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Re: E-M:/ Discharge Permit Backlog Eliminated -- The Full Story

Enviro-Mich message from Dave Dempsey <davemec@voyager.net>

In recent press statements, the Department of Environmental Quality has 
boasted of several environmental accomplishments which actually are the 
result of public pressure.  In fact, DEQ appears to be counting on the 
amnesia of the news media. The agency is claiming credit for actions it was 
forced to take.

Correcting the Backlog of Expired Permits

In an October 18, 2000 press release, the DEQ proudly announced, "The 
Department of Environmental Quality has completed a five-year program to 
eliminate its backlog of expired wastewater permits, ensuring that 
up-to-date environmental protection provisions are in place for all 
discharges to Michigan's surface waters."  But was this an initiative of a 
concerned DEQ? No.

In a press release dated May 24, 1993, Clean Water Action announced that 
"over 600 communities and companies discharging pollutants to Michigan's 
lakes and streams have expired permits and the backlog is increasing."  CWA 
found that the backlog had increased from about 35% of all permits to 
nearly 48% since the Engler Administration took office.

Even this publicity wasn't enough by itself to stir the state to do its job 
under the Clean Water Act. A nearly continuous closing of beaches at Lake 
St. Clair during the summer of 1994 caused a public uproar. Reporters 
looking into the state's water pollution control program pointed out the 
backlog of expired permits had allowed such facilities as the Twelve Towns 
Drain, a major source of the lake's contamination, to discharge under 
outdated conditions. The Legislature promptly appropriated funds and 
ordered the then-DNR to address the backlog within five years.

In effect, DEQ is claiming credit for solving a problem it created itself, 
and was forced to address after public pressure.

Dave Dempsey
Michigan Environmental Council
119 Pere Marquette, Suite 2A
Lansing, MI 48912

517-487-9539 (phone)
517-487-9541 (fax)


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