Traverse City Record-Eagle

Opinion

January 5, 2014

Editorial: DEQ's failure to address brine 'loopholes' unacceptable

The state Department of Environmental Quality’s investigation of an incident in which toxic industrial waste was sprayed on Benzie County roads raises questions as to whether state environmental officials are failing in their charge to regulate, not just observe, the state’s oil and gas industry.

The DEQ closed an investigation into how the industrial waste — including known cancer-causing chemicals — was sprayed on Benzie County roads without finding out how it happened or how to guarantee it doesn’t happen again.

Instead, state officials say they’ll take what they learned from the spraying incident and use it to help close loopholes in state rules regulating oil-field brining process — but not until new statewide permits are issued in 2015.

That’s unacceptable. If there are “loopholes” in the law that could again allow some company to mistakenly spray toxic chemicals on rural roads, they should be addressed and closed before the next brining season, not a year or more from now.

What other business is so pressing that it prevents the DEQ from doing its job today, right now, instead of waiting? How is that acceptable?

Back in June Kalkaska-based Team Services LLC sprayed what was supposed to be oil field brine on Douglas and Fewins roads near Lake Ann. Farmer Bryan Black complained the stuff smelled more like toxic chemicals than saltwater-based brine and alerted the Benzie County Road Commission, which dealt with the DEQ. Eventually the stuff was found to contain toxins at levels 1,000 times above allowable limits.

The DEQ ordered Team Services to take soil borings in and around the roads to test for contamination. Tests weren’t conducted until October — four months after the fact — and all samples came in well below allowable thresholds for residential contact.

But the DEQ couldn’t determine what had happened

Text Only

Opinion Poll
AP Video
Raw: Greeks Celebrate Easter With "Rocket War" Police Question Captain, Crew on Ferry Disaster Raw: Orthodox Christians Observe Easter Rite Ceremony Marks 19th Anniversary of OKC Bombing Raw: Four French Journalists Freed From Syria Raw: Massive 7.2 Earthquake Rocks Mexico Captain of Sunken SKorean Ferry Arrested Raw: Fire Destroys 3 N.J. Beachfront Homes Raw: Pope Presides Over Good Friday Mass Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station Superheroes Descend on Capitol Mall Man Charged in Kansas City Highway Shootings Obama Awards Navy Football Trophy Anti-semitic Leaflets Posted in Eastern Ukraine Raw: Magnitude-7.2 Earthquake Shakes Mexico City Ceremony at MIT Remembers One of Boston's Finest Raw: Students Hurt in Colo. School Bus Crash Raw: Church Tries for Record With Chalk Jesus Raw: Faithful Celebrate Good Friday Worldwide Deadly Avalanche Sweeps Slopes of Mount Everest