Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Michigan Energy Company Sued for Mercury Pollution in Canada

DTE is being sued for its role in allegedly polluting the St. Clair River with mercury.

DTE Energy, the parent company of Detroit Edison, operates the St. Clair/Belle River coal-fired power plant complex in Michigan. On average, the facility emits 2,000 pounds of mercury each year.

Scott Edwards, a Canadian citizen and authority on mercury pollution, was in Sarnia court Wednesday charging that the St. Clair/Belle River generating station on the banks of the St. Clair River has been breaching Canada’s Fisheries Act for two years.

Edwards is the legal director for Waterkeeper Alliance, a global coalition of 150 grassroots environmental groups. He is being aided by three other affiliates of Waterkeeper Alliance, Mark Mattson, Doug Chapman and Doug Martz. Mattson is lead investigator and the Lake Ontario Waterkeeper. Doug Chapman is lead counsel and the Fraser Riverkeeper. Martz is the St. Clair Channelkeeper.

More than half of DTE Energy’s mercury emissions land in Canada. When the mercury enters the St. Clair River, it is altered by bacteria into methylmercury which spreads throughout the food chain, altering fish habitat and rendering fish unsafe for human consumption.

Edwards is alleging that DTE’s mercury deposits are illegal under Canada’s Fisheries Act and has launched a private prosecution. Private prosecutions allow any Canadian citizen to independently prosecute offenses in the criminal courts. Fines under the Fisheries Act can range up to $1 million a day.

A test of pollution control technology in 2004 reduced mercury emissions at the St. Clair plant by 94 percent, but at the conclusion of the 30 day test, DTE Energy stopped using the mercury control technology.

“DTE has acted with a blatant disregard for the health and welfare of Canadian citizens and Canadian law,” says Edwards. “My hope is that this prosecution will result in significant reductions in DTE Energy’s mercury emissions and a cleaner and safer St. Clair River.”

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