Counties prepare for chemical spills of any size

Just how prepared are the local agencies that we rely on during emergencies like the one in West Virginia?

The water ban in West Virginia has been lifted, four days after a toxic chemical spill.

But the spotlight on the issue continues to grow. Many wonder what is being done in their own backyard to prevent a similar catastrophe from happening.

Just how prepared are the local agencies that we rely on during emergencies like the one in West Virginia?

The mere idea of a chemical spill in our beautiful northern Michigan waterways is a horrific thought.

"Disasters can happen at any time," Greg Williams, Emmet, Cheboygan, Charlevoix Counties Emergency Manager said. "There are some regulations however that are in place that help us identify when they have chemicals that are hazardous on property."

Emergency managers around the region say they are doing everything in their power to keep our water clean.

"We watch such things as storage of various chemicals and just make sure they have safety plans in place at the facility just in case there is some kind of release," Williams said.

Williams monitors keeps 20 different companies in his three county region.

Grand Traverse County follows the same policy. They ask each company with a certain amount of chemicals to fill out a form that helps first responders in case of a spill.

"It gives us a map of where the chemicals are stored at their facility," Gregg Bird, Grand Traverse County Emergency Coordinator said.

But what would happen if there were a spill in one of our rivers or lakes?

"First they would go and find out how big the leak is," Bird said. "How to stop the leak and our plan is to minimize the amount of spill."

An alert system is set up to notify us of any problems. But both emergency managers say no matter where the spill is, it's hard to really predict what you will be dealing with once it happens.

"No two releases are generally the same, so each one has a very unique and tailored response depending on what we are dealing with," Williams explained.


he emergency managers advise that all families prepare for any kind of emergency by stocking up on three to five days worth of water.