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DEQ officials hear comments on environment at open house

John Tunison
The Grand Rapids Press
04/16/2002

HOLLAND -- Gerrit Sturrus wanted to give the state's top environmental enforcement officer a few thoughts Monday on how to tackle the clean-up of PCB-contaminated soils in the Kalamazoo River.

Unfortunately, Sturrus had to settle for discussing the matter with other supervisors with the state Department of Environmental Quality.

Several DEQ officials were at West Ottawa's Harbor Lights School on Monday as part of an open house to take comments on various environmental issues.

Although a DEQ notice had indicated that DEQ Director Russell Harding would be in Holland, he was not able to make the stop.

"I kind of thought he was going to be here," a disappointed Sturrus said.

Sturrus wanted to share his concerns about a decision last year to transfer most of the responsibility for cleaning up PCB-contaminated sediments in the Kalamazoo River to the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

Sturrus, of Saugatuck, figures the move probably won't help speed the river's cleanup and lift an advisory on eating fish caught in the river. He believes the EPA lacks the funding to properly address the cleanup.

DEQ officials from eight divisions, such as the air quality and environmental response divisions, were at "stations" set up in the school's cafeteria.

Rich Powers, chief of the land and water management division, said Monday's open house was simply an opportunity for residents to ask any environmental-related question.

It was one of about 30 public meetings the DEQ has sponsored in Michigan communities since 1996. The next meeting is June 3 in Escanaba.

Powers said the meetings help DEQ officials better understand how environmental policies effect residents.

David Swan of the Saugatuck area showed up Monday to ask questions about an ongoing effort to build a water treatment plant at Saugatuck Dunes State Park.

Swan is concerned such a plant would cause too much environmental disruption to the park.

He also wanted to talk to DEQ officials about ongoing cases of groundwater contamination, involving a chemical degreaser, in the Saugatuck and Douglas areas.

Holland resident Carol McGeehan, who has long championed environmental issues, came to learn more about DEQ regulations for building homes on sites with contaminated groundwater or soils.

She said she has been following news about a development planned for the former Mi-Ro Golf Course in Douglas. Groundwater underneath a portion of the site is contaminated, although the development will be served by public water.

© 2002 Grand Rapids Press. Used with permission
This information is posted for nonprofit educational purposes, in accordance with U.S. Code Title 17, Chapter 1,Sec. 107 copyright laws.

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