A Letter from Eric Smith
Our County’s natural resources are important to all of us. We are blessed with the privilege to live and work and raise our children in this beautiful community.
The quality of our air, land and water impacts all our lives. It certainly touches mine: I live on Lake St. Clair, and my daughter likes to play in the water every day during the summer. There’s no place better to relax and take in the wonders of our Michigan outdoors.
My office’s Environmental Unit is dedicated to maintaining these resources. Our prosecutors work to prevent those who would pollute our environment and corrupt our shoreline. We work closely with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Environmental Quality to ensure that our waters, wetlands, and streams are as clean and safe for our children as they are for us.
Working together, we can keep our community the most beautiful in Michigan.
Very truly yours,
Eric J. Smith
Macomb County Prosecuting Attorney
Eric Smith’s Environmental Unit fights to protect natural resources. The Unit rigorously enforces and assists the county in developing strong environmental policies and programs.
Lake St. Clair is situated on the US – Canadian border, northeast of Detroit, and directly east of Macomb County. The Lake is a vital component of the Great Lakes ecosystem. Waters from the upper Great Lakes enter Lake St. Clair from the north via the St. Clair River. In as little as 9 days, the flow from the St Clair River passes through Lake St. Clair and is discharged to the Detroit River to the south and eventually into Lake Erie.
Macomb County is by far the largest local governmental unit on the American side of the Lake. The Clinton River, which is the largest of the main rivers in the Lake, empties into the Lake near Mt. Clemens, Michigan. These circumstances have compelled Macomb County to assume a leading role in efforts to restore the ecological quality of the Lake.
Major water problems in Lake St. Clair and its tributaries include high bacterial counts in near-shore waters which have led to periodic beach closings; persistent high levels of bio accumulative substances such as mercury (which has led to the issuance of fish advisories); and non-regulated substances such as chlorides and sulfates. The ecological balance of the Lake has also been altered by the introduction of non-native plant and animal species, such as the zebra mussel and Eurasian milfoil as well as invasive species such as phragmites.
Eric’s Environmental Unit prosecutes criminal violations of state laws and county ordinances relating to environmental quality. This task includes assisting environmental and criminal law enforcement agencies in investigating violations; authorizing criminal charges; and handling pre-trial, trial, and post-trial proceedings. The Environmental Unit also represents the Office on multi-agency task forces and on other environmental regulatory and enforcement initiatives and organizations.
The Environmental Unit also files civil actions and intervenes in administrative proceedings on behalf of the county prosecutor to prevent harm to the environmental health, safety and welfare of the citizens of the county. Upon request, the Environmental Unit advises county departments and the county board of commissioners on environmental law and policy issues.
The Prosecutor’s Office has the general legal authority to file charges for criminal violations of state environmental laws and county ordinances. The Environmental Unit accepts case referrals from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) Office of Criminal Investigations; the County Sheriff’s Department; and local police departments. Most criminal referrals are from MDEQ.
The Environmental Unit handles many kinds of environmental criminal cases, including clean water act; solid and hazardous waste; scrap tire; underground storage tank; pesticide application; and wetland violations; as well as traditional crimes related to falsification of environmental records. The majority of criminal cases have involved violations in two areas, wetlands protection and solid waste disposal.
Some examples of environmental crimes which the Environmental Unit will handle include polluting drains, discharging pollution into the Lake or it’s tributaries in violation of law, illegally disposing solid or hazardous waste, littering involving medical or infectious waste, watercraft pollution, and illegal use of pesticides.