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Welcome to the Pine River Review. Our sight is dedicated to our little homestead located along the Pine River tucked inside the Chippewa Nature Center's 1400 Acres of wild in Michigan's lower penninsula. We love to share our pictures, video, comment, and our own homespun music. Step inside our world as we celebrate this beautiful nook!

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Lower Third- Part 3

Michigan Chemical on the banks of the Pine circa 1965
          I want to leave the St. Louis/Alma area behind me now. It's just to complicated a place for a man looking for simple reflections. Alma is a college town and this being early September the town is electric with youthful exuberance. All of that activity seems oddly juxtaposed a mile upstream from St. Louis, the site of so many depressing ecological disasters. Not only was the insecticide DDT manufactured here, the fire retardant PBB was also shipped out of the Michigan Chemical Company's Pine River facility. In 1973 bags of PBB were mislabeled at the plant as a cattle feed supplement and sent to dairy farms and ranches across the state. During the next year virtually every meat eating and milk slurping Michigan resident ingested the fire retardant until the mistake was discovered after a dairy farmer noticed his livestock sickening.  By 1976 the State of Michigan destroyed 28,900 cattle, 2,900 pigs, and 1.5 million chickens burying them along with tons of poisoned feed in a clay pit in Kalkaska county.    
         The chemical plant itself was eventually closed and dismantled. The 50 acre site was entombed with a three foot thick layer of clay that was intended to keep the polluted soil forever isolated. Surprise, it didn't work. The EPA came back to St. Louis in 1994, 16 years later, and test showed the river sediments surrounding the former Pine River facility contained 4% DDT's!
         Brain freeze! Aheee!
The progress of science is strewn, like an ancient desert trail, with the bleached skeleton of discarded theories which once seemed to possess eternal life. - Arthur Koestler

      Bald Eagles are often seen as the poster child for DDT because the effects of the chemical drove these apex predators to the brink of extinction in the lower 48. But the iconic raptor has made a rousing come back and today Michigan has over 500 nesting pairs, more than five times those recorded in 1969. I saw one this morning floating just over head as I drank my morning coffee on the deck. Alma College has been instrumental in monitoring and helping to facilitate the clean up. A big thank you to them and all the folks that have worked in concert to reinvigorate the lower third of the Pine River.

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