PVC is used in many building materials, including pipes like these. However, due to health problems that can be caused by PVC and the emissions created in production, the expansion of a PVC plant along Lake Erie is worrisome to some environmentalists. (photo by Jason
A new PVC manufacturing plant is being built in the region,
and that has some environmental groups alarmed. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Joyce Kryszak reports on efforts to halt production of polyvinyl chloride:
A new PVC manufacturing plant is being built in the region, and that has some environmental groups alarmed. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium, Joyce Kryszak reports on efforts to halt production of polyvinyl chloride:
Environmental groups are protesting the construction of a new PVC plant near Buffalo. They say manufacturing PVC releases toxic chemicals into the environment. The group recently released a report highlighting the dangers of PVC and are calling on companies to phase out production of the popular manufacturing material. Mike Schade heads the Citizens’ Environmental Coalition in western New York. The region is home to CertainTeed, a PVC plant that will soon expand to a site along Lake Erie. Schade says it’s a step backward.
“I think it’s outrageous that, given the fact the Great Lakes have seen so many environmental problems, that CertainTeed is coming in and citing a PVC plant right on the lake,” said Schade, “It certainly isn’t my vision for a clean and safe and healthy waterfront.”
Schade says residents near other Certain Teed plants show increased levels of cancer and other serious disease. But company spokesperson Dottie Wackerman disputed the claims. And she says the company’s new plant will have virtually no emissions.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Joyce Kryszak.
The Duluth Seaway Port Authority's bulk cargo dock is typical of many in the port. Officials are troubled by corrosion appearing on the docks in the harbor - the steel is corroding much faster than normal. (Photo by Bob Kelleher)
A piece of steel that has been removed from a dock
wall, showing extensive pitting. (Photo by Bob Kelleher)
Engineer and diver Chad Scott (left) discovered the dock corrosion in the late 1990's, and suspects a microbiological connection. Jim Sharrow (right), Duluth Seaway Port Authorities Facilities Manager, is hoping for some fast answers. (Photo by Bob Kelleher)
Corrosion is eating away at the steel walls that hold one of the Great Lakes’ busiest harbors together. The corrosion is unlike anything known to be happening in any other Great Lakes port. But other port officials are being encouraged to take a closer look at their own underwater steel. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Bob Kelleher reports:
Corrosion is eating away at the steel walls that hold
one of the Great Lakes’ busy harbors together. The
corrosion is unlike anything known to be happening in
any other Great Lakes port. But other port officials
are being encouraged to take a closer look at their own
underwater steel. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s
Bob Kelleher reports:
Some kind of corrosion is eating away at the Duluth
Seaway port’s docks. The docks are those long
earth-filled metal rectangles where ships from around
the world tie up to load and unload. Those docks are
lined with sheets of steel, and the steel is rusting
away. Jim Sharrow is the Duluth
Seaway Port Authorities Facilities Manager.
“It’s corroding quickly – much faster than people expect
in fresh water. And our main concern is that we’ll lose
the integrity and the strength of the dock long before
expected, and have to do steel replacement at $1,500 or
more per lineal foot, much earlier than ever would have
Corrosion should be a slow process in Duluth’s cold
fresh water. But, Sharrow says, there’s evidence it’s
been happening remarkably quickly for about thirty years.
“What we seem to see here is corrosion that started in
the mid 1970s. We have steel that’s 100 years olds
that’s about as similarly corroded to steel that is 25
to 30 years old.”
It’s a big problem. There’s about thirteen miles of
steel walls lining docks in the harbor that serves
Duluth, Minnesota and Superior, Wisconsin. There’s half
again as many feet of wooden docks, held together with
steel pins. There’s corrosion on the legs of highway
bridges and the giant
steel ore docks that ship millions of tons of taconite
– a type of iron shipped to steel mills in Gary,
Indiana and Cleveland, Ohio.
“We characterize this as a 100-million dollar problem in
the harbor. It’s a huge problem, and what is so odd
about this is that we only see it happening in the
navigational area of the Duluth-Superior Harbor.”
The harbor links the St Louis River with Lake Superior.
Go a few miles up the river and there’s little corrosion
. So it doesn’t seem like the problem’s there. But, back
in the harbor, at the current rate of corrosion, Sharrow
says, the steel will fail quickly.
“I figure that in about 10 years at the current rate,
we will have to start replacing steel.”
