Friday, September 7, 2018

Lake Erie Threatened by Harmful Algae Blooms

Mike Stermitz is an environmental and water quality specialist who has undertaken inspections of construction projects, oil and gas fields, and bodies of water all across the United States. Mike Stermitz is experienced in water quality assessments and the steps necessary to achieve a healthy ecosystem.

One major issue impacting the Great Lakes over the past decade has been a sharp rise in harmful algae blooms, with one in late 2017 encompassing 700 square miles across Lake Erie’s western basin. 

With researchers pointing toward an elevated use of fertilizers in surrounding agricultural land as a primary cause, the bright green algae blooms are a concern because of the presence of cyanobacteria, which can produce toxins.

One such toxin, microcystin, is capable of damaging the liver. With 3 million people dependent on Lake Erie’s central basin for drinking water, this poses a significant concern. In 2014 levels of microcystin reached potentially dangerous thresholds, and Toledo ceased delivering water to a half million local residents for three days. 

One University of Michigan aquatic ecologist blames the agriculture industry and its phosphorus inputs to the soil, stating that the threat will persist until this fundamental issue is taken care of.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Protections Provided by Migratory Bird Treaty Act at Risk

Environmental specialist Mike Stermitz has over three decades of experience studying wildlife and pollution. In addition, he determined if entities were in compliance with existing laws and regulations and issued violations if required measures were not taken. Functioning as a construction manager for Arcadis, a global design and consulting firm, Mike Stermitz has conducted surveys pertaining to the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA).

Established in 1918, the MBTA was one of the National Audubon Society’s first victories. Written in response to the extinction or near extinction of several species of birds in North America, the act in its current form makes it illegal to hunt, kill, or trap over 1,000 species of birds. In 1972, it was expanded to add protections for several more species. At that time, the act began to be used in the prosecution of companies whose practices needlessly killed birds.

In response to heightened monetary penalties, industries enacted numerous, relatively inexpensive measures that save the lives of millions of birds that are exposed to harmful oil waste pits or attracted to gas flares and lights on communications towers. Due to a recent legal opinion released by the U.S. Department of the Interior, the accountability that the MBTA provided is now at risk. In the opinion, the MBTA can no longer be used in the prosecution of industries that fail to use basic preventive measures to inhibit the accidental deaths of birds.

Conservationists are very concerned about the implications of the legal opinion. The action rolls back basic conservation measures that have received bipartisan support for a century. As a result of the opinion, they argue that millions of birds will be at risk. Proponents of the measure argue that the opinion will prevent certain industries from being unfairly targeted using the MBTA.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Water Protection Efforts on the Flathead Indian Reservation

Mike Stermitz’s career as an environmental inspector has seen him carry out projects in more than 10 states on behalf of private- and public-sector organizations. Mike Stermitz also has spent time working to protect the water of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT), an Indian nation whose members live on the Flathead Indian Reservation in western Montana. 

The CSKT have engaged in efforts to protect the quality of the water in the Flathead Indian Reservation (FIR) since receiving approval for “treatment as a state” under the Clean Water Act in 1989. Today, CSKT maintains both Water Pollution Control and Water Quality Standards programs.

These programs strive to protect the three river drainages that flow entirely or in part through FIR. Together, the drainages account for numerous groundwater aquifers, wetlands, streams, and lakes, including Flathead Lake, a significant portion of which sits within the reservation’s borders. In focusing on maintaining the integrity of the drainages, CSKT aims to ensure access to clean water for members of the Indian nation and for the myriad wildlife that call FIR home.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Five Tips to Prevent Stormwater Pollution

A construction manager for various Arcadis’ projects across four states, Mike Stermitz possesses more than 10 years of experience in scientific study, research, and sampling for the purposes of environmental protection. Mike Stermitz also formerly conducted Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP) inspections for oil and gas companies in western North Dakota. Members of the public can join in stormwater pollution prevention efforts by considering the following tips:

1. Use pesticide and fertilizer alternatives. There are a number of alternatives to chemical pesticides and fertilizers, such as composting and implementing Integrated Pest Management (IPM) practices. Some garden stores also sell ladybugs that eat garden pests like aphids. If you do purchase a chemical-based product, choose brands designated as “least toxic” to the environment. 

2. Properly dispose of green waste. Clear away green waste from your yard using dry methods, and avoid washing it down the gutter or storm drains. Use green waste bins and leave green waste at least two feet away from gutters if you live in an area that offers green waste pick-up services. You can also transform green waste into compost for gardening. 

3. Use commercial car washes. Using commercial car washes prevents oil, grease, soap, and other waste materials from washing down storm drains and gutters. If you do wash your car in the driveway, sweep up debris from sidewalks and soak up excess liquid using paper towels or cloths. You can also use kitty litter to absorb remaining water and oil. 

4. Pick up animal waste. Pet waste can contain harmful bacteria, so remember to always clean up after pets and bring waste bags when you take dogs on walks. You can also flush accidents at home down the toilet or bury small amounts of waste in the backyard for natural decomposition. Just remember to bury it away from vegetable gardens. 

5. Utilize waste drop-offs. Some cities offer programs or operate facilities for the drop-off and disposal of chemical and oil-based products. Check for these programs in your area and utilize them for the disposal of products such as oil-based paints, thinners, and household chemicals.