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DDT WarsRescuing Our National Bird, Preventing Cancer, and Creating EDF$
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Charles F. Wurster

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780190219413

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190219413.001.0001

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Proceed with Caution, then Sue the Bastards in Michigan

Proceed with Caution, then Sue the Bastards in Michigan

3 (p.29) Proceed with Caution, then Sue the Bastards in Michigan
DDT Wars

Charles F. Wurster

Oxford University Press

At that first meeting on October 6, 1967, the new trustees of EDF had voted to “proceed with caution,” given the precarious position of this essentially nonorganization with no assets. It was an easy motion and it passed unanimously, but before long caution was thrown to the winds when Lew Batts described an imminent planned application of the insecticide dieldrin in western Michigan. Intended to eradicate an alleged infestation of Japanese beetles, dieldrin was to be applied to 3,000 acres in Berrien County near Lake Michigan by the Michigan and United States Departments of Agriculture. Lew wanted EDF to stop them. We already knew something about dieldrin, a chlorinated hydrocarbon relative of DDT and an environmentally destructive material, more acutely (immediately) toxic than DDT. We knew it would kill birds and mammals and could damage fish. Furthermore, Lew Batts was connected with a Michigan foundation that had more money, but less arrogance, than we did. EDF was designed to litigate, and Batts’s organization certainly was not. He guaranteed the assembled new trustees of EDF that if we would tackle the Michigan Department of Agriculture (MDA) in court to block the dieldrin application, he would support the effort with $10,000. The fat was in the fire! EDF’s trustees voted to cautiously sue the Michigan Department of Agriculture, and anybody else if necessary, to prevent the dieldrin treatment. Furthermore, several communities within the Lake Michigan watershed in western Michigan were using DDT in an attempt to control Dutch elm disease, a futile exercise with which we were very familiar (Wurster DH et al., 1965). With both of these destructive chemicals contaminating the fish, it would be difficult to separate the effects of each chemical from the other. So we decided to sue not only MDA in connection with its proposed dieldrin application, but we would add as defendants nine cities in western Michigan within the Lake Michigan watershed that were using DDT (Fremont, Muskegon, Greenville, Rockford, Lansing, East Lansing, East Grand Rapids, Holland, and Spring Lake).

Keywords:   Coho salmon in Lake Michigan, Dutch elm disease, Japanese beetles, sovereign immunity

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