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US Tests show Detroit River safe after collapse of uranium-tainted site, regulators say

08:45  07 december  2019
08:45  07 december  2019 Source:   freep.com

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The Windsor Star reported the site collapsed into the river on November 26 due to an overload of He went on to say that the agency would begin investigating the matter and “and determine what, if Previous testing at the site , performed after it was remediated, showed only backround levels of

The Great Lakes Water Authority is testing Detroit River water after a dock collapse raised concerns about “radioactive contamination”. “…the intake is located on the Canadian side of the Detroit River and is not in the direct flow stream of the river where the land collapsed ,” the authority said .

No excessive radiation levels were detected in and along the Detroit River following a shoreline collapse at a bulk storage site that once housed atomic bomb and uranium development in the 1940s and 1950s, state regulators said Friday.

a group of people walking on a beach: People survey the scene of a Detroit property contaminated with uranium and other dangerous chemicals that partially collapsed into the Detroit River on Friday, Dec. 6, 2019.© Ryan Garza, Detroit Free Press People survey the scene of a Detroit property contaminated with uranium and other dangerous chemicals that partially collapsed into the Detroit River on Friday, Dec. 6, 2019.

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) tested the area around the former Revere Copper and Brass site on West Jefferson Avenue, where a seawall collapsed last week, spilling large piles of aggregate into the river.

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The Detroit River as seen on May 27, 2019. A portion of land near this part of the river collapsed into the river in November 2019. DETROIT -- A former manufacturing site listed by the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency as contaminated with uranium has collapsed into.

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Background radiation levels at the site farthest away from the river were at 4 microroentgen per hour (Ur/hr). Naturally occurring radiation levels in Michigan are typically between 5 and 8 (Ur/hr), EGLE officials said. Testing closer to the water, including tests from inside the crevasses opened by the sediment collapse, ranged between 3 and 5 Ur/hr. More than 1,000 data points were recorded during the testing, officials said.

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As contractors attempted to dig collapsed materials out of the river, and the EGLE assessed the situation by boat and drone on Friday, some were calling into question the agency's response time to the spill.

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The dock is on property owned by Revere Dock, a subsidiary of Grand Rapids-based Erickson’s, a transportation and specialty services company.

Revere Dock bought a portion of the Revere Copper site from the City of Detroit in 2015 for $2.28 million. Revere Dock planned to develop the property into a new heavy-lift dock and a campus for storage and project assembly, according to records prepared for city officials to support the sale of the property at the time.

Revere Dock planned to make infrastructure improvements at the property, according to the records, including dredging, improvements to the dock and barge slip and a seawall replacement. The total estimated investment was $8.3 million.

Company representatives for Revere Dock and Erickson’s could not be reached for comment

The Windsor Star on Friday published an interview with Detroit Bulk Storage owner Noel Frye, who provided a timeline of events leading up to the shoreline collapse.

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Contamination of sediments in the Detroit River has been shown to have impacts upon the health of benthic fish in direct contact with the sediments. It was hypothesized that hydrophobic contaminants partition from sediments into the aqueous phase in the Detroit River , subsequently bioaccumulating.

The site once had "radioactive contamination," noted Brian Masse, a New Democratic Party member of the Canadian Parliament who represents the Windsor Masse has expressed concern to the Canadian and U.S. governments about the collapse and its potential for contaminating the Detroit River and

A ship dropped off a large amount of aggregate on the site on Nov. 25. A large pile of limestone-based gravel was stored about 100 feet from shore and was about 35 to 40 feet high. Heavy rains ensued the next day and over that night, and at a some point on Nov. 27, the ground broke away, spilling the gravel pile into the river.

But it wasn't until a week later, on Dec. 4, that EGLE learned of the spill and began a response, following inquiries from the Windsor Star.

“How in the world is it possible that we are hearing from Canadian news networks, days late at that, before we are hearing from our own authorities in charge of protecting us?” said Justin Onwenu, an environmental justice organizer with the Sierra Club.

“Michiganders deserve emergency response systems in place that will assure communities that public health and safety is adequately protected.”

EGLE spokesman Nick Assendelft said the agency responded as soon as it learned of the incident.

"We don't have people walking the shoreline ... that they would have noticed this happening," he said. "We started getting calls on Wednesday (of this week)."

