Each year, the S.S Badger, a ferry ship out of Ludington, and the only remaining coal-fired ferry in the nation, discharges 509 tons of coal ash into our Lake Michigan waters every year. Coal ash contains lead, mercury and arsenic, toxic, cancer-causing pollutants that infiltrate our drinking water, harm fish and wash up on our beaches.
In 2008, an agreement between the EPA and Lake Michigan Car Ferry Service (operators of the Badger) allowed the ferry four years to retrofit its boilers to prevent coal ash dumping. However, with the deadline nearing, the ferry’s owners have conspired with three Congressmen (1st District’s Benishek among them) to circumvent a way around the regulation by amending the Coast Guard Maritime and Transportation Act to exempt vessels of “Historic Significance” from the law and allow it to continue dumping pollutants and toxins into Great Lakes waters, regardless how deadly the toxins. Because the Badger was designated Historic Landmark status in 2009, the amendment would allow it to discharge its coal ash forever.
Benishek often slams the EPA as burdening industry unnecessarily, and his blind hatred for this agency obviously takes precedence over his duty to the health of his constituents and the safety of the water we drink and fish we eat. His part in this scheme further shows his willingness to help polluting companies cheat their way out of their environmental responsibilities. As Senator Dick Durbin writes in his letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar:
“Lake Michigan is the primary source of drinking water for more than ten million people and a key component of the $7 billion Great Lakes fishing industry. We cannot let Historic Landmark Status be used to evade the federal regulations we rely on to protect public health and the environment.
This is more than a car ferry with a venerable tradition. This is a vessel that generates and dumps four tons of coal ash laced with mercury and arsenic into Lake Michigan every day. This Great Lake cannot take any more toxic dumping, no matter how historic or quaint the source may be. “
Please call Senators Stabenow (202-224-4822) and Levin (202-224-6221) and let them know how you feel about this bill. Also, call Senate Commerce Committee Chair John Rockefeller (202-224-6472) to oppose this exemption. And, if you’re an angler, tell Rep. Benishek (202-225-4735) that you want the same for Lake Michigan fish that he enjoys from his Upper Peninsula trout streams and you’re disappointed with his continued anti-environment stance.
If, however, you agree with the Congressman, call his office and thank him, and assure him that when you’re dying of cancer due to lead, mercury, or arsenic contamination, you’ll at least exit this world secure in the comfort that the historic integrity of every nut and bolt of the S.S. Badger’s coal-fired boiler is intact…