Lawmakers demand answers after feces, needles, and dead fish pollute major lake
MACOMB COUNTY, Mich. (SINCLAIR BROADCAST GROUP) - State agencies aren't protecting the water you drink and the beaches you swim at, according to several Michigan Republicans and Democrats.
Inside a Macomb County restaurant Friday, lawmakers cornered the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) and Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) after "alarming" E. coli levels were found in one of the state's largest lakes, Lake St. Clair, which is part of the Great Lakes system.
Forty-three percent of Michiganders drink the water that passes through Lake St. Clair, according to Republican State Rep. Pete Lucido of Shelby Township.
He says raw sewage is being dumped in the lake.
"This is ridiculous!" he said.
On Friday, inside Nick's 22nd Street Steak House, Lucido grilled the state DEQ and DNR for "not doing their jobs."
"You're directing your anger at us," replied Teresa Seidel, the MDEQ Division Chief.
"It's not anger! It's passion," said Lucido.
"We are very passionate about our jobs, too," said Seidel.
"I want an action plan by everyone of you!" Lucido said to several staff members of the MDEQ, MDNR, and the Army Corps of Engineers.
Lucido is concerned about the state's standards of accepted levels of E. coli in Michigan lakes and rivers.
"We enforce the regulations that you set," said Seidel.
Seidel said the DEQ needs financial assistance to help local governments comply with stricter standards the legislature may pass in the future.
"The financial support comes from you!" said Seidel. "It's not resting with the DEQ."
After taking the state agencies to task, the Macomb County lawmaker and lawyer says MDEQ workers should be in jail.
"You darn right they ought to be in jail!" said Lucido.
"If he can arrest them, I'll hand them to them," said Democratic State Sen. Jim Ananich of Flint.
The Senate Minority Leader agrees with Lucido.
Ananich says the MDEQ is hiding behind E. coli and water standards that he says are too low.
"They've used this excuse in Flint, in Lake St. Clair, they are using it in Midland at the Air Force base," he said.
"I am concerned about why our sewers are sitting there with crap in them and are being dumped into our lakes," Lucido told the MDNR and MDEQ.
"What I saw at the meeting is nobody really took responsibility," said Mike Gutow, who represents the organization, "Save Lake St. Clair."
Gutow says one man is selling his dream home because the lake is so contaminated.
Dead fish, toxins, trash, and feces currently line much of the shoreline in the Clinton River and Lake St. Clair.
"This is the neglect of our government," Gutow said as he examined the shoreline of the Clinton River with Republican State Rep. Steve Marino and Democratic State Rep. Kevin Hertel.
Gutow is demanding action.
"People need to understand this is your drinking water," he said.
Gutow says everyone in Michigan must take notice at what happened to Lake St. Clair because he says it's another example of government failure.
"We just need accountability," he said. "That's the problem."
During Friday's meeting, the MDEQ Division Chief promised Michigan lawmakers that she would establish an action plan within the next two weeks.
The meeting was also attended by representatives of Congressman Paul Mitchell, Commissioner Candice Miller, and Sen. Jack Brandenburg.
Rep. Patrick Green and Rep. Pamela Hornberger also attended the round table meeting.