Michigan on list of worst polluters
Industries still violating water
act, report shows
August 8, 2002
BY DAN SHINE
Detroit Free Press
Michigan's lakes, rivers and streams continue to be
polluted by industrial and municipal facilities long after
the Clean Water Act was passed to stop such discharges,
according to a national environmental report obtained
by the Free Press.
TheMichigan public-interest group PIRGIM will
release a report today showing that water pollution from
Michigan plants and factories is among the worst in the
nation. The group used data from the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency for its report.
The state had 12 facilities -- second only to Texas
-- labeled in "significant noncompliance" with the Clean
Water Act for five consecutive quarters from January 2000
through March 2001. One of the 12 violators was the Detroit
Wastewater Treatment Plant, which was written up three
times for violating its monthly waste limits and twice
for not meeting a scheduled reporting date.
George Ellenwood, spokesman for the Detroit Water &
Sewerage Department, said an equipment failure caused
one discharge violation but didn't know what caused the
other two. Ellenwood also said that whenever the facility
knew it would not be able to meet a scheduled reporting
date, it requested an extension ahead of time.
Michigan also ranked ninth nationally for the number
of facilities -- 66 -- that violated its federal permits
at least once during the 15-month period studied by PIRGIM.
Those violators included the Downriver Wastewater Treatment
Plant in Wyandotte and the Oakland County Wastewater Treatment
Plant in Novi.
The violations ranged from discharging more waste than
permits allowed to failing to report discharges.
"This is our water -- the water we drink, the water
that we swim, fish and boat in," said Megan Owens, PIRGIM's
field director. "The people of Michigan should be disheartened
to know that so many facilities are consistently polluting
In Michigan, 183 facilities -- wastewater treatment
plants, factories and manufacturing plants -- are required
to have permits through the Clean Water Act. The act,
drafted in 1972, aimed to have all U.S. waterways clean
enough for swimming and fishing by 1983 and to end all
pollution discharges two years later.
PIRGIM said the Michigan Department of Environmental
Quality must be more vigilant with its enforcement and
give out more than a "slap on the wrist."
Patricia Spitzley, a MDEQ spokeswoman, said the agency
has collected $4 million in surface water quality fines
this past fiscal year. "We are out doing our job," she
said. "We are out there enforcing the law."
Owens said a 30-percent budget cut next year will result
in less enforcement.
But MDEQ officials pledged to keep inspectors out in
the field, and Spitzley said the budget cut won't "negatively
impact our ability to enforce the law."
Owens said PIRGIM and other groups will press the gubernatorial
candidates to spell out how they would improve the state's
"They all say they stand up for Michigan water," Owens
said. "We'll ask the candidates to talk about their plans
and have them promise that Michigan will strengthen its
water-quality standards." To see the full report,
go to www.uspirg.org.