Mich. facilities violate Clean Water Act, study says
But officials at plants call report misleading
Detroit Free Press
Three out of four industrial and municipal facilities
across Michigan exceeded federal pollution standards between
1999 and 2001, including 35 percent of facilities that
released hazardous chemicals such as mercury and cyanide,
according to a new report released Thursday by Public
Interest Research Group In Michigan (PIRGIM).
Twelve facilities in Michigan exceeded their Clean Water
Act permit levels for highly hazardous chemicals by at
least ten times the legal limit, the report says.
The report, "In Gross Violation: How Polluters are Flooding
America's Waterways with Toxic Chemicals," was prepared
by the group and released to coincide with the 30th anniversary
of the Clean Water Act, today.
Analyzing data from the Environmental Protection Agency,
obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, PIRGIM
found that Michigan ranks 12th-worst in the country with
35 percent of facilities exceeding their permits for highly
The state ranks fifth-worst with Michigan facilities
exceeding their Clean Water Act permits for highly hazardous
chemicals by 2,258 percent -- 20 times the legal limit
-- according to the report.
The report expressed the violation in percentages over
Officials in cities with some of the worst pollution
said the data is misleading.
In Alpena, where the PIRGIM report listed mercury in
waste water at more than 76,000 percent above federal
limits, Michael Glowinski utilities manager for the waste
water treatment plant, said the report was ridiculous.
"We have been in compliance with our permit for 27 months,"
Glowinski said. "Our limitation for mercury is less that
what is contributed by rainwater. In the last 10 years
we have had two violations of our treatment permit."
At the Oakland County waste water plant in Novi mercury
discharges were listed at more than 17,000 percent over
But Jim Wineka, operations manager for the Oakland County
Drain Commissioner's Office, said the data represents
only one test.
"Our allowable levels of mercury are 0.20 micrograms
per liter and we had a test with 0.25 micrograms of mercury
on Jan. 11, 2001," Wineka said. "That's one non-compliance
in many, many years. It could have been a problem with
In St. Clair, where mercury was listed at 92,208 percent
over allowable limits, Bill Darmstaetter, superintendent
for the wastewater treatment plant, said the source of
mercury pollution was a dentist's office, which has installed
filters to absorb the mercury.
"The data is inaccurate and misleading," Darmstaetter
said. "If we had that many violations I'd be out of a
PIRGIM spokeswoman Megan Owens defended the data.
"We work to supply the data with as much care as possible,"
Owens said. "We encourage the EPA and the Michigan Department
of Environmental Quality to put this on their Web sites."
The report is available at www.pirgim.org