CommonGoodUnited.org (=CGU), and its divisions (youREAPwhatyousow.org, PACATO.org, etc.) have not said much on its websites during the past year, but now that the Biden-Harris Democrat team has won, some things need to be said. The origins of CGU came from its first website, youREAPwhatyousow.org (=REAP), which was founded, some years after a Whistleblower (WB) disclosure was made to the Michigan AG against a corporation who was knowingly and illegally polluting the environment from two or more of its CRIMe plants (Chemically Real Intensive Manufacturing establishments) located in West Michigan. The Michigan AG at the time was Jennifer Granholm, who subsequently became a two-term Michigan Governor. Despite all the personal and professional risk and damage endured by the WB, AG Granholm ignored and did not act upon this disclosure. Environmental laws and regulations (RCRA 1976) requiring that these plants have certain safeguards have been in existence for nearly a half century, but have been ignored due to lack of enforcement and loose and false interpretation of these rules by the CRIMe plants and their attorneys, who have not been brought into check by the regulators who answer to the lax state and federal environmental directors, as appointed by politically-driven elected officials working on their next election campaign. The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), and the hazardous waste (HW) regulations contained therein, govern how hazardous wastewater (HWW) is to be Treated, Stored and Disposed of (TSD) at these CRIMe plants. These HW rules are in effect for the regional EPA certified TSD facilities (TSDFs) that exist to take liquid and solid HW from industrial HW generators throughout the US. The standards that TSDFs must meet are very stringent, requiring doubled lined tanks and pipe (= secondary containment = tank inside of a tank, pipe inside of a pipe), continuous leak detection monitoring between secondary and primary tanks and pipes, continuous liquid level monitoring and pressure monitoring in tanks and pipes with automatic alarm systems and shutoffs that are triggered when critical liquid levels or pressures have been reached to prevent overflows/releases, sampling and testing of monitor wells (and stormwater retention ponds) surrounding the site to give early detection if contaminants have been released from TSDF and are about to be spread to adjacent properties; plus extensive US EPA reporting requirements. What needs to be clearly recognized is that most of the regional TSD Facilities that take HW and HWW from thousands of industrial plants, DO NOT process as much HWW as many of these industrial CRIMe plants, who in a lot of cases, are leaking like sieves and are going unnoticed (unless they contaminate nearby domestic wells) because they are located in areas that have centralized municipal water systems, so nobody is monitoring them, and nobody knows the difference even though they are polluting, both near and afar, the surrounding soils, streams, lakes and public water supply sources. Prime examples of CRIMe plants are metal finishers/electroplating facilities, leather tanneries, pulp/paper processing plants and stainless steel manufacturing. Toxic chemicals from these plants include hexavalent chromium and PFAS chemicals, which are very toxic at extremely low concentrations, especially to the most vulnerable population, like infants, toddlers and pregnant women. Hexavalent chromium is becoming more and more prevalent in water supply source intakes on the Great Lakes near urbanized and industrialized areas, which is becoming a major concern. The insidious water pollution that has been occurring to our water supply sources for a half a century or more due to unchecked pollution from these CRIMe plants can be compared to the insidious air pollution that is occurring to our atmosphere from fossil fuels which has brought about climate change. The contaminants from the CRIMe plants are slowly and gradually traveling through the soils, groundwater, ditches, streams and lakes and accumulating in our freshwater public water supply sources, and if left unheeded, it will continually degrade the quality of our drinking water.
Those CRIMe plants that have been loosely interpreting the RCRA HW regulations so they can freely pollute the environment have been falsely and illegally doing so by misinterpreting the domestic sewage exclusion as given in CFR 261.4(a)(1)(ii). This exclusion states that any mixture of domestic sewage and other wastes that passes through a sewer system to a publicly-owned treatment works (POTW) is excluded from RCRA HW rules. There is a fairly recent footnote now for this exclusion that states: “This exclusion applies only to the actual point source discharge [i.e., discharge to the POTW sewage collection system]. It does not exclude industrial wastewaters while they are being collected, stored or treated before discharge, nor does it exclude sludges that are generated by industrial wastewater treatment.” The main reasons for this exclusion, was so that POTWs could accept this industrial wastewater from industrial plants after it was treated and combined with the industry’s sanitary wastewater to meet their pretreatment standards in compliance with the CWA (Clean Water Act) through the POTW’s NPDES Permit (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System); and so the POTW did not have to meet special RCRA HW requirements. The CRIMe plants have been illegally using this RCRA domestic sewage exclusion, by falsely stating that they were mixing the sanitary and HWW together at the plant through the treatment process, which is never done, because putting urine and feces in your industrial wastewater treatment process is totally absurd, a big LIE, and doesn’t happen.
As a result of this loose interpretation of the RCRA HW rules over the last half century, essentially any given CRIMe plant “LACKS” what is considered adequate environmental safeguards as previously mentioned (secondary containment, containment system leak detection monitoring, continuous and automatic HWW tank liquid level and pipe pressure monitoring with automatic shutoff to prevent spill overflows/pipe leaks, onsite monitoring of groundwater and stormwater for early detection of site contamination before it migrates on adjacent properties, special regulatory reporting, etc.).
So my point here is that it is about time we solved this problem with the leaky CRIMe plants, and make them comply with the strict RCRA HW rules? California has, but most, if not all, of the other states have not. This needs to be a federal enforcement initiative to get all the states to comply, and begin cracking down on leaky CRIMe plants. And if former MI AG/MI Governor Granholm was willing and able to ignore this disclosure made twenty years ago, do we really want her to be the Secretary of Energy?
PACATO.org (Principled American Citizens and Allies Together Orchestrating) began to form alliances that could collectively take initiatives to orchestrate sampling and testing around these CRIMe plants (because the government has not yet, and likely will never do it on their own) to obtain the needed data to go to government officials and demand that they do something to stop this illegal pollution; and if they didn’t act, then go to the courts and demand that these publicly elected and appointed officials be held accountable to live up to their oath of protecting the wellbeing and health & safety of the public. The latter is the premise for PEWHASOP.org (Protect Environment, Wellbeing, and Health And Safety Of Public). If the courts don’t hold the public officials accountable, of course, We the People should vote them out.
The other divisions of CGU besides those already mentioned are GoPP.global (People’s Party platform) and UGLY.network. As you can see, relying on politicians alone (i.e., our elected public officials), even though they are from the most viable (winnable) party that most closely represents your ideals in our US democracy, does not mean they will do what is right all the time, because oftentimes their main driver is the desire and MO (Modus Operandi) to get re-elected, and We the People, may oftentimes come up short in that contest. And that is why we should always point out what is UGLY, so we have a gauge and a reference point, to call out those politicians when it comes election time on the GOOD, the BAD and the UGLY. UGLY.network was formed originally in 2019, incorporating the presidential primary leading up to the 2016 election and the Trump Presidency in 2017-18. Since that time, there has been a real bonanza for more Trumpian UGLY material yet to be incorporated. The Trump era was a prime time for defining UGLY. If a politician consistently does the opposite of Trump, that politician won’t be all that bad.
REAP Working for the Common Good of Humanity and the Planet to Solve Real Problems Employing Real Solutions
REAP, or Reality Environmental Action Proponents (under “youREAPwhatyousow.org”), among other goals aims at protecting, preserving and restoring (where needed) the environment, especially concentrating on identifying/publicizing and holding accountable (first through sampling & testing, and second, through holding public officials and agencies accountable) leaky CRIMe plants (Chemically Real Intensive Manufacturing establishments).
The parent organization, COMMONGOODUNITED INC (CommonGoodUnited.org), otherwise known as CGU, is a 501(c)(3) tax exempt nonprofit organization and a 509(a)(2) Public Charity, exclusively formed for charitably and education purposes to provide information, education, sampling & testing to increase knowledge on environmental, health & safety issues so public may make informed decisions on related public policy.
CGU includes the following divisions (click on “COMMONGOODUNITED DIVISIONS” on the web page header for more details): “youREAPwhatyousow.org” (includes REAP, or Reality Environmental Action Proponents under), “PACATO.org” (Principled American Citizens and Allies Together to Orchestrate), “PEWHASOP.org” (Protect Environment and general Welfare and Health And Safety Of Public), “GoPP.global” (People’s Party), and “UGLY.network” (Usurped, Greedy, Lackluster and Yearning for attn 24/7).
All of the CGU Org divisions are founded on the primary principle of having a society and governing body that acts for the “Common Good” of humanity and the planet. Another common principle of CGU Org is that of informing and educating the public on is the U.S. Constitution, which calls for a “people’s government that is of, by and for the people”, (Primary basis for People’s Party) and not “of, by and for the corporations and their loyal partners of elected and appointed public officials and high paid lobbyists” (lobbyists typically were previously public officials or owners/operators of the corporations; therefore, IT IS PRESENTLY, and has been for a long time, A POWERFUL CIRCLE WITH NO WEAK LINKS).
REAP’s current, and primary “seed” cause, is to identify and hold accountable leaky CRIMe plants located across the nation (Chemically Real Intensive Manufacturing establishments), and in particular, in the Midwest/Rust Belt/Great Lakes Region where chemical contamination is the worst and the stakes are the highest – i.e., continued toxic carcinogenic chemical contamination of the greatest and most treasured freshwater body on the entire planet. For multiple decades, and a half a century or more, CRIMe plants have been continuously contaminating our natural water resources (each and every one of these plants lacks proper environmental safeguards), including our public drinking water supply sources. Sadly, and pathetically, because these leaky CRIMe plants have not been held accountable by government public officials (elected and appointed) and agencies, REAP is informing and educating people that it is their right and civic duty to take matters into their own hands (join with their neighbors and allies per the primary emphasis of PACATO.org) and sample and test around these leaky CRIMe plants themselves. REAP will then give further instructions to the aggrieved public to proceed with presenting their contamination investigation report to public officials and demand that act in accordance with their OATH of PROTECTING THE ENVIRONMENT AND GENERAL WELFARE AND HEALTH & SAFETY OF THE PUBLIC (primary emphasis of PEWHASOP.org) or otherwise be held accountable themselves for the ILLEGAL ACT OF BREACH OF PUBLIC DUTY (rarely occurs, but must be done or otherwise these officials will continue as they have in the past of giving a blind eye and deaf ear to this problem). Professionals, like doctors, attorneys, engineers, etc., are required to abide by this PUBLIC PROTECTIVE OATH, and certainly elected and appointed public officials are also, and the public needs to hold them accountable to the oath.
Through the People’s Party PIE Platform (Public Informational and Educational), CGU and PPP (People’s Party Platform) plans to inform and educate the public on how they can achieve the above in lieu of waiting another half of century or more for the government or plaintiff attorneys to come to their rescue. For various reasons, the plaintiff attorneys rarely come running to take these cases because: (a) the leaky CRIMe plants are often in areas served by centralized public water, so there aren’t enough citizens directly ingesting chemically contaminated water; (b) many times the leaky CRIMe plants are either not located in a residential area, or if they are, it usually is in a low income demographic area where devaluation of these properties due to chemical contamination of the associated land is only pocket change to these high paid attorneys; (c) the plaintiff attorneys often reside and practice law in the same jurisdictional area (local, State, Region), and they don’t want to do battle with a company (and general industry) that is closely allied with many of the attorney’s allies (government officials, lobbyists, chamber of commerce, etc.); and (d) nobody has figured out yet, or is willing to admit, that the environmental pollution coming from the leaky CRIMe plants is actually insidiously and gradually polluting our public drinking water supply sources in an industry-wide, watershed-wide, collective manner. There are laws on the books with civil and criminal penalties that will hold these negligent government officials (who turn a blind eye and deaf ear to obvious problem) and owners/operators of CRIMe plants accountable in a court of law.
There are many more public policy issues that the people need to become more informed, educated and active on, such as the advancing of the private sector taking over (privatization) public infrastructure systems and public lands, including the giving up of mineral rights to the private sector on public lands for little or no costs with few or no restrictions on private sector activities on these lands (they abuse Native American lands, sucking groundwater aquifers dry making bottled water, etc.). Another topic that PPP intends to inform, educate and encourage action on relates to public policy action requiring that government protect the general welfare and civil rights of the public, including the duty of government to fulfill its obligation to protect the basic human rights (equality, etc.) and needs of its citizens (providing: habitable places to live, shelter, food, clean & safe water and air, etc.). Besides informing and educating on what is good and what is right for the common good of humanity and the planet, CGU Org also has a platform (UGLY.network) to describe what is bad and just plain UGLY for society, and contrary to the fundamental foundation of the USA and its Constitution and many other principles that good respectful people with morals, ethics and character live by, such as being respectful of your fellow human beings and the planet (flora, fauna, natural resources, etc.), living by the Golden Rule (treat others as you would want them to treat you), etc.
Principled Americans Citizens & Allies Together to Orchestrate
REAP and youREAPwhatyousow.org recently partnered (allied) with PACATO.org as one of their many partners working together in unison in a principled manner for the Common Good of Humanity and the Planet. This is a perfect partnership between two organizations having many similar goals and objectives, such as publicizing and working towards the identification, investigation and remediation of the many CRIMe plants (Chemically Real Intensive Manufacturing establishments) that are leaking cancerous chemicals across the nation and the world and putting the protection/preservation/restoration of the environment and rights of the common man ahead of economic bottom-line cost shaving tactics occurring at these CRIMe plants to maximize profits at the detriment and cost to the general welfare and health & safety of the public.
To learn about the WHAT, WHERE, WHY and HOW a corporation operating multiple CRIMe plants (Chemically Real Intensive Manufacturing establishments) in West Michigan polluting the natural resources (LAND, WATER & AIR) continually in violation of federal and state laws and regulations for multiple decades before and after it was reported (Whistle Blower disclosure by author) to the Michigan Attorney General at the time (and later Governor), Jennifer Grandholm, please read the documents that follow.
We are “Advocates for Reality and Equality Based Environmental and Public Health Solutions”
Email me to give me your comments, suggestions, insight and interest.
Volunteer to be a REAP Advocate, first and foremost, for your local community; or in addition to or otherwise, for your region, state and nation.
Remember that “You REAP what you sow”; and
“There are consequences, good and bad (positive and negative), for the actions and inactions of individuals and organizations – some driven by greed and egocentric purposes; others (hopefully the majority) driven by altruistic purposes in a quest to fulfill the common good of humanity and our planet”.
“Do not presume you are powerless and accept the way things are and suffer (along with your family and friends) the ill effects of neglect and breach of duty by others who continually allow the environment and public health to degrade”.
“Rise up and act in a responsible way inaccordance with your constitutional and civil rights to stop industrialhazardous chemical environmental releases from CRIM plants(Chemically-Real-Intensive-Manufacturing establishments) and hold them accountable to clean up thepollution they caused and demand that they upgrade their plants with properenvironmental safeguards or cease operations”.
Working on REAP’s Cause Along With Addressing Climate Change:
Global Climate Change is Real and #1 Environmental Threat to Humanity and Planet.
Recognition and Real Action is Vitally Needed Related to Global Climate Change.
Meanwhile, Do Not Neglect Real Acute and Chronic (short- & long-term) Harm and Threat Related to Carcinogenic Chemical Degradation of Safe Drinking Water Supply Sources – both Private and Public.
Acute present day carcinogenic (cancer causing) contamination (e.g., by PFOS & PFAS) of private domestic wellsis a recognized prevalent problem in the U.S., and justifiably receives immediate attention (publicity via news media, etc.) and correction action by governmental environmental and public health agencies.
Comparatively, there is no recognition, attention and corrective action by governmental environmental and public health agenciesregarding the long-term/chronic (decades to century) prevalent widespread, gradual, insidious and accumulative carcinogenic contamination (e.g., by PFOS & PFAS, Cr+6, etc.) of public drinking water supply sources caused by leaking CRIM plants(Chemically Real Intensive Manufacturing establishments) located in “public water service areas” in the U.S., especially for water intake structures in the Great Lakes region (e.g., Midwest states, Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, Lake Erie, etc.).
Private well contamination is a real and grave tragedy faced by many individuals and families in neighborhoods throughout the U.S. typically caused by their industrial neighbors (often by CRIM Plants – Chemically Real Intensive Manufacturing establishments). Not to minimize the latter problem with polluted wells, which desperately deserves immediate recognition and action; however, it should also be recognized that another much larger problem exists of a similar nature that involves tremendously more citizens (tens of millions) being negatively affected by a much larger number of CRIM plants (tens of thousands). What is referred to here are the many leaking CRIM plants in the U.S. located in “public water service areas”, especially in the Midwest rustbelt, that have been (multiple decades), and are presently, continually releasing toxic and carcinogenic chemicals to the environment. What these negligent CRIM plants are doing is going on unmonitored (not inspected, sampled or tested by government or plant owners), and consequently, unnoticed (unreported) by the public and adjacent property owners, even though virtually irreparable harm is being done to natural water resources (and the land), because the owners/occupants in areas surrounding these bad acting CRIM plants do not drink, sample or test the contaminated groundwater located below their land. WHY DOES THIS MATTER? – Because all this contaminated groundwater caused by tens of thousands of leaking CRIM plants located in small and large watersheds (drainage basins), covering large expanses of land, is collectively and continually flowing to other aquifers (bodies of groundwater), to open ditches, creeks, streams, rivers and eventually to large surface water bodies, such as Lake Michigan, and the Great Lakes in general. Carcinogenic chemicals are very toxic and harmful to humans (and other species) at extremely low concentrations (parts per million or parts per zillion range), and they are rising, and will continue to rise in these public water supply sources located in the Great Lakes unless the CRIM plants are forced to stop their leaking. As the latter continues to happen, the safe public drinking water we depend on will continue to degrade and get less and less safe to drink, and the prevalence of cancer related diseases and deaths will continue to rise (or otherwise buy elaborate home water purifiers).
