Wastewater Hurts Michigan Environment, and Threatens Health
09 August, 2009—While searching for a lost cow, farmer Charlie Brozofsky discovered in late 2002 that a stream on his property was tainted. The stream, usually clear and rippling, was slimy orange. What unfolded next was a saga of illegal blueberry waste dumping, which contaminated the groundwater that fed the stream, killing fish and other aquatic life in it. In Michigan's prized fruit and vegetable industry, processors have contaminated groundwater with metals and arsenic by spraying wastewater on fields -- a 40-year-old practice that has led to polluted wells. But in some cases, they also have dumped or spilled their waste into streams, marshes and wetlands, damaging them for years to come. Two companies responsible for dumping the blueberry waste are still arguing with the state over cleaning up the stream, which flows to Platte Lake. Eric Chatterson, the Department of Environmental Quality official overseeing the cleanup, visited the stream last week. There's still no life in it seven years later, he said. [VIEW PDF]
Food processors' spraying leaves Michigan wells contaminated
FENNVILLE -- John Dekker feels like he's camping out in his own home. He showers with bottled water and drags his laundry to a Laundromat. He can't sell his house without disclosing its glaring flaw -- his well is contaminated. In rural west Michigan, food processors have sprayed so much wastewater onto fields that heavy metals seeped into groundwater, contaminating wells. State officials have known of the polluting for at least a decade but, residents complain, moved slowly. The list of tainted sites keeps growing. And the contamination plumes continue to spread as the Department of Environmental Quality and companies argue behind closed doors over what must be done. [VIEW PDF]
Years of food processors' waste turns Michigan's natural treasures to ruins
While searching for a lost cow, farmer Charlie Brozofsky discovered in late 2002 that a stream on his property was tainted. The stream, usually clear and rippling, was slimy orange. Advertisement What unfolded next was a saga of illegal blueberry waste dumping, which contaminated the groundwater that fed the stream, killing fish and other aquatic life in it. In Michigan's prized fruit and vegetable industry, processors have contaminated groundwater with metals and arsenic by spraying wastewater on fields -- a 40-year-old practice that has led to polluted wells. But in some cases, they also have dumped or spilled their waste into streams, marshes and wetlands, damaging them for years to come. Two companies responsible for dumping the blueberry waste are still arguing with the state over cleaning up the stream, which flows to Platte Lake. Eric Chatterson, the Department of Environmental Quality official overseeing the cleanup, visited the stream last week. There's still no life in it seven years later, he said. "Even leaves don't decay in there," he said. Trees along the stream are still dying. The spring that feeds the stream gushes like orange paint. [VIEW PDF]
Michigan residents frustrated with contaminated wells
09 August, 2009—Food processors in rural western Michigan have sprayed so much wastewater onto fields that heavy metals have seeped into groundwater and contaminated wells. "Boiled eggs turn black inside the shell," said Kari Craton, whose well has been replaced twice because of contamination from the local Birds Eye plant. "If it can get inside an eggshell, what do our insides look like?"
Groundwater contamination from food processing common
09 August, 2009—It seems that Dow Chemical is not the only company whose actions have contaminated Michigan’s water supplies.Groundwater contamination from food processing companies has become a serious problem in several West Michigan communities. An accompanying PDF file explains how the spraying of wastewater from food processing facilities for products like Birds Eye foods and Minute Maid juices leads to excess leaching of metals into the surrounding groundwater. [VIEW PDF]
Michigan food processors turn groundwater orange
Orange! Aren't you glad that I didn’t say arsenic?: It’s common practice among Michigan’s fruit and vegetable processors to spray their untreated wastewater, heavy with sugars and salts, onto nearby fields. After years of putting up with the spraying, nearby residents are complaining that large processors are destroying groundwater with their fruity funk. Scientists say that too much fruit and vegetable waste strips the oxygen from soil, concentrating metals and arsenic that leaches into groundwater. What does that mean for nearby residents? Tap water that glows a strange shade of orange, dyes their bathtubs, and turns eggs black when they’re boiled. Residents who discover that their wells are contaminated find that the state and the companies have known about the problem for a decade or more. When pushed to investigate, the state may take years - one government spokesperson argued that while they have to enforce the law, they don’t want to put the processors out of business - and even when they’re cited, companies fail to change their practices.
Pesticides in well water increase risk of Parkinson’s disease
Well water isn’t always healthy: Pesticide-contaminated well water has been hypothesized as a cause of Parkinson’s disease, with several epidemiologic studies providing support. High levels of estimated contanimation resulted in 31% to 90% higher risk of Parkinson’s disease, with the highest correlations found for methomyl, chlorpyrifos, and propargite.
Companies faced with changing decades-old disposal method
09 August, 2009—The companies that turn Michigan produce into dried, canned and frozen products have always sprayed their wastewater, year-round, on fields. It has been a relatively cheap, simple way to dispose of cherry cooling water, unusable fruit juice, cherry brine and waste from canning pie fillings. Now, they face having to change what they do. Some of the sites have contamination plumes that cover several square miles, where a huge cleanup could cost $40 million to $50 million and could dry up some aquifers, he said. [VIEW PDF]
|Michigan cherry growers produce 50-55 million pounds of cherries a year—75 percent or more of the nation’s tart cherry crop is grown in Michigan
Company halts processing
June 04, 2009—Farmers on the east side of Traverse City "are holding their breath" to see if they have a market for this year's cherry crop. Cherry Blossom, LLC, of Williamsburg, laid off about 45 workers and stopped processing cherries this week due to problems meeting payroll. Cherry Blossom's sister company, WRS Holding LLC, owes almost $41,000 in back property taxes. The processor's financial difficulties are tied to its history of environmental waste disposal problems, Hubbell said. An on-site treatment system couldn't handle its food processing waste, and neighboring residents and the state sued in response to spills and other waste discharge violations.
Residents oppose deep-injection well
May 07, 2009—Some Acme Township residents plan to fight a proposed deep-injection disposal well for oil and brine. They worry about potential impacts to groundwater and believe the well eventually could be used for fruit processing wastewater, akin to another nearby well in Whitewater Township. Traverse City-based O.I.L. Energy Corp. wants to pump fruit waste into a deep-injection disposal well it operates north of M-72 in Whitewater Township. The company also applied to drill a new well off U.S. 31 in Acme Township for oil and gas brine. Rachelle Babcock, of Acme, wants fruit wastewater to be treated to remove all toxins and properly disposed of, not pumped underground. She also suspects the proposed new brine well in Acme will in time be re-classified to use for fruit and other industrial waste, she said. "I'm concerned about groundwater, should some breach happen within the system. It only takes one spill," Babcock said.
O.I.L. Energy applies for underground waste
February 20, 2009—EPA says cherry waste liquids pose 'minimal risk. Energy Corp., of Traverse City, wants to pump fruit waste into a deep-injection disposal well it operates north of M-72, in the far northern reaches of Grand Traverse County's Whitewater Township. The company applied to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for an additional operating permit to allow it to inject cherry juice waste about 2,000 feet underground. EPA intends to approve the request, documents show. Boals and others have taken part in lawsuits against the cherry processor based on waste water disposal and other environmental concerns. It's "conceivable" that fruit waste injection could damage the environment, Brad Boals said, and he'd prefer the company continue to truck its waste to treatment plants. Robbin Bustance worries about the well's proximity to Petobego Natural Area, including wetlands that connect to Grand Traverse Bay. She's also concerned the well will become a permanent injection site for fruit processing wastewater from Cherry Blossom and other area fruit companies.