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E-M:/ Conservation-Minded "Save Our Shoreline" Group Awaits Key DEQ Decision on Nugent Sand





Municipalities Pass Resolutions To Thwart Aggressive Mining Operation

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Contact: Darlene A. DeHudy, Vice-PresidentSave Our Shoreline 

July 8, 2004 Muskegon Save Our Shoreline 231-780-2799

NORTON SHORES - Muskegon area residents anxiously await Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) Director Steven Chesterís decision whether Nugent Sand Company will be able to discharge 8.3 million gallons of mining wastewater per day into Lake Michigan. A Muskegon Chronicle poll showed 93% of the public is against the proposal. Five municipalities and scores of environmental groups have expressed opposition to the plan.

Robert Chandonnet, sole owner of Nugent Sand and the future Dune Harbor Estates Development, wants the pipeline for two reasons. The primary reason is to stop residual mining additives from entering the groundwater. The secondary reason is to stabilize the mining lake levels prior to building Dune Harbor Estates, a multi-million dollar housing development.

In 2003, the DEQ Geological and Land Management Division denied Nugentís permit to put a pipeline through the critical dunes and build a multi-ton erosion structure on the beach due to significant negative environmental impacts. As Nugent appealed, Administrative Law Judge, Richard Patterson declared the structure "not a structure" and cited "economic hardship" as a key factor to permit approval, recommending to Steven Chester that a special exception be granted. This skirts Michigan environmental laws which prohibit permanent structures from being built on the lakeward side of the dunes and forbid destabilization of critical dunes. Chester can decide any day.

John Fordell Leone, Assistant Attorney General, says Michigan law provides special exceptions to landowners with structures already built, whose health and safety are threatened. Since this is not the case, Leone says the state of Michigan should not put its rare natural resources in danger due to the poor business decisions of Chandonnet. Chandonnet chose not to hire experts with sufficient hydrology experience when planning his development.

Chandonnet also did not heed the warning in the 1979 Environmental Impact Study that stated, "future operations plans call for the extension of the dredge pond to the south, (what is now the completed South Lake) such that it would cross the groundwater gradient toward the individual domestic wells. The effects of this future operation on drinking water are unknown." Chandonnet unabashedly mined into the aquifer interjecting mining additives in the process.

Winnetaska and Idlewild residents have witnessed their well water deteriorate from being better than city water to being unusable, orange, stringy, with floaters and foul smelling. For about twenty years their complaints to the City of Norton Shores, the Muskegon County Health Department and the DEQ went unheeded.

Finally, the DEQ has "found" an indirect link between the Nugent sand mining additives, Pamak and Pine Oil, and the groundwater contamination. Consequently, the 2003 Groundwater Permit requires Nugent to provide a permanent potable water source to the affected residents. Chandonnet says it has never been proven in court that they have contaminated the groundwater. He has contested the requirement to provide water which is currently under negotiations. In the meantime, Nugent continues to mine. They have provided no water.

Idlewild and Winnetaska residents have sued Nugent over the contamination of well water with extremely high levels of iron and manganese. Dr. Eugene D. Weinberg, microbiology professor at Indiana University, has studied the effects of excess iron. He says it is widely known in the scientific community for over fifty years that excess iron impairs the immune system and feeds disease, anything from Alzheimerís to cancer.

James Janiczek, DEQ Groundwater Chief, has said he would not recommend that children run through the sprinklers with that water. Christoper Grobbel, hydrologist and Michigan State University professor advised residents not to shower with it, as manganese, a neurodegenerative element, can be absorbed through the lungs and skin. When asked about what guarantees there are that this proposal would work, Diane Carlson, DEQ Surface Water Discharge Permit writer, commented that there are no guarantees. Yet, Janiczek and Carlson both helped Nugent get their groundwater and surface water permits approved to enable the mining operations to continue.

Two public hearings for the permits were heavily opposed to Nugentís plans based on their treatment of the environment and the residents through the decades. Citizens hope Governor Granholm and Steven Chester will protect Lake Michigan and the groundwater from further contamination by holding Nugent responsible for the pollution, fining them and making them clean up the groundwater on their own property by building a wastewater treatment plant as the DEQ has required in New Era.

Muskegon Save Our Shoreline, a local grassroots environmental group, has sent over 1250 letters and petition signatures to Governor Granholm asking her administration to support denial of the pipeline. A thorough environmental impact study is needed prior to any permit approval, especially since there is a toxic 201 site on the Nugent property and an industry adjacent to Nugent that has been known to dump toxins directly into the ground. Water filtration plant directors on either side of the Nugent property have expressed concern about the potential harm to the drinking water of 120,000 area residents. Former Muskegon Heights Water Filtration Plant Director Paul Van Norman said the proposal is a disaster waiting to happen.

Granholm has said, "We can choose to take action and ensure for future generations crystal blue water, rainbow trout, clear babbling brooks,...." She has advocated that citizens take an active part in state government to protect our great natural resources. Muskegon Save Our Shoreline Vice-President, Darlene DeHudy says, "We all pray Granholm and Chester decide for the greater good, instead of for one manís profit. Dilution is not the solution to pollution."


Muskegon Save Our Shoreline, Inc. is a non-profit Michigan Corporation established in 1975 to solve environmental, land use and related problems associated with the degradation of Muskegon Lake, its shoreline and nearby areas, and to protect and upgrade the quality thereof by seeking to further the transition of the Muskegon Lake shoreline from industrial uses to a mixture of urban, recreational, light commercial and conservancy uses, and to minimize the impact of existing industry on Muskegon Lake.

Officers are: Karen Benarek, President; Darlene A. DeHudy, Vice-President; Cynthia Price, Secretary/Treasurer; Jerry Bakke, Past President; James K. Austin, President Emeritus; and board members.