~  Ann Arbor Dioxane Plume ~ Recycling Amid Crisis ~ E2PFall 2016 Sustainability Series ~ ReFED, Rethinking Food Waste ~ Volunteer Opportunities 
AAATA / TheRide
   The Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority (AAATA/TheRide) is a not-for-profit unit of government, serving as the local public transit system for the greater Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti area. The organization is founded on a mission that focuses on accessibility, safety, environmental responsibility, reliability, and cost-effectiveness. “TheRide, as a provider of public services, is always thinking about the ‘triple-bottom line’ and how we can use our resources to best serve the community while being as cost-effective and environmentally responsible as possible. Our goal is to give community members great options to travel sustainably,” said Sarah Pressprich Gryniewicz, TheRide’s coordinator of Sustainability efforts.
   TheRide's sustainable business practices have resulted in reduced energy usage by 18%, and water usage by 43%,and they are committed to continued improvement. TheRide has a long-running strong commitment to recycling, earning the organization the 2000 Waste Knot Environmental Excellence Award for waste reduction. TheRide has also invested in the largest-known proportion of hybrid-electric bus fleet in the nation, and is also the first transportation agency in the world to operate with an Allison xFE series transmission, technology 
that saves an estimated five metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions per bus, per year.
    The 2014 rebuilding of the Blake Transit Center in downtown Ann Arbor was designed to meet LEED-Gold Certification standards. As such, the eco-conscious facility features natural lighting, reflective roofs to decrease air conditioning needs, low-volume water fixtures, and storm water run-off collection systems. Solid and hazardous waste recycling efforts have also been increased, with materials such as engine oil, scrap metal, tire treads, batteries, ink cartridges, and transmission fluids all recycled through municipal recycling or other recycling vendors.
   In addition to these positive environmental changes, TheRide implemented the largest increase in service since 1979 on May 1, 2016. While more resources will be used to run buses, the expanded coverage, convenience, and availability of transit service is expected to attract more riders.  TheRide’s future goals include working towards a 90% reduction of total GHG emissions by 2050, updating its Sustainability Plan every five years, and maintaining a Sustainability Team that will continue to keep the organization focused on practices that help reduce waste and improve efficiency.  
Ann Arbor Dioxane Plume
    The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality is currently recommending changes to strengthen the drinking water clean-up standard for 1,4-Dioxane by a factor of 10 in a new rules package under consideration by the agency. The proposed standard is based on new information using a science-based process, including current EPA toxicity data and Michigan-specific exposure factors.  The 1,4-Dioxane drinking water standard in Michigan would be lowered from 85 parts per billion (ppb) to 7.2 ppb.
    The chemical 1,4-Dioxane is an industrial solvent that has been linked to human health concerns at certain concentrations coupled with long-term exposure. The change would affect contaminated sites across the state where 1,4-Dioxane has been shown to be present. The DEQ and the citizens of Ann Arbor city have been focused on the standard as it pertains to the Pall-Gelman contaminant plume, which has contaminated three square miles of groundwater below the City of Ann Arbor.
    The plume has not affected Ann Arbor’s drinking water supply. One Scio Township resident’s well water had 1,4-Dioxane levels greater than Michigan’s new proposed standard. That home has been connected to the city’s water supply. Gov. Rick Snyder’s proposed Fiscal Year 2017 budget includes an additional $700,000 for addressing the Pall-Gelman1,4-Dioxane plume.
“The Ann Arbor community and its leaders have been great partners in addressing this issue, and we look forward to continuing to work with them on addressing the Pall-Gelman plume,” said former DEQ director Keith Creagh.
    The calculation of the 1,4-Dioxane criteria is part of a major effort by the DEQ to update the criteria for 308 hazardous substances used to determine cleanup standards across the state. The new state standard assumes an exposure period of 32 years at the level of 7.2 ppb to protect public health.
    The Michigan standard will be an enforceable standard. It is based upon the same toxicity level as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency screening level. However, the federal screening level of 3.5 ppb – which is not enforceable -- assumes an exposure period of 70 years. The state standard assumes an exposure period of 32 years to provide a more realistic assumption of risk and greater protections for the public. The Michigan standard will be among the most protective state standards in the country.
   The DEQ’s process for updating these standards uses the latest, scientific information from reliable sources as well as Michigan-specific exposure scenarios to ensure the protection of public health, safety and welfare for all Michigan citizens. “We are in the process of finalizing the update for the cleanup standards for all hazardous substances and their exposure routes and will be releasing all of the proposed standards in April,” said DEQ Remediation and Redevelopment Chief Bob Wagner. “Review of the proposed rules will involve the Legislature as well as provide opportunity for public comment. We plan to finalize the rules as soon as possible with appropriate reviews.” 