Without a doubt, global climate change is the number one environmental issue facing humanity and our planet in the present day. But just the same, we must continually remind ourselves that humanity and the earth as we know it may survive this astronomical challenge if sound global initiatives are universally adopted and implemented. The point is, we cannot solely devote all our time, energy and resources to this one gigantic issue, nor can we let ourselves be consumed with pessimism and cynicism and throw up our arms and say “what is the sense with bothering with anything because the inevitable day of the sixth extinction is coming soon regardless of what we do”. Under the latter attitude, secondary issues such as protecting, preserving and restoring water resources maybe are being put on the “back burner” so to speak under the “why bother” column. Again, we must continually remind ourselves that we need to take a holistic, integrated and simultaneous approach in protecting the environment and public health, and most of us are all capable of multitasking, so there is no excuse not to. So granted, it is understandable that our limited resources must be divided and delegated to various environmental causes based on some priority system. So it is not surprising that environmental and public health agencies concentrate a lot of their efforts on addressing the most acute crisis or emergency of our time affecting a given demographic or geographic region. For example, there is presently a very serious widespread problem being dealt with across the nation, and most notably in Michigan (including West MI) and the U.S. Midwest, with PFOS and PFAS contamination of drinking water supplies – also with some public water supplies, but predominantly a contamination problem with private domestic wells. The main point of the REAP blog is, that while these critical emergencies are being dealt with, as others have been in the past, we still have to take the time to recognize and address a more widespread water contamination problem that has been occurring essentially unmonitored and unnoticed for a half a century or more due to leaking CRIM plants operating across the land because appropriate environmental safeguards are not in place to prevent, detect and stop this leaking. It is not enough to say that the public is protected because the properties surrounding these CRIM plants depend on piped in public safe drinking water, because regardless this continual leaking in the long term is contaminating our natural resources in an accumulative manner, including most importantly, our public water supply sources, such as Lake Michigan and the Great Lakes in general. Like climate change, it is a gradual and insidious process, that is happening, and it will only continually get worse if this problem with leaking CRIM plants is not addressed. It is a simple principal and process: (a)just like small doses of toxic chemicals accumulate in your body, through your veins, arteries and tissues over a lifetime, perhaps to the extent that you succumb to cancer after several decades of living; and (b)so too, do these toxic chemicals released into the environment by CRIM plants at various locations throughout the Midwest find their way in a degrading fashion through the soils, groundwater, streams and eventually to the Big Lake where they eventually contaminate aquatic life and your highly valued public water supply source. So please, help REAP to convince others to devote more time and resources to identifying and admitting that there is a “leaking CRIM plant problem” that needs to be addressed by enacting and enforcing more stringent environmental laws, ordinances, regulation and codes (especially by local governments – rather than depending on the state and U.S. to do what is needed) to force these CRIM plants to have proper environmental safeguards and controls that will never again allow their toxic contaminants to migrate off their plant site. In the meantime, rather than building a Mexican border wall, make these leaking CRIM plants inject a “bentonite clay slurry wall” below the ground at the perimeter of their plant property to create a barrier to stop the further migration of these toxic chemicals in the community.
REAP (Real Environmental Action Proponents) was organized and founded by Giacomo B Fischiatore, an environmental engineer, activist, Midwesterner and whistleblower from the early 2000’s. Following his whistleblower disclosure made in Michigan with no avail, at which time Jennifer Granholm was the State AG (Attorney General) and John Engler was the Governor leading the MDEQ (Michigan Department of Environmental Quality), Giacomo made a resurgence in 2015 whereby he began a three-year campaign pleading a broader case (industry-wide) to public officials and others about the unfettered industrial pollution from a variety of CRIM plants (Chemically-Real-Intensive-Manufacturing establishments) that has been ongoing now in the U.S. for several decades (half century). Fischiatore efforts now have culminated into a more ambitious quest to solicit other environmental and public health advocates to join in and assist REAP collectively to fulfill its mission and vision of seeking and implementing effective reality and equality based environmental and public health solutions. The primary purpose of REAP is to: (a) identify and hold any negligent CRIM plants accountable that are found to be polluting the environment in our communities, and thereby degrading the quality of the environment, public health, and our natural water resources that we desperately depend on as a source for our public water supplies; and (b), get local communities (counties, cities, etc.) to enact and implement/enforce local environmental and public health ordinances that compliment, supplement and exceed the deficient laws & regulations and enforcement programs that now exist (and are being “deregulated”) with the federal and state(s) governments, including a “real” and effective and robust local monitoring (inspections) and enforcement program. For a better understanding of REAP’s purpose and objectives, please also see the REAP Mission & Vision Statements, and Goals & Objectives.
The domain name (youREAPwhatyousow.org), slogan and mantra of REAP was chosen as such to continually remind all corporate and regular citizens of the very befitting adage and biblical quote “You REAP what you sow” (perhaps paraphrased, but it all means the same: “reaping what you sow”, “As you sow, so shall you reap“, etc.). It is not used here to zero in on those who some may consider wholly or predominantly responsible for any and all ill environmental and public health effects we experience, but rather is used here in the broader sense, that we all bear some responsibility in the harm that may occur to the environment and public health. Of course, undoubtedly there are a smaller more discreet number of individuals (and organizations) that certainly have more control over what happens and does not happen related to environmental and public health degradation. Yet, it must also be acknowledged that there are others (individuals & organizations) who more typically sit idly by and let things happen as they may and just let the ill effects get “reaped upon us”. Fortunately, there also are others, who hopefully will grow in numbers, that are, or soon will become, activists/advocates and engage themselves to reverse/prevent degradation, to help reap better outcomes for themselves and their families & friends and in general for the “common good of humanity and the planet”.
Mission & Vision Statements:
Presented in blog as separate document.
Goals & Objectives:
Presented in blog as separate document.
Board of Directors:
Interested, dedicated and devoted individuals at all levels (officers, board members) are now being sought (email email@example.com or use Contact Form).
Interested, dedicated and devoted individuals at all locations throughout the U.S. (especially for Midwest/Great Lakes region, including MI, WI, IL, IN and OH) now being sough) – email firstname.lastname@example.org or use Contact Form.
Recent REAP letters (Presented in blog as separate documents):
REAP Letter 1: Sent to potential REAP advocates, such as educational and research organizations, high school and college students environmental and democracy action groups, and advocate groups for women and various minorities (REAP Letters 2 & 3 below also sent to these potential REAP advocates).
REAP Letter 2: Sent to U.S. Midwest public waterworks agencies in MI, WI, IL, IN and OH (copied to news media organizations in same region).
REAP Letter 3: Sent to U.S. news media organizations in MI, WI, IL, IN and OH (copied to public waterworks agencies in same region).
Attachments for REAP Letters above, including list of USPS First Class mail recipients (given as links following REAP Letter #3).
Environmental Horror Stories from a Whistleblower (Presented in blog as separate document).
Full Circle of Disclosures made by Whistleblower on this issue since year 2000 (Presented in blog as separate document).
REAP Citizens Guide (Windows PowerPoint) to those harmed by CRIM plants – chemically real intensive mfg establishments (given as link following REAP Letter #3).
Other related information (given as link attachments at end of blog):
Lists (published by U.S. EPA in mid-1990s: needs updating) of Chromium Electroplaters and Anodizers in U.S. Midwest States and California
List of Leather Tanneries, Paper/Pulp Mills and Stainless Steel Manufacturers in U.S. Midwest
“One Red Ant” Story (includes Appendices – e.g. summary of plants)
“Ye Olde Plating Plant” Story
Questions You Might Want to Ask a CRIM Plant
Whistleblower letter to MI AG
Letter to U.S. Congressional Representatives
Letter to Representatives of MI State Legislature
Letter to U.S. President, V.P, A.G., & EPA Administrator
Letter to Local Neighborhood Association
Letter to Property Owners Negatively Affected by CRIM Plants
Contact information Please email Giacomo B Fischiatore at email@example.com or use Contact Form.
We are individual private citizens who have bonded together as “watchdog” groups to advocate and strive for real actions to take place in our communities to better protect, preserve and restore the environment for the general welfare and health & safety of the public. Recognizing that all governmental jurisdictions and private businesses that govern and/or operate in our community have the responsibility to act legally and in a positive manner for the common good of humanity and the environment; it is therefore mandatory that their actions and inactions must not effectively cause harm to the land, air, or water resources in our community. All citizens, no matter where they live or their financial means, should all have equal rights to the availability of clean water and clean air; and therefore, they should not have to buy home purifiers for the tap water they drink or the air they breathe due to pollution caused by industrial plants illegally polluting the air and water resources. Recognizing that Chemically-Real-Intensive-Manufacturing establishments (CRIM) are prone to having chemical releases to the environment, we are advocating that the local communities (cities, counties, public waterworks, public wastewater facilities, etc.) take more initiative and responsibility in enacting local ordinances that meet and preferably exceed the state and federal environmental laws and regulations, and that the local communities get directly involved in the monitoring and enforcement related to these CRIM plants, especially for those that have below-grade (buried/backfilled) pipes and tanks that convey, store or treat hazardous wastewaters, which pose the greatest environmental and public health risks. Some of the primary functions of the watchdog groups will be identifying CRIM plants in the community and coordinating the sampling and testing of groundwater surrounding these plants in order to determine if a chemical release has occurred and may be ongoing.
Recognizing that state and federal public officials and agencies are heavily influenced by national and state-wide politics, financial donors, and special interest lobbyists, it is incumbent upon local community officials to recognize that the enactment, monitoring and enforcement of state and federal environmental and public health laws and regulations are lax, inadequate, and subject to backsliding and deregulation, which consequently is putting local communities at high risks as the CRIM (Chemically-Real-Intensive-Manufacturing establishments) plants operate unfettered with little or no government oversight. Just like the State of California that has enacted more stringent environmental regulations and a more robust enforcement program than the federal government, local communities must also step up and take similar action on their own by passing needed environmental and public health ordinances and begin doing monitoring/inspections of CRIM plants to better protect the public and the drinking water supply sources that are likely being contaminated whether close by or from afar in a continual, gradual and insidious manner – the latter is a common overlooked problem for CRIM plants located in areas served by centralized public water because there is no immediate or nearby concern related to contaminating private domestic wells on adjacent properties. REAP will work to encourage and assist private citizens to form “watchdog” groups to prod local public officials and local public agencies, such as public waterworks and public owned [wastewater] treatment works (POTWs) to do more to hold CRIM plants accountable to clean up pollution they caused and install needed environmental safeguards. Public waterworks and POTWs provide vital local utility services, and as such, have major clout with the CRIM plants that depend on these services. For the next several years, REAP will be facilitating: the recruitment watchdog groups; identifying and locating CRIM plants; sampling and testing of groundwater at select CRIM plants; and then after tests are completed, meeting with community leaders to report findings and demand action to address any CRIM plants that are leaking.
REAP Goals and Objectives (of “youREAPwhatyousow.org”):
REAP Goals (of “youREAPwhatyousow.org”):
Get the public to recognize the reality, severity, extent and ramifications of the problem with leaking CRIM plants (Chemically-Real-Intensive-Manufacturing establishments).
The primary focus of REAPis concerningthe contamination of water resourcesthat is occurring by CRIM plants, including the degradation of vital public fresh water drinking water supply sources.
The intended primary activities and functions of REAP will generally be educational, scientific, testing for public safety (e.g., sampling and testing of groundwater around CRIM plants), and other related activities as qualified for a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization under U.S. IRS Section 501(c)(3).
In conjunction with its primary function, there will also be a secondary and parallel focus on air quality issues that will be highlighted and identified as appropriate as it relates to any culpable CRIM plants.
Although the major focus here is on impacts to the environment and public health, REAP also has a tangential focus and concern for the health and safety of workers at these CRIM plants. For example, are CRIM plant corporations that have their own employee health and wellness facilities (staffed by their own medical staff), protecting the health of workers or is this more of a legal liability ploy designed more to protect the corporation from the adverse financial tort effects of worker ill effects?
Convince the local communities to eventually enact needed environmental and public health ordinances with robust monitoring and enforcement programs applicable to CRIM plants.
REAP Objectives (of “youREAPwhatyousow.org”):
RECRUIT ADVOCATES: Recruit local community advocates (and those outside the community to assist) to take needed REAP actions as individuals and to further assist by recruiting others and organizing REAP “watchdog” groups to do the same collectively.
FORM WATCHDOG GROUPS: Facilitate the organization of local citizen “watchdog” groups that diligently act to jointly promote and implement the goals and objectives of REAP, including recruiting and obtaining the assistance of environmental and public health professionals (including retirees), such as REAP dedicated and committed engineers, geologists and those in academia. The latter group will help in the coordination and selection of analytical laboratories for the sampling and testing of groundwater samples, and assist in the subsequent preparation of a contamination investigation report.
MAKE LIST OF CRIM PLANTS IN AND AROUND THE COMMUNITY: Identify CRIM (chemically-real- intensive-manufacturing establishments) plants in the area. Due to the frequent usage and highly carcinogenic nature of hexavalent chromium (Cr+6) and PFAS (polyflouroalkyl substances), be sure to include the following types of CRIM plants: chromium electroplaters and anodizers, leather tanneries, paper/pulp mills, stainless steel plants and other plants that use Cr+6 and PFAS in their operations.
SEEK SUPPORT FROM DIVERSE GROUP OF PROFESSIONALS AND COMMUNITY ORGANIZATIONS: Seek support in the community from other groups and individuals who are most apt to be helpful in recognizing the cause and effects of CRIM plants and will contribute to fulfilling the cause of REAP, such as teachers, medical professionals (physicians, nurses, etc.), religious groups, minority groups, neighborhood and homeowners associations, women groups, high school and college youth groups, etc.
FOCUS ON CRIM PLANTS IN PUBLIC WATER SERVICE AREAS (rather than those next to areas served by private domestic wells which have already been exhaustively studied): Primarily focus on groundwater pollution that likely is occurring in areas served by centralized public water because these areas have long been overlooked and neglected by environmental and public health regulatory agencies because their focus has solely been on highly publicized, high profile incidents of industrial contamination of private domestic wells. Help publicize the concern REAP has of the numerous CRIM plants located in public water service areas that are leaking and causing long-term (multiple decades), accumulative, gradual, insidious, degradation of freshwater public water supply sources (e.g., water intakes in the Great Lakes) via the hydrological system of interconnecting groundwater aquifers, streams and lakes.
INFORMATION GATHERING: Solicit information from local citizens of the community and others familiar with the inner workings of the CRIM plants (e.g., past employees, etc.) to shed some light on the facilities’ infrastructure and operation & maintenance practices related to onsite conveyance, storage and treatment of hazardous process wastewater.
CONCENTRATE ON HAZARDOUS WASTEWATER PRACTICES AT CRIM PLANTS: Focus on what these CRIM plants “do and do not do within their plant walls” as it relates to the onsite conveyance, storage and treatment of hazardous wastewater, including whether these systems are buried/below-grade (“out of sight, out of mind”), and whether they have needed built-in environmental safeguards for these systems, such as double tanks and double pipes (tank in a tank, pipe in a pipe), automated leak detection and overflow monitoring systems (with automated alarms and shut-offs, etc.), etc.
CONDUCT RECONNAISSANCE SURVEY: Look for nearby evidence of leaking from CRIM plants, such as: discolored water and soil in ditches and creeks; discolored groundwater seepage entering building foundations and basements; signs of chemical spillage surrounding the CRIM plant in streets, alleys or parking lots; and contaminated groundwater that may be produced from irrigation or other types of wells being used in the area for landscape irrigation or other purposes; etc.
PROPOSE SAMPLING AND TESTING PROGRAM TO PUBLIC OFFICIALS FOR AUTHORIZATION TO PROCEED:Propose a sampling and testing program in an area surrounding the CRIM plant and present it to public officials (for approval) along with accompanying evidence and information gathered during the CRIM plant information gathering and reconnaissance phases of work as justification to proceed with the work on public land (public right-of-way, parks, etc.) with proper approvals, permits and procedures (e.g., calling Miss DIG, etc. for protection of underground utilities during well drilling).
MAKE THE PUBLIC AWARE OF FINDINGS: Spotlight/publicize the findings related to CRIM plants once it has been shown through sampling and testing that there is an apparent hazardous chemical release to the environment.
