1999 GREAT LAKES WATER QUALITY FORUM
SEPTEMBER 24-26, 1999
LIGHTLY EDITED, VERBATIM TRANSCRIPT
SUNDAY MORNING, SEPTEMBER 26
Ann Mahan, writer, photographer, mother, and concerned citizen
I want to first of all commend you for re-emphasizing in your 9th Biennial Report, that zero discharge means just that. I particularly say that because in this ... It seems that I don't hear zero discharge or virtual elimination mentioned very much at all in these meetings and I even looked through some of the handouts. I keep seeing the words "control" and "reduction." Those are all really good ideas as long as they are on the way to virtual elimination and zero. I think we have to keep in mind that the final goal is the zero. I commend you for re-emphasizing that and urge you to continue re-emphasize that. I think the public is really getting weary of waiting. There's some progress and we celebrate that, but as someone mentioned earlier, I feel like we are just going through the motions sometimes. Each year you sit there and we come and testify to you, the scientists report, and you give your report to the governments, then not much happens. When I say we are getting weary, I don't mean we're giving up, but it is really tiresome to know the dangers that we face with some of these and not see much happening. We have to be just careful we don't slip into that role.
One of the things that we have to be careful about along that line is the best available technology. I see that used a lot. You used it in your Biennial Report when you were referring to incineration in general. That was one of the measures that you suggested. The problem in particular with incineration and best available technology, is even the best available technology doesn't keep persistent toxic chemicals from going into the environment. For example, with incineration, when you the temperature high enough to supposedly destroy the organochlorines, although they do recombine in the stack as they cool, you have mercury volatilizing and going into the air. Even the best available technology doesn't capture all the persistent toxic chemicals, but then, to top all of that off, even if you did catch every single one, 100%, you still have them in the ash. The ash goes into the landfills, even the Federal Register in 1981 said that eventually all landfills will leak. So you're producing more toxic chemicals than you started with. You have heavy metals that were bound up with other molecules and now are in a more leachable form all going into landfills. We are just postponing when these persistent toxic chemicals work their way into the ground and groundwater and so forth. I bring all this up, and I've mentioned it many other years when I have testified. I am really urging you, as I have in other years, please take the real courageous step to suggest a moratorium on incineration, not best available technology, but we need to have a moratorium on any new incinerators and we need to start working toward closing down the other ones, because that technology is just contrary to the principle of virtual elimination and zero discharge completely.
I also wanted to mention a couple of other things. There's some real concern in the Lake Michigan area in particular. I think you've heard about it. This slant drilling that's being done. This is contrary to the statement of principle that the governments signed a number of years ago against drilling in the Great Lakes. They took a technical slant that it's not in, it's under. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality was giving permits without public hearings until the public got really upset and started voicing their opposition. There's a whole group of people who are opposing this. There's a number of local governments who have come out officially opposing these wells they are drilling along the shores, not only for the Great Lakes and what's happening with the water itself, but for the hydrogen sulphide gas and some of these other dangers. So I wanted to urge you to look at that and bring it up to the governments that this is something the people are concerned about.
I also wanted to mention in your 9th Biennial Report, you mentioned the improvements in pulp and paper operations that have significantly decreased some of the toxins in the Lake Superior area. I applaud them for the improvements but, again, I want to point out that we are not talking zero yet, we're talking about improvements, hopefully on the way to zero. There have even been some implications, even in some meetings here, that chlorine-free is still a new and untested technology. You're probably aware, we've had personal experiences in chlorine-free paper, it's not untested, it's not experimental. There's a lot of information showing that the effluent is also much safer than the elemental effluent.
I wanted to reiterate some of the other peoples' concerns about the use of nuclear power around the Great Lakes, not only the nuclear reactors but storage of nuclear waste. Again, this idea of transporting nuclear waste across Michigan, including the Mackinaw Bridge, and international bridges. You see all of the precautions they take for regular trucks, it scares me to death to think of the things that could go wrong going across these bridges.
When I sat in on the pesticide workshop, I was hearing reduction/control but when we are talking about zero discharges, pesticides are something that we are really going to have to deal with how not to use them. There is strong information that shows that after a half-century of pesticide usage, percentage-wise the number of crops lost to pests haven't been improved at all. So I encourage you is, to look toward organic farmers as a resource for information on what the alternatives are. We need to look at things differently instead of throwing chemicals at things. There are other ways that can be done -- things extremely effective and not so difficult as people may think.
Finally, I want to state what I've heard others object to and that is having a polluter as main speaker at your opening ceremony. I realize that you said it was to give stakeholders their partnership in this whole process and I agree with that, except that the other stakeholders weren't included. If you are going to have industry representatives, it shouldn't be an advertisement of that person's single industry, then there should be an environmentalist group representative, there should be a First Nations representative, and there should be a general public representative. If you are going to have the stakeholders, be sure you include them all. It's kind of dangerous to look like government and industry sitting up there together with everybody else wondering if they are included. Thank you.
If I can make one or two comments. Firstly, we aren't government.
I realize that. I was not including you as part of the stakeholders that were sitting up there. I meant the other governments, there was EPA which is government, and others.
I didn't take Miss Browner to be anything other than, not only government, but I took her to be quite an environmentalist.
I appreciated her comments extremely well and I am not complaining about the whole thing. I'm just saying, let's include all the stakeholders. It would make everybody feel more included.
Thank you very much.