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DETROIT (CNN) -- A collapse at a possibly radioactive site in Detroit has Detroit residents and Canadians A dock at the former Revere Copper site collapsed last week into the Detroit river . Officials said the site is still highly rated for further contamination. Canadian lawmakers worry that the

Known as the Detroit Dock, a site where uranium was processed for nuclear weapons partially collapsed into the already polluted Detroit River "EGLE is aware that the site was previously used to process uranium and there is no evidence to suggest that there is a current radiological risk," the

In addition to the regulators visiting the site, FBI agents were also on hand in case anything concerning was detected. The bureau had requested to be there, but only as a precaution, Assendelft said.

FBI Special Agent Mara Schneider provided a statement about the bureau's involvement:

"This morning, members of the FBI Detroit hazmat team were present at the Revere Copper site alongside a number of our partner agencies. The FBI hazmat team routinely responds to any report of a potential release of radiological material to assist and support our partners. We would defer any comment as to the present condition of the site to EGLE."

a group of people on a beach: People survey the scene of a Detroit property contaminated with uranium and other dangerous chemicals that partially collapsed into the Detroit River on Friday, December 6, 2019.© Ryan Garza, Detroit Free Press People survey the scene of a Detroit property contaminated with uranium and other dangerous chemicals that partially collapsed into the Detroit River on Friday, December 6, 2019.

Shoreline bulk storage sites unregulated

No federal or state regulator examines the condition of aging shoreline docks and seawalls like the one that collapsed under the weight of aggregate piles at the former Revere Copper site.

The wooden dock is “probably quite old,” said Laura Garrett, project manager in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ compliance and enforcement branch in Detroit.

Docks and seawalls such as the one on the Revere site typically require an Army Corps permit at their construction. The Army Corps has a 2005 permit for the site for work on an outfall structure, but a permit for the seawall itself could not be located.

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“We might not have a permit, or we haven’t found a permit for it yet,” Garrett said. “We’re still searching our records. If we have a permit, it’s likely very old.”

Whether a seawall or dock is old and dilapidated, or unable to withstand certain load weights safely, “is not something we would regulate or dictate,” she said. “We can’t say what you do with it."

Assendelft said EGLE would have interest in a permit for a new shoreline seawall or dock, but as for the condition of old ones, "to my knowledge, it's not something that we would go out and inspect on a regular basis," he said.

Water authority: Drinking water not impacted

Two Great Lakes Water Authority drinking water intakes exist on the Detroit River, but GLWA, in a statement on Friday, said one of the intakes is several miles upstream of the incident site, and a second is located on the Canadian side of the river, “not in the direct flow stream of the river where the land collapsed. Because of this, GLWA does not believe there is any danger of this incident impacting water quality.”

The water authority added it was in the process of conducting testing with an independent, third-party laboratory for radionuclides "and is requesting an expedited turnaround on these results." The agency said it would share the results with the public as soon as they were available.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency spokeswoman Allison Lippert, in an email Friday, said EGLE was the lead agency for the incident, and that EPA will "provide assistance if requested."

Lippert said Department of Energy radiation surveys in 1981 and 1989; a site assessment by EPA in the 1980s; and testing earlier this year by EPA's Great Lakes National Program Office and EGLE all found no radiation above natural background levels.

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But radiation isn't the only thing people should be concerned about at the site, said Gregg Ward, who operates Detroit-Windsor Truck Ferry a half-mile downriver from the Revere Copper site.

"There was a lot of dumping on that site — PCBs, hazardous wastes, there were pits and things."

While soil and other tests have shown the site without excessive contamination now,  "this property has never been split open like it is now," Ward said.

"Every minute, every second, erosion is occurring, because the water is rushing into there, and it’s a very fast-paced river at that point. If there’s a 1% risk to our waterways that should be a crisis, an emergency."

Under the Clean Water Act, any spill into navigable water is illegal without a permit. The collapse is a violation of the act and a penalty and cleanup should be enforced by the Environmental Protection Agency. While the spill wasn’t intentional, it's reasonable for the Detroit Bulk Storage to know this type of incident could happen so reasonable precautions should’ve been taken, according to Nick Schroek, associate dean of experiential education and an environmental law expert at the University of Detroit-Mercy.

“There are many contaminated sites all along the Detroit River, historic sites from early industrial activity and leftover pollution from the WWII effort that is harmful. So there is danger not just from the collapse, but also danger in stirring up sediment at the bottom of the river that may have contaminated sediments and PCBs. We should be cleaning up the toxic areas of the river because there’s always a risk of the sediments being disturbed.”

Concerns over delayed response

U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Detroit, in a release said there are still many unanswered questions, including why it took EGLE so long to get involved.

