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Re: E-M:/ more on Kolke Creek

Enviro-Mich message from "Robert McCann" <mccannr@michigan.gov>

Dave - 

This is not entirely accurate either.  The DEQ is in fact appealing the judge's final order in this case and it may be helpful for everyone on enviro-mich to explain the history of this and why we have ultimately had to make this decision.

This project was proposed as a means to manage groundwater that had become contaminated from past spills at the oil production facility now owned by Merit Energy. The DEQ carefully evaluated every potential alternative cleanup method, and the final decision to discharge the clean, treated water into Kolke Creek was based on the best available science and regard for the public health and the environment.

The water that would be discharged would meet or go beyond all drinking water standards, and while the volume of the discharge may seem large, it in fact represents a relatively small amount in comparison to the natural water flows in the Kolke Creek watershed.

The DEQ did not go to court to defend Merit Energy or take sides in this case, but was rather named by the plaintiffs (The Anglers of the AuSable) as a co-defendant, which required our agency to defend our decision to the judge.  Ultimately, as you know, Judge Murphy disagreed with that decision and filed an interim order that required us to once again explore alternatives for discharging the treated water

In the interest of trying to move this cleanup process forward as quickly as possible, we originally chose not to pursue an appeal and rather explore the possibility of discharging the treated water onto a 40-acre parcel of property that Merit Energy had acquired.  During the review process, however, our team of water quality engineers determined that due to the location of this site, there would be an unacceptably high risk of the treated water mixing back into the contaminated plume and quickly spreading it to the Wilderness Valley residential area.  That knowledge, combined with the court changing the interim order into a final order and thereby eliminating needed flexibility in the process, left us with no alternative but to file an appeal.

The decision to appeal was not made easily or without the knowledge that it may in fact cause a delay in the cleanup process, but when our only alternative was to utilize a cleanup plan that may very well make the problem worse, it was the right decision.

It is disappointing to hear some of the misinformation that?s been portrayed regarding why we have made this decision.  Our goal is not, nor has it ever been, to protect the interests of Merit Energy.  Our goal is to ensure that this cleanup process succeeds and ensures the long term health of the residents of the community, as well as the quality of Kolke Creek, the AuSable River, and all of Michigan?s waters.

Robert McCann
Press Secretary
Michigan Department of Environmental Quality
Phone:  517-241-7397
Fax:  517-241-7401
Email: mccannr@michigan.gov  

>>> Dave Dempsey <davedem@hotmail.com> 7/20/2007 2:58 PM >>>
In response to the earlier post about the DEQ's appeal of the Merit Energy/Kolke Creek/Au Sable River judgment, DEQ staff inform me that they are not appealing the ruling against the proposed disposal of treated waste in the headwaters of the Au Sable, only the alternate method of disposal ordered by the Judge. I stand corrected.

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