Water tests at Detroit storage site dock collapse meet standards, state says

Leonard N. Fleming
The Detroit News

Water samples conducted at the site of a southwest Detroit dock collapse at a riverfront storage site show no detectable contaminants or that they  were "well below water quality standards," state officials said Wednesday.

Analysis by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy labs in Lansing of the spill from the Detroit Bulk Storage site indicates that there were no adverse effects on the Detroit River.

Heavy machinery moves tons of crushed stone around the Detroit, Michigan shoreline at Detroit Bulk Storage near Historic Fort Wayne in 2019.

At least three water samples were taken, one 2,540 feet upstream from the site, one directly in front of the spill area and the other 1,040 feet downstream.

Samples taken upstream and downstream of the dock collapse were tested for metals, PCBs, suspended solids and industrial contaminants, and processed in an expedited fashion, the state said. 

State testing at the site of a southwest Detroit location also found radiation levels that fell below what is considered naturally occurring levels in Michigan, indicating there is no danger to public health. The site once had "radioactive contamination," said Brian Masse, a New Democratic Party member of the Canadian Parliament who represents the Windsor region.

Staff tested for radiation Friday at several locations near the collapse after a Canadian lawmaker urged further review of what types of material entered the waterway, citing a facility formerly located at the site that handled uranium in the 1940s and 1950s. The testing included sediment under the dock that fell into the water.

The testing results were announced a few hours after the Great Lakes Water Authority said it also was testing water taken from the Detroit River after the collapse.

Similar testing was performed in 2014 and no problems were found, according to the authority. 

The collapse occurred in part due to the weight of the aggregate stored 100 feet away from the waterfront by the storage site, said Masse in a letter Dec. 5 to the Canadian minister of environment and climate change.

The limestone aggregate had been piled 40-50 feet high along 300 feet of the waterfront, said Noel Frye of Detroit Bulk Storage. Typically, loads can be stored only 50 feet off the waterfront and no more than 50 feet high, Frye said.

The Great Lakes Water Authority believes the two intake sites several miles upstream and several miles downstream of the collapse are in no danger of contamination from the incident. 

A community meeting on the collapse is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday at the Cass Corridor Commons in Detroit, according to a release from the Sierra Club.

The group said it is hosting the event along with Masse, the offices of Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Brenda Lawrence, state Sen. Stephanie Chang and state Rep. Tyrone Carter as well as the East Michigan Environmental Action Council, Friends of the Detroit River, Great Lakes Environmental Law Center, League of Conservation Voters, Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition, Michigan United, People’s Water Board Coalition and We the People of Detroit. 

"There will be representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Environment, Great Lakes & Energy ... to answer questions from impacted communities and chart a solutions-oriented path forward," the release read.


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Staff Writer Mark Hicks contributed to this report.