Polluter-pay law introduced in Michigan legislature | Michigan Radio
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Polluter-pay law introduced in Michigan legislature

Feb 15, 2019

Credit Mike Russell / creative commons

Michigan lawmakers introduced new bills designed to make polluters pay. It requires that the polluter clean up the pollutant as much as technically possible.

Democrats Senator Jeff Irwin and Representative Yousef Rabhi introduced identical bills in the House and Senate Thursday. Irwin says there was a polluter-pay law, but the Engler administration changed them in 1995.

He says, "Because of the way that the state legislature has been catering to the interests of big industry, our environmental laws have just been dramatically weakened to the point where our Department of Environmental Quality really does not have the tools to protect public health." 

The current law is based on risk mitigation, which allows chemical pollution to spread as long as human exposure is limited. Irwin cited the Gelman Science complex's pollution in Ann Arbor as an example of a big business not being held responsible. Decades ago, the company released more than 800,000 pounds of dioxane, a possible carcinogen, into aquifers in Washinaw County. The pollution began to spread and is said to have caused a dioxane plume in Ann Arbor.

The pollution, and lack of cleanup, has caused a growing prohibition zone. Irwin says the goal of the management of this contamination has only been to manage to public's exposure to these chemicals. This possible law would make the company responsible for the pollution to pay for the cleanup. 

These bills come following growing frustration about dioxane plumes and PFAS contamination of water supplies. Irwin says, "This law would once again give the authority, restore the authority, for the public to require them to clean it up. Because our environmental laws are so weak now."

If passed, the bill would allow the Department of Environmental Quality to take action agaist polluters. Irwin say scientist are finding PFAS everywhere - in our bodies, rivers, and drinking water. He hopes this legislation will restore the peoples authority, and help Michigan have cleaner water and air.