DEMAND THAT LOCAL OFFICIALS HOLD LEAKING CRIM PLANTS ACCOUNTABLE: Demand action from local public officials and the courts as needed to stop known chemical releases from CRIM plants and to hold these facilities accountable to remediate the pollution they caused and install needed environmental safeguards at the plant as a condition to remain in operation.
DEMAND THAT LOCAL OFFICIALS PASS STRICT ENVIRONMENTAL ORDIANCES WITH ROBUST MONITORING AND ENFORCEMENT PROGRAMS: Demand that the local community pass and enforce real, strong, practical and effective ordinances that exceed state and federal regulations, including a robust monitoring (inspections) and enforcement program. Demand that the community do the latter instead of continually depending solely on state and federal governmental officials and agencies and their cohort political donors and lobbyists who favor profits over environmental and public health protections that result in the creation of weak and ineffective laws and regulations.
BASE NEW ORDINANCES ON NEWLY ESTABLISHED HEALTH BASED STANDARDS: Demand that local communities base their newly established local ordinances on scientifically based health standards that are protective of all human beings, especially the most vulnerable, such as infants and young children, pregnant women, and those citizens who live in close proximity to industrial CRIM plants.
MONITOR THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE NEW ORDINANCES, ESPECIALLY THE MONITORING AND ENFORCEMENT ASPECTS: Demand real and diligent implementation of the newly established ordinances, especially related to monitoring (inspections) and enforcement.
DEMAND THAT LOCAL OFFICIALS OPPOSE STATE AND FEDERAL DEREGULATION: Demand that community public officials oppose “deregulation” of state and federal environmental and public health laws and regulations, which is a dangerous step towards favoring corporate profits at the expense of degrading the environment and public health.
“Very sad and tragic matter on polluted wells – only small part of broader problem. How much of PFAS pollution across MI attributed to leaky CRIM plants (Chemically Real Intensive Manufacturing establishments)? Chromium electroplaters (use PFAS) and leather tanneries, both also emitters of hexavalent chromium (Cr+6, cancer chemical). Cr+6 special concern for infants, toddlers and pregnant women. Both MI and EPA do not have limit for Cr+6, deadly chemical in Erin Brochovich movie. CA Health Risk Guide for Cr+6: 0.02 ppb (protective of pregnant women, infants and toddlers). CRIM plants in MI not required to have environmental safeguards like gas stations, dry cleaners, landfills, and hazardous waste facilities, such as secondary tanks and pipes (tank in a tank, pipe in a pipe), leak detection systems, automated shutoffs/alarms for spill/leak/overflow prevention and onsite monitor wells to give early detection and notification of onsite contamination – latter important for CRIM plants using PFAS and/or Cr+6, such as tanneries, chromium platers and anodizers, paper/pulp mills, stainless steel mfg, etc. Why CRIM plants don’t have environmental safeguards?: because they have strong effective lobbyists. Most CRIM plants located in areas served by public water, and if they are leaking like sieves, typically go unnoticed for multiple decades because no polluted domestic wells nearby because everyone is connected to public water system. Harm caused: gradual, accumulative, long-term, and insidious pollution of natural water resources (groundwater aquifers, streams, lakes), which over time in collective and combined manner IS DEGRADING PRIVATE WELLS AND PUBLIC WATER SUPPLY SOURCES (e.g., Lake Michigan, Great Lakes in general). Examples: eastern shoreline of Lake Michigan, multiple public water intakes at mouth Grand River (Grand Rapids, Wyoming and NW Ottawa County public waterworks). Cr+6 levels in tapwater/raw water there per EWG Study (Environmental Work Group) 10 to 15 times the CA Health Guide. Attention needed by officials to address chronic long-term problem (multiple decades/half century long) in MI for degradation of natural water resources by leaky CRIMe plants, especially older manufacturing plants that have buried/ below-grade tanks and pipes in ground/below the plant floor carrying toxic-cancerous (corrosive acids, oxidizers, etc.) for the conveyance, storage and treatment of hazardous. process wastewaters. See www.youREAPwhatyousow.org“
From youREAPwhatyousow.org (them, us and everyone)
It is not like you have to follow zillions of air molecules to the heavens to figure this out, or do deep core borings through the earth’s geologic crust to find evidence of past ice ages, or study the vast ocean currents crisscrossing the globe. Quite the contrary, what I am telling you about in all likelihood could be found right in your backyard, neighborhood park or public road right-of-away, if you just happen to live near a CRIM plant (Chemically Real Intensive Manufacturing establishment). It may not pop right out at you, but if you could somehow arrange to do some shallow groundwater sampling on your property or nearby public lands it likely would. And you do not have to test for every chemical known to man, you can just test for the worst chemicals that this company is known to be using in its manufacturing processes (perhaps Cr+6 or PFAS associated with tanneries and chromium electroplaters).
You might be asking yourself: “Why would these companies knowingly be polluting the environment?” Well the answer to that is simply, they are just awfully busy with other things, like getting the parts delivered to their customers on time. And just like a similar plant operating in a third world country with no environmental controls, the plants here in the USA does not have to worry about being scrutinized by environmental regulators because they are shielded by the loose interpretation (industrially favorable, publicly neglectful) of the hazardous waste RCRA CWA domestic sewage exclusion/exemption, which keeps the regulators from meddling with what they do with their hazardous wastewater (HWW) operations within their plant walls. Meanwhile, the plant can just go about their day and operate as usual, and not worry about rushing into doing any kind of timely corrective action even though they know full well that their plant is leaking like a sieve. And don’t think it’s not happening at these plants or that it would be very rare that such a thing was happening on a regular basis in this advanced, sophisticated society we live in. Because believe me, I was there in the midst of several of these “modern sophisticated” plants where I would become aware of what I would call “environmental horror stories” that the upper management folks downplayed as “unsubstantiated” or “hearsay” rumors. Most (#1, #2, #3, #4 & #7) of these environmental horror stories relate to plants that are leaking/releasing hazardous chemical liquids to the environment (to soils and groundwater, which then later finds its way into streams and lakes); however, I also added a couple more such horror stories (#5 to #6) which relate to unpermitted toxic air emissions for major source plant expansions, and another one (#8) that has to do with occupational hazards working around a chromium electroplater.
Just like with the more stringent environmental regulations and enforcement imposed by California (do not allow lax interpretation of RCRA domestic sewage exclusion/exemption) to minimize liquid hazardous wastewater releases (RCRA Class I violations) to the environment from chemically intensive plants, California also has stricter air emission standards for these companies that are more appropriate and more stringent than the applicable federal air quality standards. An example of the latter are the CA emission standards for chromium electroplaters and anodizers which is demonstrated by how California has structured its air emission limits in a common sense and scientific manner for hexavalent chromium (Cr+6) by having the limits given is terms of maximum Cr+6 emissions per unit of power usage (mg/amp-hr) associated with plating rectifier power. The reason behind this is basic chemistry and engineering – if you want to increase your plating rate, you increase the power input via the rectifiers, among other possible measures/variables (plating bath concentration, temperature, tank & rack configurations, etc.), and as a consequence more gases are generated at the cathode and anode during the galvanic electrodeposition process. And more gassing means more misting and Cr+6 emissions from the plating tank. So it certainly makes sense to have the emission limits given in terms of mass of Cr+6 emitted per power usage. If you do not have the limits structured in this fashion, the plater could have their rectifiers and plating rate set low when the regulatory emission testing is being conducted and nobody would know the difference, except the electroplater who jacks up the rectifier and plating rate after the regulatory monitoring/inspections and emission testing are finished. California also structures its limits based on the size of the facility being regulated based on total chromium emissions per year (e.g., for hard from Cr+6: from ≤ 2 lbs/yr to ≥ 10 lbs/yr), and additionally, they also categorize the size of Cr+6 platers in terms of facility total process rectifier annual power usage (e.g., for hard Cr+6: from ≤ 60,000 to > 60,000 amp-hrs/yr). By comparison, U.S. EPA air emission standards for chromium electroplaters is simply given as mass concentration of chromium emissions in the stack air discharge (mg/sdcm = milligrams per standard dry cubic meter) irrespective of the electrical power input. U.S. EPA does however have two emission standards for large (0.015 mg/dscm) and small (0.03 mg/dscm) hard chromium electroplaters based on annual process rectifier power usage (large ≥ 60,000 amp-hrs/yr; small < 60,000 amp-hrs/yr). Furthermore, CA has more stringent requirements if a facility is located closer (330 ft) to a sensitive receptor such as a residence or school, which they found true for nearly half of the Cr+6 plants in CA. Coupled with this, they further categorize emission limits for different size decorative chromium electroplaters and anodizers based on annual process plating power usage (amp-hrs/yr) ranging from ≤ 20,000 to > 500,000. California’s Cr+6 emission limits are based on a cancer unit risk factor developed by their Office of Environmental Health Hazardous Assessment and approved by the Scientific Review Panel for exposure to infants and young children. Based on when the facility started operation, the Cr+6 emission standards are more stringent for new operations according to BACT (Best Available Control Technology) or MACT (Maximum Available Control Technology), whichever is applicable. CA prohibits the use of PFAS as fume suppressants anymore (some phasing out still ongoing) and has developed a list of acceptable fume suppressants allowed in the state. The point here in summary, is that the CA emission standards for Cr+6 emitters is by far more adaptable and tailored to specific risks based on plant type, size and location, and for that reason and other reasons stated, is more protective of public health.
ENVIRONMENTAL HORROR STORY #1…
Like for example (horror story from operational plant), hearing that “the liquid level in the below-grade hazardous wastewater storage tank drastically dropped [= leaking] three feet over the weekend for no known reason”. And following that, the plant floor surrounding those tanks and the plating line is experiencing severe cracking and subsidence/settling, and later a pressure grouting specialty firm is called in on an emergency basis to quickly inject grout below these tanks and the plating line to stabilize the cracking plant floor so the plant can continue production without interruption, and deal with the bigger problem of the “failed/leaking tank” at the next holiday/model changeover scheduled shutdown (typically in July or December) . And this is at the company’s most up-to-date/state-of-the-art production facility located in a previously untainted “green space area”, next to a private golf course and a newer residential community, and in close proximity and up gradient to a high quality protected stream. So does the fact that the tank liquid level was dropping and a pressure grouting firm was called in for emergency repairs to stabilize the plant floor give any clues to what might be happening? Sure it does. It would be a clear sign to most everyone (except the parrots saying “it’s unsubstantiated and hearsay”) that a RCRA Class I Violation (chemical environmental release) has occurred. To add to this, there were other earlier environmental horror stories told among workers at this plant, such as about an “overflow/spillage of hazardous process solutions/wastewater that flooded the whole plant”, including offices, loading docks, etc. And none of the many door openings located throughout the plant had any kind of protective curbing or diking to contain these highly hazardous and corrosive liquids in the “plant proper” to prevent their escape to the outside environment. All told, would that tell you that there may also be a high probability that there is some relationship between the obviously leaking tanks below the plating line just described, the hazardous process liquid overflow spillage that escaped through the plant exterior doors to the outside, and ANOTHER SUBSEQUENT EMERGENCY REPAIR JOB that occurred involving the repair of a 6-inch water main that ruptured in front of the plant? In the process of digging up and repairing this water main it was observed and reported through the company grapevine that all the joint couplers connecting the many sections of pipe had all corroded and broken apart. Given the latter, plus visible signs of chemical intrusion in the open trench during these repairs (blue tainted soils observed = copper), it starts to become obvious that there is relationship between failing plant infrastructure (e.g., water main, plant floor) and the penetration and flowing of these highly hazardous and corrosive chemicals through tank liner coatings, tank reinforced concrete, sub base soils below the tanks (soils dissolve and cause subsidence/settling), and just plain natural gravity flow of these liquids along the plant floor and out through door openings. All this circumstantial evidence just described to most people adds up to 2 + 2 equals 4; but yet again, the parrots were still chanting “it’s unsubstantiated and hearsay”) – i.e., denying (and concealing) that a RCRA Class I Violation (chemical environmental release) had occurred. What follows are some more environmental horror stories related to other plants owned by the same company. Again, it would be obvious to most folks (except regulators and the parrots) what is going on right under your nose and in plain sight if you simply connected the dots and pulled your head out of the sand.
ENVIRONMENTAL HORROR STORY #2…
Another horror story described a long convoy of concrete mixer trucks lined up for a block or two at one of the company’s older plating plants located on the river in a rural community delivering huge volumes of premixed concrete to fill in voids that occurred below the plating line and the hazardous wastewater storage tanks located directly below. The extremely intelligent company’s parrot would tell you that any possible connection between the filling of the voids where the concrete and soils had dissolved away at the bottom of these hazardous wastewater storage tanks and the groundwater chemical contamination plume that was later identified at this plant site was totally unsubstantiated and hearsay. Most everybody else would recognize that If highly corrosive chemicals penetrated the tank bottom and walls, it would certainly dissolve soils it came in contact with, and would create major voids and crevices in the underlying soils and underground channeling that would carry away soils and eventually would cause major settling and subsidence of the plant floors which typically acts as the supporting structure for the very heavy above–grade plating line. On the other hand, the State environmental regulatory agency attributed the groundwater chemical contamination plume solely due to the hazardous wastewater storage ponds located behind the plant that were eventually decommissioned and remediated per a US EPA court ordered “hazardous waste storage pond closure” consent decree.
ENVIRONMENTAL HORROR STORY #3…
According to another environmental horror story related to another chromium plating line once owned and operated by the same company, located in an exclusive neighborhood next to a golf course: when the plastic parts plating line was shut down/decommissioned and all the above-grade plating equipment was removed, the plant modification construction crew then entombed the below-grade hazardous wastewater storage tanks below the old plating line with all these hazardous liquids left intact while a new concrete plant floor was constructed directly over them (it is unknown whether this same entombing method was used at platers decommissioned and shut down described in Stories #2 & #7). Non-plating manufacturing operations occurred at this plant immediately after these modifications and then years later the plant was sold or leased to another party who converted the building to a commercial use facility. During the commercial use development, the new owner/operator of the plant property first demolished the old plating line plant floor and crushed and backfilled the old (full of blue liquids = copper) hazardous process wastewater storage tanks, and thereby, consequently released these hazardous liquids to the soils and groundwater below. Subsequent evidence of the occurrence of the latter included: (a) construction crew installing new water main in public road right-of-way nearby the plant notice bright blue liquids in the groundwater flowing through the open pipe trench; and (b) routinely sampling and testing from the monitor well/purge well for the groundwater monitoring and remediation system located in an adjacent subdivision associated with an identified chemical contamination plume from this same facility showed an unexplained (at least that’s what the parrot said) spike/rise in copper (=blue) levels a number of years after the aforementioned tank crushing episode. As you can see, groundwater moves slow, but it eventually gets there: First starting with the crushed tank at the plant, then going through the open trench for the water main job, and eventually arriving at the purge well located several blocks away, which discharges the contaminated groundwater to the City sewer under a CWA NPDES industrial pretreatment permit issued by the POTW (Publicly Owned Treatment Works). Just like the older rural plating line plant on the river previously discussed, the State environmental quality agency did not have a clue that there was any direct relationship between the chemical groundwater contamination plume surrounding this plant site and the likely historical leaking from the once operational and eventually crushed hazardous wastewater storage tanks, but instead attributed the plume solely to the historical hazardous wastewater storage ponds located behind the plant. These ponds were eventually properly decommissioned and closed per a court ordered “hazardous waste storage pond closure” consent judgment. The State also did not recognize that there was any possibility that the die casting electroplating previously done at this plant (before it started plating plastic parts) had anything to do with the chlorinated organic compounds found in the groundwater around this plant, even though it is common knowledge in the industry that these type of operations use chlorinated degreasing compounds.
ENVIRONMENTAL HORROR STORY #4…
And next, there is another environmental horror story associated with an old antiquated plating facility, still operational, located just 700 feet from the river and next to an inner city residential area near the metropolitan downtown area. The story starts when a buried gas tank on the property is removed because of the new environmental regulations imposed on USTs (underground storage tanks). During the tank removal process, some volatile organic fumes were detected in the excavation pit upon tank removal, which prompted the environmental regulatory agency to mandate that the company install monitor wells on the plant property to check for possible gasoline contamination. No gasoline was detected, but the groundwater sample collected had a layer of foam and a distinct yellow color (yellow = hexavalent chromium). Of course, the intention of the sampling was not for the purpose of testing for plating chemicals, even though it appeared quite obvious that they were likely present. This is when the company parrot interjected himself and declared that the possible presence of Cr+6 was purely conjecture and was “unsubstantiated and hearsay”, and therefore issued an edict to the managers involved that no testing of plating chemicals shall be done. Unbeknownst to the parrot, and as heard through the “grapevine”, the plant laboratory did some testing on their own and discovered that there was a high concentration of Cr+6 in the groundwater (in the 50 ppm range). Further discussions through the grapevine revealed that the plant maintenance staff had on numerous occasions over the years/decades made major repairs to the chromium hazardous process wastewater “below-grade sump”, that not surprisedly, due to the materials used, had corroded away repeatedly, causing it to leak like a sieve to the soils and groundwater below, which certainly flows towards the river located on the property across the street from the plant. A major recreational river restoration construction project is scheduled to begin in the spring of 2019, involving removal of dams and river bank modifications, which will add numerous opportunities for human contact with the river water, including wading, swimming, boating/kayaking, fishing (ingestion tainted fish), etc. The project will surely exacerbate the surface water quality problem by causing the disruption of river bottom sediments, which in turn, will surely cause release of latent hazardous industrial chemicals stored in these river bottom sludge/sediments. These river bottom releases will then flow downstream and arrive at Lake Michigan just 35 miles away where there are three major public waterworks raw water supply intake structures near the mouth of the river serving a large metropolitan area consisting of several counties/cities, which should be on alert to anticipate an increase/spike in chemical contaminant concentrations at their water treatment/filtration plants.
