A restoration plan proposed by Revere Dock LLC, the company responsible for the dock collapse on the Detroit River in November 2019, was the subject of an online hearing held Tuesday by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE).
The project is expected to take six months and consists of three parts: construction of a new sea wall to replace the timber-pile supported dock, removal and disposal of material on the river bank, and the reconstruction of the Great Lakes Water Authority outfall that discharges water into the Detroit River. The cost of the project was not disclosed and is not required to be, since it is being funded with private dollars, according to Andy Hartz, district supervisor in EGLE’s water resources division.
Soil, concrete, and asphalt were spilled into the river as a result of the collapse, and possibly a variety of contaminants including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and heavy metals.
Justin Onwenu, organizer for the Sierra Club ,said in the hearing, “I hope that the permit will be tied to a consent order that includes fines… to serve as a discouragement for any future negligence from this company or any other companies.” Onwenu also wants EGLE to hold Revere Dock LLC accountable to the six-month timeline it proposed, noting that it has been six month since the collapse.
US. Representative Rashida Tlaib previously raised concerns about trusting Revere Dock LLC to do the cleanup themselves, in consideration of the fact that they had waited 10 days to notify the public.
After the collapse in November, it was discovered that Revere Dock LLC had also been storing limestone at the site without a permit. Additionally, Detroit Bulk Storage, a company that rents from Revere Dock LLC, had a dock collapse in 2011.
Mary Bohling, Chair of the Detroit River Public Advisory Council, expressed concern that the dock collapse is creating sedimentation downstream, near, and in a fish spawning reef habitat project recently completed in the river off the Ft. Wayne property. “It requires clear water, no sedimentation, in order to function at its fullest,” Bohling said in the hearing. “We would encourage an assessment of the reef.”
Agencies that would typically do assessments near the reef were unable to do so this year due to COVID-19.
PM Environmental, the consultant group for Revere Dock LLC, reported that they have routinely monitored the dock collapse site. Adam Patton, vice president of PM Environmental said in the hearing, “We’ve had no evidence of increased or elevated turbidity at the site.”
Jamesa Johnson-Greer, a policy specialist with the Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition (MEJC) told Planet Detroit, “My hope is that the city government will push forward with the water body protection ordinance that would stand to prevent another incident like this from happening again.” The proposed ordinance would increase regular inspection and monitoring.
The EPA found lead in their soil testing of the site. “This is a former industrial site, and it had been an industrial site for a long, long time,” said Nick Assendelft, media relations and public information officer for EGLE. “It’s not surprising that you would find some metals or some volatile chemicals, or other industrial type chemicals in the soil.”
The formal hearing followed a presentation from Patton, and an informal question period. One attendee asked about contaminant monitoring. So far, monitoring has been limited to erosion and turbidity, Patton said.
Johnson-Greer also raised issues about the hearing format. “These webinar platforms are not always accessible,” she said. “There’s this lack of public participation, because people just don’t have the access they need.”
Public hearings are required before EGLE can decide on permit proposals.
MEJC and other environmental justice organizations across the state brought their concerns about access to public meetings during COVID-19 to state officials, but Johnson feels the response was lacking.
The state released a map this week showing WiFi hotspots. Johnson says, “It completely misses all of the areas that would be directly impacted by the permits that are in the docket,” such as southwest Detroit, Dearborn, the eastside, and downriver.
“We certainly want to hear from as many people as we can.” Assendelft says, noting that EGLE recognizes circumstances aren’t ideal. “We’re doing what we can to try to let people know that they have processes and ways that they can have their voices be heard.”
A recording of the hearing is available online, and the full restoration plan is available on EGLE’s website. The public comment period ends June 26th, and comments can be submitted online or by email at email@example.com, or by U.S. mail at 27700 Donald Court Warren, MI 48092.