Stop the dumping of de-icer into the Thornapple River!
  • Petitioned Gerald R. Ford International Airport

This petition was delivered to:

Gerald R. Ford International Airport
Kent County Department of Environmental Quality

Stop the dumping of de-icer into the Thornapple River!

    1. Candice Norcross
    2. Petition by

      Candice Norcross

      Grand Rapids, MI

90,000+ gallons of de-icing fluid are generated by the Gerald R. Ford International Airport each year, in addition to other contaminants like jet fuel. In January of 2011, the DEQ issued a new 5-year stormwater permit, but only under the condition that the airport would find a solution to stop the contamination of a small neighborhood creek. A proposal was submitted on September 1.

The proposed solution? Divert the runoff to the next biggest river in the watershed. Officials hope "there is enough fast-moving water in the river to dilute the fluid". The Thornapple, even by 2030, is expected to abut 53% agricultural lands and 37% natural areas. Downstream from the airport, it flows through neighborhoods and parks - where residents swim, canoe, and kayak - meeting at the Grand River and flowing into Lake Michigan. 

The Thornapple River already sees some of this runoff as a consequence of the unnamed stream - which is seasonally plagued with a bacterial slime that feeds on glycol and sucks oxygen out of the water. DEQ and airport representatives rebuke locals' claims that the de-icer has killed their backyard wildlife; yet at the same time, there haven't been any studies in the Thornapple to determine if there actually are any fish. Just ten miles upstream, meanwhile, anglers say that there are "outstanding numbers of smallmouth bass". The facts do not add up. Who are these officials really protecting?

For a $15 million project aimed at environmental protection, can't the airport do better than just move the problem from the throat to the stomach? Airport officials reportedly complain other options are "too expensive", including more intensive recycling efforts on-site. Can we risk continued, and potentially even more, damage to our already polluted Michigan rivers for the sake of a quick fix?

The DEQ is investigating stormwater measurements and studies of the river to determine what are "acceptable" limits, what kind of permit(s) to issue, and, ultimately, which runoff proposal will get a green light. Let's keep the spotlight on this pollution. The airport needs to take accountability for its waste, and the DEQ needs to ensure a fair, thorough investigation that will protect our watersheds!

News articles:

http://www.freep.com/article/20110909/NEWS06/110909009/Plan-would-dump-de-icing-fluid-into-Michigan-river

http://www.woodtv.com/dpp/news/local/kent_county/New-airport-plan%3A-Dump-de-icer-in-river

http://www.mlive.com/news/grand-rapids/index.ssf/2011/09/consideration_of_ford_airports.html

 

Report on runoff alternatives: 

http://www.flygrandrapids.org/PDFs/SWAltEvalRpt032911.pdf

 

Other sources:

http://flyanglersonline.com/features/greatrivers/grand/

http://www.michigan.gov/documents/deq/lwm-nps-thornapple_240855_7.pdf

And a phone call to the Kent County DEQ (9/13/11).

 

Photo courtesy of Bonnie Westbrook.

Recent signatures

    News

    1. Sending our 10,000 signatures!

      Candice Norcross
      Petition Organizer

      Well, we've reached 10,000! While the airport has backed from their initial bold claims about the safety of their dumping plan, I am going to go ahead and print out all of your (your!) signatures and mail them to the airport with a letter that we look forward to their continuing efforts to go greener and keep the local neighborhoods and watersheds clean.

      Thank you for your support, everyone!!

    2. Reached 10,000 signatures
    3. Ford Airport committed to preserving environment (guest commentary)

      Corinne Ball
      Petition Organizer

      "It’s too early to know the details of the final solution design. But the airport knows its obligations: guarantee flight safety for passengers, cost-effective regulatory compliance for corporate partners, and environmental stewardship of the Thornapple River system for the community."

    4. Reached 8,000 signatures
    5. Heading to the meeting!

      Candice Norcross
      Petition Organizer

      One of the local environmental agencies has invited me to attend the stakeholder's meeting at which the airport's, and other, representatives will be present. The petition also got another mention in the Grand Rapids Press. Officials are taking note, getting the message, and looking to revamp the stakeholder committee process. You're being heard! That said, if you have a statement or comment for me that you'd like me to give to the committee, please e-mail me: [email protected]

    6. Reached 7,000 signatures
    7. As the numbers grow: a reflection.

      Candice Norcross
      Petition Organizer

      Welcome to those coming from the Grand Rapids Press, Facebook, and the press release. I'd like to take a minute to talk about the goals of this petition.

