“The top of the watershed is the brain; You start with the brain….”

“The top of the watershed is the brain; You start with the brain….”
May 15, 2017 Mary Ellen Geist
Photo courtesy of Dave Drullinger

First-ever Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Green Infrastructure Conference in Detroit

Storm water runoff. It isn’t pretty. And most of us don’t want to even THINK about what’s in it.

But it turns out how we manage storm water may hold the key to a healthy future for our cities and towns, and even to our very survival.

Photo courtesy of Dave Drullinger

Green Infrastructure 02, courtesy of Dave Drullinger

“Storm water is still identified as the number one contributor of pollutants to our streams, our lakes and indeed the Great Lakes,” says Dave Drullinger with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), who is a water quality specialist.

Drullinger is coordinating the first-ever Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Green Infrastructure Conference, which is centered on storm water management, to be held at Detroit’s Cobo Center May 31st through June 2nd.

Drullinger and the DEQ held a smaller version of the conference in Lansing in 2014. 340 people came. In  2015,  he helped the DEQ hold two more successful conferences about storm water management, in Traverse City and Grand Rapids.

The upcoming gathering in Detroit is the first Green Infrastructure Conference for the entire Great Lakes Region. Drullinger says, “We are now about to embark on the largest single event that the Department of Environmental Quality has ever hosted.”

140 Speakers on 8 different tracks

Photo courtesy of Dave Drullinger

Green Infrastructure 03, courtesy of Dave Drullinger

140 speakers are scheduled on 8 different tracks, from technology to economics to local government and multi-jurisdictional projects.

There will be special panels on Detroit’s storm water technology and even a panel called “China’s Sponge City” – because, Drullinger says, “The Chinese government is spending billions of dollars to develop green infrastructure due to flooding that has actually become deadly,  because the builders didn’t consider green infrastructure when they rapidly built big cities.”

Drullinger says the binational event is drawing people from across the globe.

“The top of the watershed is the brain; You start with the brain….”

 One of the keynote speakers is VP of AMEC Foster Wheeler Andy Reese, who has been working with Detroit’s Mayors office to help revitalize Detroit. Reese tells Great Lakes Now,

“You ask yourself what happens when a city takes a bath and if it hasn’t taken a bath in weeks, it’s as dirty as a ten-year old who hasn’t taken a bath in weeks!  So, the first amount of rain that falls on it encounters literally tons of gross things that it washes downstream –

everything that cars eject:   from asbestos from brake emissions; chemicals – everything that everybody puts on their yards: fertilizers and pesticides. The goose goo; all the dog poo……all the trash, and all the spills at gas stations, and people dumping anti-freeze down the drain. Grass clippings……. and on and on. You name it. “

Reese says he’ll have a strong message at the upcoming conference: “We have a lot of brains to change…….and we have a lot of behaviors to change and we have a lot of infrastructure to change. The top of the watershed is the brain. You start with the brain. “

“Green creates economic advantage in green neighborhoods”

Reese says green infrastructure is about much more than being responsible to the planet.

Photo courtesy of Dave Drullinger

Dequindre Cut, courtesy of Dave Drullinger

He says, “Green creates economic advantage in green neighborhoods. There are some amazing statistics:  crime goes down, SAT scores go up, health goes up, and the economics of stores in green areas are superior to the economic returns on normal streets in normal areas.”

In addition to the panels and seminars, the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Green Infrastructure conference features various tours in Detroit, including one that takes people on busses to the green roof at the Ford Rouge Plant and to Lawrence Tech, a bicycle tour from downtown Detroit to midtown, and to Milliken State Parks’ reconstructed wetlands.

DPTV’s Great Lakes Bureau will be covering the conference. Go to mi.gov/deqevents

For more information.

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