September is National Preparedness Month, but at the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE), preparedness for emergencies takes place all year long.
So far in 2022, EGLE has received 1,600 Pollution Emergency Alerting System (PEAS) notifications. EGLE has been involved in five major events this year:
- St. Mary River release
- Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza
- Flint River release
- Huron River release
- Great Lakes Water Authority line break
Jay Eickholt, EGLE’s emergency management coordinator, says preparedness and training for all sorts of environmental emergencies is paramount. That was the focus of a two-day conference in Lansing in June this year – the first such conference held by EGLE.
An EGLE staffer takes a water sample from the Huron River after a hexchrome release.
The conference attracted people from all over Michigan and demonstrated that the state has some of the best experts in the country, says Eickholt. After years of virtual meetings during the pandemic, the in-person conference made experts available to answer questions and provide real-world case studies to be better informed and prepared for future threats to the environment and public health.
EGLE also participates and leads emergency exercises across the state. During exercises to prepare for radiological incidents at nuclear power plants, EGLE’s Radiological Protection Section provides expertise and guides the State Emergency Operations Center through the exercise scenario. The drills allow for staff from across the department to prepare for various nuclear release scenarios.
Additionally, EGLE participated in equipment deployment in Rogers City, which simulated a hazardous material release to the water. This Coast Guard led exercise allowed staff to participate in a real-world hands-on experience with government and industry response organizations for the containment and recovery of the release.
Callers with an environmental emergency use EGLE’s 24/7 PEAS line hotline (1-800-662-9278), which has been in continuous operation since 1975.