Lawmakers kayak Rouge River to mark cleanup progress since 1969 fire

State, federal money helped

By Nick Monacelli - Reporter

WAYNE COUNTY, Mich. - Wednesday marks 50 years since the 1969 Rouge River fire, which started near the Rouge plant and Zug Island.

Pollutants and oil helped fuel the fire, which became a catalyst to clean up the river. Two congressional leaders kayaked that river Tuesday, hoping to learn more about how clean it is now and what's needed in the future.

Bill Wazelle and his fishing buddy Al have fishing the Rouge down to a science. They've been fishing there for less than a year. Until then, Wazelle only remembered the river from his childhood.

"Back then, you didn't want to see what was floating in here. It was really bad," Wazelle said.

It's not nearly that bad anymore and in a way, it's due to the fire in 1969, which forced community members to begin cleaning it up. Then state and federal money came in, specifically the Watershed Grant in the '90s.

Congresswomen Debbie Dingell and Rashida Tlaib went to the river Tuesday to bring attention to the importance of funding.

Watch the video above for the full report.

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