Mid-Michigan birds contaminated with DDT - WNEM TV 5

Mid-Michigan birds contaminated with DDT

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A Mid-Michigan community that was the site of the costliest Environmental Protection Agency cleanup in history once again has the attention of environmentalists.

Volunteers are being trained on how to deal with birds contaminated with the pesticide DDT. 

Michigan State University wildlife toxicology professor Matt Zwiernik outlined to a couple of volunteers what they need to do when they come across dead birds in St. Louis.  

Last year some robins and other birds found in residential yards near the buried Velsicol Chemical plant site died from DDT poisoning. They think the DDT originated from that plant.

"We collected 28 birds and I think 27 of them had concentrations in their brains greater than a 100 [parts per million] which is considered the threshold for adverse effects," Zwiernik said.

Now the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality wants to gather as many dead birds as possible.

The volunteers are vital. They need to get out and find these dead birds before predators get a hold of them.

 "It's a health risk for the robins and the birds, probably not so much for the mammals," Zwiernik said.

Scott Davis has lived in St. Louis for years and he decided to help gather dead birds. He's an avid fisherman and hopes some day the badly polluted Pine River will be adequately cleaned up.

"I'd like to think that some day we can use the fish out of there and I don't know if I'll see it in my lifetime, but hopefully my grandkids will be able to use that river," Davis said.

Zwiernik used a wooden woodpecker to demonstrate to the volunteers how to handle the dead birds. The men who showed up Tuesday hope they'll get some help in order to take a huge bite out of the dead bird problem.

"Hopefully we can get some more people involved because the more people, the more better it is," Davis said.

Meanwhile, the EPA will hold an open house to discuss the upcoming residential soil cleanup work and answer questions. The open house will be held Wednesday from 3 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the St. Louis City Hall.

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