LANSING, Mich. (Jan. 26, 2021)— Sens. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) and Jeremy Moss (D-Southfield) with Reps. Jim Ellison (D-Royal Oak) and Yousef Rabhi (D-Ann Arbor) introduced legislation today to hold environmental polluters accountable when they fail to clean up harmful spills and discharges.

The bills follow a recently released report from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) after a yearlong review ordered by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in December 2019 when toxic substances at Electro-Plating Services (EPS) leaked onto the shoulder of I-696 in Madison Heights.

Bills sponsored by Sen. Moss and Rep. Ellison, who both represent the contaminated Madison Heights site, would eliminate the current statute of limitations that protects bad actors when they fail to identify and remediate spills at the time they first occur.

“If violators intentionally avoid and resist EGLE’s efforts to gain compliance for years or even decades, as was the case at EPS, they need to know that enforcement action will be pursued no matter how much time has passed,” said Rep. Ellison. “Removing the statute of limitations sends a clear message that these bad actors will be held accountable regardless of how far back the initial release occurred.”

The department, along with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), will host a public briefing tonight at 6:00 p.m. on Zoom to update Madison Heights residents on the ongoing cleanup efforts at the EPS site. EGLE is using an in-place treatment process to treat the transient groundwater to prevent contamination outside of the site.

“Residents in our district have had to endure one crisis after another and I’m encouraged by the continuing work to resolve this longstanding mess,” Sen. Moss said. “It’s extraordinary how this bad actor could continue to pollute this site for so long — and therefore our response must be extraordinary to change policies so that it never happens again in Michigan. We must get tougher on polluters and require better cleanup standards.”

As the cleanup continues, Sen. Irwin and Rep. Rahbi plan to introduce bills to require polluters pay to clean up contaminated sites, instead of the current requirements that allow pollution to be contained but remain in place.

“The current law doesn’t require complete cleanups,” Sen. Irwin said. “This leads to orphaned sites that are too polluted to build on and contaminated aquifers filled with water too dirty to drink. It is unacceptable to let companies off the hook when they pollute our land and water. This law gives EGLE better tools to hold polluters accountable so that more polluted sites are properly cleaned up and so that every company gets serious about protecting public health and Michigan’s water.”

“When polluters desecrate our land and water, we should not let them walk away leaving communities to bear the awful health consequences and leaving Michigan taxpayers on the hook for costly cleanups,” Rep Rabhi said. “I am reintroducing legislation to end the current system which allows bad actors to get away with not cleaning up their contamination. This will discourage future polluters and help Michiganders reclaim our state.”