By: Samantha Rypstra, WMEAC Lakeshore Fellow
“The areas surrounding the Great Lakes are one of Michigan’s best attributes and they need to be restored and protected. As a young voter, one of my biggest priorities is supporting and voting for elected officials who prioritize environmental issues to make the place I live safe and beautiful for myself, my loved ones, and future generations. I look forward to your attention to this matter.” This statement and others voicing similar concerns have found their way to the desks of many elected officials across the state as the result of letter writing events held at the Book Nook & Java Shop in Montague, in northern Muskegon County. The letter writing events were hosted by Chemours Environmental Impact Committee or CEIC , a committee of local residents who are concerned with the impacts of the pollution that remains on the West Michigan lakeshore where they live.
The area is home to Muskegon Lake and White Lake, which each have faced years of industrial pollution that led to them being added to a list of Great Lakes Areas of Concern, AOCs. These are waterways with documented pollution problems that were declared by the Environmental Protection Agency as requiring attention and action from local residents and state, federal and in some cases, provincial governments to restore them. Since being added to the list, many years of projects and much work has been done to restore the lakes. Muskegon Lake remains on the list, with those close to the effort hopeful that it will qualify for removal soon, while White Lake was removed in 2014. Despite the decades worth of work done to qualify White Lake for removal from the AOC list, there are still lingering concerns particular to one site of contamination in the area, the site of the former DuPont Montague Works, closed in 1996, and now owned by Chemours. This site was the source of inspiration that got CEIC started in 2018 and they have been working hard to advocate for the proper cleanup and remediation of the site ever since.
The large property, 1300 acres, in White River Township, borders White Lake and Lake Michigan. It has been considered a contaminated site for many years and still remains a significant issue in 2023, nearly 10 years since White Lake was removed from the AOC list. The property contains at least five landfills where the former company had dumped chemical waste. The Pierson Creek Landfill, a top concern,was used from 1965-1972 for liquid and solid wastes from fluorocarbon and Neoprene manufacturing and sits just 250 feet uphill from Pierson Creek which flows through a series of small bodies of water out to Lake Michigan. The contaminants in the Pierson Creek landfill have also been detected in the groundwater.
The committee and others in attendance at the recent letter writing events are passionate about getting the site cleaned up in order to restore the local waterway to a trout stream as well as to restore the other beneficial uses of the area. Marisa McGlue, a member of the CEIC committee
was there to assist with letter writing and answer questions. Rather than providing attendees with prewritten letters – which is common in situations like this, she provided a letter template, resources, and information about the site and the importance of cleaning it up. This allowed each writer to learn more about the issue and create a letter that focused on their biggest concerns and testimonies. McGlue shared that she has been writing letters about different issues close to her for many years and that in her experience writing the letters this way is more impactful as it shows leaders that the writers each took their time to write their own testimonies and provide resources of facts to back up their concerns. The Dupont/Chemours site is an area of contamination that has been concerning local residents for many years and the letters are one of many efforts to be sure that elected officials across the state are aware of the issue and the desire many Michiganders have to get it properly cleaned up.
Unfortunately, this particular site is not the only one of its kind. If there is another site of pollution that concerns you, or if you would like to learn more about this particular issue, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org to get access to the letter writing templates and
resources. One of the biggest ( and easiest) ways to make a positive difference environmentally is by voting for and writing to leaders that have the ability to create necessary changes.
Photo is of CEIC members Marisa McGlue & Jim Rose at an Information booth spreading awareness about the Dupont site courtesy of Marisa McGlue.