“Particularly marginal operators could decide rather
than repair their docks it would be better for them to
go out of business, and we’re hoping that that isn’t
the case here.”
While the cause is a mystery, there’s no shortage of
theories. It could have something to do with stray
electrical voltage; water acidity; or the kinds of
steel manufactured in recent years. Chad Scott
discovered the corrosion in the late 1990’s. He’s an
engineer and a diver. Scott suspects
a micro-biological connection. He says there might be
something growing in small round pits that form on the
“We cleaned up the water. That’s the main thing –
that’s one of the main changes that’s happened since
the 70s, is we’ve cleaned up our water. We’ve cleaned
up our harbor, which is a good thing. But, when we
cleaned things up we also induced more dissolved oxygen
and more sunlight can penetrate the water, which tends
to usually promote more growth – more marine
A team of experts met in Duluth in September to share
ideas. They came from the U.S. Navy, The Army Corp of
Engineers, and Ohio State University. And they agreed
there’s something odd going on – possibly related to
microbes or water chemistry. They also recommend that
other Great Lakes ports take a closer look at their
underwater steel. Scott says they at least helped
narrow the focus.
“We have a large laundry list right now. We want to
narrow that down and try to decide what is the real
cause of this corrosion. And these experts, hopefully,
will be able to get us going on the right direction,
so we can start doing testing that will identify the
With the experts recommendations in hand, port
officials are now planning a formal study. If they
do figure out the cause, then they’ve got to figure
out how to prevent it. They’re in a race with
something, and right now they don’t even know with
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Bob Kelleher.
Some homeowners on Great Lakes coasts are concerned about how state governments decide where the lake ends and private property begins. In one state… landowners are pushing legislation to protect their private property rights. But the bill worries recreation and environmental activists. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Julie Grant reports:
Some homeowners on Great Lakes coasts are concerned about how state governments decide
where the lake ends and private property begins. In one state, land owners are pushing legislation
to protect their private property rights. But the bill worries recreation and environmental
activists. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Julie Grant reports:
Dennis Bring is a big, burly guy who looks like he wouldn’t be scared of anything. But he says
he is scared. He’s afraid of the bureaucrats at the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
They say the land he once owned is no longer his, simply because of the erosion caused by Lake
It started more than twenty years ago. That’s when high waters on Lake Erie started to batter his
shoreline property and erode the bluff. Bring decided to use concrete and large limestone blocks
to protect it. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources required him to get surveys, pay for
engineering, and construction. It cost thousands of dollars. Then he was told he had to sign a
lease agreement, to lease the land that he thought he already owned.
“They said it wasn’t a big thing. But when we got it, we found out it was 17 to 20 pages long and
basically they had the rights to our property and we had basically no rights and they could come
on our property at any time.”
The cost of the lease isn’t that much, but Bring’s deed says he owns that land. It’s been in the
family for three generations and he pays taxes on it. But the state also wanted him to carry a
million dollars worth of liability insurance on the erosion protection structure.
So he called the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to complain. A state regulator told Bring
that he no longer owns the land because anything up to the high water mark, including the eroded
part that once belonged to Bring, actually belongs to the state.
“And I asked him, I said, ‘You’re telling me the lake is your property, correct?’ And he said ‘Yes,
that’s our property.’ And I said, ‘According to my gist on this, is that your property is damaging
my property. I’m trying to protect this property.’ But I said, ‘In turn you’re making me pay back
what is already mine.’ He said, ‘And we could tear your structure out if we wanted to.’ And then
I hung up the phone, and my wife and I were scared to death.
The state plans to enforce its claim that it owns up to the high water mark. But many lakefront
owners say the state is taking more than its share. They want Ohio’s jurisdiction pushed back
toward the lake – to the low water mark. The difference between the two adds up to thousands of
acres along Ohio’s 262 miles of coast.
Brian Preston grew up fishing in the marshes around Toledo. Speaking at a public meeting on
behalf of the environmental group, the National Wildlife Federation, he argued that the state is
right, anything the lake touches belongs to all the people, not just those who own the adjacent
“We’re not talking about their land; proximity doesn’t imply ownership. Those 262 miles in the
land going into the water is our land. Just because it’s in front of their house doesn’t make it their
But property owners disagree. They’ve pushed a bill in the Ohio legislature to move state
ownership back toward the lake. It would also take away much of the state’s authority to regulate
the shoreline. The private land owners say the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers already monitors
the Great Lakes shoreline. Homeowner Jim O’conner says that’s enough regulation.