ENVIRONMENTAL HORROR STORY #5…
This facility is high production decorative chromium electroplating plant on a site side by side with another newer plater similar in size and plating capabilities, but without the buried hazardous process wastewater storage tanks situated below the plating line. The older of the two plants started manufacturing in 1980s – 1990s. This plant was talked about earlier under Horror Story #1, except now we are going talk about an air pollution environmental horror story. In the second half of the 1990s, in a fast-track/fast-pace design and construction job (this was prior to the adjacent plant being built in the late 90s), the plating line speed at this plant was increased by a factor of about three (i.e., plating line production rate in part rack bars/hour). This was achieved without getting an air (stack emissions) permits for plating tank modifications/replacements to increase the surface area/width of the plating tanks by 150% (i.e., a multiplier of 2.5) and doing other process plating line modifications related to plating bath formulations, rectifier capacity and plating bath electric current input, etc. Because this was done “on the quick” by internal corporate plant & manufacturing engineering staff and external/contracted engineering and construction firms, it was unknown at the time whether the air pollution control equipment was modified at all or to the extent that would be required due to the higher air pollution loadings both on a volume and weight basis (i.e., cubic feet per minute of air and pounds per hour of Cr+6 pollutants). The latter would mean that the capacity of the existing air pollution equipment and air permit emission limits would be exceeded, and the surrounding area where people golf and live would be getting a high dose of hexavalent chromium, which is a known, highly toxic carcinogenic chemical, especially so for the most vulnerable individuals, like pregnant women and their unborn, infants and young children. This change, which was not coordinated or cleared with the corporate environmental engineer, was a flagrant, Clean Air Act, “major source” violation, subject to significant penalties (major sources are subject to MACT: Maximum Available Control Technology) . It was certainly a process modification that was clearly subject to “new source review”, and you could not say it was a minor modification, because it certainly was not, and no argument could be made that this plant (less than 10 years old) was “grandfathered” and the modification was less than a 50% process change, which is the allowable maximum process modification that can be done at a “grandfathered” plant without getting an air permit. And besides, even if this was a “grandfathered” plant, which it is not, the modification that took place was arguably far greater than 50%, and was in the range of 200 to 300 percent.
ENVIRONMENTAL HORROR STORY #6…
Additionally, in the same timeframe as Horror story #5 above, the same kind of process and air emissions modifications were also made at the older decorative chromium electroplater located 700 feet from the river as discussed in Horror story #4. So rather than repeating everything I just told you in Horror Story #5, suffice it to say, that the objectives and outcomes of the corporation were the same at this plant – i.e., triple the plating line speed (+200 to +300%) by upping the electrical rectifiers, and by replacing and modifying all the plating tanks to increase the width and surface area by a factor of 2.5 (+150 %). And while these changes were rapidly being contemplated, someone (the parrot) may have mentioned that this plant could qualify as a “grandfathered” plant because it was so old and antiquated (still operating after a half a century or more) with relatively low ceilings and not the greatest ventilation. But for him to say the modifications were less than 50% was a real stretch and virtually impossible to justify if a regulator at the time ever knew all the facts. So again, keep in mind that big increase in the production line rate was achieved primarily by increasing the plating line electrodeposition rate by increasing the delivered electric current (via rectifiers) and increasing the size of the plating tanks. So for this case, if the delivered electric current (amp-hours) was increased and the width of the plating tanks were increased from 4’ to 10’ (12’ long, unchanged), the tanks would then be able to accommodate more parts (larger parts, and two racks instead of just one). The latter described changes applied to all the plating process tanks, including increases in all the electrodeposition rate of the various heavy metals (e.g., Cr, Cu and Ni). If for example the current/amp-hours are increased by 50%, the particulate/aerosol emissions (mist particles) from the plating tanks would be expected to increase by about 50%. But that is far from accurate because first you have to recognize that the aerosol emissions are formed by the galvanic chemical reactions that occur inside the tank at the cathode (parts being plated) and at the anode. The gaseous chemical molecules that create the aerosols are: Hydrogen gas (H2) emitted at the cathode and oxygen gas (O2) emitted at the anode. Reliable laboratory research testing has been done many times on chromium plating cells that repeatedly shows there is a 10-fold logarithmic increase in the mass of Cr+6 (weight chromium metal) for each aerosol particulate (mass or volume) formed. So, If for example there was a 50% increase in the amp-hours, and the total Cr+6 emissions from the Cr plating tanks was 100 pounds per hour before this increase, the Cr+6 mass emissions would not just increase proportionally by 50% from 100 to 150 pounds per hour, but instead, would increase logarithmically from 100 to 500 pounds per hour or more. Granted, there are a lot of variables to be considered in this process modification, such as the plating bath formulation/strength (e.g., Cr+6 concentration, etc.), pH, temperature, electrical current input, etc.; but what is known is that the exhaust air flow rate had to increase proportionately (to meet OSHA standards – U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration) with the increase in the plating bath liquid surface area (i.e., tank width increase from 4’ to 10’ = +150%). So for every 100 cfm of exhaust prior to the modifications, 150 cfm would have to be added (total = 250 cfm), and consequently, the new air pollution control equipment would have to be rated for this higher air flow rate capacity. Besides this, consideration would also have to be given for a greater mass loading to the control equipment if the rectifier electrical current input in the plating process per square foot of plated surface (i.e., surface area of the parts plated) was expected to be higher after these overall plating process changes are made. The latter is the reason why California sets the emission limits for chromium electroplaters in terms of mass per electrical plating process electrical power usage, given as milligrams (mg) of chromium per amp-hrs of power usage. By using the latter basis and structure for the chromium emission standards, California has opted to have emission limits that are inherently more representative of actual production process emissions, and consequently, are superior and more protective of public health than the U.S. EPA chromium emission standards that have been adopted “as is” by Michigan and essentially all the other states. Specifically, the U.S. EPA standards for chromium emissions are given in terms of mass per unit of volume of air, or more specifically, milligrams (mg) per dry standard cubic meter (dscm). Because of the latter, and because the plating tank air exhaust flow rate is typically constant, a plating plant could ramp up their rectifiers to increase production rates by increasing the electric current input in amp-hrs per square foot of plated surface, and cause a logarithmic increase in chromium emissions beyond what was originally permitted based on mass and volume only, and not taking into consideration electrical input. Conceivably, a chromium electroplater in Michigan could ramp down the rectifier when air emission testing is being performed to intentionally skew the results so their stack emissions are lower than they would be otherwise under normal “maximum production” operating conditions. WOULD A COMPANY ACTUALLY DO SUCH A THING? Maybe? Yes? Likely? No? These significant changes in the manufacturing process (tank size and amp-hour increase) required that a Clean Air Act (CAA) NSR (new source review) permit be applied for/obtained (which was not done), and that larger capacity air pollution control equipment be installed. So the air pollution control equipment for the modified Cr+6 plating tanks would need to be increased: by a minimum factor of 2.5, or +150%, for volumetric capacity (CFM/ cubic feet per minute) due to the greater tank surface area; and by a factor even larger if the process modifications involve an increase in the unit electric power input in amp-hrs per square foot of plated surface. Conceivably, we are talking about an overall plating process modification of 200 to 300 percent or more. The discussion above uses the chromium plating process to illustrate the impact of this major plant modification. Of course the consequence of these major modifications made unbeknownst to the regulators, would be a plant operating that lacks adequate permitting and emission control equipment not only for the chromium plating tanks, but also for the rest of the plating line that was modified, such as chromic acid etching, fume suppressants, chlorinated organic compounds/conditioners, formaldehyde, acid copper fumes, acid nickel fumes, etc.. Besides being subject to U.S. EPA NESHAP Standards (National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants), this plant is classified as a “major MACT source” subject to specific EPA decorative chromium MACT standards (Maximum Achievable Control Technology requirements). This plant is also defined as a Major MACT Source because it has toxic MACT air emissions greater than 25 tons per year for combined toxic chemicals or 10 tons per year for individual toxic chemicals.
ENVIRONMENTAL HORROR STORY #7…
The plant is located in a newer industrial/commercial area, which in all likelihood, was previously a “green space”. According to EPA records, this plant appears to have stopped operating in 2002. This plant started operating 1970s or early 80a. Unlike the other electrolytic decorative chromium plating plants discussed in the other Horror stories (i.e., with rectifiers and galvanic plating cells), this plant was an electroless plating plant (electroless copper followed by electroless nickel; including chromic acid etching).
In the 1990s, a below-grade/below-floor process wastewater conveyance pipe had deteriorated and was leaking per the maintenance Manager. It concerned him because he did not know how long the hazardous process wastewater had been leaking through this broken line, but he knew without a doubt it was causing an environmental chemical release. Knowing all that, he did what any good employee would do, and told his boss about it (i.e., the Corporate Plant Engineer); after which, he was told to “just do his job, fix the pipe and go on to the next project”.
Like the other chromium electroplaters discussed in other Horror stories, this plant also had below-grade hazardous process wastewater conveyance (pumps, sumps and pipes), storage tanks and treatment tanks; and similar to these same plants, these below-grade tanks were not designed or constructed properly, and consequently, there is a high probability that these tanks were likewise leaking, and causing chemical releases to the environment.
One big question that remains to be answered regarding this plant, is whether this plant was properly shut down/decommissioned, such as removing and hauling hazardous plating solutions and contaminated materials (concrete and soils) to a RCRA certified TSDR (are there HW manifests indicating that this was done?), and was there a contamination investigation and remediation done at this contaminated site?
ENVIRONMENTAL HORROR STORY #8…
Fortunately, the one extreme environmental horror story I do not have to tell you about is the tragedy of a plating line worker accidentally falling into a plating tank. But I can tell you this, I have seen too many (100%) process plating line workers and maintenance staff walking along the plating line “cat walk” between two parallel plating lines without one single PPE item being worn. What I am talking about is Personal Protection Equipment, and clothing, etc., such as protective gloves, respirators, face masks, harnesses, protective suits (one piece, or separate pants and upper garment), protective shoes/boots, eye protection (safety glasses generally worn, but not safety splash goggles or masks), ear protection, etc. So granted, all that PPE is very cumbersome to wear, especially if you are running back and forth between the laboratory/control room and the plating line, etc.
But what was really frightening to watch more than anything, was to watch plating line staff climb up and over plating/process tanks without a harness or any PPE protection (except standard safety glasses) to untangle a parts rack that got hung up, or for whatever reason. Try to imagine what would happen to that worker if he or she fell in a chromic acid etch process tank? (a scary thought). The latter is not something I saw or heard of thank God! I did, however, hear stories about plating line workers from the past who had a perforated nasal septum caused by hexavalent chromium aerosol/mist exposure which caused erosion of septum tissue to the point that there was an eroded hole/open passage up inside and between the worker’s two nostrils. The latter makes one ask the question: if that is what Cr+6 did to the inside of someone’s nose, imagine what it was doing to the rest of that person’s body? (e.g., throat, lungs, etc.). When working at a plater part time while attending college, I heard about a maintenance man at the plant who died a short time back in a plating tank doing maintenance work over the weekend due to asphyxiation caused by the formation of cyanide gas.
I often wondered how the corporation could justify having its own medical and wellness facility staffed by its own medical staff (doctors, nurses, etc.) employees, but I no longer wonder anymore.
LESSONS LEARNED FROM THE ENVIRONMENTAL HORROR STORIES…
sSo the lessons from the prior discussion are simply that this leaking at chemically intensive industrial plants does happen, and with the profit driven and almost sole purpose of these plants to get the finished product out the door in the least costly and timely manner (“just in time”), those RCRA Class I violations or chemical environmental releases are happening likely nearby where you live every minute of the day in some volume at multiple plants; the worst generally being the older ones, although I just gave you an example of a newer, high production facility in a “green space area” (or at least it was green space before the company moved in) that has knowingly leaked before (without reporting), and likely is still leaking, or will be leaking again if environmental safeguards are not put in place. So please believe me it happened before, it is still happening now, and it will happen again, and will not be stopped unless citizens begin acting on their own to reveal and publicize the problem, and actively campaign by communicating to your public officials (local, state, and federal governments, including public water works and public wastewater treatment works) that you want to see action to enact and enforce environmental regulations to force these companies to clean up the pollution they have caused and to stop doing it. Some will say this is “over regulating”, which it is not. What is currently being done, or the lack thereof, is “under regulating”, which has created an unhealthy and unsafe condition for all of us, caused by the failure of responsible parties to properly act to protect the general welfare and health & safety of the public. The latter is a clear breach of public duty, which the courts, if they cared more about the 99%, would do something about it. Unfortunately, it has reached the point that our judicial systems is under the political grasp/influence of the 0.1%/1%, at the detriment of the “common good”/99%, or the rest of us. This is more than hearsay I am telling you about and you can help to substantiate it by demanding sampling and testing of soils and groundwater around these plants or do some sampling and testing on your own on your property or public land, perhaps with your neighbors or your neighborhood/homeowners association.
DO NOT BE LIKE THE PARROT! Remind these public officials and company/corporation owners that they “REAP WHAT THEY SOW”. Or in other words, they are responsible for the consequences of their actions and inactions. Their moral, ethical and civic duties and obligations require that they focus not just on maximizing profits and wealth, which is primarily for the benefit of the 0.1% or 1% of the population, but rather they do what is right and just for the “common good” of humanity and the environment. To do less is a BREACH OF THEIR DUTIES, whether as an elected or appointed public official, or as a corporate/industrial citizen of the community, or as a private representative/consultant/attorney (enablers/protectors) for those negligent corporate/industrial citizens. California noticed that an abundance of RCRA Class I violations/chemical releases were occurring in their state at these chemically intensive plants, and they responded by upping their game and clamping down on these facilities and mandating that they either install updated and automated state-of-the-art environmental safeguards, or instead they make sure that: (a) first, they do not have any below grade/buried tanks or pipes henceforth, and that instead, all hazardous tanks and pipes be above grade and clearly visible and observable; and (b) secondly, they continually monitor and inspect [at least hourly] all these exposed pipes and tanks carrying hazardous wastewaters and make these inspection reports available to regulators and promptly report and act on any leakage that occurs. I would say that all other states as a minimum should do the same. With the contaminated groundwater surrounding these plants located in “public water service areas” moving steadily ever so slowly decade after decade towards our primary freshwater public water supply sources, these plants are gradually degrading our public tap water and making it less and less safe to drink.
Giacomo B Fischiatore, P.E., MSCE, Civil/Environmental Engineer (40+ years),
“Advocates for Reality and Equality Based Environmental and Public Health Solutions”
REAP’s ”Almost Full Circle” on CRIM Plant Enlightenment Campaign:
3-YEAR CAMPAIGN TO PUBLICIZE AND NOTIFY GOVERNMENTAL LOCAL/STATE/FEDERAL – EXECUTIVE/ LEGISLATIVE/JUDICIAL BRANCHES REGARDING DECADES-LONG LEAKING CHROMIUM PLATING PLANTS:
04/13/2000: Disclosure made to MI AG (fell on deaf ears/blind eyes); they made no attempt to connect the dots.
09/04/2015: Campaign with news media and activists organizations begins (again on 1/19/2016, July/Aug 2016, 1/2/2017, 10/2/2017, 05/01/2018, 10/13/2018, and 10/13/2018).
12/29/2015: Disclosure made to US DOJ (again on 2/16/2016, 7/16/2016, and 1/2/2017).
12/29/2015: Campaign broadens in notifying various activists (e.g., environmental, legal, animal rights, and public health advocates) of the specific environmental and public health problem (1/2/2017).
7/11/2016: DNC notified of problem and individuals involved during 2016 presidential campaign.
8/25/2016: Jill Stein, presidential candidate for Green Party notified of problem and individuals involved.
11/19/2016: First letter to President Obama (and again on 1/2/2017).
11/21/2016: Nation-wide mailing made to advise governmental officials of a nation-wide problem caused by regulatory loophole: to HOAs (homeowners associations), Gov Jerry Brown, US Senators and US Representatives in CA and Midwest that have a high concentration of chromium electroplaters.
12/1/2016: Disclosure made to local (cities of Grand Rapids and Kentwood, MI) affected mayors, HOAs and environmental activists (again on 1/2/2017 and 10/2/2017).
1/2/2017: Disclosure made to State of MI representatives and senators in the Lansing State Legislature.
