The state Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is putting
the health of citizens at risk rather than enforcing environmental laws,
a coalition of environmental groups is charging. The groups are releasing
a report, “Soft on Crime,” that cites 11 cases in which DEQ failed to enforce
state environmental laws, exposing citizens to everything from dioxin-tainted
playgrounds to mercury-tainted fish to sewage-fouled rivers.
“These horror stories are just the tip of the iceberg,” said James Clift, Policy Director of the Michigan Environmental Council (MEC). “There are dozens, if not hundreds more. People are facing serious health risks because the DEQ can’t -- or won’t -- enforce the law. There is an expectation that the DEQ is taking responsibility for protecting the public from contamination and its not getting done.”
One of the most frightening examples of DEQ’s failure to enforce
the law is a nearly five-year coverup of dioxin contamination in Midland
and a failure to act on information collected last year on dioxin contamination
spilling downstream from the city to Saginaw. DEQ has discovered levels
of dioxin, a likely human carcinogen, 80 times higher than health-based
standards. But instead of publicizing the discovery and demanding cleanup,
the DEQ met privately with representatives of Dow Chemical Company to develop
a plan for public relations and rejected requests from concerned groups
to do more sampling.
A poll taken last summer showed that from 78% to 90% of Michigan registered voters support reforms to strengthen enforcement of environmental laws similar to those contained in House Bill 4996, introduced by State Rep. Chris Kolb (D-Ann Arbor). The bill would prevent polluters from benefiting economically from breaking environmental laws, bar chronic violators from receiving some state contracts, and make information on the state’s environmental enforcement efforts public.
MEC is calling on the Engler Administration to spare from budget cuts staff position charged with enforcing environmental laws. “This administration has to demonstrate its commitment to protecting the Great Lakes through providing the personnel necessary to hold polluters accountable,” stated Clift. This fiscal year, general fund support for the DEQ has already been cut by 24%.
The pollution violations occurred in Lyon Township, Riverview, Midland, Monroe County, Kalamazoo County, Green Oak Township, Van Buren County, Mackinac County, Clinton Township, along the Saginaw Bay, and White Lake Township. A copy of the “Soft on Crime” report is available at the MEC web site: http://www.mecprotects.org.
For more information:
Contact: Dave Dempsey, 517-487-9539
Michigan Environmental Council
119 Pere Marquette, Ste. 2A
Lansing, MI 48912