On Tuesday the State Auditor General's office released a report confirming what we have reported here: The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality has been easy on polluters, leaving residents with unremediated "hot spots" and taxpayers with the tab for clean-up. Under Russell Harding, the director of the DEQ during the Engler administration, that agency undercut the efforts of state prosecutors to hold polluters responsible for serious violations of environmental laws by blocking investigations or striking lenient settlements.
The Toxic Towers scandal is just a part of Harding's legacy of lax enforcement of our anti-pollution laws. The auditor general's report focuses on five cases in which Harding and his top deputies ran roughshod over the efforts of DEQ staffers and the Attorney General's office to hold polluters fully responsible for the costs of cleaning up the hazardous wastes they released into the environment. A couple of the cases are in the region: An Allegan County landfill contaminated a nearby municipal well field and a Whitehall manufacturer dumped toxic waste into White Lake. Click here to download the auditor general's full report. (Note you'll need Adobe Acrobat Version 5.0 or later to open up the file.)
Keep in mind, folks, these are cases for which there is an extensive record because there was at least some enforcement though so lax that the taxpayers were left holding the bill for as much as 80% of the clean-up costs. The report just scratches the surface and does not address all those cases like "Toxic Towers" in which Harding let polluters walk away scot-free, leaving it to citizens like us to enforce the law.