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SOURCE: World Socialist Web Site

DATE: December 7, 2019

SNIP: The shoreline of a Detroit, Michigan property contaminated by uranium and other chemicals dating back to the 1940s collapsed into the Detroit River during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. The public was not alerted to the existence of the toxic spill until a report was published this week by the local paper in Windsor, Ontario.

The property known today as the Detroit Dock was previously owned by Revere Copper and Brass, Inc., a provider of uranium rods for US nuclear weapons development during and after World War II.

According to a report in the Windsor Star on Thursday, the property has been listed by both the US Department of Energy and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a contaminated site for decades. It has also been listed by the Wall Street Journal as one of the country’s forgotten nuclear legacy “waste lands” where “potential exists for significant residual radiation.”

The Windsor Star report said, “The riverbank apparently collapsed under the weight of large aggregate piles stored at the site by Detroit Bulk Storage which has a long-term lease on the property for such use.”

The Star report also said the collapse of the site—which is adjacent to the property of the historic colonial-era Fort Wayne and the narrowest stretch of the Detroit River between the US and Canada—“initially remained unknown to many responsible state and federal environmental regulatory agencies” because of the holiday weekend.

[R]epresentatives of the US EPA were unaware of the collapsed shoreline when contacted by the Windsor Star. The agency officials said that federal responsibility for the former Revere Copper and Brass site “belongs with the U.S. Department of Energy which was tasked decades ago with oversight of dangerous properties that feature nuclear or radiation histories across the US—especially those connected with war-related equipment.”

Among the major concerns about this alarming event is the impact it will have on Detroit’s water supply. The city has water intake lines a short distance downriver from the Detroit Dock collapse.

As pointed out by Derek Coronado of Windsor’s Citizen’s Environmental Alliance, aside from the uranium, beryllium and thorium in the contaminated soil that fell into the river, the disturbance of the sediment on the bottom of the Detroit River is a major concern. Coronado told the Star, “Sediment in that area is loaded with a cocktail of chemicals that include mercury, PCBs and PAHs which all have negative health implications for humans, wildlife and the water.”

[W]ith Detroit residents already on alert from the experience of lead contaminated water in Flint, Michigan beginning in 2014, no one is going accept the word of environmental officials that Detroit water is safe and that no one should worry about radiation poisoning.

Revere Copper and Brass was a subcontractor for the Manhattan Project—the secret US program for the development of the atomic bomb—and extruded and machined uranium and thorium rods for nuclear weapons development in the 1940s and 1950s. Between 1943 and 1944, 1,220 tons of uranium was extruded at the site and Revere abandoned the site in 1985.