By MIKE WEBER
Capital News Service
Friday, February 5, 2004
LANSING -- Water protection for more than two million southeast Michigan
residents is a step closer to reality in the House.
Rep. Dan Acciavatti, R-Chesterfield Township, has been working on two resolutions asking for federal and state funds to set up real-time water monitoring along Lake St. Clair and the St. Clair River and an international response system.
“The resolutions address two key concerns for data collection at a federal level, and a notification process. It’s about water quantity and water quality,” Acciavatti said. Additional legislation that would make monitoring compulsory has not yet left the Great Lakes and Tourism Committee.
Acciavatti has been working with St. Clair and Macomb county officials and citizen groups on the issue of water protection.
Doug Martz, who chairs the Macomb County Water Quality Board, testified before the committee in support of the resolutions
“I was asked at the committee meeting if the current spill response system was working,” Martz said. “I had to say no.”
The St. Clair River current runs 5 to 6 mph with a flow rate of about 830 million gallons of water per minute.
According to the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), after a spill, an offending company is required to contact local officials, who then notify the State Police. The police then call the Pollution Emergency Alert System, which then contacts local water treatment plants.
The last large spill occurred on Feb. 1, 2004. Imperial Oil in Sarnia, Ontario, spilled between 1,000 and 1,400 barrels of oil into the river, which forced the water treatment plant in Mount Clemens to close. Sarnia is Canada’s largest manufacturer of chemicals and petroleum.
Chuck Bellmore, director of utilities in Mount Clemens said the spill closed his treatment plant for more than 12 hours.
“We were contacted by the Department of Environmental Quality and were able to shut down in a matter of minutes,” Bellmore said.
“We are frustrated and concerned,” said DEQ press secretary Patricia Spitzley. “We are working with the Canadian government and we are not going to let this issue go.”
The DEQ can give plants information on the type of spill, and whether the contaminants will float, sink or mix with the water. The DEQ can track how the spill will travel, based on computer modeling, and let plants know how long to shut down. The local emergency planning system uses cable television providers to notify area residents of possible contamination. Reopening a treatment plant takes minutes after testing is completed at the water intakes.
“In the case of the Imperial Oil spill in February, we were able to send water samples to Lansing via helicopter,” Bellmore said.
The proposed water monitoring system would cost about $6 million, with part of the money coming from a federal water protection program.
Acciavatti’s resolutions would help that process by supporting more extensive sensors than what the treatment plants currently have.
“Without real-time water monitoring, all is moot,” Acciavatti said. “The system is vulnerable to all spills, chemical, sewage or terrorist attacks.”
The resolutions will be considered for a vote on the House floor later this month.
Copyright 2003, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism