Detroit's Water Renaissance: The Rouge, a river in trouble

Sep 17, 2013


Fishing along the Detroit River near the Ambassador Bridge, looking back at Rouge pollution.
Credit Karen Schaefer

Water attracted early settlers to Detroit and water fueled its growth. Now it’s an important asset to the city’s recovery. Today we continue to explore Detroit’s waterfront: Challenges and opportunities  in our series Detroit’s Water Renaissance.

So far, we’ve looked at lucrative walleye fishing on the Detroit River,  daylighting streams and rebuilding shorelines. Today we explore the Rouge River. The Rouge River in Detroit is one of Michigan's—and the Great Lakes—most polluted waterways.  Generations of air and water pollution from heavy industry near the mouth of the river contaminated its sediments and made it unsafe for fishing.  Upstream, dense urban populations have overwhelmed sewer and storm water systems, sometimes dumping raw sewage into the Rouge.  The result is a river in trouble. 

And as independent producer Karen Schaefer reports, residents in the neighborhoods that surround the industrial Rouge have suffered along with the river.  This story was produced by Current State and Great Lakes Echo with support from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. We continue our series next Tuesday by looking at the impact of Detroit’s industrial past on the Rouge River.