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Macomb County public works commissioner says EGLE ignores health of Great Lakes

Muskegon Lake
Muskegon County
Muskegon Lake.

Macomb County’s top infrastructure official is feuding with state environmental regulators over water protection – specifically a sewage system permit.

Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Candice Miller said Monday that Michigan’s water is being contaminated by pesticide runoff and drugs being flushed down drains and toilets. And she said the state’s not doing enough to clean up the mess.

Miller said the state should be moving toward fixing water systems that allow water and sewage to overflow during heavy rainfalls.

"It’s not a good thing, and, you know, we are the Great Lakes State,” she said in an interview with Michigan Public Radio.

Miller is upset that the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy refused a request for a permit to expand a holding area for wastewater waiting to be treated.

She said a study conducted by Wayne State University and the University of Florida found contaminants in waterways connecting Lake Huron and Lake Erie.

The contaminants include pesticide runoffs and old prescription drugs that are flushed down the toilet or poured down the drain.

“I just think it’s incumbent on all of us to think about everything that we need to do in regards to investing in adequate infrastructure to ensure that we’re not continuing to pollute our water,” she said. “I mean, really, water quality equals quality of life, particularly in a state like Michigan.”

A Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy spokesperson said runoff and combined overflow systems are problems, but the project Miller proposed would not have fixed those.

“The implication that we can flip a switch and do something with these is a little bit short-sighted,” said Hugh McDiarmid with EGLE. “The chemicals were still getting in the water one way or another. They still wouldn’t be able to get these chemicals out of the water, so we’re going to need policy. We’re going to need data.”

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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