Bridget Huff and Melissa McGovern brought their children to a riverside announcement Monday to ensure their waterways are kept safe.
“That’s the whole reason we’re here, to leave a legacy,” McGovern said following a press conference outside the DoubleTree by Hilton and Freighters Eatery and Taproom Monday.
The women were among a couple dozen people gathered to hear about legislators’ efforts to halt a proposed nuclear waste dump near Lake Huron in Canada.
Sen. Phil Pavlov, Sen. Mike Green, Rep. Dan Lauwers, and Rep. Paul Muxlow announced legislation they hope will stop the construction of a deep geologic repository for nuclear waste in Kincardine, Ontario.
“What we’re doing today is an effort to throw everything we can in the way of this process,” Pavlov said.
The legislators will introduce bills Tuesday that would:
• Ban the importation of radioactive waste into Michigan.
• Extend the ban on nuclear waste disposal to include Class C radioactive waste, a form of low-level nuclear waste.
• Create a Great Lakes Protection Radioactive Waste Advisory Board to assess the effects of the facility.
• Ask the president, congress and the secretary of state to the International Joint Commission start an investigation of the proposed facility. The request to the IJC would include a provision for public hearings in places affected by the nuclear waste site.
An online petition also is being started at http://www.protectlakehuron.com to gather signatures of those opposed to the nuclear waste facility.
Pavlov said the Michigan legislation will establish ground rules for the Great Lakes basin and, hopefully, lead to a compact with other states.
“In 2008, just six years ago, all of the Great Lakes compact states came together and passed the water diversion and water withdrawal policy,” Pavlov said.
“We need the very same level of interest and intensity to protect the Great Lakes from radioactive waste.”
Pavlov hopes the requests to the president, secretary of state and Congress also will spur action at the federal level.
“We have treaties and compacts in place to prevent use issues like this, and we need to engage them,” Pavlov said. “The mechanism is in place for resolution and prevention of issues that affect the Great Lakes. We think we’re on the path to make that happen.”
Sen. Mike Green, who represents Huron, Tuscola, Sanilac, Arenac and Bay counties, said the legislation is imperative to his shoreline communities.
“It’s important to my district that we proceed with this and require some accountability,” Green said. “It’s a great thing that we have. You can’t have somebody destroy it.”
Muxlow and Lauwers said the measures give Michigan a say in the future of its waters.
“It’s important, I think, that we have a seat at this table,” Lauwers said.
Pavlov said Rep. Andrea LaFontaine, R-Columbus Township, also is part of the legislative effort.
Elizabeth Lloyd attended the announcement Monday.
The Port Huron woman said she’s been following the proposed development for about two years.
“I was shocked that this was going forward,” Lloyd said. “The shocking thing is this is all about money.
“I’m sorry, but you can’t breathe money, you can’t eat money, and you can’t drink money.”
Lloyd said she’s passionate about stopping the construction of the repository.
“I’m prepared to go over there and lay down in front of a bulldozer if I have to,” she said.
Ontario Power Generation has been planning, studying and reviewing the possibility of a nuclear waste site near Lake Huron for about 12 years.
The deep geologic repository would store about 7 million cubic feet of low- and intermediate-level waste about a half-mile below ground and three-quarters of a mile off Lake Huron in Kincardine, Ontario.
Low-level nuclear waste includes items that may have been indirectly exposed to radioactivity, such as coveralls, papers or brooms used at a nuclear facility. Intermediate-level waste includes resins and items located nearer to the reactor core.
In February, OPG representatives addressed community leaders in St. Clair County about the proposed nuclear waste dump.
OPG geologist Mark Jensen said the repository would be located under about 650 feet of Queenston shale in low-porosity Cobourg formation limestone that would allow for little to no water movement within the formation.
Bob Wiley, St. Clair County drain commissioner, isn’t reassured about the safety of the repository.
“I’m not sold on it yet, not even close,” Wiley said. “Not when they’ve got tundra they can go put it in and keep it there.
“This could affect millions of people downstream from where they’re at, even if it’s low-grade.”
County Commissioner Bill Gratopp attended OPG’s presentation to community leaders in February. He said the OPG representatives explained the project and safety measures well, but he still wasn’t comfortable with the concept of the lakeside repository.
“The people in Michigan and the people who drink the water don’t care how safe the facility is,” Gratopp said. “They don’t want nuclear deposits anywhere near here.”
Huff said she was encouraged by the legislators’ plans Monday. She hopes they follow through with them.
“I hope the intent behind this is as strong as the political posturing,” she said.
OPG participated in a 25-day public hearing with the Joint Review Panel in late 2013.
The JRP is expected to announce its decision in late 2014 or early 2015 about whether or not to issue OPG a license to construct.
After the facility is constructed, OPG must then gain a license to operate and, about 35 years later, a license to decommission the site.
OPG is the largest provider of energy in Ontario and has three nuclear facilities. Low- and intermediate-level waste from all three facilities would be housed at the Kincardine repository.
OPG could not be reached for comment Monday.