LANSING — State Representative Sarah Roberts (D-St. Clair Shores) is joining calls for the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to take stronger action after it determined that Team Services, an oil and gas company operating in northern Michigan, sprayed dirt roads in Benzie County with salt water contaminated with toxic industrial solvents hundreds, or in one case, a thousand times higher than the law permits.
Instead of fines or criminal charges, the DEQ is only asking Team Services to acknowledge the wrongdoing and submit a plan to ensure the incident doesn’t happen again, even leaving the testing for potential contamination to the company itself.
“It is unbelievable to me that the state department charged with protecting our environment isn’t willing to execute the laws of this state to the fullest extent,” Roberts said. “It’s irresponsible and dangerous to let companies that pollute our land and water to escape any punishment more severe than a slap on the wrist.”
As reported in the Traverse City Record-Eagle, the Benzie County Road Commission paid Team Services to spray the oil field brine, which is a byproduct of oil and gas drilling that doubles as a dust suppressor, on gravel roads in the county. A local farmer submitted a complaint to the DEQ, which ordered the self-investigation.
Last month, Roberts and her House colleagues introduced a package of legislation to create more environmental protections around the process of hydraulic fracturing, also known as “fracking.” One bill in the package, House Bill 4905, would prohibit the use of contaminated water as a dust suppression tool after its use in the fracking process.
“It’s clear from this incident that we need stronger laws in Michigan to protect people, farms and animals from the dangerous chemicals associated with oil and gas drilling,” Roberts said. “If state officials are unwilling or unable to enforce the regulations we have on the books now, I vow to continue fighting to enact stronger laws that hold these companies truly accountable.”