      With every news story, airport representatives defending the Thornapple dumping plan say that their goal is to "just" stop polluting the creek that currently takes the brunt of the runoff. That's true. If you read the documentation from committee meetings, that's the only goal that's stated. Create jobs? Too spendy. Better recycling facilities? Takes training. Those criteria literally docked points from other proposals. "Jobs + environmental protection = bad"? This whole thing is a loophole: stop dumping in one place. Easy!

      What's my goal with this petition? Thankfully, a tad more ethical than the airport's goal. I want to bring the spotlight on this issue and show that the airport has a great opportunity to be a positive change for the environment and the community, if they'd just accept it. Keep the dialogue, and pressure, going!

    8. Reached 3,000 signatures
    9. How You Can Support the Campaign to Protect Michigan's Thornapple River

      Corinne Ball
      Petition Organizer

      Petition starter Candice Norcross helps to clean up the river, writes about her inspiration to keep it safe, and shares ways to help.

    10. How You Can Support the Campaign to Protect Michigan's Thornapple River

      Corinne Ball
      Petition Organizer

      By Candice Norcross, a resident of Grand Rapids, MI and creator of a Change.org petition to protect the Thornapple River

      Forty-one volunteers arrived at Lincoln Park in Ada, Michigan for the annual River Clean-Up Day. The early risers pulled blue...

    11. Looking for community help!

      Candice Norcross
      Petition Organizer

      I've contacted two community-based river preservation groups (also stakeholders in the planning committee), asking for information - and input on this petition - with no response. I am not sure what to make of that, but I feel it's worth mentioning.

    12. Reached 500 signatures
    13. Let's keep climbing!

      Candice Norcross
      Petition Organizer

      Thank you for all of your signatures, links, and support. The response has been fantastic. Keep spreading the word! The goal is still 1,000!

    14. Reached 250 signatures
    15. Something that stuck in my craw.

      Candice Norcross
      Petition Organizer

      The official I talked to said "the slime in the creek is bacteria - it's natural. It proliferates due to an excess food supply". You heard 'em - it's "natural". You know what else is natural? Gangrene. Ah, let it go, it's natural!

    16. Reached 100 signatures
    17. A hands-on way to help the river.

      Candice Norcross
      Petition Organizer

      The annual River Clean-Up Day is coming to the Thornapple and Grand Rivers! Click above to find out how to register. Supplies and lunch provided.

    18. Reached 50 signatures
    19. Call to the DEQ.

      Candice Norcross
      Petition Organizer

      The DEQ official I talked to today said that there has been some misreporting in local papers. As such, I've updated the "about this petition" area to reflect what I've been told. There may be new facts, but the fight for accountability remains!

    20. Reached 25 signatures

    Supporters

    Reasons for signing

    • Kevin Booth FORT WASHINGTON, PA
      • over 2 years ago

      Concerned former MI resident

      REPORT THIS COMMENT:
    • We must do all that we can to clean up our watersheds and oceans for ourselves and generations to come.

      REPORT THIS COMMENT:
    • Kathleen Gatti GRAND RAPIDS, MI
      • over 2 years ago

      Many people in this area are dependent on wells for their water. If you dump this effluent into the river it will show up in the water table. How much is unknown and the effects on the river itself is unknown. As the local economy picks up, the number of aircraft will increase and this will exacerbate the problem. It is a known fact that polluted areas suffer economic woes as well as health issues of their population. Centralized de-icing can greatly reduce the amount of fluid getting dumped into the river without adding undue financial burden. The people who fly should pay for this, not the local population.

      REPORT THIS COMMENT:
    • Tiffany Smith WESTFIELD, PA
      • over 2 years ago

      wow, so this airline cannot afford to dispose of their waste so they just dump it in water, water that humans need to survive, that plant life and livestock need...to survive...wow

      REPORT THIS COMMENT:
    • Lily Middleman PATCHOGUE, NY
      • over 2 years ago

      Protecting the environment is such an important issue. To me, it's the most important issue that there is. That's why I'm trying to save the whales in Japan. Please sign my petition!


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