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Friday, April 16, 2004

County water quality improves

Official hails report that reveals drop in bacteria counts

By Gene Schabath / The Detroit News

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Doug Martz used to ride around town with toilet plungers on the fenders of his car and a toilet seat on the roof as a testimony to the serious pollution problem in Lake St. Clair, the Clinton River and its tributaries.

Now, he walks around with a smile on his face.

That's a tribute to a report released this week by the Macomb County Health Department that shows bacteria has hit rock bottom in some of the area's drains that once were the most polluted.

Martz, chairman of the Macomb Water Quality Board, and other environmentalists said the low bacteria counts show the decades-long fight against pollution is paying off.

"This is fantastic," Martz said. "I've been trying ... for 10 years and it looks like it's starting to pay off."

It was in 1994 that Metro Detroit communities realized there was a serious problem from combined sanitary and storm sewers, inadequate waste water treatment plants, failed septic systems and illicit drain connections in which raw sewage was being discharged into rivers and lakes.

Metropolitan Beach along Lake St. Clair was closed to swimming for most of the summer because of chronically high bacteria.

One of the big culprits was the 12 Towns retention facility in Oakland County's Madison Heights. Following heavy rains in June 1994, a half-billion gallons of waste water was discharged during one 24-hour period into the Red Run Drain, a tributary that empties into the Clinton River and then Lake St. Clair.

Oakland County has spent $140 million to expand the facility to handle larger storms.

"It looks like it's working," Martz said.

Health department figures show that despite more rainfall in January this year compared to 2003, the amount of contaminated water released into area waterways from 12 Towns and a half-dozen other treatment plants has plunged. It dropped from 74.6 million gallons in January 2003 to 6.4 million gallons this year.

Elwin Coll, supervisor of the health department's environmental division, said one of the most dramatic examples of the decline in bacteria are from the Lorraine Drain in Warren.

The monthly average in January was 1,412 colonies of E. coli bacteria per 100 milliliters of water. Monthly readings above 100 colonies are considered unsafe for human contact. Last year, the monthly average in the Lorraine Drain was 30,545.

You can reach Gene Schabath at (586) 468-3614 or [email protected]

h2o<--says maybe swimming will be safe soon?
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Boy I remember when we swam all day in the clnton river off the dock, and got to dangle our feet off the platform in the slip, ....before we knew it was I cant stnd to look at the Clinton river, and metro...I dont even have to say it, you all know how bad it is sickening, literally....dark green swirls in the bright green water...

maybe now its getting better...

*I remember when we were actually allowed to SWIM in metro beach, off of one of the horbors when the water was low, on the corner of the harbor a little sandy beach that said no swimming, but we went on the dinghy and just waded and played on the beach in the harbor....and now look at it
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Bacteria level may be down but what about the chemical pollution? What about all the spills this winter?
Friday, March 12, 2004

'03 St. Clair River spills: 13

Dem leaders ask Colin Powell to intercede in waterway fouling by plants in Ontario

By Gene Schabath / The Detroit News

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There were 13 spills of contaminants into the St. Clair River last year from chemical companies and other sources, a Ontario Ministry of Environment spokesman said Thursday night at a hearing of environmental groups in Port Huron.

Harrison Township environmentalist Doug Martz, who has been leading the fight to stop the spills in the river, said he was only aware of one discharge in 2003. That occurred Aug. 14-15 when chemical company Royal Polymers released 650 pounds of vinyl chloride into the river during the August blackout.

"Nothing surprises me," Martz said.

Mike Moroney, spokesman for the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, said he did not have details of the other spills.

News of the spills came hours after Michigan Democratic congressional leaders asked U.S. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell to help them stem the chronic chemical-spill pollution problem in the river coming from Ontario chemical and petroleum industries along the international waterway.

A letter was sent to Powell on Thursday by U.S. Sens. Carl Levin, D-Detroit, Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, and U.S. Rep. Sander Levin, D-Royal Oak, imploring Powell to meet with Canadian officials in a diplomatic maneuver to stop the discharges of dangerous chemicals and other pollutants.

The letter was prompted by two major discharges into the river from Canadian industries since January, and several other minor spills in the last few weeks. More than 20 people vacationing on Stag Island, about five miles downriver from the vinyl chloride spill in August, complained of rashes and respiratory problems.

On Feb. 1, more than 42,000 gallons of an oil solvent was released into the river from Imperial Oil of Sarnia. That forced about a dozen municipal drinking water plants on the Michigan side of the river to shut down for about 12 hours until the danger of contamination had passed. There have been at least 800 discharges into the river since the mid-1980s.

Roxanne Reed, a spokeswoman for Powell, said he would reply as soon as possible.

"It is important that Canadian federal and provincial governments understand that these chemical spills must stop," the Michigan lawmakers said in the letter to Powell. "We request that you raise this issue at the highest levels of the Canadian government and urge them to take concrete steps to prevent further chemicals spill in the St. Clair River."

Macomb County Assistant Prosecutor Mark Richardson, who was at the meeting, said he hoped the letter to Powell would inspire a summit between the two countries that would lead to a comprehensive water-monitoring system to detect dangerous chemicals when they are discharged into the river.

Martz, chairman of the Macomb Water Quality Board, said news of the 13 discharges dramatizes the need for drastic action, such as calling Powell into the fray.

Environmentalists at Thursday's meeting criticized the long delay in reporting some of the spills to water plant operators.

You can reach Gene Schabath at (586) 468-3614 or [email protected]

h2o<---says just a big OUCH!!!
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Exactly what Im talking about. Although our environmental regulations are relativly tough, Canadian environmental agency doesnt show **ANY** signs of being concerned. I wonder if they drink the same water we do?
Of course the bacteria levels are down. Bacteria are living organisms and cannot live in the harsh environment of the St. Clair system. All of the chemicals that are spilled into the waterways make it difficult for life to exist.

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