State eyes Manistique River PCB cleanup

MANISTIQUE — The final round of work intended to remove contaminated sediments from the Manistique River should begin this summer. Members of Michigan’s Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy shared information about the project during a meeting of the Manistique City Council Monday.

“We wanted to come here tonight (and) just kind of present to you the second part of our remediation project,” Aquatic Biologist Samuel Noffke — the project’s manager — said.

For decades, the Manistique River has been considered a Great Lakes Area of Concern due to elevated polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) levels. The presence of PCB in the river was said to be related to the use of chemicals to “de-ink” recycled paper at the city’s paper mill in the past.

“PCBs were used in that process, and there was a de-inking lagoon … that was one of the main sources of PCBs,” Noffke said. He also said there is no current source of PCB contamination on the river.

Efforts to remove contaminants from the Manistique River have been ongoing.

“There’s been a lot of work done over the years — there’s been multiple dredging projects,” Areas of Concern Coordinator John Riley said.

According to Riley, areas of concern are based on beneficial use impairments.

“We’re down to two impairments that remain in the Manistique River — one is restrictions on fish consumption, one is restrictions on dredging activities,” he said.

The upcoming work is meant to address both impairments.

“This is the final management action to be done on the ground to delist the Manistique River Area of Concern,” Riley said.

Noffke said the contractor for the work will be White Lake Dock & Dredge, which was involved with local dredging efforts in 2016.

“We’re happy that they put a bid in,” he said, noting White Lake’s previous experience will be useful.

Upcoming work on the river will incorporate a “moon pool.”

“What that is is it’s a excavator on a barge, and we’ll have a couple other empty barges on the side — (there’ll) be some turbidity curtain to make sure that any of the turbidity and PCBs that are disturbed during that removal process stay within this enclosed area,” Noffke said.

Materials removed from the river will be taken to a staging area near the paper plant in Manistique and prepared for transportation.

“To be able to truck that material … we need to add some sort of amendment to it,” Noffke said. He noted this will likely be cement.

Some areas where dredging is set to take place will be covered as part of the project.

“The plan is to place what’s called an activated carbon-sand cover to basically lock up any residual PCBs that might still be there,” Noffke said. Covers will also be placed in areas where dredging took place in 2016.

The dredging portion of the project will likely begin in midsummer.

“We’re expecting that to start about … early July,” Noffke said, adding the contractor will hopefully be on site in mid-May.

Once it starts, Noffke said, active work on the project is expected to continue through much of the remainder of the year.

“We’re hoping, then, to have all the dredging and all the cover done by … late November, early December,” he said.

After this, White Lake will return to the site next spring to do any additional work needed in keeping with state requirements.

“By this time next year, the project should be pretty much finished,” Noffke said.

In other business, council:

– accepted the resignation of former Council Member Rick Hollister. A letter Hollister wrote to City Manager Sheila Aldrich and the council’s other members was included in the agenda packet for Monday’s meeting.

“I have upcoming obligations that will prevent my full attention and attendance to upcoming meetings. It has been an absolute honor to serve the citizens of our community for the past 10 years,” Hollister wrote in the letter. Council also voted to place an ad seeking letters from people interested in filling the seat Hollister held.

– approved a motion to convert Chippewa Avenue from having four lanes to three after a public hearing.

– heard about plans for combined sewer overflow-related work in the city.

– allowed $28,920.25 paid to the Manistique Downtown Development Authority for the campground project to come from the campground fund instead of the marina construction fund.

– okayed updates to the city’s Freedom of Information Act policy.

– approved revised bylaws for the Manistique Senior Citizens Center Board.