New legislation will protect Michigan waterways, hold polluters accountable

New legislation will protect Michigan waterways, hold polluters accountable

Further oversight warranted after dock collapse along Detroit River dumped dangerous toxins in water and shoreline

LANSING – The Michigan League of Conservation Voters today voiced their support for Senate Bills 122-124, new legislation that would hold property owners accountable when their docks fail, resulting in the release of dangerous pollution into Michigan’s waterways.

The legislation comes after the dock of Detroit Bulk storage collapsed into the Detroit River because of the weight of aggregate and high-water levels. In the 1950s, the location housed radioactive waste – part of the rolling of uranium rods used in the construction of the atomic bomb. The site was owned by Revere Copper & Brass, which was hired by the U.S. Department of Energy under the Manhattan Project.

After the dock collapse in 2019, the property owner failed to notify the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE). State and local officials were only made aware when a concerned citizen submitted pictures to the media showing the soil and sediment adrift in the river where the dock once stood.

Not long after, a dock collapsed in St. Clair County – highlighting the need for increased oversight and inspection of docks along Michigan’s waterways. The bill package is sponsored by Sen. Stephanie Chang, D-Detroit; Sen. Erika Geiss, D-Taylor; and Sen. Rosemary Bayer, D-Beverly Hills.

“There is a clear lack of oversight and accountability when it comes to the risk of storing dangerous pollution on docks along Michigan’s waterways,” said Nick Occhipinti, government affairs director of Michigan LCV. “We know climate change is only going to continue creating situations where docks collapse due to high water levels and extreme weather, so this spill in the Detroit River will not be the last. We thank Sens. Chang, Geiss and Bayer for their leadership on this issue.”

The legislation requires EGLE be notified within 24 hours of the detection of a total or partial collapse or dock failure, or any other release of pollution as a result, and creates fines of $2,500-$5,000 for failure to report. Additionally, the legislation calls for a statewide risk assessment and creation of a public database where contaminated properties along major Michigan waterways would be classified based on high, medium and low risk.

Dock and seawall owners would have to submit inspection reports every three years for high-risk properties and every five years for medium- and low-risk properties. This legislation is modeled after dam inspection laws that already exist in Michigan.

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