By: Sarah Huskin
Summary: Between the mayhem our daily lives and the commotion that 2020 has presented, many Detroit citizens are unaware of the Detroit River spill that occurred this past November. The spill, likely due heavy storms and shoreline erosion from high tides, caused the collapse of limestone aggregate into the river. Revere Dock LLC currently owns the land of the spill site located on the shore of this essential tributary to five freshwater bodies in the region. Speculation in news articles seem to relay the same message that there’s been little to no accountability, and they have lacked concern. Many deadlines have been missed when the company was supposed to announce plans to clean up the mess and prevent others from occurring in the future. Now several agencies have been testing locations upstream, downstream and on-site for uranium, lead, chemicals and other heavy metals that have been released by the incident. A multitude of soil and water contamination tests, performed by several federal and local agencies, have concluded that the levels are safely below federal standards and poses “no current threat to human or environmental health”, according to main-stream-media articles. Several other problems with the property remain a risk, including an ever-widening sinkhole on the site, and the probable continual leaching of hazardous materials. The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) used sonar to examine the extent of the collapse in order to find the size and shape that a barrier would need to surround it. Silt-curtains are a special type of barrier placed around debris in rivers to prevent fine sediments from contaminating the body of water. In the months following the spill, the EPA and other organizations have donated $2.5 million since November towards cleaner and safer water for the Detroit River. Local and federal government agencies including the EPA, EGLE, the Great Lakes Water Authority and others are reaching out to Michigan’s lawmakers. Stricter regulations, precautionary measures, and closer monitoring of industrial sites and manufactures are some general ideas that people are pushing for now, in order to prevent the pollution and contamination of Michigan’s Great Lakes.
Why we should care? Despite being considered an Area of Concern (AOC) under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement of 1987, the Detroit River has been contaminated by manufacturing sites for decades.
I was interested in this article because I’ve lived in the Detroit area for most of my life and can remember the times we drove downtown as a family. I always felt disgust towards the scenery that I-94 has to offer of Detroit. Chimney smoke-stack factories graze the horizon and steel scrapyards litter the landscape. For 23 years I have driven past this and as a child I thought it would have changed by this point in my life. It’s kind of hard to understand why people have known about the problem and ways to resolve them for a very long time and yet nothing has significantly changed within the last few decades. One thing about this topic that stands out to me is the fact this massive freshwater resource is being polluted, and a lot of people don’t even blink an eye because it happens every day, and to be frank, it doesn’t really make the best headline. I hope that if there is a single positive outcome of the 2019 river spill, it would be that more people hear about this, and wake up and see the reality I’ve driven past 1,000 times in my 23 years.
Science in Action.
Liesl Clark was appointed as the Director of Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy by Michigan’s governor, Gretchen Whitmer in January of 2019.
Resources, Environmental policy, and agricultural policy have been the focus points throughout Clark’s career, finding herself taking up a variety of roles regarding them. When thinking about environmental disasters like the Detroit river spill, we can’t lose hope or give up or become enraged or angry. It’s important remember we have Liesl Clark and thousands of others like her that are working tirelessly, and never backing down in fighting for our future. People like this are good role models and are remarkable for their strength and willpower.