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Sept. 24, 2010

EPA grants focus on restoring Great Lakes waterways

EAST LANSING, Mich. — From better beach testing to controlling harmful algal blooms, a group of Michigan State University researchers has been awarded more than $3 million in federal grants focusing on restoring Great Lakes waterways.

U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow joined MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon and Cameron Davis, a senior adviser with the Environmental Protection Agency, on Sept. 24 on MSU's campus to talk about the federal Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

The $475 million plan is the largest investment in the Great Lakes in two decades, Stabenow said. It calls for aggressive efforts to address the cleanup of toxins, combat invasive species such as Asian carp, promote near shore health and restore wetlands and other habitats.

"The Great Lakes are vital to our economy and our way of life," Stabenow said. "These dollars will be used to protect, clean up, and restore our Great Lakes and watersheds including the Saginaw, Keweenaw, and Little Traverse Bays. This funding will also be used to monitor the health of our beautiful beaches so Michigan families and tourists can enjoy them for years to come."

Water security is an increasingly urgent global issue and a core competency of MSU's research portfolio, Simon said.

"These seven grants illustrate the depth and breadth of MSU's expertise," she said. "From the science of understanding contamination in our lakes, streams, fish and groundwater to the plans and policies that can protect them and the outreach and education necessary to support those policies, MSU faculty are deeply engaged across the board. We are very pleased to work with the EPA on this new set of projects."

MSU will be working on the following projects:

  • Improving water quality in Coon Creek ($202,628): Maximum limits for E. coli and dissolved oxygen within the East Branch Coon Creek in Macomb County were established in 2006. This project will improve water quality by developing an implementation plan to reach those limits in this waterway, which is a Clinton River area of concern as established by the EPA. Led by Amirpo Nejadhashemi, Steve Miller and Abdullah Abdulkadri.
  • Educating health care providers about Great Lakes fish ($1.5 million): Researchers will develop a comprehensive curriculum concerning the benefits and dangers of eating fish. They also will develop three standardized patient cases for use in medical schools and medical residencies. The cases will be designed to evaluate a trainee's ability to assess a patient at risk for exposure to harmful levels of chemicals from eating fish. Led by Ken Rosenman, Gary Ferenchick, and David Solomon.
  • Virus quantification and identifying pollution sources ($217,553): The project aims to enhance the beach surveys (used to identify dangers at the state's beaches) with the species-specific identification of human and animal viruses. This will allow researchers to identify sources of microbial pollution to the beaches and enhance efforts to evaluate factors that influence pathogen occurrence. Three beaches will be selected from the following areas: Traverse City, Saginaw Bay and Sault St. Marie. Led by Irene Xagoraraki
  • Contaminants' effects on Great Lakes perch ($498,434): Little is known about the subtle and/or sublethal effects of contaminants on fish. This study will focus on the impact that methylmercury (a neurotoxin) exposure has on yellow perch - a species of economic and ecological importance to the Great Lakes. Led by Cheryl Murphy.
  • Managing and controlling harmful algal blooms ($499,954): Alleviating and controlling harmful algal blooms has been challenging because it has been difficult to identify the relationship between what triggers them and what feeds them. This study will not only shed light on the relationship between coastal algal bloom risk and nutrient sources, but it also will identify actions that will reduce the problem in the Great Lakes. Led by Robert Stevenson, David Hyndman and Jiaguo Qi.
  • Saginaw Bay/Lake Huron Land Policy Program ($399,287): To help implement the Lake Huron Lakewide Management Plan, the MSU Land Policy Institute will engage local officials and landowners in reducing pollutants that enter Lake Huron, Saginaw Bay and associated tributaries. The project will conduct planning and zoning audits, legal analyses, conferences, and workshops and build local capacity. Led by Mark Wyckoff and Soji Adelaja.
  • Forecasting beach and near-shore health effects ($65,000): The MSU Center for Advancing Microbial Risk Assessment will attempt to improve the forecasting of beach and near-shore health effects, using a risk tool to quantify risk levels for pathogens, such as Campylobacter, E. coli, Salmonella, Giardia, Cryptosporidium, Norovirus, Rotavirus and Adenovirus. Led by Joan Rose and Mark Weir.

For grant project descriptions or more information on the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, please visit


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