Saturday, October 17, 2015

Update: Ten Mile Drain Superfund Site

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced recently that Harper Avenue between Bon Brae Street and Lakeland Street in St.Clair Shores, Michigan will be closed from mid-October to mid-November in order to remove contaminated sewer pipe, liner and backfill underlying Harper Avenue.  Work in the area is expected to be completed by mid-December.

The Harper Avenue project is part of EPA’s Ten Mile Drain Superfund Site cleanup.  In 2002, polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB), a toxic, synthetic chemical compound once added to oil for use as an electrical insulator and coolant, was discovered in two nearby canals leading to Lake St. Clair.  
The contamination was thought to have come from the stormwater sewer system in the vicinity of Ten Mile Road.  The canals were dredged by EPA contractors in 2003.  However, in 2005 local officials determined that contamination was ongoing.  Dozens of soil samples were taken, and a portion of the sewer was lined to prevent PCB from leaking into the system.
More sediment contaminated with PCB-laden oil was removed from the sewers in 2008 and 2009. Numerous weirs were installed to trap toxic sediment and identify the point of entry.

In 2011, another cleanup plan was initiated.  The contamination was traced to two manhole vaults, which were replaced in 2014.

While cutting back the liner inside a 48-inch reinforced concrete pipe beneath Harper Avenue recently, workers found that PCB-contaminated oil was flowing out of the end of the pipe between the liner and the pipe’s inside wall. EPA believes this is a source of PCBs to the rest of the Ten-Mile Drain system, and the Lange and Revere Street canals. Agency investigators have found high concentrations of PCBs near manhole vaults [previously replaced] which are at each end of the pipe beneath Harper Avenue.”,-82.9025096,15z

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AOC Meeting Announcement
The United States Environmental Protection Agency will be hosting the 2016 Areas of Concern Annual meeting for Tuesday and Wednesday, March 2-3 at the University of Michigan at Dearborn MI. Mark your calendars, reserve this date and spread the word to all who may be interested in attending.
Contact: John Perrecone, 312/353-1149,

Sunday, October 11, 2015

What’s Wrong with Our Rivers? Beneficial Use Impairments

“The International Joint Commission is an independent binational organization established by the United States and Canada under the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909….The purpose of the Commission is to help prevent and resolve disputes about the use and quality of boundary waters and to advise Canada and the United States on questions about water resources.”
IJC has labeled bodies of water and their surroundings in the Great Lakes region which exhibit extreme environmental degradation as Areas of Concern (AOCs) in need of remediation.
[The following italicized text has been reduced by approximately 40% through editing.  The unedited text is at: ]
The 43 AOCs around the Great Lakes are the most polluted areas in the basin.  Many of the  qualities and activities which people enjoy in these waters are impaired.  The Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement focuses on 14 Beneficial Use Impairments (BUI) described below.  At least one applies to each AOC.
  1. Restrictions on fish and wildlife consumption as a result of public health advisories about contaminants like mercury or polychlorinated biphenyl (PCBs) in the fish or wildlife.
  2. Tainting of fish and wildlife flavor because water quality is poor, for example, by reason of excessive algae in the water.
  3. Degradation of fish and wildlife populations caused by enough toxicity in the water or sediments to interfere with reproduction and growth.
  4. Fish tumors or other deformities exceeding rates at comparable (but unpolluted) sites.
  5. Bird or animal deformities or reproductive problems, such as cross-bill syndrome or egg-shell thinning, revealed by wildlife surveys.
  6. Degradation of benthos as occurs when the community structure of sediment-dwelling aquatic insects significantly diverges from unpolluted sites of similar physical and chemical characteristics.  In benthos degraded by pollution, community structure is skewed towards insects that are  tolerant of poor water quality, and away from insects that require good water quality.
  7. Restrictions on dredging activities, i. e. when contaminants in sediments exceed standards for the least restrictive disposal method, often open water disposal.
  8. Eutrophication or excessive algae attributed to excessive nutrient discharges from point (end-of-pipe) or nonpoint (diffuse land uses) sources.  Typically, the impairment manifests itself as nuisance or harmful algal blooms, dissolved oxygen depletion in bottom waters, and decreased water clarity.
  9. Restrictions on treated drinking water, as when contaminants still exceed human health standards, taste and odor problems are present, or additional treatment is necessary  beyond the standard in comparable locations free of offensive characteristics.
  10. Beach closings required when bacterial concentrations in water commonly used for recreation, such as swimming and other water activities, exceed applicable standards.  
  11. Degradation of aesthetics, as when a substance in the water produces an objectionable deposit, unnatural color or odor.  Examples include an oil slick or surface scum.
  12. Added costs to agriculture or industry, such as additional treatment for livestock watering, crop irrigation, and noncontact food processing.
  13. Degradation of phytoplankton (microscopic plant) and zooplankton (microscopic animal) populations reflected by community structure significantly diverging from the physical and chemical characteristics of similar but unpolluted sites.
  14. Loss of fish and wildlife habitat, most commonly diminished riparian (shoreline) vegetation, coastal wetlands, or underwater fish habitat.
There are criteria to measure remediation of individual BUIs in each AOC, known as delisting criteria (sometimes numeric, sometimes narrative).  A template of delisting criteria was developed by the IJC for individual AOC committees to adapt for their own specific use, which can be found here. Several U.S. States have developed delisting criteria guidance for AOCs in their jurisdictions – see Additional Information for links to those documents.
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Beneficial Use Impairments in the Clinton River AOC:

