The Pine River Task Force Pays a Visit to ENV 300

One of the classes I teach, ENV 300 (Environmental Justice) is divided into two halves: environmental disasters on a global scale, and engineered disasters in our own backyard (i.e. Michigan). The second half kicks off with the 1973 (and ongoing) Michigan PBB disaster, which was foisted on the state by the Velsicol Chemical Company, whose plant in St. Louis made Love Canal look tame in comparison.

Last week, we were fortunate to have visits from the Chair and Vice-Chair of the Pine River Superfund Citizen Task Force, Jane Keon and Dr. Ed Lorenz.

Jane and Ed both visited both of my sections, telling the story of just how badly the Michigan Chemical plant damaged their community. I knew a whole lot about the PBB crisis that the plant stumbled the state into (largely learning from Joyce Egginton’s brilliant book The Poisoning of Michigan and an eponymous BBC documentary from 1977), but I didn’t realize the vital role the community has taken with the EPA’s work to right decades of wrongs by Velsicol. The amount of money spent on cleanup (all of which, since 1995, has come from taxpayers) has long superseded the profits generated by the plant’s production of however many “-master” products.

If you’d like to join in on the Pine River Task Force’s next meeting and learn more about what they do, it will be happening on Zoom on Wednesday, November 17th at 7pm ET. They will post the public Zoom link on their website a few days beforehand.