Bryce Huffman | Michigan Radio
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Bryce Huffman

West Michigan Reporter

Bryce Huffman is Michigan Radio’s West Michigan Reporter. Huffman has been serving as a reporter for Michigan Radio since Fall 2016.

He has covered a variety of Michigan stories, including immigrants facing deportation, residents dealing with ongoing groundwater contamination, and tension between the black community and Grand Rapids police.

A Detroit native, Huffman graduated from Central Michigan University with a degree in Journalism. He joined Michigan Radio as a newsroom intern in May 2016.

MDEQ map
Bryce Huffman / Michigan Radio

In response to concerns about groundwater contamination, the city of Kalamazoo told Richland Township residents Wednesday night it could extend its water system to the township. 

Gov. Rick Snyder
gophouse.com

The state of Michigan could soon be taking legal action against the company that manufactures Scotchgard.

Governor Snyder asked the state’s Attorney General Bill Schuette to initiate legal action against the company because it makes products that use PFAS.

PFAS is a group of chemicals that are the source of ongoing water contamination around the state.

The chemicals have been linked to changes in liver, thyroid, and pancreatic function in animal studies.

Bill Gelineau and John Tatar
Bryce Huffman / Michigan Radio

Infrastructure spending, legalizing marijuana, and education reform were all big talking points at Michigan’s first Libertarian gubernatorial debate in Grand Rapids last night.

The two candidates, Bill Gelineau and John Tatar, both expressed dissatisfaction with the two-party system. They agree it's done more to hurt Michigan than to help.

“Because up to now we’ve had the same old same old, and if you vote for the same two parties and expect a change that’s insanity,” Tatar said.

Ever Reyes Mejia and his 3 year old son leaving the ICE office in Grand Rapids.
Bryce Huffman / Michigan Radio

Three parents were able to finally see their children again today in Grand Rapids.

It had been three months since these dads seeking asylum in the U.S. were separated from their children. All of whom are under five years old.

Downtown Grand Rapids
Grguy2011 / Public Domain

Some community members will have a say in who fills vacant city commission seat in Grand Rapids.

The Third Ward city commission seat was held by David Allen until he resigned last month. Allen is focusing on his job at the Kent County Land Bank.

There are ten finalists for the empty Third Ward city commission seat. A subcommittee of residents, business owners and current commissioners will interview them at city hall tomorrow from 4:00 to 6:30 p.m.  

Grand Rapids
Steven Depolo / Flickr

Michigan members of Congress from both sides of the political aisle visited a refugee foster care facility in Grand Rapids today.

Democrats Debbie Dingell and Dan Kildee, along with Republican Bill Huizenga are urging the Trump administration to speed up the process of reuniting families separated at the southern border.

Attorney General Bill Schuette
(courtesy Michigan Attorney General's office)

Attorney General Bill Schuette is denying any wrongdoing in connection with using staff in his state office to witness sales of inherited Virgin Islands property.

Congressmen Tim Walberg (left) and Bill Huizenga (right)
U.S. House of Representatives

Two congressmen from Michigan were denied access to a site where refugee children are staying.

Congressmen Bill Huizenga and Tim Walberg represent Michigan’s second and seventh congressional districts, respectively.

The two visited with Bethany Christian Services in Grand Rapids today to discuss legislation that aims to reunite families that were separated at the country’s southern border.

Wendell Brownstanding at the front of a classroom
Courtesy of Antoinette Brown

Former Canadian Football League player and Detroit native Wendell Brown has been sentenced to four years in prison in China.

Brown moved to Chongqing, China to play for a startup American football league, but ended up coaching players instead.  

Protestors standing by podium
Bryce Huffman / Michigan Radio

Several people in Grand Rapids protested the separation of children from their parents today.

About 150 protestors stood outside Bethany Christian Services to speak out against U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

In April Sessions announced a "zero tolerance" policy on undocumented immigrants, which caused refugee families to be split up at the country’s southern border. President Trump this week announced he'd reverse the policy, and a federal judge ordered a halt to separations -- and the reunification of families that have been separated.

 

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The Grand Rapids Police Department wants to rebuild trust with the community. So it started a pilot program that it hopes will help do that.

