10/1/2014

Zug Island, Detroit Michigan

Zug Island

Zug Island

Zug Island is one of the most intensively industrialized landscapes in the US. The entire island is covered by a steel mill. It is clearly visible as a dark red blotch on satellite imagery. Zug Island is small, at around one square mile. It was created by the rerouting of the main channel of River Rouge in 1888. The island is surrounded by the industrial and post-industrial landscapes of southeastern Detroit and River Rouge. It is currently occupied by part of US Steel's Great Lakes Works. The rest of the Great Lakes Works is in Ecorse a few miles south. Basic iron production for the works happens on Zug Island which houses three of the rapidly dwindling number of blast furnaces in the US. The furnaces are the tall knots of rusting pipes seen in the photos above and below. The entire island is private property and off limits to visitors. The single bridge onto the island is plastered with warning and do not enter signs. Some of those signs may have been posted when a friend drove me through the island around 1990 but I don't remember seeing them. I remember the trip through the works on the narrow access road though. Sparks showered and molten metal lit up the cavernous darkness of the plant's buildings. The entire island was covered in cinders. The air reeked of coal smoke and the noises of the machinery shook the car. It was like nothing I'd ever seen at that point and it made quite an impression on me. I'm pretty sure that quite a few of the plant's structures, that existed in the 90s, have been torn down. The satellite view of the island doesn't look as densely packed as what I remember. I know the mills in Ecorse, River Rouge and Trenton have been significantly thinned. Zug Island is not something the United States needs more of. It was, and is, filthy, dangerous, and has helped pollute a wide surrounding area. It is exactly the kind of thing we have exported, principally to China, where they now have to deal with the toxic effects. Cleaner steel production is possible though. It's just more expensive. I think that paying a little more for cleaner steel produced at home would have enough benefits that it would at least be worth discussing.

 

Historic Fort Wayne is just north of Zug Island. The River Rouge Ford plant is just west. A little south of Zug Island is the rest of the Great Lakes Works in Ecorse. There is a large closed steel mill in Trenton about 10 miles north along the river.

 

Zug Island

Zug Island

Zug Island

Zug Island


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