Note: The river in which the scooters were found has been updated from an earlier version of this story to the Red Cedar River.
EAST LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — After dozens of electric scooters were found in the Red Cedar River on Michigan State University’s campus, concerns are being raised about environmental contamination.
When several electric scooter companies were launched a few years ago, they were pitched as eco-friendly and convenient solutions to some of the transportation problems seen in cities like Lansing.
But a discovery made this past weekend suggests those plans may be sinking, not spinning.
More than 100 electric scooters were pulled out of the Red Cedar River on MSU’s campus. It’s not just a harmless college prank, experts say the pile of batteries in the water could make it unsafe.
“They do have toxic chemicals like cobalt, nickel and manganese. If they were to leach out into the river, it would be toxic,” said Mike Stout, president and founder of Michigan Waterways Stewards.
It could lead to a big problem, but some people are trying to help out by turning their hobby into a solution.
Xan and Venture Dulow are a father-son duo who love magnet-fishing. When they go out together, they normally find all the metal trash you’d expect — not thousands of dollars worth of electric scooters.
“There is a layer of Spin scooters over top of everything. Usually when we magnet fish we find rebar, rusty bits and pieces, the occasional bicycle and railroad plates; railroad spikes — the typical, normal metal that got thrown into the water,” Venture Dulow said. “Here, almost every throw is a scooter or a bicycle.”
The scooters can weigh up to 100 pounds when they are soaked and covered in mud. Lifting them out of the river and 15 feet onto the bridge can be back-breaking work.
But knowing they are making the river cleaner makes the worth it, Xan Dulow says.
“Those scooters, they have all those batteries in them. It leaks lithium and everything. It pollutes the water and makes it so you can’t swim it; kayak in it and fish can’t live in it. When we’re magnet fishing, we see turtles occasionally pop up on the trees, sticking out of the water. We want to help out the water life,” Xan Dulow said.
Spin, one of the brands of electric scooters, said it relocated 12,500 scooters in the Lansing area last year. But it can’t control the actions of students that damage its products.
“Our team has relocated more than 12,500 scooters in the past year in the Lansing program to keep our scooters neat and orderly in the city,” said Jimmy Gilman, Spin’s head of government partnership.
Both the company and the people working to clean the river said more needs to be done on campus to address the issue before it starts, and that college students should be informed of the dangers of the pollution.