Detroit River clean-up efforts stall despite influx of federal funds

While toxic sediment sites in the Detroit River have concerned many for years, clean-up efforts continue to lag.

This year, the Biden Administration announced it would designate $1 billion dollars specifically for Great Lakes region sites, which should include the Detroit River. Since that time, the EPA has indicated it is more likely to continue its approach of requiring a non-federal partner to pay approximately 35% for this type of clean up.

Meanwhile, Michigan’s Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) has $69 million budgeted for toxic site remediation, but no specific funding announced for cleaning the Detroit River.

“We are seeing improved water quality, but…there are still problems with the river.” — Nick Schroeck, environmental law expert

Listen: Why the Detroit River clean-up project has yet to receive the funding it needs.



Nick Schroeck is an environmental law expert, the Associate Dean of Experiential Education and an Associate Professor at the Detroit Mercy School of Law. He says while the river is much cleaner than it used to be, it still requires a lot more attention.

“We are seeing improved water quality, but…there are still problems with the river,” says Schroeck. “An ongoing concern is this problem of these legacy contaminants. Things that are there from companies that no longer exist.”

Gary Wilson is a journalist and author of a recent piece, “Detroit River cleanup a low priority in Biden’s $1 billion Great Lakes windfall,” appearing on Planet Detroit. He says despite increased funding in the region, the Detroit River has remained a law priority for clean-up projects.

“[The EPA estimates] the contaminated sediment could be removed by 2030,” says Wilson. “But the thing that jumps off the page for me as I’ve been covering this over time, is that since 2010, and after $3.8 billion, very little of that money has been allocated to the sediment removal in the Detroit River.”

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