"There are still major unanswered questions about what was spilled into the river when the dock collapsed, what pollutants may have been exposed by the collapse and disturbance of the riverbed, and what testing and remediation will take place to ensure the site is safe and that the collapse has not endangered our public health," she said.

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“Detroit Bulk Storage and Revere Dock LLC have put their own profits ahead of the public’s well-being by not following processes that protect public health and our environment. They did not notify officials of the incident, instead working to cover up the collapse without proper safety equipment. Our residents don't deserve to continue to be dumped on by corporate polluters with no accountability."

For Tlaib, news of the collapse sparked memories of an earlier environmental fight along the river. When she heard that Detroit Bulk Storage was involved, she thought of the way piles of petroleum coke had been stored along the river near the Ambassador Bridge, and the assurances that were offered that the material, a refinery by-product, was safe despite concerns about dust from the piles getting into people’s homes.

Tlaib expressed concern about any level of radiation at the Revere Dock site and whether other contaminants from the area’s industrial past had been kicked loose. She said she plans to reach out to Attorney General Dana Nessel on the matter.

Tlaib said she has also “sent a letter to both EPA and EGLE requesting additional information on past testing and in-depth information on what health and environmental risks may exist due to the collapse, including any risks to our public drinking water system.”

Tlaib, along with State Sen. Stephanie Chang, D-Detroit, and Detroit Councilwoman Raquel Castaneda-Lopez, have been in communication with local advocates, regulators and agencies involved in the response as well as residents trying to gather information.

Chang also highlighted the lag in notification as a major concern.

“(Were) there any requirements that haven’t been fulfilled in terms of notifications given the potential impact on public health?” Chang said. “Protecting our drinking water and the Detroit River is a huge priority.”

Castaneda-Lopez said she was shocked to learn of the collapse after a local business owner brought it to her attention. She said it’s irresponsible not to make sure a site can handle so much weight. She wants the entities involved to be more proactive.

“I think it should raise a red flag that we need to do more around regulating industry in general,” Castaneda-Lopez said. “We need to weigh the risks and costs and not just the economic benefits.”

Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Candice Miller said the issue highlights the importance of thinking regionally, especially related to issues like drinking water and the Great Lakes.

“There are a lot of old industrial sites all over the place. You’ve got spent nuclear fuel sitting on the shores of the Great Lakes,” Miller said, emphasizing the need for a permanent repository for nuclear waste. “These are issues that affect all of us. There’s really nothing more important than water quality. You might have a gallon of oil, it’s marketable, but it won’t sustain life. Only water sustains life.”

Miller also highlighted her support for a regional water monitoring system when she served in Congress. That system, which monitors 14 drinking water intakes from Port Huron to Lake Erie, is up and running now after nearly being sidelined for lack of funding years ago. It’s coordinated by the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments, although individual communities or water systems pay to maintain their specific sites.

The Huron to Erie Corridor Monitoring Network incorporates the two Great Lakes Water Authority intakes, offering real-time monitoring that can help detect contaminants, such as in the event of an oil spill, according to Rachael Barlock, water resources engineer with SEMCOG’s environment and infrastructure group.

It does not monitor for radioactive contamination, but if it were to detect an issue that it is equipped for, it could allow systems downstream to shut their intakes before the contaminants arrive. The system was considered an important way to protect drinking water in the region because of its proximity to Chemical Valley in Sarnia, Ontario.

“Each plant has equipment that monitors the incoming source water for pH, temperature, turbidity (how much particulate sediment is suspended in the water) and dissolved oxygen (the oxygen used by aquatic organisms), and some plants measure for algae,” Barlock noted in an email.

It was not clear on Friday if the system had detected any changes that might be attributable to the collapse.

Free Press Reporters Joe Guillen, Jennifer Dixon and Gina Kaufman contributed to this report. Contact Keith Matheny: (313) 222-5021 or kmatheny@freepress.com. Follow on Twitter @keithmatheny

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Tests show Detroit River safe after collapse of uranium-tainted site, regulators say

Mold prompts Dallas children's hospital to relocate 28 patients .
Positive mold tests at Children's Medical Center Dallas propmpted the facility to relocate 28 patients. Routine air tests showed higher-than-normal levels of Aspergillus and Penicillium molds, which are generally not harmful except to those with compromised immune systems.When mold results were identified on December 4, patients were moved from the cardiac intensive care unit at Children's Medical Center Dallas to other parts of the facility "out of an abundance of caution," Hock said.

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