“For years, shoreline structures have been built along the lake and have been fine. The Army
Corps has kept a pretty close eye on it. But now this program has turned into a radical mess by a
few people that have extreme radical views on what private property owners, shoreline owners,
should relinquish. In order to live on the lake you’ve got to relinquish your property.”
The state says without its additional regulation there would be all kinds of problems. That’s
because in the past houses and other structures have been built too close to the shore and
eventually storms eroded the dirt from underneath them and they fell into the lake. Some
scientists are also concerned that the engineered structures that protect the land from erosion end
up destroying public property. State geologist Don Guy says erosion provides the sand size
material that builds Ohio’s beaches.
“And by armoring the shore, we’re eliminating that source of beach-building material. And as
waves continue through natural processes to carry sediment, at least along this part from east to
west, eventually the sand is eroded from the beach at a given site and there’s nothing to replenish
that beach. So that’s maybe the hidden impact of all the shore protection.”
And that’s one reason the Ohio Department of Natural Resources wants to protect the beach.
State representative Tim Grendell sponsored the bill that would change the boundary from the
high water mark to the low water mark. He says it won’t have any negative impact on the
lakeshore or the environment. He says the state has taken control over more land than it should.
He notes that property deeds often say landownership stretches to the low water mark. Grendell
says state shouldn’t regulate beyond that.
“It recognizes what the Ohio constitution recognizes, that a government agency of the state has no
power to take away people’s property by redefining what they own.”
But most Great Lakes states regulate to the same boundary as Ohio. They say state ownership is
at the high water mark. The state of Ohio says it’s willing to drop some of the things it mandates.
For example, it might drop insurance requirements and help pay engineering costs of shoreline
structures it approves. But Ohio says it will not support turning public ownership over to private
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Julie Grant.
Some homeowners on Great Lakes coasts are concerned about how state governments decide where the lake ends and private property begins. In one state… landowners are pushing legislation to protect their private property rights. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Julie Grant reports:
Some homeowners on great lakes coasts are concerned about how state governments decide
where the lake ends and private property begins. In one state… land owners are pushing
legislation to protect their private property rights. The great lakes radio consortium’s julie grant
(sound of lake)
When the water of the Great Lakes batters shoreline property, it erodes the land. Homeowners
want to prevent that erosion. But there are lots of regulations on building shore protection
structures. Too many, according to Ohio homeowner jim o’conner. He says Ohio is regulating
land that he owns…
“They don’t have that right, but they’re doing it. And it’s a shame we have to try to get a bill to
say, ‘Hey, this is our property, don’t take it.'”
A bill in the Ohio legislature would push the state’s jurisdiction back toward the lake, so it would
have less authority over shoreline development. Other states are watching the issue because they
draw the line to same boundary as Ohio. The state says it might drop some regulations, but it will
not support turning public ownership over to private landowners.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Julie Grant.
Final regulations requiring all ports to be secure against terrorist attacks will be released next month by the federal government. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Mike Simonson reports that port officials are hoping the new rules come with some new money:
Final regulations requiring all ports to be secure against terrorist attacks
will be released next month by the federal government. The Great Lakes Radio
Consortium’s Mike Simonson reports that port officials are hoping the new
rules come with some new money:
With 50 nations using the St. Lawrence Seaway,
hundreds of ships, dropping off and picking up
goods, Great Lakes ports have a lot
to make secure.
The Marine Transportation
Security Act makes sure all ports big and small assess risks and come up
with a plan to make things safe from terrorism.
Duluth-Superior Port Security Official Captain Ray Skelton has been working
with Washington on these new regulations. He doesn’t expect any surprises.
“The final regs, if they came out that we have to have armed guards
at piles of limestone, I’d go back to Washington and start a fight. But if
everything stays reasonable, we’ll just go ahead and comply.”
Tighter security may mean some guards, surveillance cameras, fences and alarms.
Skelton says these things are costing ports money without much financial
help from those making up the new rules. Skelton won’t say how much
Duluth-Superior has spent, but he says so far they’ve had to foot the bill.
Ports will have one year to comply with the Marine Transportation Security
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Mike Simonson.