ON AN OTHERWISE quiet Thanksgiving weekend last year, the riverbank next to Revere Copper and Brass, the company known for making pots and pans that also made parts for nuclear weapons, collapsed into the Detroit River. The event was missed not only by many Detroiters but by most Americans, who remain largely unaware of the dangers of our crumbling former nuclear weapons sites. Michigan state agencies claimed that no radioactivity was released by the literal “fall-out”—or in this case, “fall-down”—but can they be trusted? Decades of misinformation about our nuclear weapons plants should put everyone on guard.
Work on the United States’ first atomic bomb took place at Detroit’s Revere site during World War II, and the facility continued to make uranium rods during the Cold War. During this era, intensive nuclear weapons production systematically contaminated lands surrounding such Department of Energy sites as Rocky Flats in Colorado, Pantex in Texas, and Hanford in Washington state. As we enter a new era when these now-defunct sites are either remediated or left to crumble, what do we need to know?
Water safety is only one concern. The fact that Michigan’s state agencies only found out about the spill after the Canadian side reported it should be a red flag. It took a full week for the state’s environmental agency to test the water at the Revere location, just downstream from the intake pipes for drinking water for most southeast Michigan residents. Michigan especially should be vigilant regarding water safety, with Flint residents still waiting for safe drinking water.