The department is using principles from a book called The Speed of Trust to bridge the gap between community members and itself.

Eric Payne, the deputy chief of police in Grand Rapids, says communication between police and community is most important.

“Once we establish that, I think that’s where relationships get built, and then trust comes from that,” Payne said.

Blueberries
Andrew Malone / Flickr

Lawyers for a group of migrant workers agreed to settle a lawsuit with a West Michigan blueberry farm for $200,000.

More than 300 blueberry farmers claim Blue Star Farms in Allegan County, which is about 40 minutes from Grand Rapids, never paid them fully during between 2011 and 2013 seasons.

The farm workers sued in 2016, but earlier this month Blue Star Farms agreed to settle.

ArtPrize event in Grand Rapids
Rich Evenhouse / flickr user

The Grand Rapids Art Prize festival will no longer be an annual event after this fall.  

In 2019 and every alternating year afterward, there will be a citywide art project – or "Project 1" as organizers are calling it – during the time the festival would take place.

The tenth annual ArtPrize event will be this fall from September 19 to October 7.  The eleventh festival will be in fall 2020.

Organizers did not make it clear why the changes were made, but Project 1 will include free arts and culture programming that are open to the community.

The DEQ PFAS Investigation Map near Rockford, MI
From Google map provided by Wolverine Worldwide

The West Michigan shoe manufacturer at the center of a groundwater contamination saga in Kent County wants manufacturing giant 3M to foot some of the bill for the lawsuits it faces.

Wolverine World Wide is the defendant in more than 140 lawsuits regarding drinking water contaminated with chemicals known as PFAS.

3M used PFAS in products like Scotchgard, and Wolverine used Scotchgard to waterproof shoes for brands like Merrill and Hush Puppies over many years.

PFAS have been linked in animal studies to some forms of cancer and other health problems.

Michigan Democratic candidates at the podium
Mike Buck / WOOD TV 8

Immigration and infrastructure were a couple of the big themes as Michigan’s Democratic gubernatorial candidates debated one another in Grand Rapids last night.

Gretchen Whitmer, Shri Thanedar and Abdul El Sayed share the stage.

Thanedar, the only candidate born outside the U.S, says there is a lot of discrimination against immigrants in Michigan.

“I see that discrimination because I’m an immigrant and I see the discrimination because of the color of my skin. And thousands of Michiganders experience that,” Thanedar said.

Water faucet
user william_warby / Flickr http://bit.ly/1xMszCg

A report on the dangers of PFAS exposure that was suppressed by the EPA was released today.

The report details the health effects of PFAS and recommends the advisory level for these chemicals be made stricter.

Emails that surfaced last month found that the EPA feard a "public relations nightmare" would ensue once the report was made public. 

Soo Locks
Jim Newsome / flickr http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The state of Michigan could pay $50 million to help upgrade the Soo Locks – that’s if the federal government takes the lead.

Gov. Rick Snyder, Lt. Gov. Brian Calley and some state lawmakers sent a letter to President Trump today pledging money to add another 1,000-foot lock between lakes Superior and Huron.

This would help get raw materials between Lake Superior and the other Great Lakes more easily.

President Trump made upgrading the locks a point of emphasis in speeches earlier this month.  

Red Lion restaurant sign in Grand Rapids
Rolin Stone Timmerman - Flickr / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

A $330,000 state grant will help redevelop a contaminated site in Grand Rapids.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality approved the grant for the brownfield site earlier this week.

Kara Wood, who oversees the city’s Brownfield Redevelopment Authority, says the grant moves the project forward.

“So this approval helps them cross that starting line to get started on those environmental activities in order to demolish the building and construct the project that they intend to build,” Wood said.

For Rent sign
Kurt Bauschardt / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The city of Grand Rapids has a proposed ordinance that aims to protect renters from predatory landlords.

But residents at a public hearing during a city commission meeting last night don’t think the ordinance is harsh enough on bad landlords.

The ordinance would fine landlords $50 for not returning application fees to prospects who were rejected. Each additional infraction would increase the amount landlords must pay.

