• A worker cleans fly ash from one of the containers inside the silo at the Eckert power plant. (Photo by Steve Carmody)

There’s new cleanup work underway along Talmadge Creek near Marshall…near the site of 2010’s Enbridge oil spill.

The area was already the site of a massive cleanup effort. But now… work crews are back. The first round was supervised by the Environmental Protection Agency. This time… the state Department of Environmental Quality is overseeing the work.

Mark DuCharme is with the DEQ.
He says the initial EPA-supervised cleanup focused on removing visible oil and sheen from Talmadge Creek.

“Our criteria is a little bit steeper than that in that we’re looking at chemical constituents as well as we have a little more of a threshold for what’s sheen and oil than what EPA had.”

DuCharme says the work going on now will ensure that erosion in the creek is controlled and that there’s not a chemical problem with the groundwater or in any of the soils.

He says the work that the DEQ is overseeing on Talmadge Creek should be wrapped up by March.

Enbridge delivered a revised cleanup plan to the EPA last month. It outlines the company’s plans for removing submerged oil from the Kalamazoo River into 2012.

Mark DuCharme with the state DEQ says there is a possibility that more work will need to be done after that….

“We have the potential to find problem areas that are a concern under the state’s compliance endpoints… where we may go to Enbridge and say ‘You need to conduct a response action.’”

The DEQ is working with Enbridge and the EPA to identify areas where a second round of cleanup may be needed.

Enbridge estimates that the cost of the total cleanup will be in the range of 700 million dollars.


This is the Environment Report.

Coal burning power plants are often scrutinized for what they emit from smokestacks. But now a by-product of burning coal for electricity is getting a closer look. Steve Carmody reports:

For the past few days… Dennis Brabant and his crew have been vacuuming up tons of fly ash trapped in the silo at the Lansing Board of Water and Light ‘s Eckert Power Plant.

“That’s what we’re dealing with right there… it’s part of electricity.”

Brabant lets the fine power pour through his fingers. It spreads like water on the silo floor… and coats everything.

Fly ash contains trace amounts of mercury, arsenic, lead and other toxic chemicals.

Deborah Allen is the plant manager. She says BWL does everything it can to contain the fly ash in its silo…and keep it from escaping…and blanketing the surrounding neighborhoods in a fine dust.

“We had a gate that didn’t close last year….and it ended up putting about two to three inches of ash all over the equipment…the vehicles…and over into the park.”

But fly ash is not just by-product of burning coal…it’s also a commodity.

As recently as 2006…Lansing Board of Water and Light earned a million dollars from selling ash collected from its coal burning power plants to companies that make concrete and asphalt. What wasn’t sold was landfilled.

But as the recession slowed the economy… it also slowed demand for fly ash.

Meanwhile… there could be changes coming that could affect how BWL and other Michigan utilities dispose of their fly ash.

The EPA is thinking about changing the rules. Under one proposal… coal ash would be regulated as a ‘special waste,’ something akin to hazardous waste. The other proposal would classify coal ash as ‘non-hazardous waste.’

The public comment period on the proposed new regulation ends next week.

A Lansing Board of Water and Light official says BWL will “do whatever is necessary to comply with any existing or future regulation from the EPA.” That same official declined to speculate on what those changes may eventually be.

For the Environment Report, I’m Steve Carmody.