Windsor MP calls for investigation into Detroit River dock collapse at former uranium site

Windsor West NDP MP Brian Masse is looking for answers after a dock collapse went unreported for more than a week.

Masse presented a letter to federal Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson on Thursday, calling for the launch of a binational investigation to look into the Nov. 26 collapse on the Michigan side of Detroit River at a site that once carried radioactive contamination. 

The location is currently used by Detroit Bulk Storage to store aggregate material, according to the Associated Press, but the site was once owned by the Revere Copper and Brass Company, which produced uranium parts and was a subcontractor for the Manhattan Project. 

Though the incident occurred more than a week ago, Masse told CBC News that he only became aware of the dock collapse on Wednesday, after hearing from a “contact from the United States” and reading more about the dock collapse through reporting published in the Windsor Star. 

Masse said the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday meant that “even … different environment departments were not aware of it.”

“We started to respond right away and get as much details are we can,” Masse said, adding that “we’ve been trying to get onto this as quickly as we can.”

In his letter, Masse requested that the International Joint Commission — a Canadian-U.S. organization that helps prevent and resolve disputes pertaining to the two counties’ border waters — be made aware of the collapse “and should also be instructed to investigate the situation for both short- and long-term effects on health and environmental concerns.”

“Hopefully [the Environment Minister will] be able to do that very soon and update us locally on what he’s doing with this internationally, because … water doesn’t know the boundaries,” said Masse. “It doesn’t need a passport, it goes back and forth wherever it wants and … it’s a shared responsibility.”

Drinking water is safe, says Enwin

In a series of Thursday tweets, Windsor-based utilities service provider Enwin said it was “aware of the uranium incident on the Detroit River,” stating that the incident occurred “significantly downstream and poses no threat to our drinking water intake located in the Detroit River.”

The company added that it plans on sampling the water intake “as a precaution.”

“The Ministry of the Environment Conservation and Parks (MECP) has confirmed that there is no threat to our water supply,” reads an excerpt from a Thursday tweet.

The company said it will remain in contact with the MECP for any additional updates. 

“ENWIN is advising that the water produced and distributed to its customers is safe for consumption,” read another Thursday tweet. 

Michigan department ‘assessing and investigating’

A spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) said that the group is “certainly assessing and investigating the situation” and plans on further examining the scene Friday.

“We are going to go out on the river … in a boat and take a look at the site from the riverside,” said Nick Assendelft.

The EGLE also plans on taking drone photos of the site to get additional footage.

Assendelft said representatives from his organization visited the site on Thursday and spoke with the location’s owner, who confirmed that dock collapse took place on Nov. 26.

“Unless it’s hazardous materials, there’s no requirement that when something like this happens that they have to let us know,” said Assendelft. “I think a lot of people do it as a common courtesy, but unless it’s hazardous material, there’s not that requirement and we rely on our eyes and ears in the communities to help us out when a situation like this happens.”

According to Assendelft, previous examinations of the location revealed “there were no detections of radiation above background levels.”

“The U.S. [Environmental Protection Agency] did some further testing … when they did some remediation on the property [and] they found similar readings,” he said. “Nothing above background levels.”

Assendelft added that staff with his organization conducted wide-scale testing on the Detroit River earlier this spring, noting that “those also came back with lower than background level readings for radiological elements.”