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Pollution all around us

Two serious industrial spills in our region – at McLouth Steel in Trenton and Bear Creek in Warren – rang alarm bells last month to warn us that Michigan remains inadequately protected from industrial pollution.  

On February 9, a corrosive, milky liquid leaked out of the ground from the closed McLouth Steel facility.  At Bear Creek on February 7, 850,000 gallons of water spilled from a burst pipe at a closed metal finishing shop to turn the water turquoise.  It contained electroplate chemicals including PFAs (Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances which get in the human blood stream and cause health problems). Then, in the week of February 19, air quality monitors based in Dearborn registered dangerously high levels of PM 2.5 for the entire Detroit region It is the same particulate matter created by the Canadian wildfires that blanketed our region last summer; in winter it probably derives from local industrial areas, trucking routes, or heavily used highways. 

Here in Birmingham, I have to stay inside when the particulate level measures over 70 (it was 101 recently) because my lungs were effected last summer and I had to use an inhaler. (Tip: keep handy on your iPhone to protect your lungs from high PM counts.)

The good news is that we Michiganders are not passive when our health and wellbeing are threatened.  We know who is responsible for these spills and we expect them to be held accountable. On February 15, advocates held a press conference to insist that the Michigan Legislature adopt “Polluter Pay” bills to clean up after themselves.

“It’s a concept that most folks should have learned in preschool: if you make a mess, you should be responsible for cleaning it up,” said Christy McGillivray, political and legislative director for Michigan Sierra Club. “Corporate polluters and their allies in Lansing have their eye on shareholder profits and their campaign coffers instead of the health of Michiganders. Polluter Pay is a slam-dunk win for lawmakers that prioritizes voters over campaign contributions, and we hope passing these bills will be a priority in Lansing this year.”  

Two bills in our state legislature, House Bills 5241-5247 and Senate Bills 605-611, have been introduced by Sen. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) and Rep. Jason Morgan (D-Ann Arbor) to be sure that corporations rather than taxpayers are held responsible for paying pollution costs. 

To find out who your state legislators are, go to Contact them by phone, text, email or snail mail – everyone has a voice, and every voice counts, especially when we join our neighbors to fight pollution in our Michigan homes and neighborhoods.

Dr. Annis Pratt


(Dr. Pratt is a member of the Greater Detroit Citizen’s Climate Lobby)


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