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Great Lakes Article:

PCB-affected canal creates health worries

Neighbors urge action on the contamination

May 17, 2002

BY PEGGY WALSH-SARNECKI
Detroit Free Press

Some St. Clair Shores residents living near a PCB-contaminated canal say they are afraid the chemical is affecting their health.

They and others have formed a group to push for more action in cleaning up lake pollution. They've come up with a list of demands that they plan to fire at every federal, state and local government agency they think could help.

"We've been told that this may end up being the second-largest in the nation and the largest in the state," resident Donna Hetzel said Monday at a news conference. "But we can't get any answers."

Officials said they were surprised by residents' claims.

"We have a ton of material out there," St. Clair Shores spokeswoman Mary Jane Burnell said Thursday. "We have had resident meetings; the Macomb County Health Department has a health line, a hot line; we've had the EPA before the City Council twice; we have a city Web site that has all types of information; we've had a city newsletter address a lot of the questions regarding health as well as letters to the residents."

EPA officials have said the cleanup will begin after a report on the contamination is released in mid to late July. Residents say that's too long to wait.

The residents may get some assistance from U.S. Rep. David Bonior, D-Mt. Clemens. The gubernatorial candidate is asking the EPA to begin the cleanup immediately.

Meanwhile, the residents are demanding:

  • More monitoring of Lake St. Clair and all canals, drains and sanitary sewers.

  • Regulatory agency attendance at a June 5 public forum at Lake Shore High School.

  • Designation of the PCB-contaminated area as an emergency response site.

  • A restriction against boating and fishing in contaminated areas.

  • Completion of a health study of those living in the areas, and free or low-cost testing for people, pets and property.

  • Investigation of lawns and gardens in the area.

  • Enforcement of the Clean Air and the Clean Water Act.

  • Cleanup of the PCB contamination safely, quickly and effectively.

    PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, are toxic at levels as low as 1 part per million.

    Officials say the chemicals were apparently illegally dumped into the St. Clair Shores storm drains, between Harper and Lake St. Clair and Bon Brae and Jefferson. For information, check out www.ci.saint-clair-shores.mi.us.

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