1/18/2017: Letters sent to broader list of affected property owners in cities of Grand Rapids and Kentwood, MI.
1/2/2017: Disclosures made to U.S. Senators and U.S. Representatives of the U.S. Congress from MI, CA and other Midwest states (spreading word on specific MI disclosure and the larger national problem).
1/2/2017: Full disclosure letter sent to President Obama, and his VP, EPA Administrator, and US AG.
2/5/2017: Extensive mailing made to affected property owners of two leaking chromium electroplaters in cities of Grand Rapids and Kentwood, MI.
5/29/2017: Full disclosure (no beating around the bush) letters sent to: HOAs in Midwest and CA, U.S. Senators, U.S. Representatives, U.S. Congressional environmental Committee leaders, City/County attorneys in Grand Rapids and Kentwood, news media, MI Gov Engler, MI AG Granholm, CA AG, State of MI State Reps & Senators, U.S. MI Senators and Reps, and reps for affected HOAs in GR and Kentwood.
10/2/2017: Disclosure made to EPA Region 5 (& EPA Washington DC for Urban Waters program), MDEQ officials, news media, along with notifications given to local board members and officers of affected HOAs in Grand Rapids & Kentwood, MI (potential related impact of Grand River Restoration Project discussed).
05/01/2018: Letters sent to MI public radio and news media outlets in West MI describing similarities between problems with PFAS pollution from leather tanneries and hexavalent chromium pollution from chromium electroplaters (they use PFAS too).
08/16/2018: REAP (Real Environmental Action Proponents: newly formed organization) letters sent to Midwest public officials and public waterworks agencies (along with news media organizations in same region) showing data that demonstrates that cancerous chemicals are rising in public water supply sources (hexavalent chromium) primarily due to hazardous chemical environmental releases from CRIM plants (Chemically-Real-Intensive-Manufacturing establishments).
11/13/2018: REAP Letters previously sent to Midwest public officials/public waterworks and news media (above) emailed to long list of potential advocates describing rise of cancerous chemicals in public tap water (hexavalent chromium and PFAS in Great Lakes public water supply sources).
12/01/2018: Start of REAP web site (Reality Environmental Action Proponents), youREAPwhatyousow.org.
Subject: REAP LETTER #1, PART 1 OF 3, CANCEROUS CHEMICALS RISING IN PUBLIC TAP WATER
Dear Environmental/Public Health Advocates and Concerned Citizens:
SHORT SUMMARY/IDENTIFICATION OF THE PROBLEM…
The full letter I am sending you here (Part 1) and anything that may follow is the “long of it”, and hopefully it will be read and understood by many so the word will collectively get out that something has to be done to end the current unacceptable situation. The “short of it” is this:
The message given by local and state governments and public waterworks (and sewage treatment plants) to chemically intensive industrial plants operating in their jurisdictions is simply that: “If your plant is located in an area that is served by public water it is not our concern/purview if you are polluting the surrounding neighborhoods – out of sight, out of mind; no harm, no foul. If however, on the other hand, there are private domestic wells in close vicinity to your plant, we then care somewhat more that you are polluting the neighborhood because of the glaring and familiar consequences that follows: including the long, complicated and very public course of events, involving cancer cluster studies and the subsequent participation of numerous parties in the ensuing public health crisis, such as attorneys, public health agencies, news media, etc.”
When there are a lot of private domestic wells contaminated, it justifiably gets a lot of attention. Contrarily, the other situation that gets very little attention, and essentially goes unnoticed, is where industrial pollution is occurring regularly for decades in areas served by public water. The latter is actually the more common situation because nowadays most of the chemically intensive manufacturing plants locally and in the Midwest and USA are located in urbanized areas served by centralized public water systems. Just because this more common situation of industries polluting in these public water service areas does not seem to have glaring and readily identifiable consequences, does not mean that there are no consequences, because there are. The difference is that the consequences of this nature are long-term, and they affect a greater population. What I am referring to is the long-term collective pollution that is occurring from all these chemically intensive plants to our public water supplies. Hydrogeologically, all the pollution leaking from these plants into the soils and groundwater, finds it pathway over time to public water supply sources, such as those in Lake Michigan, and more broadly, in the Great Lakes. I am hoping this communication and others to follow will eventually lead to public officials getting their heads out of the sand, and begin holding these industrial plants accountable.
A POSTER CHILD FOR CONTAMINATED DRINKING WATER…
The problem discussed herein is not unique to just one geographic area, or one particular chemically intensive manufacturing operation, or one toxic/carcinogenic chemical (i.e., it is a wide-spread problem across the land, involving many different kinds of chemically intensive manufacturing operations and a long list of toxic chemicals used at these facilities); so to illustrate the nature of this persistent problem, the real life story presented here is about:
A poster child community;
A poster child state;
Two poster child manufacturing operations;
And two poster child carcinogenic chemicals used at the above.
It has similarities to the climate change story that has been unfolding in the news for the past few decades, in that it is about an insidious change that has been occurring in the environment over many decades and now approaching a century; and has major implications in the decades/centuries ahead.
The community is the Grand Rapids metropolitan/West Michigan area.
The state is Michigan, including its Attorney General’s Office, along with its Governor and the Governor’s Department of Environmental Quality.
The two manufacturing operations are chemically intensive industrial plants; one a leather tannery, the other a chromium electroplating facility.
The carcinogenic chemical is hexavalent chromium, or Cr+6. A second carcinogenic chemical used by these same two industrial operations is per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS (short- and long-chain perfluorinated alkylated substances such as PFOS or perfluorooctane sulfunphonic acid, PFOA, or perfluorooctanoic acid; and others, all of which are man made chemicals used for various industrial purposes, such as fume suppressants in electroplating, water repellents for leather products, etc.).
One or both of these carcinogenic chemicals have found their way into private domestic well water supplies, but the bigger story is that these chemicals are steadily finding their way into much larger “public water supply sources”, such as Lake Michigan and the Great Lakes in general.
Although PFAS contamination is a serious problem in the poster child community and has gotten a lot of news coverage, the story is primarily about Cr+6, and relies on public tap water data obtained from a story written by EWG, the Environmental Work Group out of Washington, DC.
How this insidious problem is occurring virtually unnoticed may seem somewhat baffling given all the state and federal environmental laws, regulations and enforcement agencies; but is primarily explained by the fact that groundwater is not typically tested in the sphere of “public water service areas” where most of us live and where most of these plants are located because there is little or no concern about protecting groundwater quality because there are no domestic wells in these areas warranting attention by environmental/public health officials.
Since these chemically intensive plants are given a free rein on what they do within their plant walls regarding conveyance, storage and treatment of hazardous process wastewater due to an environmental regulatory loophole (to be discussed in detail later), many of these plants are going unnoticed while they are leaking like sieves. This loophole or loose interpretation of the hazardous waste regulations, which manufacturers say does not mandate that they have sophisticated environmental safeguards in place; does not, however, give these companies a “license to pollute” nor does it relieve them of the liabilities and responsibilities that goes with causing chemical releases to the environment because there are many other laws on the books that prohibit these misdeeds. The big question is, “are the environmental regulatory agencies turning a blind eye to this problem?”, or “do they know this problem exists, but do not want to know anymore about it because of the wide-spread nature of this problem and the complexities (economic and otherwise) of resolving it?”, or “are they just completely ignorant or naïve about the existence and extent of this problem?”.
WHO I AM AND MY CAUSE…
FIRST, LET IT BE KNOWN THAT I AM A WHISTLEBLOWER WHO CARES AND STRIVES FOR THE “COMMON GOOD” OF HUMANKIND AND THE PLANET. SECOND, I ASK THAT YOU PLEASE AT LEAST READ WHAT I HAVE TO SAY HERE, WHICH BELIEVE ME, IS FOR YOUR OWN GOOD AND THE GOOD OF YOUR FAMILY AND FRIENDS. I AM SENDING THIS INFORMATION TO YOU BECAUSE I BELIEVE YOU ARE SINCERELY COMMITTED TO PROTECTING, PRESERVING AND RESTORING OUR ENVIRONMENT, AND GUARDING OVER THOSE WHO ARE THE MOST VULNERABLE TO THE ILL EFFECTS OF ENVIRONMENTAL DEGRADATION (e.g., mothers of babies and young children, the impoverished, those living in older urbanized/industrialized areas, etc.). As an older progressive white male, I have a lot of confidence and hope that ACTION WILL BE TAKEN BY WOMEN (those with more caring and nurturing inclinations), MINORITIES (including immigrants, who together will soon be the national majority; and including all races and religions) AND ESPECIALLY THE YOUTH OF SOCIETY, who themselves and with their children and their children’s children will suffer the most in future decades unless positive changes are made. THIS IS NOT TO SAY THAT I AM BEING EXCLUSIVE IN THIS APPEAL, BECAUSE QUITE THE CONTRARY, THIS IS A BROAD-BASED APPEAL, AND IS NOT TO ANY ONE SPECIFIC POLITICAL PARTY OR DEMOGRAPHIC. IT IS AN APPEAL TO OLD AS WELL AS YOUNG, BOTH MALES AND FEMALES EQUALLY, THOSE WITH AND WITHOUT COLLEGE EDUCATIONS, THOSE POOR AND WEALTHY, AND QUITE SIMPLY AND CONCISELY, TO ALL USA CITIZENS WHO CARE ABOUT PROTECTING AND PRESERVING THE PUBLIC HEALTH AND THE ENVIRONMENT. THERE JUST IS NO GOOD REASON WHY THE LATTER SHOULD NOT HAVE UNIVERSAL APPEAL. I AM ESPECIALLY MAKING THIS APPEAL TO PUBLIC HEALTH PROFESSIONALS, INCLUDING NURSES, DOCTORS, SCIENTISTS, PUBLIC HEALTH SPECIALISTS AND ENGINEERS WHO KNOW AND UNDERSTAND THE CAUSES AND ILL EFFECTS OF POOR QUALITY WATER AND AIR ON HUMAN HEALTH.
IF YOU AGREE WITH THE LIFE AFFECTING CONCERNS AND THE POINTS I HAVE MADE, PLEASE HELP TO PUBLICIZE THIS MATTER BY PASSING THIS INFORMATION ON AND TELLING YOUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY. THIRD, IF YOU ARE WILLING TO DO MORE TO HELP THE CAUSE TO FURTHER PUBLICIZE AND ACT UPON THIS MATTER, PLEASE CONTACT ME. I AM NOT SHARING THIS INFORMATION WITH YOU TO SCARE YOU, BUT AM TELLING YOU ALL OF THIS SO YOU CAN PROTECT YOURSELF AND FAMILY AND FRIENDS, AND PERHAPS TO HOPEFULLY MOTIVATE YOU TO TAKE ACTION TO IMPROVE UPON THIS ISSUE. I AM PLANNING TO FOLLOWUP WITH ADDITIONAL EMAILS: A PART 2 AND PART 3, WHICH WILL PROVIDE MORE RELEVANT INFORMATION THAT I HOPE YOU WILL READ (PART 2 is a letter sent to 84 Midwest “drinking water” public waterworks organizations, and PART 3 is a letter sent to numerous Midwest news media outlets). There is a lot more specific information I may later decide to provide you upon request or in a similar manner to this email, describing more details on the Michigan Whistleblower case and other matters mentioned herein.
I have been telling the main stream and independent news media outlets about this situation for some time now, and have received very little in terms of a response, and you may be asking why? Certainly it is an important and vital matter affecting the health and safety of hundreds of millions of Americans? When you get into this further, you likely will have some theories of your own as to why the news media does not seem to have any interest? I sincerely believe as more light starts to shine on this issue, and more and more evidence begins to be exposed, this matter will start to receive more serious attention. Most likely, it will first start with the independent news organizations who are not as beholden to many organizations (profit or nonprofit, foundations, etc.) and individuals (founders, donors, etc.) as the profit-driven corporate main stream/entertainment media (the major network cable/satellite media outlets). Fortunately, there are still independent news media outlets that are more driven by doing what journalists are supposed to do, which primarily is to fulfill their and our first amendment rights, and foremost to tell us what we need to know just to live and survive and maintain our freedom and democracy so it works at its best for the common good of humanity and our planet. The main stream media survives off of the huge profits they derive mostly from advertising, so not surprisingly, they are reluctant to publicize anything that may have a detrimental financial impact on their big advertising purchasers/customers, like for example, the automobile manufacturers. Perhaps even the public broadcasting companies have their hands tied somewhat on what they can and cannot report because they do not want to offend their biggest foundation donors who may be offshoots from the 0.1 percent of the richest family dynasties of the modern world (e.g., Ford Foundation?), which ties right back to many of those same big corporate advertisement customers. So, I guess I have already given you some possible theories why the primary issue of this email message is not getting as much attention in the news media as I think it deserves. Another possible reason for the limited coverage on this matter I would say is because the problem I am telling you about has been kept concealed from the public for multiple decades, approaching a half a century; and there is no desire by those in power to start uncovering this problem and make it public because there is a big expense to correcting it, and it is a “political hot potato” for the elected officials if they pursue full discovery and correction of the problem. On the other hand, if and when this problem does get exposed and it can be demonstrated that they ignored it or concealed it for a longtime, then there may be a day of reckoning and they possibly could suffer politically for their neglect and breach of duty on the highest order. What will probably help them on the latter is that the most of the politicians out there today are of the same lot – i.e., concerned primarily about how to get re-elected? That is why people and organizations out there that truly care about the “common good”, should band together to uncover and expose this problem, and hopefully someday new leaders will arise from this group and run for office to serve the public’s best interest, and not their own.
DETAILS OF THE STORY…
TO BEGIN: Why aren’t large chemically intensive manufacturers (e.g., chromium electroplaters, leather tanneries, paper/pulp mills, stainless steel plants, etc.) required to have leak detection and property line groundwater monitor wells? Municipal landfills and hazardous waste processing facilities are, even though they typically pose far less risks to public water supplies and the general health & safety of the public than do the aforementioned? Do you have any reliable information assuring you that these local industries are not regularly polluting adjacent properties and groundwater and surface water that you and the community rely on for your individual or public water supply source? Sadly, and pathetically you do not.
This serious omission jeopardizing public health locally and across the nation has been known and accepted by public officials certainly for over a half a century in a pro-business, public health-negligent manner in all jurisdictions and branches of government. It is dangerously as simple as that. Due to lax and inadequate environmental laws and regulations full of loop holes favoring the most risk laden and worst environmental offenders, and minimal or no regulatory inspections and law enforcement, companies of this nature operate virtually unchecked without the proper environmental safeguards mentioned. The latter leaves all of us in the dark on where, when and for how long these hazardous industrial plants have been leaking like sieves polluting our neighborhoods and natural water resources while at the same time maximizing their profits by grossly minimizing their expenditures for these needed environmental safeguards. Astoundingly, while these bigger, highly toxic and risk prone plants have virtually been given a “free pass”, during the past two to three decades, literally tens of thousands of small gas stations and dry cleaning (many “ma and pa shops”) facilities across the nation were forced to shut down (often abandoned) due to groundwater contamination and/or inadequate environmental safeguards, or were otherwise mandated to upgrade their facilities in short order to meet strict new environmental standards, requiring that they have environmental safeguards such as doubled-walled tanks, leak detection, overflow/overfill spill prevention, monitor wells, etc. Although the high environmental standards imposed on industries/facilities mentioned (landfills, gas stations, dry cleaners, etc.) were definitely needed, and a good thing to do, for some reason or other (e.g., intense lobbying), the larger chemically intensive plants of major concern (e.g., chromium electroplaters/anodizers, tanneries, paper mills, stainless steel plants, etc.) remarkably managed to escape appropriate environmental regulatory scrutiny and mandates as they sat there in plain view to legislators like “giant sequoia trees that got lost in the forest “.
With decades and centuries passing, and surreptitiously and intentionally little or no sampling and testing of the groundwater surrounding these plants being performed by owners/operators of these plants (a policy of corporate protective concealment), toxic and carcinogenic chemicals leaking from these industrial plants have slowly and insidiously been migrating and entering and accumulating in our natural water resources, including the most precious and once pristine freshwater bodies of water in the world, like our Great Lakes (which contains numerous public raw water supply intakes). It is happening so slowly and gradually that it goes almost unnoticed by nearly everyone, and blamed by natural or other nebulous causes by the “deniers” rather than owning up to the obvious reasons described herein. Other longtime standard arguments and defenses given by the industrial polluters for their actions and inactions, are that “the area is already polluted so it cannot get and any worse, so do not blame us for a problem that already existed”; or “the river or lake is so vast that any small amount of pollution leaking over from us is a drop in the bucket like pissing in the lake, and the dilution factor is so huge it nullifies any real concerns; and besides, the soils, streams and lakes have this vast natural potential and capacity to physically, chemically and biologically assimilate, absorb and transpose these toxic and carcinogenic chemicals and render them harmless”. All the latter arguments are big fat lies, and at best are a gross and false over simplification of good science and are simply devised and presented to the public in a conniving, deceiving and self serving fashion to minimize the real gravity of the consequences of their negligence. It is just a greed inspired and devised disguise of “smoke and mirrors” to fool the public and calm the masses into thinking that their neglectful environmental/public health ways are alright and they are doing all that is necessary and what is best economically and otherwise for the community. They omit the fact that leakage of toxic chemicals from their plant and hundreds and thousands of similar plants, although moving very slowly through the groundwater, open ditches and streams, eventually finds its way collectively in a degrading and accumulative manner into those invaluable bodies of water we call our public water supply sources (e.g., Lake Michigan).
