City Council Approves Detroit River “Protection” Ordinance


Detroit City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved an ordinance to strengthen the rules for businesses operating along the Detroit River.

The “Detroit River Protection Ordinance” was proposed by City Councilor Raquel Castañeda-López to strengthen inspections and maintenance rules for businesses along the coastline after a wharf collapsed in November 2019 at an unauthorized site that sent potentially harmful contaminants into the water.

The ordinance also requires emergency notifications to protect and notify residents in the event of another incident.

The board initially voted 6-1 on Tuesday, with board chair Brenda Jones voting against the ordinance citing “some concerns” before reconsidering her vote and voting in favor.

Castañeda-López said in a press release Tuesday after the vote, that the ordinance “is a step forward in rectifying Detroit’s inequalities in environmental justice.”

“The Detroiters deserve the right to play along their river and drink from its waters without fear for their health or safety. The Detroit River Protection Ordinance will ensure that generations to come will have the same rights,” Castañeda-López said.

The protection order is expected to come into force on July 1, 2022.

The order was issued after a wharf collapsed on November 26, 2019 at the former Revere Copper site in Jefferson, which raised contamination concerns as potentially hazardous materials including uranium , were manipulated there in the 1940s to develop nuclear weapons as part of the Manhattan Project.

In January 2020, the Great Lakes Water Authority said testing “confirms that this incident had no impact on water quality.”

Last fall, the Michigan Department of the Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy entered into an administrative consent agreement with Revere Dock LLC, requiring dock owners to pay $ 60,000 in penalties for related violations. to the 2019 collapse.

The agreement cited four alleged violations of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act for the release of a substance into waters that could harm the public or wildlife, breaches of due diligence responsibilities as well as inappropriate permits.

Under the new ordinance, the city’s building, safety and environmental engineering department will keep a register of all landowners on the water and the list should be publicly available on the site. City web. The city will charge a registration fee.

Each private property owner is responsible for submitting a dike report every five years as well as a geotechnical report for bulk storage, heavy equipment use or redevelopment operators. City officials will be required to report to city council every two years on the state of the city’s waterfront infrastructure.

Owners are also required to provide an emergency notice no later than 48 hours in the event of “shoreline breach, flooding, discharge, threat of discharge, structural failure, compromise of right-of-way, environmental contamination, receipt of reports identifying dike failures, ”one reads.

Jessica Parker, head of law enforcement at BSEED, said she was eager to impose regular inspections to hold commercial properties accountable. Currently, Detroit does not require companies to be registered and it is not known how many there are.

Following the 2019 wharf collapse, more than 1,050 tickets and $ 500,000 in fines were imposed on landowners committing offenses along the river.

“This ordinance is a proactive step to help keep our waterways safe and clean for public use,” Parker said in a press release.

But Kyle Burleson, director of port operations for the Detroit Wayne County Port Authority, said on Tuesday that stakeholders believe some of the new laws are duplicating and that exemptions for properties are not applied consistently.

“The entire business community and the environmental consulting community, as well as the port authority, share this goal with the environmental community and the Castañeda-López council member to protect our river,” he said. he declares. “I just believe there is a better way to do it.”

David Lilly, a riverside condominium operator who said his units would be regulated under the ordinance, argues the law would create an “unfair burden” on some waterfront residents. He noted the properties Single-family residential and two-family properties are excused, but three, four or more family properties are regulated.

“There is no good reason for this and the ordinance does not provide a meaningful rationale for this level of regulation,” he said. “Residential users do not use hazardous materials. As landlords, we are already subject to expensive and stringent city regulations such as facade inspection and rental property compliance. It is an unfair burden to add this ordinance on bodies of water.

Nearly a dozen other residents spoke in favor of the proposal during public comments, including Sandra Turner-Handy, resident and member of the Michigan Environmental Council.

“We must pass this ordinance in order to protect our residents and our water and hold those who have properties along the river docks, which store toxins, to be responsible for their facilities to protect our Detroit River and the residents of the city.” from Detroit, ”she said.

Liz Kennedy, a Corktown resident and conservationist, agreed.

“This will protect drinking water and encourage the accountability of bad actors who continue to endanger our water bodies,” she said.

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Twitter: @SarahRahal_

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