Thornapple River Pollution News

Oil Spilled in Thornapple River
At the Southbelt Freeway Construction Site

On Friday, July 7, 2000, approximately 100 gallons of oil leaked into the Thornapple River from equipment on the construction site of the Southbelt Freeway. A few days earlier, there was a leak of about three gallons of oil. Containment procedures are in place. The DEQ has been on the site and is keeping track of the cleanup.

There were a lot of calls to the DEQ and the Thornapple River Watershed Group about this issue. People were able to see an oil slick on the surface of the water. The slick could not be contained by the cleanup barriers. As well, people observed sediment that is being stirred up from the bottom of the river during construction activities. The sediment clouds are not part of the spill.

If there is any more news on this topic, we will pass it on.

Sewage Release
From Hastings Wastewater Treatment Plant
into Thornapple River

Raw sewage was released into the Thornapple River July 10, 2000, from the Hastings Wastewater Treatment Plant. This was caused by an electrical problem that led to pump failure in the plant.

The release is long gone, but tests of the river in Barry County have revealed that the Thornapple may occasionally have background levels of E. coli present that make the water unsafe for body contact. It would be wise to establish regular testing on the Thornapple in Barry, because bodily contact is a daily event on the Thornapple River for tubers, kayakers, canoeists, and anglers.

It would also be wise to survey other sewage treatment plants releasing to the Thornapple River and see if their backup plan in case of pump failure is to release raw sewage. This does not seem like a very good back-up plan to the TRWG.

Kent County Health Department is considering establishing regular testing of the Thornapple at 84th street and 68th Street, where people regularly float inner tubes in large groups. Because of this use, TRWG recommends that regular testing be established. Kent County waters of the Thornapple are approved for partial body contact, according the the Health Department.

August, 2000

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Thornapple River Watershed Group
P.O. Box 341
Caledonia, Michigan 49316