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E-M:/ NEWS: Sunday feature on Friends of Detroit River 3/04/01


A real nice piece on the Friends of the Detroit River,
two big pictures on page 1 of Section C of the Sunday NEWS/Freepress:

". . .the groups efforts have not been easy and one of its greatest 
problems has been with the Michigan Department of Environmental 
Quality. . . the department has been more of a hindrance. . . 
issuing permits to companies that hurt the  environment.

". . .Ken Silfven, spokesperson for the state agency, said, 
'. . . We just have  different mindsets. . . I don't get the 
impression they want to work with us to get things done. . . '"
Title: Volunteers rock-solid in cleaning Detroit River - 03/04/01

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Sunday, March 4, 2001

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Volunteers rock-solid in cleaning Detroit River
A decade of hard work beginning to pay off

Morris Richardson II / The Detroit News

Don Griffin and other volunteers have picked up trash along Metro Detroit waterways for a decade.


Morris Richardson II / The Detroit News

Don Griffin, a Friend of the Detroit River volunteer, poses with a replica of "The Thinker" in pursuit of the group's goal to make waterways sparkle.

Group's goals
* Reduce air, land and water pollution in the Detroit River watershed.
   * Achieve public ownership and arrange maintenance of uninhibited islands in the river.
   * Create publicly owned access area that connect riverside parks between Lake St. Clair and Lake Erie.
   * Exchange information and promote cooperation with agencies and other groups.

   Other crusaders

   * Southeast Michigan Wildlife Rehabilitation, Inc.: (734) 671-1086.
   * Friends of Belle Isle: (313) 331-7760.
   * Friends of the Rouge: (313) 792-9626.
   * Rails to Trails Conservancy: http://www.railtrails.org/MI/
   * United Earth Fund, Michigan chapter: http://www.uef1.org/03uefmi/index.html
By Shanteé Woodards / The Detroit News

    DEARBORN -- Some day, the Detroit River will be so crystal clear that neighboring Canadians will look across the river and be envious of Metro Detroiters.
   At least, that's a goal of local environmentalists. For now, groups such as Friends of the Detroit River are doing what they can to clean up Michigan's waterways.
   "When you go to Canada (the Detroit River) looks so pretty, but when come here (and look toward Canada) it's like, yuck," said Melvindale City Councilwoman Jeannine Annsley, founder of the group. "And (the river) is not for Canada, it's for us. I think we can do it better than them if we put our minds to it."
   Friends of the Detroit River is in its 10th year of preserving wildlife and cleaning up waterways that affect the Detroit River. The task is to reduce the pollution of the air, land and water in the Detroit River watershed. The group's ultimate goal is to create a path of greenways connecting parks from Grosse Pointe in Lake St. Clair to Point Mouillee on Lake Erie.
   The nonprofit organization has about 100 active members and 400 paying members. The group distributes a newsletter that reaches about 4,000 residents in southeast Michigan. Its latest effort is its newly formed Save the Detroit River Habitats Task Force. The purpose of the group is to stop the development of wetlands, marshes and islands located off of the river.
   But the group's efforts haven't been easy and one of its greatest problems has been with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.
   The department has been more of a hindrance on the group's efforts through issuing permits to companies that hurt the environment, members said.
   The department has had a contentious relationship with the environmental group, said Ken Silfven, spokesman for the state agency.
   "We just have different mindsets," Silfven said. "They deliberately keep us at arm's length, and I don't get the impression that they want to work with us to get things done."
   Most recently, the department gave its approval to Birmingham-based Environmental Disposal System to build a commercial hazardous waste disposal well, which many Downriver residents opposed. The well, in Romulus, would put waste 4,000 feet underground at a site just east of Metro Airport. The well would inject about 4,000 gallons of hazardous waste into the ground each day.
   The city of Romulus has spent more than $1 million on attorneys over the last 10 years to fight the well, while Taylor -- which adjoins the proposed site -- has spent $500,000. Last year, a state committee voted to deny any permits to EDS. But state officials overruled the committee. Prominent Southfield attorney Geoffrey Fieger joined the battle last month and called for an investigation of the state's decision to allow the well.
   Silfven stands behind the department's decision and said the well will pose no health risks to area residents, which many believed. Group members continue to criticize the well.
   "For every victory, we still suffer about two defeats," said Don Griffin, treasurer of the Detroit River group. "Everybody was opposed to (the well)."
   One of the Detroit River's biggest polluters has been the Rouge River, which has four main branches totaling 125 miles of waterways flowing through Wayne and Oakland counties.
   The Detroit River group works continuously with Friends of the Rouge River in cleaning up that waterway.
   And it wasn't that long ago when environmentalists were pulling furniture, home appliances and even automobiles out of the Rouge in the clean-up effort. But times have changed, said Jim Graham, executive director of the Rouge group.
   "It seems to have changed dramatically where now at these work sites you can count the number of bags of trash, rather than trucks of trash," said Graham, who is also an adviser to the Detroit River group.
   "What (both groups) try to do most is raise awareness of issues that relate to our rivers."

You can reach Shanteé Woodards at (313)561-8623 or swoodards@detnews.com.