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Environmental Pollution and Control of Detroit River

2016-1-15 17:59| Publisher: nancy| Views: 1219| Comments: 0|Author: Nancy

Abstract: “This river is scattered over, from one lake to another both on the mainland and the islands On the banks and round about the clusters of timber, surrounded by charming meadows there is an infinite n ...

Speaking of State of Michigan, people will think of Detroit, and then unsafety of it and then bankruptcy of it. In fact, Detroit is just one city of Michigan and it’s safe outside of it. And there are many great places to live outside of Detroit area.

Take another look at the map again. Michigan is a state with great blessings. Michigan has the most of fresh water. It situates in the region where the world’s largest fresh water lakes are. Michigan is divided into the upper peninsula and the lower peninsula. Between these two parts, it’s where Lake of Michigan and Lake of Huron meet. The north of the upper peninsula is the world’s largest fresh water lake, Superior Lake. Michigan is in the arms of Lake Michigan and Lake Huron with Lake Michigan in the west and Lake Huron in the east. Lake Erie, which is also one of the five great lakes, is in the south east of Michigan. There is a small lake, St. Clair Lake, in the north of Lake Erie. Detroit River flows from St. Clair Lake to Lake Erie. It’s only 27 miles long. Detroit City is located about half way of Detroit River. Detroit, means strait.

Three hundred years ago, this place is full of thick forests. On it, lived about 15000 native America. French people first came here to expand the new world. In 1701, a person whose name is Antoine de le Mothe Cadillac established Detroit residence. Not only a trade center was build, French also took over the whole Great Lake area. It was until after 100 years that Detroit really started to develop to become a city. In 1815, Detroit became a city.

By 1860s, there were already different industries in Detroit, copper smeltery, wood mill, machine manufactory. It was also at this time, Detroit River water pollution was first reported. The main problems were lack of sanitation, public water pollution and water born diseases. Following that, Detroit installed sewage system and built water treatment plant. However, the public was still indifferent to industrial pollution. It was until after World War II that the public, the government and the state started to pay attention to the pollution of Detroit River.

Scientific research of Detroit River started 1910s. Due to the annual epidemic typhoid fever and gastrointestinal diseases, residents and scientists began to question the water quality.  At that time, all the wastes were dumped into the water system untreated. Everyone thought that water was a limitless commodity and human’s activities on it could be ignored.

Pollution of Detroit River came from two resources: waste water and industrial waste. Waste water is mainly related to human’s activity. The industrial waste was related to the prosperity of the industrial development in Detroit at the end of 19th century and beginning of 20th century. Many industries in the past and at present are related to automobiles. The 80 years old community college professor, Dolores Leonard, said that she grew up in a haze of “red sky”. When she was a child, she would ask, “If the air would pit the paint, what would it do to us?”

Delray is a community at the south edge of Detroit City. There are one great oil refinery, Detroit water treatment plant, steel mills, coal power plant and salt mine. This is the most polluted place in Michigan. The prevalence of asthma and cardiovascular disease is very high. Coal dust, particles and other pollution effect the children’s health. It’s recommended not to walk for long. There were 23000 residents 80 years ago and now it’s under 3000. People left and moved to other places.

At the end of 19 century, Detroit River was where the ships were built the most. During World War II, like other big cities, Detroit started to make weapons. The oil pollution still exists today. One gallon of oil can pollutes one million gallon of water. From 1940s to 1960s, the Detroit River experienced massive winter duck kills due to oil pollution in the 1940s-1960s when tens of thousands of waterfowl would die in a season. “In fact, from 1946-1948, the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare estimated that 5.9 million gallons of oil and other petroleum products were released annually into the Detroit River. That means there was enough oil being discharged into the Detroit River each year between 1946-1948 to pollute virtually the entire western basin of Lake Erie, including all Michigan, Ohio, and Ontario waters.”

In 1960s, Detroit River was considered one of the most polluted rivers in US. In 1965, because the massive, phosphorous induced algal blooms depleted oxygen, which resulted in killing fish, the Lake Erie where the Detroit River flows into was declared “Dead” by the Time Magazine. Bulldozers was used to clean up the decomposed algae and dead fish on the lake shore. In 1970s, because of the Mercury crisis, all the fisheries around St. Clair River, Lake St. Clair, Detroit River and Lake Erie was closed. The ecosystem around these places was polluted because of the mercury release from the chemical companies.

“These long-standing pollution problems in the Detroit River and the resultant public outcry over them catalyzed many pollution prevention and control efforts (including the establishment of the 1972 Clean Water Act, the 1972 Canada-United States Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, and the 1973 Endangered Species Act), as well as many governmental, university, and nongovernmental monitoring programs.

Collectively, these monitoring programs have documented substantial improvements since the 1960s, including:
· over 97% reduction in oil releases;
·  90% decrease in phosphorus discharges;
· 4,600 tons/day decrease in chloride discharges;
·  upgrading of all municipal waste water treatment plants from primary to secondary treatment with phosphorus removal;
· 80% reduction in untreated waste from combined sewer overflow discharges;
· 85% reduction in mercury in fish;
· 90% reduction in PCBs in herring gull eggs; and
· remediation of one million cubic yards of contaminated sediment.”

It’s amazing to see the recovery of the ecosystem. The quantity of many species began to increase and they include bald eagles, peregrine falcons, osprey, lake sturgeon, lake whitefish, walleye, and even beaver. In the past 25 years, due to the pollution of pesticide, bald eagles could not product young. In 1950s, also because of pesticide pollution, peregrine falcons were decimated. By the end of 2014, 22 active bald eagle nests were found. From 1987, peregrine falcons were reintroduced and since then, every year there have been ten or young are born. The situations are similar for other species. We could tell that the environmental pollution has shocking effects to the species.

The recovery is positive, however the monitoring projects also recorded many environmental and natural resource challenges, including population growth, transportation expansion, the land use changes, non-point source pollution, toxic material pollution, habitat loss and degradation, exotic species introduction and global warming.

There are still too many challenges. It’s easy to drop and break a cup and it’s too difficult to restore the cup. So is the environment. Blind exploration, usage and pollution break the balance of the ecosystem, harm health of the people, result in destruction of the natural resources, lead to extinction of some of the species and also endless time is needed to restore or to make up the environment.

The environmental pollution and recovery of the Detroit River is a typical example in US. Detroit was once one of the big four cities in US. America has rich natural resources, short history, relatively less people, so it seems that the environment can tolerate more. However, we should realize that the environmental system is weak when facing the greedy exploration of human beings. In many aspects, things are not reversible. There are still many rivers where people are told not to get in. Pollution still exist massively. The contradiction between economic development and environmental resources will exist from the beginning to the end. The profit pursuing organizations are still staring at some developable areas and the environmental protection people are still making every efforts to protect. Who could tell the future?

As written by Cadillac, Detroit was like this before the industrial revolution:

“This river is scattered over, from one lake to another both on the mainland and the islands On the banks and round about the clusters of timber, surrounded by charming meadows there is an infinite number of fruit trees, chiefly plums and apples. They are so well laid out that they might be taken for orchards planted by the hand of a gardener.". Game is very common, as are geese, and all kinds of wild ducks. There are swans everywhere, there are quails, woodcocks, pheasants and rabbits, turkeys, partridges, hazelhens and a stupendous amount of turtledoves. This country is so temperate, so fertile and so beautiful that it may justly be called 'The Earthly Paradise of North America.'”

Southfield, Mi, USA

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