[Date Prev][Date Next][Date Index]

E-M:/ toxic leak into detroit river continues

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE				CONTACT:  Lana Pollack, Dave Dempsey
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 10, 2001			517-487-9539



	The Michigan Environmental Council (MEC) today revealed that a site
controlled by BASF Corporation in Riverview continues to leak toxic mercury,
PCBs and dioxins into the Detroit River three summers after the state
demanded a halt to toxic pollution and six months after MEC exposed the
leaking from the former chemical disposal site.

“The company and the state haven’t even posted a sign at a boat launch next
to this landfill, with a warning about the toxins leaking into the River,”
said Lana Pollack, president of MEC. “This is an abdication of DEQ’s
responsibility and an unjustifiable delay while the company is pressing for
a special deal,” Pollack charged.

	DEQ and area legislators have now received nearly 1,400 “request for
 action” sheets from local residents asking for a prompt, tough cleanup
plan, and the number continues to grow.

The DEQ ordered the company to take “immediate” actions to cease the
discharge of mercury and PCBs in spring 1999 but has failed to enforce the
order, state documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act show.
Other documents show that BASF has tentatively won an extraordinary deal
from DEQ management in which it can choose the remedy it wants to clean up
the mess, over the objections of DEQ technical staff. The deal could save
BASF millions of dollars, expose the River to unacceptable risks, and put
the onus on taxpayers to monitor and clean up contamination if BASF’s
self-selected remedy fails.

	“DEQ management is having an identity crisis,” said Lana Pollack, MEC’s
President. “The law says DEQ is supposed to protect the environment, but
management apparently believes its job is to protect the bottom line of

	In February, MEC exposed the fact that dioxin, mercury and PCB were found
at the site at levels well above state cleanup criteria. State documents
show that the dioxin and mercury releases to the River are believed to be
the highest of any current “point source” in Michigan.

	Dioxins are some of the most potent chemicals known, associated with
serious ecological and public health risks. Mercury is a potent neurotoxin
that can cause lifelong neurological damage. PCBs are a suspected
carcinogen. Children born of mothers who consumed large amounts of Great
Lakes sportfish containing elevated PCBs were found in a Wayne State
University study to have developmental delays. All three chemicals
bioaccumulate – or build up – in fish, posing long-term health risks to the
environment and human health.


·	State documents obtained by MEC under the Freedom of Information Act show
that DEQ technical staff and BASF representatives have disagreed sharply for
months about what is needed to protect the Detroit River and adjacent land
from massive contamination caused by mercury, dioxins, PCBs and
approximately two dozen other toxic chemicals found at the Riverview
Disposal site.

·	The documents also show that BASF officials have met with DEQ Director
Russell Harding to press their case for a less stringent cleanup.

·	BASF wants the state to back off its demand for a double wall to contain
the toxic substances at the Riverview site and permit it to build a single
steel wall.  In a similar situation recently at a site contaminated by PCBs
along the Saginaw River, DEQ required General Motors to build a double wall
to assure the river would be protected if the first wall failed.

·	Rather than support their own technical staff, Harding and his deputy have
decided to let BASF choose its own remedy so long as it meets “performance
standards” set by DEQ. Staff are effectively “muzzled” in reviewing the
technical merits of the remedy. In one document, a DEQ staffer wrote that
Deputy Director Arthur Nash “confirmed that we are not to tell BASF how to
achieve the performance standard.”

·	But DEQ staff have determined they can’t tell whether the measures
proposed by BASF will work to stop toxic contamination of the Detroit River
because BASF’s monitoring plan is inadequate to identify leaks.

·	DEQ staff have requested an upgraded monitoring plan.

·	DEQ management may well be asked again by BASF to back down and approve an
inadequate monitoring scheme, thus putting the onus on the state to look for
the contamination.  Further, documents show DEQ management have already told
BASF it will not be required to do routine chemical monitoring. This is
clearly unlawful.  The state’s environmental cleanup law includes a finding
by the Legislature:

“The legislature hereby finds and declares…that the responsibility for the
cost of activities pertaining to a release or threat of a release and
repairing injury, destruction or loss to natural resources caused by a
release or a threat of a release should not be placed upon the public except
when funds cannot be collected from, or a response activity cannot be
undertaken by, a person liable under this part.”


·	Stand by its own technical experts and permit them to comment and require
changes in the BASF plan in order to protect the public health and
environment, as required by law.

·	Base the cleanup requirements on long-term protection of the Detroit River
ecosystem and public health, not what is convenient for BASF.

·	Immediately post an informational notice at the Riverview boat launch
providing factual information about the PCB, mercury, and dioxin
contamination and a fish consumption advisory on the River.

·	Order to the company to pump, treat and remove leaking contaminants now to
prevent further bioaccumulation of toxins in the Detroit River.  No further
negotiations on a long-term cleanup plan should take place until this is

·	Permit representatives of the affected community to participate in any
further negotiations to assure their interests are protected in any

·	Require a double wall barrier to protect the River from migrating toxic
contamination in the event the first wall fails.

·	Require BASF to install a sophisticated, extensive monitoring system to
determine whether the barrier is protecting the River. The monitoring plan
should include fish contaminant monitoring.

·	Require BASF to pay fines, penalties and natural resource damages for the
more than two years of toxic contamination that have elapsed since the
company was ordered to stop the contamination.

·	Require BASF to acknowledge its responsibility to contribute funds and
support to a cleanup of massively contaminated sediments in the Detroit
River downstream from the BASF facility.

·	Establish a citizens advisory committee to oversee and receive regular
reports on the cleanup.

Dave Dempsey
Michigan Environmental Council
119 Pere Marquette, Suite 2A
Lansing, MI  48912
517-487-9539 (phone)
517-487-9541 (fax)

ENVIRO-MICH:  Internet List and Forum for Michigan Environmental
and Conservation Issues and Michigan-based Citizen Action.   Archives at

Postings to:  enviro-mich@great-lakes.net      For info, send email to
majordomo@great-lakes.net  with a one-line message body of  "info enviro-mich"