starts Shores cleanup
are being removed from drain, two canals
Edward L. Cardenas / The Detroit News
ST. CLAIR SHORES
-- Contractors working for the Environmental Protection
Agency are starting the delicate, yet challenging, three-month
effort to remove PCB-contaminated sediment from two boating
canals and drains in this lakeside city.
Large vacuum trucks are sucking sediment
and water from sewers along Bon Brae near Harper where the
largest concentration of chemicals has been found. It also
is the area where federal and local investigators believe
the PCBs were illegally dumped.
Along the residential boating canals near
Jefferson, even more heavy machinery can be found as work
crews drain off water from a small portion of the canals
in preparation for dredging operations.
Throughout the dredging project, the EPA
will be taking steps to ensure the safety of residents and
"We are doing daily air monitoring around
the excavation site," said Jim Augustyn, EPA on-scene coordinator.
"We do not expect much of a dust to be created (from the
Augustyn said tests have been taken outside
some homes in the area to see if the PCBs were in any lawns.
"Soil samples were taken at 16 different
properties and PCBs were not detected in every property
except one ... and it was below one part per million," Augustyn
That low level of PCBs is considered safe,
The estimated $4 million cleanup will
remove PCBs found in the two canals near Jefferson and 10
Mile and from a storm drain near Harper and Bon Brae. Crews
contracted by the EPA are planning to work from 7 a.m. to
7 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays.
Sludge in drains
Last week, more than 1 million gallons
of water were removed each day from the sewers to get to
sludge in the drains.
After the sludge is removed, sediment
and storm water will be washed out. This will be done to
remove any PCBs from inside the storm sewer and catch basins.
The sediment and storm water will be collected for treatment
and disposal in a special landfill that handles toxic waste,
Since the public was made aware earlier
this year of the PCBs in the canals and drains, St. Clair
Shores officials and residents have been waiting for the
cleanup to begin. A number of public hearings have been
held to keep residents informed.
Steve Gold, deputy health officer with
the Macomb County Health Department, said cooperation between
local, state and federal officials in the clean up of PCBs
in St. Clair Shores has been as good as he's ever seen.
"These cleanups frequently take years.
This one has been done in months," said Gold, who added
that all of the agencies involved have worked hard to keep
residents informed about the removal of the chemicals.
"When people don't know what is going
on they get worried and suspicious," he said.
But Dave Hargrave, spokesman for Toxic
Free Shores, a grassroots environmental group, said he and
a number of residents are unhappy with efforts to keep the
"We live there, play there and work there,
and have been cut out of the process," said Hargrave, who
also is concerned about the extent of the chemical pollution
and if it's exclusive to the Lange and Revere area.
"We are not sure what to clean up because
we don't know where the contamination begins and ends,"
PCBs banned in 1977
PCBs also are known as polychlorinated
biphenyls. The chemicals have been linked to cancer of the
liver, skin, intestinal system and reproductive organs.
They are chlorine-based and were used as coolants for electrical
transformers, hydraulic fluids, capacitors and similar commercial
uses. The government banned them in 1977.
Health officials say the danger is considered
minimal to residents.
Routine tests last summer in the canals
on Lange and Revere streets showed PCBs in the sediment.
Those tests were required before the shallow canals could
be dredged to make it easier for boats to pass through.
The test results were made public in February.
PCB levels in the canals were 100 times
above the safe level. Later tests in the Lange canal found
PCB levels 1,000 times the safe level. Readings reached
more than 100,000 times above the safe levels in the storm
drain under Bon Brae in the 10 1/2 Mile and Harper area.
In March and April, the EPA collected
more than 320 samples from the 10 Mile Drain storm sewers,
catch basins and sanitary sewers along Bon Brae, the canal
and the air in the area.
A small test area in the waterway that
connects the Lange and Revere canals, parallel to Jefferson,
has been drained to expose the bottoms of both canals. A
drying agent was placed on the mud to make it firmer and
easier to remove. Crews will remove about two feet of sediment
on the canal floor that is believed to contain PCBs.
Augustyn said the remainder of the dredging
will be done in 50-foot by 50-foot segments. About 250 feet
of the Revere canal and 1,000 feet of the Lange canal will
The EPA then will test the sediment. If
the sediment has the accepted level of one parts per million
of PCBs, it will be kept at the site. Sediments with higher
concentrations will be excavated and eventually disposed
"The (EPA and city) seem to be doing a
good job and taking precautions to keep everyone safe,"
said Charles Elderson, who lives along the Lange Street
Elderson, 64, said he keeps updated on
the progress of the dredging work by attending forums held
in the city.
"We all want this job done yesterday,
but it is a serious project," he said.
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