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Great Lakes Article:

Sandusky Bay muck tested for high tar levels
Richard Payerchin
Morning Journal Bureau Chief

Posted 10/31/2002

SANDUSKY -- 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,'' Czeczele said.

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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