DGR Great Lakes Basin
written for CCNews by Mike Sterling
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Flint River Watershed
The contamination of drinking water in Flint Michigan has been tragic. Canada has had water difficulties too. We need only remember the Walkerton Water tragedy.
Flint is somewhat different, but also rests upon lack of training, regulation and early and preventative testing. Added to that was budgetary issues.
The facts are not altogether clear at this time February 1, 2016. It seems that Flint, an economically beleaguered city of 100,000, until recently got their drinking water from Detroit. In order to cut expenditures, they switched to the Flint River. One reason was the Detroit was raising the rates due to their own budget issues.
Flint was running a deficit and awaiting a direct pipeline to Lake Huron. Governor Snyder, a conservative cost cutter, and the then mayor and council agreed to take their water from the Flint River.
Because of lead contamination thought to have come from the aging piping, a dire emergency is playing itself out.
Detroit had always added a chemical to counteract the corrosion that would ensue in the piping.
Flint did not add anything to their more toxic water to counteract lead pipes and now the aging pipes were leaching lead into Flint's drinking water. A series of Emergency Managers did not correct the dire situation. These managers were brought in to solve the money problems for the entire city.
When the US Environmental Protection Agency tested the water after being asked by a local doctor they immediately raised the alarm. Instead of lead measuring 15 parts per billion which is the EPA limit, the measurement showed 13,200 parts per billion. The Flint river was different from Lake Huron and no additive to counteract lead was used anyway.
How this happened will take years to unravel. Investigations will get to the bottom of it. Head will roll and $$ will be spent.
What is striking to me is that some Michigan politicians who have been so vocal about the Kincardine DGR and Lake Huron water, were deaf to any problems in their own watersheds. They took Toronto waste for years, after all. Kalamazoo is what it is.
Let's look at the differences.
The Kincardine DGR has undergone more than a decade of study by real experts, not hacks. Water was at the top of the study list.
Switching from Detroit to the Flint River was a relatively rapid decision.
Flint or the State could have called on the expertise of the EPA rather than people interested in solving the deficit issue.
Public hearings? The DGR had months of hearings. How about Flint? Well, they will have plenty of them now. The EPA can run them.
I noticed too that the anti-DGR folks are using the Flint River as a reason for NOT going ahead with the DGR project in Canada and in particular in Kincardine. They want to disregard the science.
What bothers me is that the anti side continues to ignore the vast amount of waste stored at the Kincardine site and what the scientists say about safety (see column 2). The waste is there folks and above ground. The scientists have alerted us.
The anti-side is against something they have not studied in depth and have no solution for except to wait for something in the future that they might object to anyway.
If you want to ignore science and safety and stick with 'common sense', beware.
I'd suggest that the Michigan elected officials look closer to home for water contamination. By the way, how are they doing on the Kalamazoo crude oil spill of 2010?
I noticed some Michigan State politicians checked in for a day or two at the hearings in Kincardine to protest 'something' they felt had not been studied enough. Ten years and more was not enough for them.
They seemed to not know that Canada, Michigan and the US federal government had been briefed regularly on the Kincardine DGR at the right level.
Now Michigan will hire some 'real' experts and get a panel or fact finding commission together?
Oh well, now that the 'cat is out of the bag', they will spend up to and maybe more than $100,000,000 on civil and maybe criminal negligence suits. They need a process and clearly don't have one. They need regulation and clearly don't have it.
See the top of column two for the Joint Review Panel recommendations. Note the safety theme.
THE JOINT REVIEW PANEL CONCLUSION IN THEIR OWN WORDS
"The DGR should be built now rather than later"
"The Panel is of the view that the sooner the waste is isolated from the surface environment the better. The Panel notes the importance of reducing and, if appropriate, reusing and recycling the waste. However, it recognizes that current technologies to alter the waste to render it no longer hazardous are limited, particularly for intermediate level waste that contains radionuclides with longer half-lives. The Panel concludes that the likelihood and consequences of an event resulting in the release of radionuclides from surface storage are greater than they would be for a DGR. The Panel is of the view that the risk of waiting until technologies are available to eliminate the hazards associated with longer-lived radionuclides outweighs the benefits."
For the full Joint Review Panel final report. Click Here
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Monday, February 01, 2016