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Environment & Climate Change
Velsicol Chemical on the banks of the Pine River in St. Louis, Michigan. The chemical plant closed in 1978. The plant was later buried - on site - buildings, contamination and all - after an agreement with the EPA and the State of Michigan.A lot of people remember the PBB tragedy in Michigan. That's when Velsicol Chemical (formerly Michigan Chemical) and the Michigan Farm Bureau accidentally contaminated the state’s food supply in the 1970s. The legacy of the now defunct company's practices are still with us today.The company made more than just PBB, and it left these toxic chemicals behind in St. Louis, Michigan. It's up to us, the taxpayers, to try to clean up what the company left behind.Scroll below to see all our reports in special series.One Company’s Toxic Legacy

As St. Louis moves toward a new drinking water source, questions raised about the Pine River

The old Velsicol chemical plant site from across the Pine River.
Mark Brush
/
Michigan Radio
The old Velsicol chemical plant site from across the Pine River.

The City of St. Louis, Michigan needs a new water system. That’s because pollution from the old Velsicol Chemical plant is leaking into St. Louis’ water supply

They’re planning to get that water upriver from the city of Alma.

Alma gets some of its drinking water from the Pine River.

Phil Moore, Alma’s city manager, says researchers at Alma College have raised some concerns about levels of nutrients and bacteria in the Pine River. But Moore says he’s confident their drinking water will remain safe.

“The quality of the water going through the treatment plant is not really a concern. Our treatment plant is able to handle what is coming down the river,” he says.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality is considering a study of this part of the Pine River. Spokesman Brad Wurfel gave this statement by email:

The DEQ, along with the State Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and MSU Extension, are looking into the concerns expressed about the Pine River and have started with a recent meeting with local and county officials. While it’s perhaps premature to say a study is planned, one is certainly under discussion. While we don’t have any scientific evidence in-hand right now that would cause immediate worry about water quality, we take the local concerns seriously and we will do what’s necessary to get questions answered and ensure that public health is protected. As we continue working with local partners, residents can be assured that they will be updated on what we find.

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