EPA: Zebra mussels may increase beach muck
By Justin Engel
The Saginaw News
Published February 1, 2008
Environmental Protection Agency officials updated a mid-Michigan crowd on plans to explore nutrient levels in the Saginaw Bay.
About 100 people attended the Saginaw Valley State University-hosted forum that included a recap of dioxin dredging in the Tittabawassee and Saginaw rivers in 2007.
Much of the meeting focused on zebra mussels and other invasive species that are changing the makeup of Lake Huron and its connecting waterways.
James Schardt, a scientist with the EPA's Chicago office, said the emergence of zebra mussels has "created a real nutrient problem" in Lake Huron.
"They're really sucking up nutrients," Schardt said, "and making the water clearer."
The translucency is allowing sunlight to reach depths of the water previously left in the dark, he said. That's resulted in more algae that some refer to as "muck" to form along shorelines.
Scientists aren't as clear how much of a problem that has created for the Saginaw Bay.
Schardt said EPA and state Department of Environmental Quality officials plan to collaborate on a study this summer to examine the algae levels on the bay.
Gary Gulezian, another EPA scientist, said the Great Lakes and its connecting waterways are "changing in a way we haven't seen before" because of the invasive species.
"Scientists are questioning what they used to believe," he said.
The meeting came less than a month after the EPA cut off cleanup talks with Dow Chemical Co. over decades-old dioxin contamination in the Tittabawassee River system.
Officials didn't add much to that discussion Thursday other than to say they couldn't disclose the reasons for the abandoned negotiations because of a confidentiality agreement.
The meeting also included a recap of the completed clean-up efforts of four dioxin "hot spots" dredged in 2007, including a contaminated spot in the Saginaw River near Wickes Park in Saginaw.
Meanwhile, officials with the DEQ are preparing for the next quarterly dioxin meeting at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 7, at the Horizons Conference Center in Saginaw Township.
The meeting will include updates on Tittabawassee River studies and plans for 2008.
Dow, which typically co-hosts the meetings, will not participate.
Officials with the Midland chemical complex cited a lack of new information since a November meeting as the reason for the absence.