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E-M:/ DEQ says plan to manage river toxins will endanger public

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DEQ says plan to manage river toxins will endanger public

Thursday, October 20, 2005By Jeff Kart
Times WriteR

State Department of Environmental Quality officials are critical of a management plan for toxic spoils from a Saginaw River dredging project, saying the plan as written will endanger public health and wildlife.

A U.S. Army Corps of Engineers official says he's just received the comments, but vows that any issues will be taken care of before river pilings are deposited on the site, along the Saginaw River on the Bay-Saginaw county line.

"I don't see anything we can't work out," said Terry A. Long, planning branch chief for the Corps in Detroit. "We didn't come this far to stop."

The Lone Tree Council, a Bay City area environmental group, obtained the comments through the state Freedom of Information Act.

Michelle Hurd Riddick, a Lone Tree member, said the documents back up what her group has been saying all along: Plans for the dredging facility have been pushed through by local, state and federal officials before all environmental concerns were studied and addressed.

"The whole permit process for this (Dredged Material Disposal Facility) has put the cart ahead of the horse," Hurd-Riddick said.

The Corps of Engineers, the DEQ and Saginaw County public works officials have worked for years on the project, to remove silt from the navigational channel of the Upper Saginaw River, from Bay City south to Saginaw. Spoils would be piled in a $5 million, 281-acre disposal facility in Frankenlust Township and 300 acres of wetlands would be created in Zilwaukee Township.

The spoils site would be used for 20 years worth of dredgings; river mud would be piled there and water from the spoils would drain back into the river.

Long didn't have an answer as to why environmental concerns are still being worked out this far into the process, with permits already issued and property purchased.

Patricia A. Brandt, program specialist for the DEQ Remediation and Redevelopment Division in Lansing, said the DEQ is committed to resolving the issues with the Corps, but the project can't go forward as proposed. "Significant modifications will be required," Brandt said.


- Jeff Kart covers the environment and politics for The Times. He can be reached at 894-9639 or by e-mail at jkart@bc-times.com.

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