There are now many toxic carcinogenic industrial chemicals being detected in public water supplies (see EWG/Environmental Work Group tap water study online), which are toxic and cancer-causing at very low, trace level concentrations (ppb – parts per billion range). So the ridiculous and negligent dilution argument mentioned does not hold up if, for example, one considers a likely not uncommon leakage amount of 10,000 gallons per day (or 10 to 20% daily plant water usage loss, equivalent to two continuously running garden hoses) from an old chromium electroplating plant 700’ from the bank of the river, with a leakage concentration of 50 ppm (parts per million) of hexavalent chromium (Cr+6, known carcinogen) entering the Grand River (3,800 cubic feet/sec average flow) in Grand Rapids, Michigan, which after dilution in the river, reduces to 0.2 ppb. The resulting Cr+6 level calculated for the river in this example is 10 times the California health goal/guideline of 0.02 ppb (per a panel of scientific experts – concentrations above this goal is of special concern for infants and toddlers due to susceptibility to stomach cancer). Thirty five miles to the west of this plating plant, the Grand River discharges into Lake Michigan at the eastern shoreline of Grand Haven, Michigan, where the Grand Haven/Northwest Ottawa County Public Waterworks happens to have their raw water supply intake structure right next to the mouth of the river. Additionally, seven miles south of the Grand Haven intake, there are three more raw water intake structures for the cities of Grand Rapids and Wyoming, Michigan. The results of the EWG tap water study, show the concentration in the tap water for all three of these public waterworks to be in the range of about 0.20 to 0.24 ppb of hexavalent chromium; again, about 10 to 12 times the California health guideline for this cancer causing substance. It is important to keep in mind, that in general, public waterworks such as these do not have the equipment and capabilities to treat or reduce Cr+6 to levels as low as the CA health guideline. The same can be said about POTWs, or publicly owned (wastewater/sewage) treatment works, which discharge treated wastewater effluent to the river (e.g., City of Grand Rapids POTW which discharges to the Grand River).
Sadly, the only way these leaking chemicals oozing from these plants may have been detected over the decades, is if by chance people living near these plants became ill from drinking contaminated water from their private domestic wells, which would have prompted public health officials to test these wells for the presence of industrial chemicals. On the other hand, if the area surrounding the industrial plant was on a centralized public water system, which is the more common scenario, typically there would be no comprehensive chemical analyzes done by health or environmental officials of the soils and groundwater on adjacent lands because there are no sick or dying humans you can readily associate with a leaking industrial plant. So therefore, if there is no testing for this most common situation (i.e., industrial plants in urbanized areas served by public water), there is no public knowledge of the industrial leaking and the chemical contamination that is more likely than not occurring continuously from these types of industrial plants by the hour, day, month, year, decade and century – and probably forever if nothing is done to identify and stop this pervasive problem. It is very unfortunate that almost no testing is done around these risk prone plants, because if it was it would certainly provide so called CSI “industrial chemical fingerprint” data that would show a connection between the chemical contamination in the ground and the chemicals used in the manufacturing process. An example of this is the recent chemical contamination that was discovered in Rockford, Michigan which showed the presence of PFAS (polyflouroalkyl substances), which happens to be a toxic/carcinogenic chemical used by Wolverine Worldwide (shoe manufacturer) as an additive to their products to provide resistance to heat, water and oil. This same chemical is also commonly used in chromium electroplating as a fume suppressant; and coincidentally, Cr+6 is also used at leather tanneries in large quantities.
As part of the natural hydrologic cycle, all the groundwater passing under these many plants eventually collectively finds its way near and far to open ditches, creeks, rivers and lakes; and if that lake (e.g., Lake Michigan or others) happens to be the raw water supply source for the public drinking water system, chances are that over time these chemicals, that are toxic (carcinogenic = cancer causing) at extremely low concentrations, are entering and accumulating in your drinking water source, which again, are generally not treated and removed by the public treatment works. Unfortunately, most of the public with low or modest incomes cannot afford the added cost of an elaborate home water purification system, such as a reverse osmosis system that are being purchased in record numbers by the wealthier and political donor-class citizens who benefit the most from profit-driven corporations; and consequently, the less fortunate members of society drink the water at their tap “as is” and ingest the many chemical impurities (see online EWG/Environmental Work Group nation-wide tap water study) that are commonly present now in many drinking water supplies. If the public does not rise up to this persistent, neglected and long-term problem, and take needed action, including voicing their outrage to public officials for allowing minimal or no environmental safeguards in favor of maximizing corporate profits at the expense of degrading water quality and public health, our water supply sources will continue to degrade as they have for decades and centuries (e.g. Great Lakes), and the incidence of chemically related diseases (e g., cancer) will correspondingly continue to rise.
Global warming is certainly the biggest environmental challenge facing our planet during this century, but do not be fooled that there are not other serious environmental and public health issues that have been ongoing for a long time that need to be addressed as just described that are needlessly spreading toxic and carcinogenic chemicals into the environment and ultimately into our drinking water supplies. And just like climate change, if we do not starting doing something soon to reverse the trend, things will get steadily worse with our limited sources of high quality fresh water. If during your lifetime and work life you have observed or are aware of the negligent practices that I have (and reported to public officials/State Attorney General as a whistleblower with no avail), and/or have friends or family members who have become ill or died of cancer, come forward and act with us in various manners to bear pressure on public officials (including public waterworks officials who can make their industrial customers use water responsibly – no leaking!) to require chemically intensive industries to have proper environmental safeguards and early detection warning systems (e.g., robust secondary containment, leak detection, monitor wells, etc.) so the public and adjacent property owners can be notified when industrial chemical migration has, or is about to occur, and so corrective and protective measures can be taken before the problem gets worse – as an interim measure, make leaky plants install below ground “bentonite clay” slurry walls around the perimeter of their plants to impede the migration of known contamination. If a manufacturer of the type described lacks these necessary public safeguards, they simply should not be allowed to operate unless they upgrade or build new state-of-art facilities for their onsite hazardous process wastewater conveyance, storage and treatment/recycling systems; including all the necessary environmental safeguards.
An important question to ask is “how does this insidious problem of having chemically intensive plants of the type described (and others as warranted) that are freely operating in our communities (at the expense of the environment and public health) virtually unrestricted and unmonitored while their industrial hazardous process wastewater systems (conveyance, storage and treatment systems) are leaking like sieves?” These plants do not do any sampling and testing of their own volition around their plants, either within or just outside the plant property lines – they never have and they never will unless they are forced to because it would be self incriminating. Plants of this nature only do this kind of sampling and testing of soils and groundwater when they are ordered to do so by a court ordered consent judgment or some other justice department mandate. So the only other way testing of soils and groundwater surrounding a plant occurs is if a potential buyer of an adjacent property conducts an environmental site assessment as a part of due diligence for property acquisition (generally required for financing); however, information obtained through this assessment (e.g., chemical analyses) is typically held as private information, and therefore is not generally disseminated to the public – although it may if there was wide-spread, multi-property contamination and it became known to the news media.
So as you can see, how the public finds out about these oozing industrial plants is very scant or nonexistent and complicated. However, there is a limited opening to sample and test the lands adjacent to these plants if the adjacent property is government owned (local, state or federal jurisdictions), such as public parks or public right-of-ways for roads, trails, sidewalks or drainage systems. Unfortunately, the deterrent for the latter is that the governmental jurisdictions are often reluctant to go searching for a contamination problem at an industrial plant in their jurisdictional boundaries for political reasons because they do not want to make waves with their industrial constituents nor do they want to detrimentally impact their jurisdictional economy, employment levels, tax base and re-election.
THE ILL CONCEIVED AND LOOSELY INTERPRETED REGULATORY LOOPHOLE…
So who is left that wants and is willing and able to test the public lands adjacent to these many oozing plants that are contributing to the historical and ongoing degradation of our public water supply sources? Public waterworks certainly have some leverage over these industrial plants because these plants need water supplied to them in order to operate. The waterworks could say “use the water we supply you responsibly, and prove it, or we are going to cut you off”; but, that likely is not ever going to happen. In today’s (and the past few decades’) prevailing political atmosphere of “deregulation”, local, state and federal regulators do not have the justice department and executive/legislative backing to tell these plants to sample and test around their plants and property lines to check for potential (and likely) chemical contamination and migration. Besides the politics, also working in disfavor against citizens in protecting (and preserving and restoring) the environment (and public health & safety) are the inadequate and loophole ridden federal environmental regulations. In particular, the federal hazardous waste laws (RCRA – Resource Conservation and Recovery Act) that were written in the 1980s – as hard as it is to believe – exempted these chemically intensive plants from the very important and needed requirement of having appropriate environmental safeguards (leak detection, monitor wells, etc.) for the plant’s process hazardous wastewater operations.
This gaping and fundamentally flawed and irresponsible loophole [Code of Federal Regulations citation: 40CFR261.4(a)(1)] known as the RCRA – CWA (Clean Water Act) domestic sewage exclusion/exemption, has been interpreted over the years and decades to basically say that the process hazardous wastewater operations (conveyance, storage, treatment and recycling) at these industries is only governed by what is covered in the prior federal Clean Water Act; which is totally inadequate due to the highly hazardous and toxic (e.g., high strength acids and bases, oxidizers, carcinogens, etc.) nature of the chemicals used at these plants in manufacturing. The worst situation, is with the many older plants that still have below-grade (i.e., buried below plant floor/ground level) tanks, sumps and piping, that are typically not doubled lined (e.g., doubled walled pipes and tanks), and at best may have a thin chemical coating/lining on the inside of the pipes or tanks that corrodes, erodes or comes loose over a short period. For example, plastic drop-in tank liners often get water or air trapped behind or below them (i.e., between liner and tank wall/tank bottom) and then typically fold over at the sides or bubble up from the bottom – the so called “hippo” effect. Some of these plants may also have a thin plastic (e.g., polyethylene) liner not much thicker than a household garbage bag wrapped around the outside walls and below the tank bottom and around the outside of pipes, which provides “false security” and is just totally inadequate and ineffective, and will not contain liquids of the corrosive nature we are talking about, and will easily puncture, or corrode and erode away with just minor chemical exposure.
Rather than these flimsy and short-lived tank and pipe liners/wraps just mentioned, there should instead be separate/complete and whole secondary tanks and pipes totally surrounding and containing the primary tanks and pipes (i.e., a tank inside a tank, and a pipe inside a pipe), and the secondary tanks and pipes should be just as robust (same structural and physical/chemical integrity) as the primary tanks and pipes. Along with this, there also needs to be leak detection systems between the primary and secondary tanks and pipes, which need to be continuously automatically monitored so there is an alert/alarm system that will be triggered when the primary tanks or pipes are breached due to chemical or structural failure. California, which is usually many steps ahead of all the other states on regulatory environmental protection and enforcement, does not interpret the federal RCRA CWA exemption as loosely as most of the other states (such as in Michigan and the Midwest), and instead requires that these chemically intensive industrial plants have the system just described with fully automated leak detection and monitoring/alarm system (also high liquid level and/or pressure alarms to alert and prevent tank overfills/overflows and detect inordinate drops in tank liquid levels or sudden drops of pressure on pipelines, which in both cases is a sign that leakage is occurring). If the company does not have the elaborate and needed electronic/automated leak detection and secondary containment systems just described with the double-walled tanks and pipes, California then requires at a minimum that the company have a continuous and ongoing visual inspection program (keeping detailed hourly inspection logs) and that all single-walled tanks and pipes must be totally exposed and above grade and above the plant floor (buried tanks and buried pipes not allowed) so everything is clearly and totally in plain view so it can be readily inspected 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, on a year-round basis in a manner demonstrating that no leaks of any kind have occurred/been observed in any fashion at any of the onsite process hazardous wastewater conveyance (pipes, sumps, pumping systems, etc.), storage, treatment or recycling systems throughout the plant – and when leaks are detected, they are immediately acted upon and reported to the regulatory authority.
California enacted this stricter more sensible interpretation of the RCRA CWA exclusion/exemption, because through their more robust and stricter (compared to most other states) overall environmental regulatory compliance inspection and enforcement program, they concluded such a mandate was necessary to lower and minimize the incidences of RCRA Class I violations (violations where a hazardous chemical release to the environment has occurred). The US EPA will tell you that the RCRA CWA exclusion/exemption does not apply to hazardous process wastewater operations within the industrial plant between the manufacturing processes (e.g., plating line) and the final discharge point of the pretreated industrial wastewater effluent to the POTW (Publicly Owned Treatment Works) owned public sewer, and only applies once the industrial effluent (fully treated process wastewater in accordance with POTW issued CWA NPDES industrial pretreatment permit and effluent standards) is intermixed and combined with the plant’s domestic sanitary wastewater (i.e., sanitary wastewater from plant’s sinks, toilets, etc.). The CWA National Pollution Discharge Elimination Systems (NPDES) permit program for direct (e.g., POTW final discharge to river) and indirect (industrial discharge to municipal/public sewer) has been going on since the 1970s. The argument goes that this exclusion/exemption was created so the POTWs (municipal sewage treatment plants) would be exempt from complying with the cumbersome RCRA hazardous waste rules even though they were accepting process wastewater effluents from industries that were classified as RCRA hazardous waste generators.
The chemically intensive industries discussed herein for the most part are all classified as “Large Quantity” Hazardous Waste Generators under RCRA. This is a somewhat complicated issue, but suffice it to say that these complicated issues of determining the exact point where the domestic sewage in the industrial plant meets up with the industrial process wastewater has always been an arguable/debatable matter that the industrial technical and legal experts have more often than not been able to convince the regulators and enforcers (in states besides California) to just leave the compliance oversight of the industrial process hazardous wastewater operations within the plant walls strictly between the POTW and the industrial customer as regulated under the CWA. Unfortunately for the public and the environment, that just does not work out too good because all the POTW cares about is whether the industry meets all the process hazardous wastewater pretreatment standards per their NPDES permit (e.g., reducing concentrations of heavy metals like copper and nickel, etc., that disrupt the POTW’s biological treatment process), and they do not have any other regulatory compliance oversight functions of what the industrial plant is doing within the plant’s walls as it relates to the plant’s hazardous process wastewater system (conveyance, storage, treatment/recycling). The end result is that the industrial plant could be leaking like a sieve, and the POTW does not know and does not care – it is not their purview. And to add to this gaping loophole, the municipal building inspectors who look over engineering design/construction plans for new industrial plants or modifications thereof, do not care or know whether the plant owner/operator is designing/constructing the hazardous process wastewater system with all the needed environmental safeguards (not their purview), and all they usually care about is whether the plant meets building codes for electrical, HVAC, parking spaces, etc.
THOUSANDS OF “LOVE CANAL” ENVIRONMENTAL DISASTERS ARE OUT THERE…
So due to these poorly (although intentional and lobbyist-driven), ill advised promulgated federal environmental regulations and the prevalent loose industry-favored interpretation of the hazardous waste RCRA CWA domestic sewage exclusion/exemption by all the states across the nation (except CA), who almost all have full delegated authority to administer and enforce the US EPA environmental regulations (with little or no US EPA oversight due to the latter’s budgetary and staff limitations), there are in all likelihood numerous situations (perhaps thousands, and tens of thousands) where these chemically intensive industrial plants are leaking like sieves (causing numerous Class I RCRA violations – environmental chemical releases – throughout the USA). Remember back to the infamous “Love Canal” environmental disaster, recently rated 4th in the Top Ten Environmental Disasters in the world by Time Magazine, which occurred in 1978 (took a couple of decades to resolve)? That disaster occurred in a neighborhood in Niagara Falls, New York, which was built over a 70-acre unregulated hazardous waste landfill owned and operated by the Hooker Chemical Company. What I am telling you here, is that there are many similar type disasters that have been going on for multiple decades throughout the nation because leaking chemically intensive industrial plants are not, and they never have been, properly regulated, and they do not do any sampling and testing around the perimeter/property lines of the plant; and consequently, this leakage of toxic and often carcinogenic chemicals is and has been slowly migrating decades, and upward of a century, through the soils, groundwater, ditches and streams to the nation’s public raw water supply sources (e.g., Great Lakes).
With all branches of government (executive/legislative/judicial) and all jurisdictions (local, state and federal) and the public waterworks and public wastewater works (POTW) not doing anything to solve this problem, such as making these companies have proper environmental safeguards and hold them accountable for their actions and inactions and misdeeds, then WHO DOES THAT LEAVE OUT THERE WHO HOPEFULLY SOMEDAY WILL VENTURE OUT AND SAMPLE AND TEST AROUND THESE PLANTS IN THE PUBLIC DOMAIN TO GAIN KNOWLEDGE ON WHAT IS AND HAS BEEN OOZING FROM THESE MANY CHEMICALLY INTENSIVE PLANTS? Although not as easy as it sounds, perhaps someday concerned citizens or “watchdog groups” will decide to collect soil and groundwater and surface water samples in the public right-of-way or on public lands and send it off to various laboratories to be analyzed for toxic chemicals known to be used at the industrial plants in question?