  • Restrictions on fish and wildlife consumption
  • Eutrophication or undesirable algae
  • Degradation of fish and wildlife populations
  • Beach closings
  • Degradation of aesthetics
  • Degradation of benthos
  • Restriction on dredging activities
  • Loss of fish and wildlife habitat

Beneficial Use Impairments in the River Rouge AOC:

  • Restrictions on fish and wildlife consumption
  • Eutrophication or undesirable algae
  • Degradation of fish and wildlife populations
  • Beach closings
  • Fish tumors or other deformities
  • Degradation of aesthetics
  • Degradation of benthos
  • Restriction on dredging activities
  • Loss of fish and wildlife habitat

Sunday, October 4, 2015

MACOMB DAILY Examines Future Water Costs

An article in the Macomb Daily by Norb Franz on September 28, 2015 about the cost of overdue water infrastructure upgrades is noteworthy.  Data in the accompanying graphic are especially revealing   Under the title “Billions needed to keep water systems working,” Franz wrote (excerpts):

Around the country, scores of decaying drinking water systems built around the time of World War II and earlier are in need of replacement. The costs to rebuild them will be staggering.

But without big changes in national policy, local governments and their ratepayers will be largely on their own in paying for the upgrades. The amount of federal money available is a drop in the bucket.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency projects it will cost $384 billion over 20 years just to maintain the nation’s existing drinking water infrastructure. Replacing pipes, treatment plants and other infrastructure as well as expanding drinking water systems to handle population growth could cost as much as $1 trillion.

New Orleans once boasted about not raising water rates for two decades. But in 2012, the city approved 10 percent increases on water bills for eight straight years as part of a plan to fix its crumbling system. The average household’s monthly water-and-sewer bill will climb to $115 by 2020.

Michigan ranks 27th in per capita federal spending for capital improvement projects for water. The state ranks 9th in projected money needed over 20 years at $13.8 billion…

Locally, the city of Mount Clemens, which operates its own water filtration plant and a waste water treatment plant, has borrowed $16.6 million to finance water system improvements. The last time was 2007, when $3.9 million was used for various upgrades, including an ozone system.

On the waste water side, Mount Clemens has borrowed $22 million. Nearly one-third is still to be paid off. That includes $1.19 million in 2010 from the State Revolving Fund for an ultraviolent light treatment system that cuts down on the use of chemicals. The city of Warren made the same improvement years ago.

There’s much, much more of interest in Franz’s piece, as well as the graphic.