Friday, May 18, 2018

New PCB Cleanup Proposed for St. Clair Shores Superfund Site

St. Clair Shores -
Recently, US EPA announced plans to remove soil contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) from several locations encompassing approximately 30 (mostly residential) lots in the Ten Mile Drain Superfund area of St. Clair Shores, MI. The agency encourages public comment on the proposal. Excerpts:

"The site is northeast of Detroit on the western shores of Lake St. Clair in Macomb County, Mich. The site covers several city blocks where PCBs have been found inside the Ten-Mile Drain system as well as near-surface soil and sediment (mud) in the Lange and Revere Street canals connected to Lake St. Clair. The site was placed on the National Priorities List in 2010 making it eligible for cleanup funds under EPA’s Superfund program."

"Investigators believe PCB-contaminated oil originated from a historical release at the commercial property located at the corner of Lakeland Street and Harper Avenue in Investigation Area 1. It appears the PCB-tainted oil was dumped there or used for dust control on a former dirt parking lot. There is not an ongoing release of PCBs from the commercial property to the Ten Mile Drain system."

"Several investigations and cleanup actions have taken place since PCBs were first discovered at the site in 2001."

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Altering Michigan Wetlands

Selections from “A Property Owner’s Guide to Wetland Protection in Michigan”

MSU Extension

“Most people are familiar with the cattail or lily pad wetlands found in areas of standing water, but wetlands can also look like grassy meadows, shrubby fields, or mature forests in areas that are wet enough to alter the soils and plants that are present.”

“A permit from the [Michigan Department of Environmental Quality - MDEQ] is required … to authorize construction activities including filling, dredging, draining, and construction or operation of a use or development in a wetland.”

“If a permitted activity results in the significant loss of wetlands, your permit may require
mitigation, that is, the replacement of the lost wetland area and its public benefits through restoration, creation, or in some instance preservation of other wetlands.”

Monday, October 17, 2016

Oakland Justifies Lake St. Clair Pollution

For years, local authorities have treated combined sewer overflows (CSOs) with chlorine to kill bacteria in preparation for diverting the overflow following heavy rains away from wastewater treatment plants and into natural water bodies.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has been urging state and local officials to convert combined sewer systems into separate sanitary and stormwater sewer systems.

“Oakland County dumped 2 billion gallons of sewage into Macomb in August storm”“Several hours after the Aug. 11 [2014] storm, the polluted Red Run Drain in Warren was still about 20 feet above its normal level.”

Thereafter, pathogens, toxins and nutrients originating in household wastewater would go to a wastewater treatment plant for removal while the heavy volume of rainwater would flow separately, directly into lakes and streams. Cities like Lansing and Grand Rapids have undertaken such conversions.
Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner Jim Nash justifies not planning for separate stormwater and sanitary sewage systems by arguing that separated stormwater runoff is not treated, so whatever pollutants it carries off streets, parking lots and roofs ends up in lakes and streams.

Presently, Nash sends combined storm and sanitary effluent from the giant Kuhn Retention Basin in Madison Heights to a wastewater treatment plant in Detroit.

If heavy rainfall threatens to overwhelm the treatment plant, Nash partially treats the combined fluids with chlorine to control pathogens such as bacteria and sends the deluge into Red Run, through Macomb County to the Clinton River and Lake St. Clair.

But the sanitary sewage component contains the nutrients like phosphorus that are found in human waste. Those nutrients generate algal blooms, some with toxic potential, that contribute to the degradation of Lake St. Clair.

In other words, Nash seems content to pass on to Lake St. Clair the pollutants in the waste of hundreds of thousands of people rather than the separated stormwater running off roofs and pavements.

Go figure.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Corps of Engineers Relents, Will Dredge Cleveland Ship Channel

James F. McCarty reports in the Cleveland Plain Dealer on October 3, 2016:
CLEVELAND, Ohio – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced late Monday that it would dredge the upper reaches of the Cuyahoga River shipping channel where sediment has been piling up, forcing cargo ships to "light load" during deliveries to the ArcelorMittal steel mill.
The Army Corps ended its year-long refusal to dredge on the condition that, if the agency prevails in a federal court lawsuit, Ohio would reimburse the Corps for the additional costs required to dump the sediment into Dike 10, a confined disposal facility on the Lake Erie shoreline near Burke Lakefront Airport.
The Army Corps has maintained the sediment is nontoxic and safe enough for open lake disposal. But the Ohio EPA disagreed and blocked that action, maintaining that the sediment is too polluted with PCBs. 

