About

Why are we here? An example – the emergency removal of contaminated river sediment in St, Louis, Michigan in 1999 and continuing three decades later!

 

About: This page contains information on the two broad categories of our ‘Mission,’ and how to contact the Task Force.  In addition we identify our membership and leadership, as well as include digital copies of our by-laws, minutes of our monthly meetings and monthly financial reports, and general descriptions of our sources of funds.  This page concludes with a summary of the laws that broadly apply to our work.  

Mission: The Pine River Superfund Citizen Task Force (usually called the Task Force on this website) is an  officially recognized Community Advisory Group or CAG of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency formed un under EPA regulations (OSWERD Directive 9230.0-28). The Task Force decided in January 1998, when it formed, to incorporate as a
Michigan Non-Profit Corporation and to apply for tax exempt status.

   Why not this?  The Pine River west of St. Louis.  We want restoration of our resources.

While the initial impetus in 1998 for creating the Task Force related to the EPA ‘Emergency Removal Action’ in the Pine River adjacent to the closed Michigan Chemical/Velsicol plant in St. Louis, it was decided to take the name “Pine River,” not “Velsicol,” for the task force to reflect the community concerns with the wider watershed and other sources of pollution and threats to human health.  By incorporating as a Michigan Non-profit, the Task Force also insisted on its freedom to move from a simple focus on Superfund and to give equal attention to issues of both the environment and human health.

                            Typical Task Force Meeting at St. Louis, Michigan City Hall

 

Monthly Meetings: The Task Force has held and continues to hold monthly meetings open to the public on the third Wednesday of each month at 7:00 p.m. Except during the COVID-19 pandemic, these meetings have been held at St. Louis City Hall, 300 N. Mill St., St. Louis,
Michigan 48880. While the public is welcomed to attend monthly meetings, only paid Members ($5.00 annual dues) may vote.

We want to encourage people, especially students and other young people, to attend and ask questions and make comments at meetings. There are no dumb questions. The Members of the Task Force are not experts but have become informed and are able to participate in the public policy process related to the region’s contamination by attending meetings and reading public documents about our environmental and human health challenges. Please join us!

                                                 Where are we?  MI-Michigan (not Missouri)

Contacting the Task Force:
The Task Force mailing address is Pine River Superfund Citizen Task Force, Box 172, St. Louis, MI 48880

        For phone contact please call Ed Lorenz at (989) 463-6170 if you have questions.

       To email us, use lorenz@alma.edu.

Membership: The By-Laws of the Task Force state that membership is open to any persons in the Pine River watershed and other parties interested in the proper and complete cleanup of the Velsicol Superfund Site and related sites in the Pine River Basin. To become an individual or family member you must pay $5.00 per year to the Treasurer.

We welcome people and families to be ‘Contributing Members’ by paying $25.00 per year. Only Members can vote at meetings; however, we must emphasize, however, that the public is invited to attend and participate in discussions at all meetings.

 

Leadership Team: The Task Force has a formal election process for officers.  Every two years we hold elections at the last Monthly Public Meeting of the year when terms of service end.  Only paid Members may vote and hold office. The current elected people are:

Jane Keon, Chair: A founding member of the Task Force, Jane has served four terms as secretary, and previously served as Chair from 2002-2013.  Jane raised her children on the river downstream from Velsicol Chemical Corporation.  She is also a grandmother and great-grandmother.  Her memoir of the first 16 years of the Task Force efforts (1998-2013) was published in 2015 and is available on Amazon under the title Tombstone Town.  She will publish volume 2 in 2024.  She can be emailed at jkeon@charter.net.

Ed Lorenz, Vice Chair: Ed has served as a leader of the Task Force since 1998.  He is a retired professor of public policy at Alma College, where his teaching included environmental and public health policy.  He has written a half dozen published books and articles on the lessons of the region’s contamination.  He can be reached at lorenz@alma.edu or (989) 463-6170.

Brittany Fremion, Secretary: Brittany has been directing The Michigan PBB Oral History Project since 2018.  She is associate Professor of History at Central Michigan University, Mt. Pleasant, MI.  Her email is Fremi1b@cmich.edu

Gary Smith, Treasurer: Gary has served as a member and usually Treasurer of the Task Force since its founding in 1998. He is a long-term resident of ST. Louis and worked briefly at Michigan Chemical during the closure of the plant.  Gary’s can be reached by email at gjsgilmore@yahoo.com

Nikki Brabaw, Nikki became involved with the Task Force in 2018 while working on her master’s thesis at Central Michigan University. Her thesis was a subproject of The Michigan PBB Oral History Project, which is still active, and directed by Dr. Brittany Fremion. Nikki graduated from CMU in May 2020 and now works at Auto-Owners Insurance in Lansing, MI. Her email is nicolebrabaw@gmail.com

Other Members of the Board of Directors (often called the Executive Committee):

Wayne Brooks, Jim Hall, Margaret Hoyt, and Norm Keon

.Our Finances: This section summarizes sources of our funding. Monthly reports from the Treasurer are part of the Monthly Meeting Minutes.  

Other than Member’s dues and extra contributions, the Task Force has received funds from the following:

  1. As a Community Advisory Group (CAG) to U.S. EPA, the Task Force is allowed to apply for Technical Assistance Grants (TAG) designed to help (in the words from the U.S. EPA website): “[C]ommunities participate in Superfund cleanup decision-making. It provides funding to community groups to contract their own technical advisor to interpret and explain technical reports, site condi­tions, and EPA’s proposed cleanup proposals and decisions. An initial grant up to $50,000 is available to qualified community groups.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          “Congress made public involvement in decision-making an important part of the Superfund process when the program was established by the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) of 1980. Congress wanted to ensure that the people whose lives were affected by abandoned hazardous wastes would have a say in the actions taken to clean up sites. The role of community members in the Superfund process was further strengthened in the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act of 1986 (SARA). With SARA, Congress created EPA’s TAG program. TAGs are available at Superfund sites on EPA’s National Priorities List (NPL) or proposed for listing on the NPL, and for which a response action has begun. The NPL is a list of the most hazardous waste sites nationwide.”  (text from U.S. EPA website 8/8/20)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          The Task Force has received multiple TAGs since our founding in 1998.  Under the TAGs we have paid multiple experts to provide us with interpretation of EPA decisions. 
  1. In 2005 the Task Force won a bankruptcy settlement against Oxford Automotive Inc. in U.S. Bankruptcy Court that resulted in receipt of approximately $100,000. That fund has been devoted to funding activities not appropriate for TAG funding, including a study of birds dying of DDT poisoning and support for two human health conferences, the Eugene Kenaga International DDT Conference in 2008 and the Intergenerational Risk from Environmental Contamination conference in 2016.