More information can be found on the Washtenaw County Environmental Health webpage:
Recycling in MI
Amidst a Crisis
Since the media coverage of the Flint water crisis began, water donations have flooded in from citizens, organizations, and the Michigan Army National Guard alike. Millions of water bottles have been distributed across the city, begging the question: what happens to the bottles after they are used? Ideally, the influx of plastic bottles would result in increased plastics recycling. However, as plastic waste in Flint increases, the inability of city recycling programs to cope has become apparent. 
   One survey performed in January estimated that roughly 16% of Flint residents participated in recycling programs, a statistic explained partially by the fact that Flint’s curbside recycling program is only several years old. The program does not automatically include all homeowners so residents must call Flint’s waste management company, Republic Services, to obtain recycling bins. Although the age and ease of participation of Flint’s curbside recycling program may seem like the greatest barriers to its success, many consultants maintain that public education is the key. Khalid Iqbal, who runs the Flint Muslim Food Pantry, attests that when handing out water bottles to residents, most did not even know that Flint offers curbside recycling services.
   Although the donation of plastic water bottles to Flint residents is a generous, admirable, and well-intended gesture, it is a temporary fix at best. Flint has roughly 102,000 residents impacted by the water crisis. As the average American citizen uses roughly 50-60 gallons of water per day for basic household needs (excluding toilet flushes, running sprinklers, washing cars, etc.), Flint would have to receive 200 plastic water bottles per person, per day to ensure every citizen has clean water. This adds up quickly to over 20 million plastic water bottles per day to serve the entire Flint population. Even the most celebrated donations, such as the 100,000 bottles brought in by the Detroit Lions, only account for less than one bottle of water per resident for a single day. As it is predicted that a substantive solution to the water crisis will not be reached for at least a year, it is startlingly clear that keeping Flint running on bottle donations alone is simply not sustainable. Yet, as the most pressing issue is the provision of an immediate clean water supply to Flint residents, the plastic bottles keep pouring in. 
  To combat this issue by diverting millions of plastic water bottles from landfills, local company Young’s Environmental Cleanup, Inc. has offered expanded emergency recycling services in Flint since the end of January. The company has offices in both Flint and Grand Rapids, and has acted as a collection point for residents who wish to recycle their plastic bottles. Young’s has partnered with Averill Recycling and Great Lakes Recycling to recycle collected bottles and the joint efforts by these companies is expected to divert millions of bottles in the coming months. The effort has been extremely successful thus far, with recycling receptacles filling up faster than the city can empty them. In less than 24 hours, the bins are typically filled with up to 680 pounds of empty water bottles. As each plastic bottle takes roughly 450 years to degrade, these emergency services are crucial for the state’s long-term environmental health, as well as Flint’s available landfill space and ability to manage solid wastes as the Flint water crisis continues.
The 2016 Annual Award Ceremony for the Environmental Excellence Partnership Program, E2P2,was held on April 14.
2016 Environmental Excellence Winners:
Water Quality
 Waste Reduction 
Pollution Prevention
View photos at:

View CTN Video here.

Participation in E2P2 is voluntary and free!
All members of Waste Knot & Community Partners for Clean Streams are automatically part of  E2Pwhich collaborates with the County’s Pollution Prevention Program to recognize & reward Washtenaw  County’s environmental  business leaders.
Friday, June 11 
In coordination  with Ann Arbor city, the Washtenaw County E2P2 program  provided FREE exhibitor tables to E2P2  members at the Ann Arbor Green Fair! This benefit is offered to  E2P2 partners to show appreciation for your role as an environmental leader in the community.

The Scrap Box &
People's Food Co-op


The 2016 Green Fair is a partner of Zero Waste Washtenaw, a new program which provides recycling & composting services and education at public & private events throughout Washtenaw County to help organizations and communities achieve zero waste goals!    
ReFED: Rethinking Food Waste
A first-of-its-kind national study, "A Roadmap to Reduce U.S. Food Waste by 20 Percent" examines the economic  potential  - $218 billion worth! - of food waste  reduction practices in the United States. The study was produced by ReFED and written in part by Ann Arbor-based and long-time Waste Knot partner Resource Recycling Systems. It identifies a total of 27 specific practices that can prevent, rescue or recycle food waste. It estimates how much could be saved by different organizations by implementing each of the 27 solutions. Interestingly enough, the data indicates that each individual practice saves more in food value than it costs to implement, and shows that the overall investment in these practices would pay back five-fold in the value of food saved.

The issue of food waste has been a growing concern locally and nationally. Currently, the majority of food waste produced commercially and by residents is sent to the landfill out of convenience and habit, which many experts consider a wasted resource. Leading up to ReFED's release of the Roadmap, no such comprehensive economic guide existed to help businesses and environmental leaders navigate through steps to tap into the economic potential of food waste. Nor did the economic incentive exist.

