SEBEWAING — The Flint water crisis could speed up testing and cleanup of contaminants headed straight for the Sebewaing River – and potentially Sebewaing drinking water and Saginaw Bay.
That’s according to Michigan State Rep. Ed Canfield, R-Sebewaing – and first-term state representative for Tuscola and Huron counties.
Canfield is part of the Joint Committee on the Flint Water Public Health Emergency. The six-member committee was formed by the legislature to review the Flint water crisis.
Canfield told The Advertiser last week while visiting Tuscola County Behavorial Health Systems in Caro that he plans to use his access to high-ranking officials from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality as a result of his work on the Flint water situation to address Sebewaing River problems.
As The Advertiser was the first to report Jan. 6, MDEQ tests have confirmed contaminants from the former Lapeer Metal Stamping plant are leaching directly toward the Sebewaing River.
“The questions the DEQ should be asking are…how much of a threat is this and how big of a threat is this?” Canfield said. “Because we know if these chemicals get into our water system in large enough quantities, it’s going to cause significant problems.”
Canfield said so far, MDEQ has confirmed contaminants at the site, but “hasn’t said if we’re at industrial waste dump levels.”
“I’m going to find out what the answers are,” Canfield said.
Jennifer Rezmer, environmental analyst, MDEQ, told The Advertiser Tuesday that the state is finalizing a contract with an environmental engineering company to take samples from the property this summer and determine the extent of contamination and threat to water in the area.
“We are in the process of getting the sampling scheduled,” Rezmer said. “We’re in the process of working with (the contractor) to get a contract in place.”
Rezmer said earlier this year that an initial remedial investigation at the site – in the heart of the village of Sebewaing at 249 N. Center St. – shows contaminants are leaching off the edge of the property, toward Union Street and in the direction of the Sebewaing River.
Because of what the MDEQ calls a “checkered history” of ownership at the property now owned by the village, the state is bearing the cost of testing.
Rezmer said testing so far has shown chlorinated solvents and metals at the site.
Rhonda Klann, district supervisor for the remediation redevelopment division of MDEQ’s Saginaw Bay District, said the new contract will call for the contractor to “better define where the contamination is, where it’s going, and what are the options to do about it.”
Canfield – who said he recently invested in two properties in downtown Sebewaing – said he considers the situation a priority.
“The concern is, does it get to the river? Does it leach into the river? Are large amounts of these products going to leach into our river? That’s what we want to avoid,” Canfield said.
“I can assure you this is probably something that is going to have to be watched for the rest of time,” Canfield said. “We’re paying for the industrial era.”
Andrew Dietderich is editor of The Advertiser and can be reached at email@example.com