Three hundred and twelve years ago Antoine Laumet de La Mothe, sieur de Cadillac landed in Detroit. When Cadillac arrived, the Detroit River was pristine, teaming with fish. The French came to Detroit to build up military defenses, prosper and make money. Cadillac himself eventually made a fortune monopolizing the fur-trading in the area. But now Detroit is broke and the water is dirty.
Fixing Detroit’s financial problems has been difficult in part since few people agree on exactly what caused the financial crisis to descend upon Detroit. The cause of pollution in the Detroit River on the other hand is pretty clear.
At a joint press conference held this morning by The Sierra Club, Clean Water Action, Food & Water Watch and the Clean Energy Now Coalition at the DTE Energy’s River Rouge, Michigan power plant, a recently released national report was introduced. This report identifies the River Rouge plant as being one of the most culpable in releasing coal ash contaminated wastewater into the Detroit River.
The report, “Closing the Floodgates: How the Coal Industry Is Poisoning Our Water and How We Can Stop It,” was published by an environmental coalition including Clean Water Action, The Sierra Club, Earthjustice, Waterkeeper Alliance and the Environmental Integrity Project.
The report spotlights why potent national coal plant water pollution standards are necessary. Compiled by reviewing almost 400 coal plant water permits throughout the United States, the report highlights eight plants which are the most irresponsible when it comes to polluted wastewater release.
Two of those power plants are in Michigan, the DTE River Rouge power plant and DTE Monroe Plant. According to the report, the DTE River Rouge plant discharges, “…more than 654 million gallons per day of wastewater into the [Detroit] river.” This is the river where local residents fish and from where water is drawn for drinking water purification.
Current guidelines do not cover many of the worst pollutants released into the Detroit River, and the existing guidelines have not been modernized in over three decades.
For someone standing close to the same spot where Cadillac landed, it is a strange juxtaposition. Hearing the DTE plant noisily operating in the background, knowing the water being spewed into the Detroit River is contaminated, and just yards away people fishing off the breakwall and in boats.
Some anglers there say the hot water being released by the DTE plant makes the area a prime fishing spot. The problem is the fish being caught may be contaminated with toxins, such as arsenic, boron and mercury.
Ignoring the risks, one fisherman nearby said it best, “Times are bad. We have to fish to live.”