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First-of-its-kind Great Lakes Environmental Remediation and Redevelopment conference brings environmental professionals together

Crowd shot of attendees of RRD conference

Environmental professionals from across the region attended the Great Lakes Remediation and Redevelopment Conference in October to discuss ways to work together to ensure that public health is protected.

More than 600 environmental professionals attended the two-and-a-half day sold out conference in Lansing and built partnerships that will help the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGEL) and its stakeholders to solve complex cleanup and property reuse challenges.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 5 states, (Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio), 35 federally recognized tribal communities, and nationally-recognized experts shared case studies, heard about lessons learned, and celebrated the successes of environmental remediation and development projects across the region. Many American Institute of Professional Geologists members participated as speakers, exhibitors, sponsors, and participants.

There also were demonstrations highlighting equipment and technologies commonly used to collect information about property contamination, as well as 63 exhibitors, and 30 sponsors.

EGLE shared its perspectives on the topics of cleanup, community revitalization, emerging contaminants, program implementation, and other regional topics of interest. Attendees could take a brownfield walking tour of Michigan's capitol city to see prime examples of how contaminated properties can be safely put back into productive use. The tour showcased how the vision, partnership, and expertise brought new land uses for the community to enjoy.

The conference kicked-off with the keynote speaker, Grant Tigger, Michigan cleanup manager for the RACER Trust, which is tasked with the cleanup and redevelopment of former General Motors facilities. The trust is a unique example of how partnerships bring together all interested parties -- regulatory agencies, owners responsible for the contamination, consultants, communities, and developers – to tackle the common goal of cleaning up properties so they can safely be put back to productive use. 

The conversation would have been incomplete without the topic of emerging contaminants and PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances). Robert Bilott, partner at Taft, Stettinius, & Hollister LLP, told attendees about his 20-year battle against DuPont over PFAS contamination. EGLE's Michigan PFAS Action Response Team led discussions on the topic and one session was dedicated to it. State shared the latest research on how to determine whether treatment of PFAS works as well as their perspectives on challenges posed by the contaminants.

EGLE is exploring future opportunities to bring stakeholders together and solve the environmental contamination problems faced by Michigan communities.

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