More work to be done
In 1970 the U.S. passed the Clean Water Act and I had the opportunity to help implement it. Prophets of doom were predicting Lake Erie would become a swamp, and I was Engineer of Industrial Waste Control for a regional water and sewage facility serving 80 communities in southeast Michigan.
The major pollution in the area consisted of copper, cyanide, nickel, chromium, cadmium, and zinc from about 40 small plating companies that got their chemicals and expertise from a few large companies whose representatives were on commission. Waste increased their incomes.
Recycling their waste water saved these platers money. They became easier to convince after a bumper plant installed an evaporator that saved them a million dollars a year in 1975 dollars. It also helped by putting one flagrant polluter out of business. We closed his sewer connection. He could buy all the water he wanted, but he couldn’t flush his toilets. It also helped when the phosphate content of laundry detergents was limited by city decree. Chicago led the way.
The feds and the state were necessary helpers. We measured success by degrees—for example, when a bathing beach at the head of the lake was reopened after years of being unusable. The 1970s were the glory days of pollution control. There is more work to be done today both locally and globally.
Frank Pollard, Sc’44
Farmington Hills, MI