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NEWS RELEASE



CITIZENS' ENVIRONMENT ALLIANCE OF SW ONTARIO & SE MICHIGAN

NEWS RELEASE : 

For Immediate Release

Contact:  
Rick Coronado,  Windsor 519-973-1116   
Mary Ginnebaugh,  Detroit 313-961-3345

Mercury: A RE-EMERGING ISSUE IN DETROIT RIVER ECOSYSTEM

Examination of several studies on the Detroit River has confirmed what the CEA
has been saying for the last four years. Mercury levels in the Detroit River
ecosystem are going up not down. 

According to Dr. Russell Kreis, Director of the U.S. EPA Large Lakes Research
Station on Grosse Ile, examination of two independent surface sediment
studies,
a sediment core study, a fish contaminant concentration study, and loading
estimation studies indicates that mercury concentrations are increasing in the
system.  “The sediment survey results were very surprising as concentrations
were substantially greater than those observed during the 1980s and in
locations that were not previously identified as severely contaminated with
mercury.” Concentrations of mercury were detected as high as 16 parts per
million (ppm)  in areas of the Trenton Channel where sediments naturally
deposit.  Levels of  mercury greater than 0.2 ppm are known to be toxic to
aquatic life.

“In some cases, the highest concentrations of mercury and other toxic metals
were observed on the surface of the sediment core,” Kreis said. “It has taken
several years of compilation and examination of these diverse studies to
get an
overall picture of the present status. This only means one thing.  The amount
of mercury currently being discharged to the Detroit River is increasing, not
decreasing.” 

In 1994 the CEA reported, in a news release, that the levels of mercury
discharged from the Detroit Waste Water Treatment Plant had increased 78% over
a ten year period. That information was based on data published by the
Michigan
Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) through the Detroit River Remedial
Action Plan process. At the time, the MDEQ explained the increase as an
“accounting error”. Now, their own data support the CEA’s assessment.

The high levels of mercury recently found in the sediments of the Detroit
River
are a serious environmental problem and a major concern. The latest permit
issued to the Detroit Waste Water Treatment Plant to discharge pollutants
directly into the Detroit River allowed a two-fold increase (from 0.009 parts
per billion to 0.018 ppb) in the amount of mercury being discharged. “How can
we ever expect the Detroit River ecosystem to improve if the state regulatory
agency allows the largest discharger of mercury to the Detroit River to dump
more mercury,” said Rick Coronado of the CEA. “This isn’t rocket science,
folks.” 

Mercury is extremely toxic to aquatic life and humans. People who eat fish
from
the Great Lakes, including the Detroit River, are consuming methyl-mercury,
the
most toxic form of mercury. In Michigan and Ontario, both children and
women of
child-bearing age are advised not to eat most Great Lakes fish because the
high
level of mercury found in the fish will cause damage to the nervous system of
young children and the unborn child in the
mother’s womb.

To bring attention to the continued environmental degradation of the Detroit
River and the failure of the state and provincial governments to address the
transboundary environment in the Detroit-Windsor area, the CEA filed a request
for an investigation with the Commission on Environmental Cooperation (CEC) in
1994. As a direct result of the CEA’s request, the International Joint
Commission, the treaty organization responsible for monitoring progress
under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, conducted their first status
assessment of Great Lakes Remedial Action Plans (RAPs) on the Detroit River. 
The IJC’s assessment of the Detroit River RAP was critical of government
leadership in the RAP process and of the level of public participation. In
1996, public organization members walked out of the last
binational RAP meeting to protest the process and the Detroit River RAP
document written by MDEQ. A “Citizen’s Guide to the Detroit River Status
Assessment” was written by CEA in 1997 help people in Detroit-Windsor area
understand the background and environmental issues.

This past summer the U.S. EPA has committed to making the clean-up efforts of
Detroit River a higher priority. "Now that we are actually examining the data
from the Detroit River ecosystem, we need to, once again, merge the clean-up
efforts on both sides of the river," said Mary Ginnebaugh of the CEA. "Much of
the public's frustration with the earlier
process was due to the unwillingness of MDEQ to take their own data seriously.
The issue of mercury increases while "source control" was supposedly
occurring,
is the latest example of the denial that has marred this process for twelve
years."    

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Citizens' Environment Alliance of SW Ontario & SE Michigan
PO BOX 548, Windsor, ON
Canada  N9A 6M6
Ph.  519-973-1116
FX. 519-973-8360
E-Mail:  cea@mnsi.net
E-Mail (GreenPlanet) riccawu@mnsi.net
Web page:  http://www.mnsi.net/~cea