No Public Health Threat After Former Uranium Site Spill, But Slow Response Angers Residents

Elected officials and environmental groups held a town hall to address a material spill into the Detroit River from a former uranium-processing site. Residents from Detroit and Downriver expressed frustration about the government’s slow response.

Michigan’s environmental agency says there is no imminent threat to public health after material from a former uranium-processing site spilled into the Detroit River. But residents who live nearby are still concerned.

Elected officials and members of various environmental agencies held a town hall last night, Thursday, Dec. 12, to address the material spill. Residents from Detroit and Downriver expressed frustration about the government’s slow response and the possibility of water contamination.

FAQ: What Happened At the Former Uranium Site Storage Spill

Michigan environmental officials say the incident does not pose a risk to drinking water, but the state is awaiting results of additional tests from drinking water intakes along the Detroit River.

State Senator Stephanie Chang says the spill highlights the need for further legislation.

“Especially around notification, around risk assessments, around knowing what’s in our soil along our major waterways,” says State Senator Chang. “Because it’s really clear that, even if our drinking water is safe, this incident has really exposed a lot of gaps in the law.”

“Public money should not be used to address a problem caused by a private entity.” – Tracy Kecskemeti, Michigan EGLE

Safe Water, Slow Response

Eli Newman / WDET
Eli Newman / WDET

Many who attended the meeting felt that the response was too slow. It took about a week after the collapse for the state to notify residents and test the area. 

“Why is it just now that we are just now having any sort of legislation or mandates being put on these companies, that they didn’t really have answers to?” asked Alexis Smith at the town hall organized by the Sierra Club. Smith lives in Toledo, Ohio but came to the Cass Commons to voice her concerns.

She says there’s still problems with government transparency on environmental issues.

Michigan environmental officials say poor communication delayed the response to a spill in the Detroit River. The site, now owned by Detroit Bulk Storage, once housed uranium-processing equipment during World War Two. State officials say after the spill the owner of the site notified the U.S Army Corps of Engineers. But the State of Michigan didn’t find out until asked a week later by a reporter from the Windsor Star, which first reported the incident

“Public money should not be used to address a problem caused by a private entity,” says Tracy Kecskemeti, an official with the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy. “So we always give people the opportunity to fix the problem with our oversight and if that’s not satisfactory, we’ll move on to the next steps from there.”

She says the agency has issued a violation notice to the company, but that there is no public health concern as a result of the spill and no signs of increased radioactivity.


  • Eli Newman
    Eli Newman is a Reporter/Producer for 101.9 WDET, covering breaking news, politics and community affairs. His favorite Motown track is “It’s The Same Old Song” by the Four Tops.