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Great Lakes Article:

WATER INSULT: Fewer inspections, reports will hurt lakes
Detroit Free Press
10/08/03

The Michigan quarter may have the imprint "Great Lakes State," but you'd never know it from what the Legislature is doing.

Republican lawmakers in the House are on course to make Michigan a place where more than a third of regular inspections never occur at industries that discharge into its waterways; where information about chemicals being sent into sewers isn't available even to the public wastewater plants expected to handle them; and where short-staffing means violators may never get held to account.

Lawmakers worked first and most diligently to cripple the Department of Environmental Quality's water programs by starving its budget. The focus is Gov. Jennifer Granholm's sensible plan to shift the cost burden of regulating discharges by industry and sewerage plants. Currently all taxpayers bear that cost; the House finally agreed with Granholm to assign it directly to the dischargers, by assessing a fee for the permits they must have. But they set the fees so low that DEQ director Steve Chester says regular inspections would be cut by a third to half.

Then a House committee added real injury to budgetary insult: It voted to kill a crucial report companies must file on certain chemicals they have on hand, including how they dispose of them. The data provide a basis for figuring the load of specific pollutants in a given waterway -- or headed to a wastewater plant -- and can also boost public safety by helping fire departments and other responders plan for emergencies at industrial sites.

Dropping the report goes beyond the rubric that what's good for industry -- more privacy, less "red tape" -- is good for everyone. It's a gamble on well-being, not just of the Great Lakes but all its people.

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