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E-M:/ PEER's News Release on Suppressed Ingham County Water Report

Here is PEER's news release on the suppressed
Ingham County water resource report.

The full report is at:




               For Release: Wednesday, September 19, 2001

               Contact: Jessica Vallette Revere, 202-265-7337

               Data on Emerging Health and Environmental Dangers

               Washington, DC - Michigan's Ingham County Health Department suppressed
               a research report showing growing threats to the region's drinking water and
               serious pollution hazards in local lakes and streams, according to documents
               published today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility

               The censored report, titled The Story of Water Resources at Work, details an
               array of dangers facing Ingham County's surface and groundwaters. Fearful of
               reaction to the 130-page research report, the county instead published a
               25-page glossy brochure last December.

               The official brochure included only a small number of the study's findings and
               glossed over many of the most significant health risks identified. For example,
               the report cites looming dangers to the region's aquifer, while the brochure
               blithely assures residents they have "one of the most abundant and safest
               groundwater sources of drinking water supplies in all Michigan." Other
               omissions include:

                   Contaminated Wells An estimated 41% of Ingham County wells are
                   contaminated with dangerous levels of coliform bacteria. Other wells
                   tested high for arsenic, boron, barium and antimony and nickel.

                   Leaking Storage Tanks The county's worst leaking underground
                   storage tank site, a huge toxic plume under a General Motors plant, is
                   considered "an immediate threat to health, safety and the environment."

                   Crego Park One third of this former recreation area is contaminated
                   with PCB's, lead, zinc and gasoline chemicals.

               Ironically, the county's environmental health assessment was to be part of an
               ongoing "data democratization" program to keep citizens aware of health risks
               and make citizens equal partners in improving environmental health.

               "This exercise in 'data democratization' turned into the exact opposite,"
               commented Eric Wingerter, PEER's national field director. PEER is publishing
               the censored report with cooperation from current and former county
               employees and making it available on the web as well as area libraries. "It is
               essential that people in the Lansing area know what their government's
               research is revealing about the health effects of pollution."


               See the report on PEER's website. NOTE: This file will take a long time to open (about
                      5 minutes depending on your web connection), due to its size.

                A two-fact sheet detailing the differences between the official brochure and the more
                            complete report released today follows.

                           Major Findings Censored From

                        The Story of Water Resources At Work

               In 2000, the Ingham County Health Department commissioned a study of
               water quality in the region. The project was to be comprehensive in scope. A
               team of professionals put together a 130 page report that addressed a wide
               range of threats to surface and ground water in Ingham County. Unfortunately,
               a number of local politicians balked at the idea of making some of this
               information public. Instead, they published a glossy, 25 page pamphlet outlining
               some points of the County-commissioned study, excluding the bulk of the
               research. In September 2001, Public Employees for Environmental
               Responsibility published the original report in its entirety. The following
               important facts are a sampling of the information that was omitted from the
               "official" report published by the County.

                          THREATS TO DRINKING WATER

                   Contaminated Wells An estimated 41% of Ingham County wells have
                   inordinately high levels of coliform bacteria. If the EPA lowers its arsenic
                   standard to 5 parts per billion, a proposal it put forward in 1999, then
                   10% of wells will exceed the new standard. Other wells tested high for
                   barium, antimony, nickel, and boron.

                   General Motors The county's worst leaking underground storage tank
                   (LUST) plume is located at the GM plant at 920 Townsend St. in
                   Lansing. GM has had more toxic underground LUST releases - fourteen
                   - than any other local corporation. The result? One of the largest
                   underground plumes in Ingham County. According to the DEQ, it is "an
                   immediate threat to health, safety or the environment."

                   Abandoned Wells The county has about 30,000 abandoned wells.
                   When they are uncapped, they are a direct portal for contaminants to
                   enter the aquifer. The county has sealed less than 1 percent of
                   abandoned wells. In 1953 a fuel oil truck operator mistakenly pumped
                   900 gallons of heating oil down an abandoned well in Holt. This site was
                   once classified as a major contamination zone, but has since been
                   "delisted" by the state, meaning that no efforts were ever made to
                   address this pollution.

                   Boron Children consuming well water in Williamston should limit their
                   consumption due to the possible health effects of the element boron,
                   which is present in high amounts there. A water specialist recommended
                   that the Health Department conduct a health survey of the area to learn
                   more about the dangers of boron, but this has never occurred.

                   Aurelius Road Landfill This landfill was built in the mid 1960's on top
                   of a vulnerable stretch of earth that could not protect the aquifer from
                   pollutants. It was closed in the 1970's but never cleaned up. A
                   contamination plume threatens city wells.

                   Americhem oil and chemical storage facility in Mason The facility
                   was built atop the Mason Esker, a conduit to the water. Today
                   contamination plumes of gasoline and diesel fuel sit six feet thick in the
                   water table. 3 of Mason's 5 wells have been closed.

                   Crego Park One third of Crego Park is contaminated with PCBs, lead,
                   zinc and gasoline chemicals left over from when the park was a chemical
                   testing site. It took 13 years for the city to learn about 200 drums of
                   contamination, discovered by a woman walking her dog through the
                   park in 1986.

                   Gunn Road Dump 34 wells located near this abandoned dump were
                   found to be contaminated with sulfate, chloride, and in one case, arsenic.
                   In 1998 vinyl chloride was detected in 4 wells, but the water department
                   is still considering placing a city well there.

                   Motor Wheel Dangers The Motor Wheel waste disposal site is
                   leaking extremely high levels of ammonia and the carcinogen vinyl
                   chloride into the aquifer. Legal battles continue to stall the cleanup, and
                   the Michigan Department of Community Health has not studied the
                   health effects as they promised to do in the early 1990's.

                          THREATS TO SURFACE WATER

                   Expanding River The Grand River has grown by 25% in 65 years.
                   Some scientists fear that this is the result of deforestation, sprawl, and
                   wetland loss. This phenomenon could increase flooding dangers.

                   Fish Kills Sewage overflows and dumping have contributed to massive
                   fish kills on the Grand River. Dams prevent salmon from spawning

                   Wetland Loss New subdivisions and development have contributed to
                   wetland loss. Ingham County has lost nearly 90% of it's wetlands,
                   compared to the state average of 50%. 17 species are endangered
                   including goldenseal, ginseng, and the spotted turtle.

                   Pesticide Danger According to the EPA, Farm runoff of pesticides
                   and fertilizers have "seriously impaired" the Grand River. Ciba Geigy, a
                   national corporation with an East Lansing plant, strongly lobbied the
                   EPA not to ban Atrazine, a weed killer banned across much of Europe.
                   Atrazine is the county's number 1 restricted use pesticide.

                   Sewage Sludge Nearly 4,000 tons of human sewage sludge were
                   spread across county farms as fertilizer in 1999. Health professionals are
                   divided over the potential harm to humans.

                   Lake Lansing Pollution 90% of the lake's water comes from Storm
                   Water runoff, making it particularly susceptible to shoreline pollution.

                   Industrial Conservation Needed The Board of Water and light
                   extracted 63.3 billion gallons of water from the Grand River to cool
                   electrical equipment in 1999.

                   Mercury Pollution Lansing's hospitals are significant mercury emitters,
                   through medical waste incineration or simply by dumping mercury down
                   the drain. In 1999 there were three chronic violators of sewage
                   discharge limits: Litho-Color Services (for silver), Ingham Regional
                   Medical Center (for mercury) and Sparrow Hospital (for mercury).

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Environmental Enforcement, Permits/Technical Review, Public Policy and
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and Community Environmental Protection

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