This marker commemorates one of the greatest Detroit and Great Lakes success stories, but a story that is seldom told and little known. Industries erected their factories up along the shores of the Great Lakes and the rivers that linked them shortly after the discovery of copper, iron ore and other minerals in the Lake Superior region in the 1840s. By 1885, America’s industrial core was located near the Great Lakes. And then industrial activities spurted with the emergence of the vehicle industry in this region and during both of the world wars when the ingenuity of the area’s engineers and the strong backs and arms of thousands of workers preserved democracy.
Until after World War II, there were few controls on pollution in some Great Lakes. The fauna of the area were threatened. And then national leaders in the United States and Canada realized that actions had to be taken to stop pollution, and in some cases, clean up brownfields.
In 1972 mercury was discovered in the waters of the Great Lakes. This finding, among others, prompted Congress to enact the United States Clear Water Act of 1972. The law sought to eliminate the release of toxins into the nation’s waters. In other words, firms could no longer allow pollutants to flow into lakes and rivers. The law was strengthened and renewed by the Clean Water Act of 1977 and the Water Quality Act of 1987.
Four of the Great Lakes and four of the rivers linking them have both Canadian and US shores. Improving water quality was a challenge for both countries. In 1972, the governments of the two nations adopted the US-Canada Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement obligating both nations to enforce laws and regulations that would return and maintain the biologic integrity of the Great Lakes Basin ecosystem.
Those laws and agreements were effective in removing many or most impurities from the Great Lakes and thus the Michigan Historical Marker that you see celebrates the clean waters that we and the fauna around us may enjoy. On December 21, 2001, President Bush signed legislation creating the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge. The area includes the length of the Detroit River and the western shores of Lake Erie. Administrators seek to protect and encourage 29 species of waterfowl, 300 species of migratory birds and 65 species of fish.
The other side of this marker show a State of Michigan Informational Designation Marker commemorating the Detroit River.
State of Michigan Registry of Historical Sites:
State of Michigan Historical Markers: Erected 2007
Website describing the US Canada Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement of 1972:
Website for the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge: http://www.fws.gov/refuges/profiles/index.cfm?id=31521
Website for support group of Detroit River: http://www.detroitriver.ca/march-5-2009.html
Photograph: Ren Farley, August 2009
Description prepared: October, 2009
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