Sierra Club Water Sentinels Project Commends Pine River Superfund Citizens Task Force
The Pine River Superfund Citizens Task Force works on issues related to the Pine River in Gratiot County, where it winds through Alma and St. Louis, Michigan. The Pine River is contaminated with DDT, PBBs, petroleum hydrocarbons, heavy metals, and various other chemicals after decades of discharges by chemical plants, oil refineries, and other businesses.
The Pine River Superfund Citizens Task Force should be commended for their community commitment. I’ve worked with the group since September, and am amazed at their level of dedication. Every third Wednesday of the month, 40 to 70 people come to learn about the progress of the cleanup of the Velsicol Chemical Superfund site, about the petroleum hydrocarbon contamination at the Total Refinery site in Alma, and about the Smith Farm site in St. Louis. The members have reclaimed the river for recreation by securing funds to build a fishing platform in St. Louis. Though the fishing must for now remain catch and release, the community gains back the river as a living resource. Several members with training in the sciences participate in the Technical Advisory Committee. They give a substantial amount of time to review every report and work plan by the consultants and the agencies, and greatly contribute to the understanding of the problems in the Pine River watershed. They are the ultimate community watchdogs for contamination and related human-health issues. Several Task Force members have also assisted with Sierra Club’s Water Sentinels Project, and have learned to do water quality monitoring using aquatic insects.
The group has been so successful that they have been touted as an example of how Superfund citizen groups can function, and have been invited to other cities with Superfund Sites. And now they have been a driving force to help secure over $60 million from the companies responsible for the contamination to help clean up the Velsicol Chemical site and to restore the Pine River.
The enduring enthusiasm of the Pine River Superfund Citizens Task Force continues to inspire us in our project on the river, and I’m glad to be associated with them.
Water Sentinels Project
Sierra Club Mackinac Chapter
Lansing, MI 48906