We are at a point in time now if individual citizens or watchdog groups (e.g., home owners or neighborhood associations) do not take action on their own, no other entity will, as repeatedly demonstrated over the past several decades and century; and unless the citizenry rises up to gather information and gain knowledge and raise awareness to the public on the real challenges we all face in our quest to stop unfettered industrial pollution in order to protect and preserve our public water supply sources, we will be a cancer ridden society where once again the lower level of the economic echelon of society (those with modest incomes or at or below poverty levels) will suffer the most. As said before, this is a broad –based appeal to people of all persuasions, regardless of political party, gender, sexual orientation, race, religion, age, education, occupation, etc. Everyone should care about this issue and want it corrected – well, almost everybody. We might as well face it, there are those who are short sighted and believe in the concept “out of sight, out of mind”, and “if we are not seeing any dramatic and obvious ill effects today, why not leave it alone?” If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” Well, the answer to these approaches is not unlike operating an automobile that is not safe to operate on the road – perhaps bad tires, brakes, muffler fell off and is loud, emission control equipment malfunctioning or removed by owner, etc. A person should not be allowed to operate a vehicle on the road as just described; and likewise, and owner/operator of a chemically intensive industry should not be allowed to operate if the plant was designed and built poorly, or is severely deteriorated, and does not have adequate environmental safeguards, and is leaking like a sieve, and thereby releasing toxic and carcinogenic chemicals to the environment.
ENVIRONMENTAL DEREGULATION AND OUTSOURCING OF POLLUTION ABROAD…
This irresponsible political atmosphere of environmental deregulation, accompanied by relaxed regulatory enforcement with fewer environmental industrial inspections being performed, and no new or stiffening up of the environmental laws and regulations, altogether is a recipe for environmental and public health disaster. Sadly greed focused corporations with no environmental and public/worker health & safety conscious, will gladly outsource their manufacturing operations to developing or almost third world type countries where there are little or no government regulatory controls so they can REAP the profit gains while polluting some other population and area in the world. So consequently if the foreign workers and general population and environment in these countries suffer the ill effects of having no such controls, so be it say the corporate board members and their stock holders. Some will say, and probably rightfully so, that the latter greed-based approach taken by many corporations is causing all the USA manufacturing jobs to go abroad, and consequently middle class America is dwindling and becoming a bygone era due to the loss of manufacturing jobs. It is hard not to empathize with that sentiment and reality, but nonetheless, as hard as it may be for some to take a strong stand against industrial polluters here in the USA; we simply have to, and must not tolerate those companies who operate negligently at the expense of degrading the environment and public health. We just simply cannot go along with giving a break, in terms of environmental controls and enforcement, to chemically intensive industries operating here in the USA and suffer the ill effects of their environmental and public health negligence, just so hopefully they will not move their operations abroad so they can decrease their bottom line costs and operate more cheaply by polluting humans and the environment somewhere else? We have to avoid that kind of backward and negligent/capitalistic thinking in favor of more thoughtful thinking related to “common good” of humanity and the planet. We all know there are a lot of bottom line reasons for profit-driven companies to move their operations abroad, such as cheaper labor costs, etc.; so allowing lax enactment and enforcement of environmental laws is not a good way, or for that matter, a sure bet for keeping the jobs here.
When it comes right down to it though, it really is not that much more expensive for these companies to do it right. The dry cleaners and gas stations managed to do it by updating their facilities so they were not polluting the nearby neighborhoods or countryside, so why can’t these chemically intensive industries get on board and do the same thing? It still comes down to the fact that unfortunately they probably will not clean up their act on their own, but rather they need the government and the regulators and enforcers to up their game and force these companies to do what is right. There simply is no good sound reason why this should not happen. So what if their profit margins are reduced slightly by doing what is right? After all, aren’t we humans and the planet worth it? If a company can manage to orchestrate and bring together top notch skilled managers, engineers, technicians and workers to make the best “world class” products and parts by designing and implementing state-of-the-art production facilities, they surely can muster up whatever it takes to do a world class job of protecting and preserving the environment and health &safety of the public and its workers, and stop their plants from leaking like sieves which is slowly and surely degrading the quality of drinking water and our lives in general.
IS “SELF/PRIVATIZED REGULATION” THE ANSWER? ABSOLUTELY NOT!
Some will argue that everything is alright now environmentally ever since all these chemically intensive industries have adopted and implemented the ISO 14000 Series of International, voluntary Environmental Management Standards (ISO stands for International Organization for Standardization). In concept, it a very good thing, and essentially is a means for self monitoring (or you could say “self regulating”) of a company’s management practices for protecting the environment during the course of their manufacturing operations. The ISO 14000 Series was first created in 1996. ISO 14001, which is the most commonly employed standard at companies of the ISO 14000 Series, is called the Environmental Management Systems Standard, which specifies requirements for an effective environmental management system (EMS). It provides a framework that an organization can follow, rather than establishing environmental performance requirements. The ISO 14001 Standard has been updated a numbers of times since being introduced, with the most recent version coming out in 2015. The manufacturing quality standard that most companies comply with is ISO 9001 which specifies requirements for a quality management system (QMS). Organizations use the latter standard to demonstrate the ability to consistently provide high quality products and services that meet customer and regulatory requirements (e.g., safety regulations). OEMs (original equipment manufacturers – e.g., Ford, GM, etc.) mandate that their suppliers (e.g., Tier I, Tier II, etc.), as a minimum comply with the two standards mentioned – i.e., one for quality (products and services) and the other for environmental management.
I bring up the ISO 14001 EMS program, because companies will make the argument that they are ISO 14001 certified and they are periodically audited by third party auditors to demonstrate they have adopted and implemented the international environmental standard. This may sound cynical,but my experience with this (I attended and passed the week-long ISO 14001 Third Party Auditor certification training) privatized attempt at self regulation is well intended and a good tool/management system to follow (especially on a global/international basis), and may be used by some in a serious, thorough, comprehensive and legitimate way to provide assurance to their customers (e.g., OEMs, but NOT TO THE PUBLIC) of consistently being in full compliance (meet or exceed) of applicable environmental and public health laws and regulations; of course, if the CRIM plant is operating in another country that has little or no environmental or worker/public health and safety laws and regulations, the ISO 14001 certification is meaningless. Even if the ISO 14001 certification is obtained for a plant in the USA, it still could just be a façade (and borderline farce) if all the wonderful “tree hugging” things that are being done (recycling, etc., which are all good and should be done) as advertised in the company’s brochure and newsletter, occur while at the same time the CRIM plant continues to operate with an antiquated environmental infrastructure control system causing the plant to leak like a sieve. And again, the company may very well be located and operating in a developing or third world country, where there are little or no governmental environmental and public/occupational health & safety laws and regulations to hole the company accountable to do what is right for workers, the public and the environment. Additionally, the broad-base adoption and implementation of ISO 14001 gives state and federal regulators an excuse to decrease budgets, staff and inspections, which most in industry would argue, makes good economical sense; which essentially says that government environmental controls and oversight now and in the future, should be privatized more or less, and just let chemically intensive plants “self regulate” following this private international standard. In reality though, all the wonderful ISO 14001 EMS and recycling things the company is bragging about, does not mean “diddly”, if the plant is leaking like a sieve. In the years before I made my Whistleblower disclosure, I was in the process of developing my employer’s ISO 14001 EMS, and I was seriously delighted and enthused about developing one that would hold us (and all the 15 plants) internally accountable to achieve full compliance with applicable regulations – it would be a great internal enforcement tool for me to have to hold the manufacturing plants accountable to an adopted corporate and customer/OEM policy. Shortly after I embarked on that endeavor, I was pigeon holed and frozen out, and stripped of my environmental and occupational health and safety employees, and stuck in an isolated office, after which the Corporate Protective Services department took over my prior environmental and public/occupational health & safety functions. As expected, this group was very, very “protective” of the company owners and assets, and were very effective at keeping the lid on things you might say– you know, like lids on barrels, etc… They have since become ISO 14001 certified, I suspect due to demands by their OEM customers. Or perhaps they got this certification when they found out obtaining this status could get them out from under the MDEQ/AG radar through State law – the Part 148 of Michigan’s Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act (NREPA), Audit Privilege and Immunity provision, which gives organizations protections and immunities against violations, fines, and penalties if they declare they have a self auditing program. Of course this responsibility of obtaining these protections and administering the self auditing program in all likelihood came under the protective shield of the corporate Protective Services Department. The availability and popularity of the Environmental Audit Privilege and Immunity provisions was a Godsend not only to these chemically intensive manufacturers, but also to the MDEQ and AG who were spread awfully thin due to constant annual staff and budget cuts related to monitoring environmental regulatory compliance with the numerous CRIM plants spread throughout the State.
DOES THIS ALL SEEM UNBELIEVABLE IN THIS MODERN, ADVANCED AGE?
PLEASE DO NOT READ THIS AND THINK THAT WHAT I HAVE JUST TOLD YOU HERE “IN THIS DAY AND AGE IS JUST BEYOND BELIEF AND CANNOT POSSIBLY BE TRUE!?”; because believe me, it is true and it haunts me every day since I became aware of the very thing I described here while employed in Michigan at a chemically intensive manufacturer who in the 1980s through the turn of the millennium had operated plants throughout their history that were, and are still, leaking like sieves. Please read the follow-up emails/letters I intend to send you soon (information recently sent to news media organizations and public waterworks in the Midwest) to get more information on the MI whistleblower case just mentioned and to see the extent of toxic chemical contamination in Great Lakes public water supplies. Specifically, the latter is based on my compilation and analysis of EWG tap water data for hexavalent chromium, or Cr+6, a known carcinogen (of special concern for infants and toddlers for possible associated stomach cancer) used in manufacturing at the targeted industries I highlighted earlier in this email. Deciding to be a Whistleblower profoundly affected my life, starting back at the turn of the millennium when I first came forward and made the disclosure, and continued during the years afterwards, up to the present day. Someone once said: “The day you decide to become a Whistleblower is not a start of a career, but it is an end of a career”. Based on my real life experiences, I see a lot of truth to that statement. Certainly, my personal and professional life suffered from it (divorced, and had to leave State and change career path to find work because my reputation got tarnished). I consequently went through many traumatic and dramatic adjustments in my life and career, which led me to a concentrated campaign I began three years ago, which I will continue as long as I am alive and able, of broadcasting and publicizing this overall problem and the details of the Whistleblower case (which was never acted upon by State AG) with my now much broader goal of exposing this environmental and public health travesty and failure of the public representatives/officials of our governmental democracy and justice system to fulfill their intended purpose and responsibilities of safeguarding and protecting the general welfare and health and safety of the public.
ACTION BY ENVIRONMENTAL/PUBLIC HEALTH ADVOCATES IS NEEDED NOW…
AS WE WATCH THE CARCINOGENIC CONTAMINANT LEVELS STEADILY RISE IN OUR PUBLIC WATER SUPPLY SOURCES, hopefully EWG (Environmental Work Group) and other organizations will continue to sample and test your public water at the tap for toxic chemicals, but if someone does not find the means and way to begin sampling and testing around these many leaking industrial plants in Michigan and across the Midwest and nation and make this information available to the public to hold these companies accountable, the once abundant, clean and safe water for the nation’s population that we all depend on and have treasured over the years (regardless of income/ability to buy water purifier), will become a thing of the past.
So please, do not sit idly back continually pondering how we got to this point and thinking things will change course and improve of their own accord, because without counteracting forces of the masses (the 99%: you, me, all of us) things will only get worse before they get better. There are consequences, both good and bad, by the few (1%) and the many (99%), for all of our individual and collective actions as well as inactions. Now is the time to act collectively in unison striving for the common good of mankind and the planet, rather than waiting for the metamorphosis of the few (1%) to change their proclivities towards maximizing wealth for the benefit of the few, regardless of the detrimental impacts on humanity and the environment .
Your actions of course include VOTING and participating in governance as citizens. But besides that, as related to the topic herein, your action is needed in exposing and publicizing the detrimental environmental impacts that chemically intensive manufacturing operations are having on nearby communities, as well the more far reaching effects these plants are having on degrading the quality of our public water supply sources, such as Lake Michigan and the Great Lakes in general. It is like climate change, in that first there has to be a recognition that the problem exists and why, and secondarily, there has to be a course of action that follows that works towards fixing the problem. This is not a small or trivial problem, and unlike climate change which is a more complex phenomena to prove, the leaking of hazardous and carcinogenic chemicals that is occurring from these plants that typically do not have environmental safeguards in place, is easily proven by sampling and testing of groundwater around the perimeter of these facilities. The best thing you can do to expose this problem, is to work with your neighbors and community members to end the concealment of this serious environmental and public health problem by initiating a sampling and testing program in the areas around these plants to prove that leaking is occurring. Whether these plants and the areas surrounding them are served by public water, or the adjacent property owners are on private domestic wells, it is very important that this sampling and testing be done to: (a) first and foremost, alert those with private wells if groundwater industrial contamination has occurred; and (b) secondly, in a broader sense, regardless if there are any private wells present (e.g., public water service area), determine whether contaminated groundwater is present which in all likelihood is steadily migrating over time towards our protected public water supply sources.
If you have any ideas or interest in helping me in any manner with my quest to publicize this matter and to hopefully form a group someday of grass root advocates to perform needed functions to collect data to expose this problem and eventually identify the industries that are culpable and “leaking like sieves”, and to hopefully convince lawmakers to do their jobs and enact needed laws without gaping negligent loopholes/exemptions, please contact me.
For further insight on a case history of the poster child chromium electroplater mentioned earlier, please see the discussion “YOUREAPWHATYOUSOW: Environmental Horror Stories” given in a separate document.
Giacomo B Fischiatore, P.E., MSCE, Civil/Environmental Engineer (40+ years),
“Advocates for Reality and Equality Based Environmental and Public Health Solutions”
“There are consequences, good and bad (positive and negative), for the actions and inactions of individuals and organizations – some driven by greed and egocentric purposes; others (hopefully the majority) driven by altruistic purposes in a quest to fulfill the common good of humanity and our planet.”
Subject: REAP LETTER #2, PART 2 OF 3, CANCEROUSCHEMICALS RISING IN PUBLIC TAP WATER
August 16, 2018
Re: Hexavalent Chromium levels in raw water supply source in Lake Michigan/Lake Huron/Lake Erie
Dear (Mayor/Chairperson/City Mgr/Public Works Mgr/Water Treatment Plant Mgr) of the (City/County/Water Commission in MI/WI/IL/OH/IN) Public Waterworks (84 recipients):
Please see the attach table showing the hexavalent chromium levels in your public water supply based on a tap water database developed and published online by EWG – Environmental Working Group. This table has been arranged sequentially (clockwise or counterclockwise) to show the Cr+6 (carcinogen) levels corresponding to the locations of the raw water supply intake structures in the lake, and compares those values to a public health guideline/goal of 0.02 ppb (parts per billion = micrograms per liter) adopted by the State of California. There is also a corresponding map of Lake Michigan and Lake Huron that highlights those areas along the shoreline where levels of Cr+6 exceeded this health goal by a factor in many cases of ten times the goal or more. The U.S. EPA does not have a limit for hexavalent chromium, but does have a Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) of 100 ppb for Total Chromium, which includes the summation of Cr+6 plus the lesser toxic trivalent chromium (Cr+3). Some apparent initial conclusions that can readily be made from this data are as follows (generally waterworks do not treat to reduce Cr+6 – i.e., Cr+6 passes through the plant to distribution systems):
NATURAL EROSION/DISSOLUTION FROM SOILS/GEOLOGIC FORMATIONS: With little doubt, this is not a natural variation of Cr+6 associated with erosion and dissolution of Cr+6 from naturally occurring geologic deposits. Ultramafic rocks and serpentinites formations not typical for the subject region, but found in CA and the NW USA, are known to produce serpentine soils containing concentrations of chromium.
AIR DEPOSITION: There would only be minor insignificant contribution of this contaminant from depositions of air pollutants from regulated stack emissions form platers or power plants, etc. Likely the primary source of this pollutant is from industrial (tanneries, platers, etc.) process wastewater sources and mishandled industrial solid hazardous waste. If the Cr+6 present was primarily from air deposition, the levels would likely be more wide spread and uniform.
INDUSTRIAL HAZARDOUS PROCESS WASTEWATER AND SOLID WASTE: There is a distinct variation of the Cr+6 levels which shows higher concentrations of this pollutant at the water intakes located near the mouth of the rivers which have a significant industrial component (e.g., chromium electroplaters, tanneries, etc.), as opposed to those intakes that are located in contributing drainage basins that are mostly residential and commercial/resort areas. There are numerous industries that use Cr+6, such as chromium electroplaters and anodizers (plus tanneries, paper mills and stainless steel manufacturers that use Cr+6) in the river basins discharging into Lake Michigan (and Lake Huron & Lake Erie) where the high Cr+6 levels were detected.
