Michigan — August 7, 2013 at 7:01 am

Attention Michigan environmentalists: Coal Ash Chronicles needs your stories/info about SS Badger coal ash dumping


Four TONS of toxic coal ash are dumped into Lake Michigan every time it sails

The S.S. Badger is a ferry that runs across Lake Michigan from Ludington, Michigan to Manitowoc, Wisconsin. It is an old and outdated vessel that burns coal for fuel. Every day that the S.S. Badger makes its trip across Lake Michigan and back, it dumps close to 8,000 pounds of toxic coal ash directly into Lake Michigan. Coal ash is the waste product of burning coal and contains mercury, sulfur, heavy metals and other toxic compounds. The S.S. Badger actually has a permit to dump the coal ash directly into the Great Lakes and has done so for over five decades.

The permit they operated under expired in December of 2012. The owners of the Badger applied for an additional five year permit. After an extraordinary battle with environmentalists on one side and lovers of the historical S.S. Badger on the other, in March of this year, the EPA agreed to extend their permit until 2015, allowing the continued dumping of 4 tons a day of coal ash into Lake Michigan.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced the lodging of a proposed consent decree that requires Lake Michigan Carferry Service, Inc. (LMC) of Ludington, Michigan, to eliminate the discharge of coal ash into Lake Michigan by the end of the 2014 sailing season.

In 2013 and 2014, the ferry will reduce its discharge of coal ash and LMC will pay a $25,000 civil penalty for violating mercury water quality standards in 2012, according to the proposed consent decree.

Joe Serwach of StopDumpingCoal.org put it this way:

“This is an issue that really stands out,” Serwach said in an interview with The Chronicle. “It’s a powerful story. And for the most part, people don’t know about it across the state.”

Serwach said Lake Michigan Carferry’s practice of dumping nearly four tons of coal ash into Lake Michigan every day of full operation is unthinkable with a federal ban since 1970 on putting anything into the lake.

“If I’m out on my boat in Lake Michigan, I can’t throw any of my garbage into the lake,” Serwach said. “I have to wait until I get back to shore to take care of the trash.”

He continued: “This is not an accidental thing like an oil spill. This is intentional. It is part of their business plan. The Badger owners continue to make profits from their historic pollution of Lake Michigan…”

“For nearly 50 years, S.S. Badger officials have promised to stop dumping coal in Lake Michigan … someday,” he said, saying the company seeks special favors to continue the practice. “Someday has finally arrived. Sixty years of dumping coal is enough.

Rhiannon Fionn-Bowman is an independent filmaker based in Seattle. She is creating a film titled Coal Ash Chronicles which will, in her words, “tell stories from all sides of the coal ash issue”.

Here she is talking about her project:

Her Kickstarter page is HERE.

Rhiannon needs the help of Michigan citizens. I spoke to her about what she’s looking for.

“I’ve traveled the country for a year and a half collecting coal ash stories from all sides — industry, government, citizens, environmentalists,” she told me. “But I didn’t get to Michigan. I’ve been following news about the S.S. Badger and would like to include it in the film.

“I’m looking to get in touch with anyone who’d like to share: We’re interested in reviewing and potentially using citizen-collected photographs and video about the S.S. Badger. News articles, FOIA requests, other documents — anything that helps to tell the story of the S.S. Badger.

“It’s been my experience that community members are watch-dogging these issues and that, collectively, they’ve amassed a great deal of information,” Rhiannon finished. “Part of what I’m doing with Coal Ash Chronicles is creating a database of government, corporate and citizen documentation.”

Rhiannon is hoping to begin editing the self-funded film in January of 2014. If you have information that could help her tell the story of the S.S. Badger, you can contact her HERE.

[CC image credit Zizmonz | Wikimedia Commons]