Sewage from the northern reaches of the Detroit regional sewer system in Oakland and Macomb counties is normally conveyed to the Detroit Wastewater Treatment Plant where treated wastewater is discharged to the Detroit River.
But when the system is overwhelmed by heavy rain, polluted water from northern storm and sanitary sewers is diverted to the Clinton River, which empties into Lake St. Clair.
Because the Clinton River watershed bears a legacy of severe pollution, it has been designated an Area of Concern (AOC) under an agreement between the United States and Canada. Water quality in the river is the responsibility of federal, state and local agencies organized around a Remedial Action Plan (RAP), designed to clean up the river and lake.
The RAP was drawn up decades ago and has been updated periodically. It is overseen by the Clinton River Public Advisory Council (CRPAC), which is administered by the Clinton River Watershed Council (CRWC), a 501(c)(3) non-profit.
The CRPAC has around 70 members. But the truly public representation on CRPAC is about 20%.
With the tacit approval of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ), CRPAC and its fiduciary, CRWC, hide behind a curtain of secrecy, refusing to comply with freedom of information and open meetings legislation.
A cursory review of the CRPAC membership roster will tell you why. State and federal agency leaders must find a way to reach out for participants from civic groups such as the League of Women Voters, riverside and lakeshore home and business owners, service clubs like Kiwanis and Rotary, the Walpole Island First Nation, labor unions, environmental organizations, farmers, fraternal organizations (Elks, Eagles, etc.), ethnic organizations (NAACP, for instance), the Tea Party, the Green Party and the like.
The days of CRPAC/CRWC being run like a private club for special interests must end.