ArcelorMittal Steel - Cleveland

OCTOBER 16, 2016 UPDATE: Following court proceedings, the Corp of Engineers has awarded a $3.7 million contract to dredge the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland. It is anticipated that dredging will start soon.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Improve Lake St. Clair by Removing Floodplain Sediments

Michigan and Ontario residents alarmed about pollution in Lake St. Clair shouldn’t limit their concern to combined sewer overflows. More could be done to improve water quality upstream in the small ditches and creeks that contribute algae-fueling nutrients to rivers like the Clinton and Thames leading to the lake.

Big Spring Run -

Good results are being realized in the Chesapeake Bay watershed from the restoration of floodplains and wetlands far upstream by removing legacy sediment deposits loaded with nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen.

One example is a project in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania which was completed five years ago. Sediment deposits from careless land use practices in the past were removed from 12 acres of bottom land. Four and a half acres of aquatic habitat were restored and reconnected to the watershed, as well.

Sediment removed is said to have been 22,000 tons, including 25 tons of phosphorus and 30 tons of nitrogen.

“Chief among the latest findings is research showing dramatic reductions in surface water temperatures and nitrogen, the re-establishment of threatened species of plants, colonization by the green frog and a 50 percent reduction in sediment leaving the restored ecosystem.”

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Dogs Sniff Out and Back Track Sewage

Lake and beach pollution from human waste in and around Lake St. Clair has led to a lot of finger pointing, but too few solid conclusions as to sources. Are the sources faulty septic tanks, leaky municipal sewage pipes or overflowing retention-treatment basins?

Environmental Canine Services LLC uses dogs to sniff out human waste. The service reports completing 50 projects in 12 states, including 23 in Michigan. The idea was first studied and verified in Santa Barbara, CA six years ago.

Back-tracking human waste in this manner is faster and less expensive than unassisted sampling  and lab testing. Moving upstream, the dogs choose which fork to follow at the confluence of sewers, streams and ditches, leading more quickly to the source of pollution. Simultaneously, samples can be taken at each turn for later confirmation in the lab.

The time is long past due to apply rational process on this subject in place of political wrangling around Lake St. Clair, especially in the Clinton River watershed.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Stormwater Runoff Fees Omitted on 20,000 Detroit Properties

Over 20,000 parcels that contribute stormwater runoff but aren’t being charged will be added to DWSD’s billing system this October.

***  SUMMARY  ***

Every year, billions of gallons of contaminated stormwater runoff and snowmelt pour off roofs, sidewalks, parking lots and other impervious surfaces into Detroit’s combined sewer system, then perhaps to a retention-treatment basin (RTB) and eventually to the wastewater treatment plant. The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD), Detroit’s retail water agency for the Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA), says this runoff costs more than $125 million annually.
Federal and state regulators required DWSD to spend more than $1 billion in combined sewer overflow storage facilities (RTBs) to reduce polluted overflows into natural waterways like the Detroit River. The drainage charge to property owners offsets this investment and the drainage treatment costs.
Most DWSD customers have been paying for drainage as part of their water and sewer bills. The City Assessor’s Office and DWSD are working to ensure that all parcels are billed for their share of drainage costs.
DWSD intends to begin a green infrastructure credit program in October. Customers who reduce runoff can earn credits to be applied to their bill. Fair, accurate billing and green infrastructure practices will benefit the city and its residents.
DWSD provides a  Parcel Viewer  on which to search for parcel information by address. Impervious surface area is used to calculate drainage charges. DWSD says it has data from the City Assessor's Office and flyover images to determine impervious surfaces. Property owners who disagree with the data can complete a drainage survey form.
Over 20,000 parcels that contribute stormwater runoff but aren’t being charged will be added to DWSD’s billing system this October. Customers who need to update parcel information or ask questions should contact DWSD.  A Customer Steering Committee meeting has been scheduled for July 14, 2016.