Related links (copy and paste to browser may be required):
Map of Lake Michigan public water supply intake structures:
2017 WZZM Channel 13 TV story on presence of Cr+6 in West Michigan tap water:
Environmental Working Group (EWG) 2010 – 2015 Tap Water Tables:
2017 Chicago Tribune Story about U.S. Steel Corporation Cr+6 spill in Lake Michigan:
Although there are state and federal regulations that govern the air and water emissions from these facilities (e.g., stack air permits and pipe water discharge permits), these chemically intensive manufacturing operations are exempt from RCRA in many aspects (per CWA exemption) for the conveyance, storage and treatment of hazardous process wastewater. For example, per this RCRA CWA “domestic sewage exclusion”/exemption, they are not required to have: (a) primary tanks inside of secondary tanks; (b) a leak detection system between the primary and secondary tanks; (c) automated liquid level monitoring with alarms and automatic shutoffs to prevent spill overflows or detect inordinate drops in tank levels (i.e., leak indicator); and (d) onsite surface water and groundwater (monitor wells) monitoring systems to give early detection if an environmental release has occurred and is migrating towards adjacent properties. US EPA offsite licensed RCRA hazardous waste TSD (treatment, storage and disposal) facilities are required to have all of the former, plus extensive recordkeeping and reporting requirements, even though RCRA TSDs may not pose any more risks than some of the chemical intensive manufacturers mentioned. What is remarkable, is that numerous gas stations and dry cleaners all over the nation have been shut down and abandoned a couple of decades back due to new strict environmental requirements imposed on these many facilities (such as double walled tanks, monitor wells, etc.), yet these much larger manufacturing facilities have a free rein in how they design, build and operate their hazardous process wastewater conveyance, storage and treatment systems within their plant walls. This does not mean that these manufacturing facilities are not legally responsible for any environmental chemical release that occur from their facilities, but unfortunately, the releases go undetected for many years and multiple decades because nobody is testing the soils or groundwater around the plant because the areas in most cases are served by public water systems. Additionally, these facilities oftentimes are in older industrial areas that often have pre-existing pollution going back a half century or more. Regardless of the nature of the surrounding area, if the manufacturing facility is leaking Cr+6 for example, it will eventually find its way to the river and eventually to the ”big lake”, where the accumulation and increase in the contaminant levels will continue – perhaps doubling, tripling, etc., in years/decades to come.
So I am writing you because you have a stake and responsibility in what is happening to the quality of the water in the Great Lakes. I trust you will do all you can to assure that safe and high quality drinking water is delivered to your customers, and the raw water source is protected from further degradation by pollution sources in your jurisdiction/service area. You have every right to demand that these industrial customers mentioned have adequate environmental safeguards in place to prevent, detect and stop environmental chemical releases on a fulltime year round basis. These customers have the responsibility to use the public water supplied to them in a responsible manner that will not detrimentally impact the public at large. These manufacturers and their lobbyists got the exemption they wanted back in the 1980s when RCRA was promulgated, and nothing has changed since, and the state and federal government are aware of this and have not done anything to correct it, and likely never will.
You may want to consider prioritizing the Cr+6 contributing facilities you visit, inspect and question giving the highest priority to those chromium platers & anodizers, paper mills, leather tanneries, stainless steel manufacturers, etc, as follows:
Oldest plants; including those with hazardous process wastewater below-grade (buried, below plant floor) conveyance (pumps, sumps, pipes), storage and treatment systems;
Plants with past environmental regulatory violations; and
Plants adjacent to rivers and streams that are tributaries to water supply surface water body.
Whenever you find one of these chemically intensive manufacturing plants that lacks appropriate environmental safeguards (secondary containment, leak detection, monitor wells, etc.), demand that they add these features to protect the environment and public health and to prevent the degradation of our natural water resources. If addressed now, you will have performed your duty to protect/preserve our valued drinking water source.
Subject: REAP LETTER #3, PART 3 OF 3, CANCEROUSCHEMICALS RISING IN PUBLIC TAP WATER
August 16, 2018
Re: Chromium +6 from tanneries, chromium electroplaters & anodizers, and stainless steel mfg.
Dear Environmental News Reporter, (news media outlet: national/MI/WI/IL/IN/OH):
NOTE: ALSO SEE ATTACHED LETTER SENT TO PUBLIC WATERWORKS IN STATES OF MI, WI, IL, IN and OH.
I am sure you are aware of the significant environmental pollution and public health issue ongoing in West Michigan (Rockford, MI area) related to the pollution from improper hazardous waste disposal by Wolverine Worldwide corporation (Hush Puppies), which has associated carcinogenic pollutants such as hexavalent chromium (Cr+6) and PFCs or PFAS (polyflouroalkyl substances ). Health related agencies are now investigating“cancer clusters” in the affected areas to see if there is a high incidence of cancer ailments, such as those related to kidneys, etc. Incidentally, PFAS is also commonly used in the chromium electroplating process as a fume suppressant to reduce Cr +6 air misting caused by high electric current used in plating process which generates hydrogen and oxygen gas bubbles that burst at the plating bath surface where airborne Cr+6 laden mist particles are formed which are highly toxic. Although not much has been said about Cr+6 chemical contamination related to the Wolverine environmental/health problem, it should be recognized that highly carcinogenicCr+6 is a principal pollutant of tanneries just as it is a major pollutant associated with chromium electroplaters (decorative and hard chromium platers and anodizers); although the latter has not received as much attentionas the former. Cr+6 is becoming more recognized as a problem in West Michigan because of the recent uncovered problems with Wolverine and newsreports (e.g., WZZM, CNN, etc.) that are showing a greater prevalence of this contaminant in public drinking water systems in Michigan and the nation impacting 200 million Americans (per tap water study/database by EWG -Environmental Working Group). This concern for potential widespread Cr+6contamination in West Michigan is very relevant and appropriate since there isa heavy concentration of electroplaters in this area. The latter WZZM storycame out shortly after there was a hexavalent chromium spill by U.S. Steel (stainless steel manufacturer) in the fall of 2017 near Gary, Indiana and the Indiana Dunes National Seashore involving two separate spills of approximately300 and 900 pounds that eventually entered Lake Michigan and brought to the attention of the news media by some college students/wave surfers. Cr+6 is not a water quality health standard that most public waterworks have to test for, except for California that has set a legally enforceable health standard of 10 ppb, and NC and NJ that have a Cr+6 standard close to this. There are seven million Americans per this study that have publicly provided tapwater that is above the 10 ppb CA Cr+6 standard. Two possible sources that study postulates may be contributing to this prevalence of Cr+6in public drinking supplies are tanneries and chromium electroplaters and anodizers (they also mention paper pulp mills and stainless steelmanufacturers). Per this same report, it was noted that in 2008 the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment set a public health“goal/guideline” of 0.02 ppb, which is 500 times more stringent than the 10 ppb Cr+6 standard that CA eventually adopted. These same scientists,emphasized that the lower 0.02 ppb guideline level may be more appropriate for younger individuals, such as infants and young children related to possible stomach cancers – you would think there would be a public notice issued on the latter so the public can protect their little babies?
Granted, the problem with the PFCs from the tannery is a serious problem, but it should not go unrecognized that there is a broader and equal problem out there related to Cr+6 in the environment which comes from other sources besides tanneries as already mentioned. To compound the problems, as previously noted, West MI is home to a substantial number of chromium electroplaters and anodizers. Chromium electroplaters and anodizers (and other platers), which are major OEM suppliers to the automotive (and aviation, defense, electronics, etc.) industry, operate on a “just in time” delivery basis mandated by their customers/OEMs (original equipment manufacturers, like Ford, GM, etc.). There is significant pressure on process and production operations to get the parts delivered “just in time” with little or no inventory stored in advance at the parts supplier facility. Because of that, there is no time to shut down the process line due to various ancillary problems that may arise during production, such as, for example, if there was a problem in the process hazardous wastewater storage, conveyance and treatment systems. So if any of the latter has problems, they are typically ignored and needed repairs are postponed until a scheduled shutdown occurs; and if the economy is going strong and car and truck sales are booming, those needed repairs, no matter how serious, will be put off until a major shutdown occurs, usually during model changeovers, such as during the July 4th and Christmas holiday shutdown periods (only several days each). So, for example, if there are below-grade hazardous process wastewater tanks below the plating line that receives spent hazardous rinsewater & process wastewater, which is not uncommon at many electroplaters, and it is noticed that these tanks have sprung a leak (not an uncommon problem) evident by inordinate drops in the liquid levels in these tanks, the tank(s) will be allowed to continue to leak highly concentrated hazardous/toxic/carcinogenic chemicals to the soils and groundwater below the process tanks for several weeks or months (perhaps 10% to 20% or 10,000 to 20,000 gal/day or more ofleakage) until the problem can be dealt with at the next scheduled shutdown. These below-grade tanks, typically constructed of reinforced concrete, begin to leak after first the thin chemical coating on the concrete deteriorates due to the highly corrosive nature of the plating solutions (high strength acids and oxidizers, like sulfuric acid, hydrochloric acid, chromic acid, etc.), followed by further erosion/corrosion of the concrete, reinforcing steel and rubber water stops installed between the tank bottom and tank side walls when the concrete is poured.
Two known active electroplating plants with the above described problem include one older industrial plant (decorative chromium plating) located in Grand Rapids, which has been leaking like a sieve fornearly a half a century, with the contaminated groundwater venting into the Grand River located just 700’ away from the plant. The Grand River downstream from this point eventually empties into Lake Michigan in very close proximity to the water intake structure for the City of Grand Haven public water supply (and the Grand Rapids and Wyoming Lake Michigan water intakes that are only 7 miles further to the south). Based on past sampling of groundwater at the perimeter of the plant property (following a gasoline tank removal on the plant site), the Cr+6 concentration was alleged by plant personnel to be 50,000 ppb, which is 2.5 million times the CA safe drinking water guideline of 0.02 ppb mentioned earlier. Based on water quality testing done by EWG in 2010– 2015 on tap water from public water supplies in West Michigan (Grand Rapids metro area and Grand Haven), Cr+6 concentrations ranging from 0.15 ppb to 0.30 ppb have been reported, which is 7 to 15 times the CA Health Guideline of 0.02 ppb. Another concern is the fact that a major river restoration project is planned in the downtown Grand Rapids area (construction to start in 2019) along the river frontage where this hazardous, toxic, carcinogenic groundwater discharge from this plater intercepts the river. The river recreational and commercial restoration project is intended to promote ample opportunities for citizens to have full-body contact with the contaminated river water, such as wading, swimming, kayaking, fishing (eating tainted fish), etc. Besides the potential for direct body contact of Cr+6 contaminated water to humans and the ingestion of contaminated fish, this river restoration project will surely activate and resuspend bottom sediments and sludge that have accumulated for the past decades and centuries, including numerous toxic contaminants such as Cr+6, which numerous scientific studies have shown will be released back into solution and flow down the river to Lake Michigan where it likely will cause a significant spike in Cr+6 levels and other contaminants at water supply intake structures.
The other known problematic active plant mentioned in the Grand Rapids Metro area is a high production (two plants on same site) chromium electroplating facility operating since the 1990s located in a former pristine “greenspace” area in the City of Kentwood next to a newer subdivision and private golf course. This plant, which also leaks like a sieve, is in close proximity to Plaster Creek, which is a high quality stream (used for wading, fishing, etc.) and tributary to the Grand River.
The two active plants just described are in areas that are served by a centralized public water system, so there is no concern of private domestic wells being contaminated; and therefore, since no people have been dropping dead on the street, no known groundwater sampling has been done in this area. Sadly, plaintiff attorneys, who typically make $500+/hour, do not have much interest in representing a lawsuit for these communities against this company because the documenting of significant damages related to illnesses(cancer) and deaths and property devaluation to a level to justify a major lawsuit is difficult to prove. The company that owns and operates these two facilities has a history of past electroplating facilities that have had similar problems (i.e. leaking like sieves), including three plants that have been shut down, decommissioned, and converted to other uses (industrial/commercial). Two of these closed plants had issues with operating hazardous plating sludge storage ponds behind the plants, which were required by US EPA and MDEQ per RCRA under a court ordered consent judgment to remove, treat and dispose of the sludge and contaminated soil and remediate the two sites. Unbeknownst to the two regulatory agencies mentioned, the two plants also had an even worse problem of having leaky below-grade process hazardous wastewater storage tanks that were repaired numerous times following severe corrosion/erosion of these tanks similar to the two active plants mentioned earlier.
Keep in mind, that none of these plants (two active, 3 closed) had any kind of secondary containment system under these leaky tanks (other than a thin layer of visqueen plastic = a plastic garbage bag), no leak detection system, and no surface water or groundwater monitoring (i.e., monitor wells) surrounding the plant to give early detection and notice that a chemical release has occurred and is migrating towards adjacent properties. A likely practice at all three of these plants, which is known to have occurred at one (and possible more) of these historical facilities: When it was closed/decommissioned and the above-grade plating process tanks were removed, the process hazardous wastewater storage tanks below the plant floor were “entombed” in place with liquid contents intact by pouring a new concrete floor over the top of these tanks when the plant was converted to other industrial purposes. Later this same plant where the entombing occurred, was sold or leased to another party, who converted the industrial plant to various commercial purposes. When the newowner/developer encountered the entombed process hazardous wastewater storage tanks when he was rebuilding the building floor, he crushed the below-gradetanks and thereby released the hazardous contents to the environment as evidenced in the trench by nearby construction workers installing a buried water line (blue liquid = copper solution) and by an analytic spike in the copper concentration (per EPA reports) at a nearby monitor well following this event. The latter plant discussed caused a contamination plume in an exclusive neighborhood in Grand Rapids next to a golf course, which required that the plant owner fund the construction of an extension of the public water system to this neighborhood (this would be a good area to conduct “cancer cluster”study). One of the other three historical plating plants (operated in the 1970s and 1980s in a rural community) was also on the Grand River near a wooded area along the river and across the street from a residential area. The plant owner/operator eventually purchased a large swath of the land along the river frontage to contain the contamination plume within their ownership in lieu of cleaning up the contamination plume, and now leases this plant to an affiliated organization for an industrial operation. Contamination plumes are documented for the latter two historical industrial plants. The third historical plating plant (operated from the 80s through approx 2005), which also had below-grade hazardous process wastewater storage tanks, is located in the City of Kentwood in an industrial park area. What was done with this facility after it closed is unknown, but in all probability, according to past practices, the below-grade process hazardous wastewater storage tanks were entombed in concrete. In all likelihood, there is a contamination plume associated with the latter historical plant, and although not documented yet, there most certainly are contamination plumes associated with the two active decorative chromium electroplating plants discussed herein based on information provided by plant maintenance and process personnel.
Another important point to mention is that all of the five electroplating plants mentioned (two active and three closed) have/had below-grade (unlined) concrete hazardous wastewater treatment tanks (neutralization and chromium reduction treatment tanks) and buried pressurized pipelines, that likely were also leaking due to the corrosive nature of the treatment processes (e.g., the chromium reduction wastewater treatment process operates at a highly acidic pH between 1 an 2).
The hazardous releases at the plating facilities mentioned herein covering a half century was reported for the two active plants in the spring of 2000 (AG Granholm, Governor Engler) and there is no evidence that the State or the perpetrators did anything about it (i.e., no follow-up corrective actions or notifications given to negatively impacted adjacent property owners or the general public). And since there was a breach of duty by State government officials at the highest level, the perpetrators in all likelihood have continued their actions (or inactions) unchecked for two more decades, now surpassing a half century or more of environmental/public health exploitation and negligence. Quite simply, chromium electroplaters and anodizers are more hazardous than off-site RCRA licensed hazardous waste TSDR facilities (treatment, storage, disposal, recycling), yet the platers are not required to have the same environmental safeguards required by the latter (i.e., monitor wells, leak detection, etc.); therefore, they go unchecked on how they design, build and operate the hazardous process wastewater storage, conveyance and treatment systems inside their plant walls (i.e., not regulated by local building departments who only care about things like meeting electrical and HVAC codes, etc).; not regulated by State MDEQ because they cite that the wastewater operations are exempt from RCRA per the RCRA CWA exemption; and not regulated by the federal government because they delegate enforcement of federal environmental laws and regulations to the MDEQ. They may say they are exempt from RCRA in this respect due to a RCRA CWA exemption, but running plants that leak like sieves and cause chemical releases causing damage to adjacent properties (devaluation), the environment, and public health is flat out illegal under many laws, and is an immoral, and unethical by all those associated with this despicable, deplorable, exploitive act; including the perpetrators, protectors and enablers. And professional engineers and professional lawyers who assist, protect and enable these perpetrators have violated their professional code of ethics, and may in fact be violating the law because they have not exercised their professional duty to report these matters to public officials for the protection of the general welfare and health & safety of the public.