Macomb Daily guest column: Office of the Great Lakes’ 30-year water strategy must advocate against nuclear waste dump

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The following guest column was printed by the Macomb Daily on Sept. 25, 2015. The piece can also be read online at the Macomb Daily website.

Office of the Great Lakes’ 30-year water strategy must advocate against nuclear waste dump

By Sen. Phil Pavlov
25th Senate District

Sen. Phil Pavlov

Sen. Phil Pavlov

This summer, the Michigan Office of the Great Lakes released its draft Water Strategy, a 30-year vision for a comprehensive approach to Michigan’s water-related ecosystems and economies. I appreciate the efforts made to craft this proposal and the sincere interest we all share in safeguarding and maximizing our Great Lakes, but the draft contains a glaring omission: protection of our lakes from radioactive contamination.

As the draft strategy states, “Water defines Michigan” and safe water is “fundamental to Michigan’s economy and to ensuring high-quality places to live, work and play.” Tens of millions of United States and Canadian citizens depend upon the Great Lakes for drinking water, fisheries, tourism, recreation and other industrial and economic uses.

Yes, we must care for the Great Lakes basin by guarding against invasive species, protecting habitat, ensuring recreational access and improving drinking water quality — but all of that hinges on keeping our lakes free from a needless risk of nuclear waste contamination.

As drafted, the 30-year Water Strategy speaks to the issues of improper waste disposal and governance. But both these principles are jeopardized by a failure to strongly advocate against a plan by the Canadian company Ontario Power Generation (OPG) to build a long-term nuclear waste disposal facility in Kincardine, Ontario, within a half mile of Lake Huron. The report’s failure to mention the OPG plan as a real risk is a glaring oversight.

Michigan’s current laws for permanent siting of radioactive waste prohibit any proposed facility that, among other things, is located within ten miles of Lake Michigan, Lake Superior, Lake Huron, Lake Erie, the St. Marys River, Detroit River, St. Clair River, or Lake St. Clair.

The Canadian plan clearly violates the science-based ten mile buffer zone contained in Michigan law. Worse, it lacks consideration of other potential sites much further away from the Great Lakes, as many others have recommended.

Last year, I led the Michigan Senate in passing resolutions that called on President Obama, the secretary of state and Congress to take the appropriate steps to secure a binding decision on the OPG site from the International Joint Commission (IJC), the official organization appointed to prevent and resolve disputes over the use of the Great Lakes.

The OPG proposal to build a nuclear waste facility in Kincardine, Ontario, puts at risk the integrity of the entire Great Lakes basin and the health of the people and resources that depend on the lakes. Any substantive long-term water protection strategy for Michigan must contain a full assessment of the real risks involved in locating such a site within the basin.

I encourage residents to contact the Michigan Office of the Great Lakes at (517) 248-5035 and urge revision of their 30-year Water Strategy to include a verdict against the Kincardine nuclear waste site.

Senator Phil Pavlov, R-St. Clair Township, serves the residents of the 25th Senate District, representing Macomb’s communities of Armada Township, Memphis, New Baltimore, Richmond and Richmond Township, as well as Huron, Sanilac and St. Clair counties.