Bay muck tested for high tar levels Richard
Morning Journal Bureau Chief
-- State workers hope to learn if the bottom of Sandusky
Bay has unusually high levels of tar in sediments.
A team of workers from the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency and Ohio EPA are using 10-foot-long tubes to remove
samples of sludge that have settled at the bottom of the
bay. In a study conducted in the late summer, a sample showed
a high level of creosote, known technically as a polyaromatic
hydrocarbon, officials said.
''Based on one sample, which isn't a whole lot of information,
there may be a problem, and if there is, we want to know
about it,'' said Mike Czeczele, supervisor of the emergency
response/special projects unit at Ohio EPA's Bowling Green
field office. This is the first investigation of its kind
in the area, he said.
The tar is carcinogenic, but does not offer much risk to
human health; it may pose an ecological risk if it is disturbed
and the materials spread, said Czeczele and Jim Augustyn,
an on-scene coordinator for the U.S. EPA office in Westlake.
If the levels of the tar are high, the U.S. EPA would search
for a source and possible remediation, Czeczele said.
Czeczele and other workers spent the day aboard a pontoon
boat equipped with a steel tripod and winch designed to
lower the tubes, which are about 6 inches in diameter, into
the bottom of the bay.
Anchored in about 6 feet of water in Deep Water Marina,
803 W. Shoreline Drive, they operated the winch and vibrating
motor that forces the tubes down into the bottom. The tubes
fill with sediment and hold it in as they are raised to
the surface and brought ashore, where workers cut the tubes
and take samples of the semi-solid, slate gray muck within.
As they cut open the tubes, the high wind would carry the
sludge's scent, similar to that of tar on a road.
The creosote, a coal tar formerly used to treat railroad
ties against deterioration, turned up this fall in a survey
designed to profile sedimentation on the bottom of Sandusky
Bay, said Brent Kuenzli, a worker in the Ohio EPA's division
of surface water who took the earlier samples.
That survey also aimed to collect sediment in areas where
combined storm water and sanitary sewer overflows can discharge
sewage into the bay, Kuenzli said. Sandusky has several
signs posted in the city warning residents of pollution
levels caused by the combined sewer overflows.
''We're back here because we want to take another look and
make sure we understand what the extent would be here,''
Most of the sediment samples will be tested for chemicals,
metals and pesticides at U.S. EPA's Central Regional Lab
in Chicago; results could come back in 30 to 60 days.
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