Michigan lawmakers consider shifting control of gravel mines away from local government

A package of bills would put the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy in charge of most mineral mines
Updated: May. 14, 2021 at 7:13 PM EDT
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METAMORA, Mich. (WJRT) - Gravel mining in residential areas of Michigan could soon become easier for companies, but it will soon come down to state vs. local control.

This isn’t sitting well with two Lapeer County residents.

Gravel mining is nothing new in Lapeer County’s village of Metamora. What is new is a push from gravel companies to relinquish control of the permitting process from local governments and pass it to the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy.

The Michigan Legislature is considering a package of bills to shift control of the often controversial industry.

“Mining applications need to be under some sort of oversight and we think locally is the best place for oversight,” said Michele Joliat of Metamora.

Currently, she lives just to the north of the old Metamora Landfill, which now has become an EPA superfund site that’s contaminated and known to be leaking what’s called 1-4 dioxane -- an organic carcinogenic compound. Joliat can’t drink her well water because of it.

Adding to her stress, there’s a proposed industrial gravel mine just to the east of her property on the D Bar A Boy Scout ranch. Joliat is concerned any drilling there could further jeopardize the area’s groundwater aquifers.

“My house is basically condemned financially because of this,” she said. “I can’t sell and my neighborhood has been living with the stress of our aquifers -- first the first, then the second and the third getting contaminated.”

Mark Frank also lives in Metamora and is part of the Metamora Land Preservation Alliance. He is concerned because the language in the package of bills would not allow the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy to deny a gravel mining permit over possible contamination to the groundwater.

Information about the impact on water would be included in the application, but it wouldn’t be used as a criteria for approval or denial of a permit.

State Sen. Jim Ananich, a Democrat from Flint, is sponsoring the gravel mining regulation package. He agrees the specific situation in Metamora will need to be addressed in some fashion.

However, Ananich believes many local governments simply don’t have the ability to properly oversee gravel mines, so he believes that state environmental regulators would provide better control.

Senate Bills 429 to 431 were introduced this week and referred to the Senate Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. The bills have to pass the committee, the full Senate and the State House before they would go to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer for consideration.

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