Two students on stage
Bryce Huffman / Michigan Radio

A group of high school and middle school students in Muskegon have recently discovered the power of poetry. That’s thanks to an after school workshop led by three West Michigan poets.

Charles Pickett Jr.
Kalamazoo County Sheriff's Office

Charles Pickett Jr. was sentenced to a minimum of 40 years in prison for his role in a car crash that left five cyclists dead and four injured. 

Water filter
Bryce Huffman / Michigan Radio

Plainfield Township installed a PFAS filter at its water treatment plant this week.

The new filtration system will remove a family of chemicals known as PFAS, which have been found at low levels in township water.

Downtown Grand Rapids
Steven Depolo / Creative Commons

If you’re a Grand Rapids resident with an idea for a community engagement project, the city could give you money to make that idea happen.

Residents can apply every three months for up to $2,500 in match funds for neighborhood projects. These projects can range from community gardens to community yoga classes.

Residents have the entire month of June to fill out an application, which the city is willing to help people with. Application forms are on the city’s website.

Grand Rapids Police cruiser
Bryce Huffman / Michigan Radio

Black residents in Grand Rapids have thought for decades that the city’s police targeted them unfairly. But a traffic study released last year put some data behind these long-held beliefs.

Lake Michigan
Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

Lake Michigan’s E. coli and swimming advisories are down from previous years. A recent study says that’s both good and bad.

The study looks at Lake Michigan’s beaches from 2000 to 2014. You can read the full study here.

Chelsea Weiskerger, a PhD student at Michigan State University who co-authored the report, says the lower E. coli numbers mean that beaches are cleaner and safer for recreational use.

A diver inspects Enbridge's Line 5 pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac for a possible dent.
Enbridge inspection video shared with the state of Michigan

UPDATED 5/25/18 at 2:13 pm.

A new poll by Lansing-based EPIC-MRA poll found 54% of Michigan voters want the Line 5 oil pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac to be shut down.

It also found that 87% of voters said they are concerned that the 65-year-old pipeline could have oil spill in Northern Michigan, while 64% said they are "very concerned."

Enbridge Energy, which is a corporate sponsor of Michigan Radio, owns and maintains Line 5.

A grouo of student inamtes wearing caps and gowns
Bryce Huffman / Michigan Radio

The first group of student inmates received their associate’s degrees from a program at Calvin College today.

Fifteen men walked out of the fieldhouse at Handlon Correctional Facility in Ionia today with their heads held high.

Those men all now have associate’s degrees in administrative leadership.

Larry Conic, a student inmate serving a life sentence for murder, says he wants to help younger inmates since he has no chance of parole.

“But you know what, if I have to stay here, I’m going to spend my time here making other people better,” Conic said.

Scott Pruitt, head of the EPA
Scottpruitt.com / Scottpruitt.com

Water advocacy groups in Michigan concerned about PFAS contamination want Scott Pruitt to resign as head of EPA.

This week, emails surfaced detailing the EPA’s decision to hide a report on the danger of chemicals known as PFAS.

According to the emails, the report was kept under wraps to avoid a “public relations nightmare.”

Chris Coulon, a member of the group Need Our Water – or NOW – says Scott Pruitt should not be allowed to head the EPA after hiding this information from the public.

Eastern Michigan University
F. Delventhal / Flickr Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Eastern Michigan University cut four of its sports programs. Now a pair of alums is suing the school.

Doug and Mary Willer are EMU alums and are boosters for the school’s wrestling program. That program is one of the four that is being cut.

Doug was a wrestler at EMU and is in the school’s sports hall of fame.

He says the university violated the Open Meetings Act by restricting the public comment portion of a Board of Regents meeting to just 30 minutes.

The DEQ PFAS Investigation Map near Rockford, MI
From Google map provided by Wolverine Worldwide

This post has been updated to more accurately describe the EPA's role in Wolverine Worldwide's testing at the company's former tannery site. 

West Michigan shoe-manufacturer Wolverine Worldwide is under more federal scrutiny.

The Grand Rapids Press reports the EPA wants Wolverine to begin testing groundwater and soil at the company’s former tannery in Rockford mid-month.

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