As the Detroit metropolitan area increases in size, now encompassing a geographic region of 870 square miles, demand for small town life (better schools, less traffic and crime, etc.) has accounted for a particular type of housing demand and development. The computing distance is now over one hour for half of the daily driving workforce, yet the trade-off of land (often with horses), waterfront sites, or just more house for the money have spurred a demand for property in outlaying, former lake-resort communities, like Fenton, Michigan where I live.
A modern environmental irony is represented by this shift, as the usage of waterfront and watershed related properties have increased, so have the problems of maintaining and preserving the natural health and beauty of the landscapes so in demand. The current architectural details of a newly built lake house rivals excesses of inner-urban, high-demand areas – zero-lot boundaries, multi-story designs, large garages (for boats and other recreational vehicles), paved driveways, and finely developed landscape designs. All of these produce unforeseen consequences of contaminating the water, wetlands, and ground water that feed the larger bodies of water. According to current study, pollution in rural areas is shifting from farming to development. From the Center for Disease Control Study of 2004,
“Water quality may be affected in several ways. With better control of "point sources" of water pollution -- factories, sewage treatment plants, and similar facilities -- "non-point source" water pollution has emerged as the major threat to water supplies. Non-point source water pollution occurs when rainfall or snowmelt moves over and through the ground, picking up contaminants and depositing them into surface water \(lakes, rivers, wetlands, and coastal waters\) and groundwater.
Much of this problem is specific to agricultural land, the primary source of contamination by fertilizers, herbicides, and insecticides. However, growing form of non-point source pollution include oil, grease, and toxic chemicals from roadways, parking lots, and other surfaces, and sediment from improperly managed construction sites, other areas from which foliage has been cleared, or eroding stream banks. Studies of the movement of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, zinc, and organic waste suggest that suburban development is associated with high loading of these contaminants in nearby surface water.
The two most obvious sources of trouble are inadequate sewage management and yard nutrient (fertilizer) runoff, each contributing to choking growth of aquatic plant life within the lakes and streams themselves and costing hundreds of thousands of dollars to combat.
My work covers eight years of documenting the continued development and pollution of the watershed and bodies of water in the outlying areas of southeast Michigan.