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Climate change could cause toxic sites in Michigan to release dangerous chemicals

Velsicol Chemical operating on the banks of the Pine River in St. Louis, Michigan.
Pine River Citizen Superfund Task Force
Velsicol Chemical operating on the banks of the Pine River in St. Louis, Michigan.

According to a report by the federal Government Accountability Office, 60% of Superfund sites nationwide are threatened by floods, wildfires, and hurricanes that are becoming worse due to climate change.

In Michigan, twenty toxic sites are at a high risk of spreading due to increased flooding. The sites are scattered across the state, but most are located near former industrial hubs, including the Velsicol Chemical Company in St. Louis

Many of the 20 at-risk Superfund sites in Michigan are adjacent to rivers or streams, where rainfall from severe storms could potentially sweep pollutants into the water. 

One example is the Peerless Plating site along Little Black Creek in Muskegon, where hazardous chemicals contaminated the soil and groundwater. 

Another is the former Cast Forge facility in Howell.  Flooding could potentially sweep PCB-contaminated materials into the Shiawassee River. 

Credit Source: GAO
Source: GAO
The Government Accountability Office found 945 Superfund sites at risk due to climate change.

The report points to the lack of guidance from the Environmental Protection Agency regarding Superfunds.

According to the report, EPA officials in the Great Lakes region said they "do not have any formal direction on how to address risks from climate change and are waiting for EPA headquarters to provide information on how to do so."

The EPA rejected the GAO's findings, saying, "The EPA strongly believes the Superfund program’s existing processes and resources adequately ensure that risks and any effects of severe weather events...are woven into risk response decisions."

President Donald Trump has called for cutting the Superfund budget by 30 percent.

The high-risk sites in Michigan are:

Albion-Sheridan Township Landfill in Albion, McGraw Edison Corp. in Albion, Verona Well Field in Battle Creek, H&K Sales in Belding, Aircraft Components (D&L Sales) in Benton Harbor, Clare Water Supply in Clare, Eau Clare Municipal Well Field in Eau Clare, Parsons Chemical Works Inc., in Grand Ledge, Shiawassee River in Howell, American Anodco Inc. in Ionia, Ionia City Landfill in Ionia, Allied Paper, Inc. in Kalamazoo, Auto Ion Chemicals, Inc. in Kalamazoo, Michigan Disposal Service (Cork Street Landfill) in Kalamazoo, Bofors Nobel, Inc. in Muskegon, Peerless Plating Co. in Muskegon, SCA Independent Landfill in Muskegon Heights, Cannelton Industries, Inc. in Sault Ste. Marie, Velsicol Chemical Corp. in St. Louis, Grand Traverse Overall Supply Co. in Traverse City, Whitehall Municipal Funds in Whitehall, Lower Ecorse Creek Dump in Wyandotte.

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Emma is a communications specialist with the digital team at Michigan Radio. She works across all departments at Michigan Radio, with a hand in everything from digital marketing and fundraising to graphic design and website maintenance. She also produces the station's daily newsletter, The Michigan Radio Beat.
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