One of the 27 steps included in the ReFED study includes Centralized Composting. The city of Ann Arbor is currently the only municipality in Washtenaw County offering its residents an alternative to food waste recovery through their curbside food scraps compost program, demonstrating their leadership in the area of food waste. They also allow for commercially generated food waste at their compost site, which is managed by WeCare Organics. The University of Michigan Ross School of Business also facilitates an in-house food waste collection program where food waste is sent to the city's site.  
Visit for more in-depth information.
September 2016 Sustainability Series

"Green Infrastructure Nature Walk"

Tuesday, September 13th,6pm at Mary Beth Doyle Park
Join us for a nature walk around Mary Beth Doyle Park where we will showcase mitigated wetlands, the detention basin, Malletts Creek, rain gardens and more green stormwater features! Learn about past projects to clean & cool the creek, and ongoing restoration projects. Everyone is welcome and about half of the walk will be on a paved path. Wear comfortable shoes and bring water. The walk will be lead by Catie Wytychak and Susan Bryan from the Water Resources Commissioner's Office.

"Creating a Culture of Sustainability"
Wednesday, September 29th from 2-4pm at 705 N. Zeeb Rd
Join us for a webinar and discussion on about integrating sustainability within your organization. Find a pathway to begin your journey towards sustainability, or further efforts you already have in place. Topics will include integration within your business plan and vision, the importance of goals and reporting, employee engagement, and accountability. Kris Spaulding from Brewery Vivant will share their secrets to successfully implementing the triple bottom line (people, planet, profit) into their business model.
Refreshments will be served. 
Adopt-A-Rain Garden
If you or your organization would like to become a steward of one of our public rain gardens, we welcome your help! Stewards help by maintaining and monitoring our rain gardens. Please email Catie at or call (734) 222-6813 for more information.

Volunteer at an Upcoming Workdays
  • Love A Park Day at Arbor Oaks Park Rain Gardens | August 10th from 10am-12pm
    Meet at the Arbor Oaks park entrance off of the Bryant Elementary School parking lot. We will be removing invasive weeds, transplanting natives and keeping this hard working rain gardens looking great! The City of Ann Arbor installed these rain gardens because there were often flooding complaints in the neighborhood. Rain gardens help control stormwater by holding it in the park instead of letting it flow into neighbor’s backyards and houses.
  • Love A Park Day at Burns Park Rain Garden | August 28th from 1pm-3pm
    Meet at the tennis courts next to the senior center parking lot off of Baldwin Ave. We will be removing invasive weeds and collecting some native seeds. Surrounding the tennis courts, this rain garden works to infiltrate stormwater running off the courts and the parking lot. Since the parking lot is heavily salted in the winter, the rain garden has salt resistant native plants.
  • Mary Beth Doyle Park Wetland and Rain Garden | September 9th from 1pm-3pm
    Meet at the park entrance off of the Birch Hollow Drive parking lot. We will be removing invasive weeds and collecting native seeds. Native seeds will be scattered in the spring to encourage a diverse mix of wildflowers and grasses. This mitigated wetland and detention basin helps slow and cool Malletts Creek as it flows to the Huron River.
  • Miller Ave Rain Gardens | September 24th from 9:30am-11:30am
    Meet at 1916 Miller Ave. We will be removing invasive species, collecting native seeds and may cut back some standing native plants. Sediment captured in the inlet will also be removed. Over 20 rain gardens line Miller Ave and help infiltrate stormwater running down the street.
For all rain garden workdays, gloves, tools and expertise will be provided! Wear clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty and closed toed shoes. Waterproof shoes are preferable! Email Catie at or call (734) 222-6813 with questions.

Visit our webpage for more up to date volunteer information at, then click on the events page under "How Can I Participate?"

  • Dexter Daze | August 12 - 13th  from 10am-8pm
    Join us at Dexter Daze in downtown Dexter. The Water Resources Commissioner's Office will be on hand sharing information on rain gardens, native plants and ideas we can all use around our homes to help protect our waterways. Over 100 exhibitors, free entertainment and more.
  • Plant Swap | September 11th from 1-2pm
    Meet at the Community Rec and Ed building at 1515 South 7th Street in Ann Arbor. Bring labeled, native rain garden plants to give away. Take new plants for your garden! Feel free to show up even if you don’t have any to give, there is always a surplus.

Thank you for everything you do to keep our rivers clean!

Copyright © 2016 Washtenaw County, All rights reserved.

Our mailing address is:
P.O. Box 8645, 705 N. Zeeb Rd, Ann Arbor Michigan 48107

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Washtenaw County Environmental Excellence Program · 705 N. Zeeb Rd. · Ann Arbor, Mi 48103 · USA

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