Few things degrade our public lands more than illegal dumping. But few things are more inspiring than volunteers enduring swarms of bugs, pungent muck, and sweltering heat to clean up eyesores despoiling the environment and threatening public health. In June, a team of 13 DTE Energy employees cleaned up an illegal roadside dump located about 35 miles north of Grand Rapids in Montcalm County.

Volunteers from DTE’s Six Lakes natural gas facility pulled tires out of the woods, hauled them up an embankment and loaded them onto a trailer for transportation to Howard City for a Reynolds Township community cleanup and disposal event.

The project was coordinated by the Muskegon River Watershed Assembly (MRWA), which identified the illegal dump and targeted it for cleanup. DTE employee Tyler Gage learned about the need when he contacted the MRWA for volunteer opportunities.

“It was tough work because many of the tires were dumped years ago and were buried in sand and muck,” said Gage, a transmission operations supervisor at DTE’s Six Lakes facility.

“Never doubt that #DTECares,” wrote the MRWA on its Facebook page. “Today, DTE supervisor, Tyler Gage, and a full crew showed up at a spot near Rice Creek in Reynolds Township with determination and heavy equipment. Before the day was done, they had hauled over 150 discarded tires and one rotted mattress out of the woods and loaded them on to a trailer for recycling. Nothing remains but trees and a pretty little stream that now flows clean and clear.”

Earlier this year, DTE gas employees participated in a similar illegal dump cleanup in the hills and ravines of northeast Pennsylvania.

DTE’s W.C. Taggart Compressor Station at the Six Lakes site is a natural gas compression and storage facility, located about 18 miles from the Rice Creek cleanup site. Opened in 1955, Six Lakes is the DTE’s oldest gas compressor facility and has 21 compressors, several of which are 1950s-era cruise boat engines that push natural gas into more than 2,300 acres of underground storage reservoirs then draw the gas out when needed to serve customers.