EPA Completes $6 Million St. Clair Shores Cleanup

April 9, 2003
EPA Region 5 completed a $6 million PCB-contaminated sediment cleanup of the St. Clair Shores, Mich., 10-mile drain storm sewer system, northeast of Detroit. The year-long project involved the excavation and safe disposal of more than 23,000 tons of contaminated sediment from the storm sewer system and two canals that flow behind area homes.

"We made this a high-priority cleanup," said Region 5 Administrator Tom Skinner. "We moved as quickly as possible and put in some extra hours to get the job done for the people of St. Clair Shores. We've removed all the highly contaminated sediment from the storm sewer system and cleaned up all the high-concentration PCB sediment in the canals. To get a project like this done in a year is a great accomplishment." Skinner said the support of elected officials and concerned citizens was crucial to the speed of the cleanup.

EPA began its St. Clair Shores emergency assessment in early March 2002 at the request of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. Unexpectedly high PCB levels were discovered during routine sediment sampling in preparation for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers planned, Macomb County-sponsored dredging project on the two canals. EPA's emergency assessment was completed in June 2002 and involved analysis of over 300 sediment, air, water and soil samples.

The EPA-funded cleanup began July 29. An EPA Superfund emergency response team oversaw the removal of all contaminated sediment from a roughly mile-long stretch of the underground storm sewer system as well as a 1,600-foot-long area in the two canals. EPA contractors worked 12- to 14-hour days and six-day weeks and completed the cleanup on March 21.

The highest-concentration PCB materials were sent to Wayne Disposal in Belleville, Mich. The lower-concentration, non-hazardous materials were sent to a landfill in Lenox, Mich. In addition, about 2 million gallons of contaminated water was pumped out, treated and returned to Lake St. Clair. Contaminated water from the Wahby Park Pond was also treated, and the pond was refilled with city water.

With the cleanup work now complete, a four- to six-week restoration effort has begun. EPA contractors will repair damaged sea walls, replace concrete and asphalt parking lots and restore landscaping damaged as a result of the cleanup.

Polychlorinated biphenyls are a group of toxic chemicals that were once widely used as industrial coolants, insulators and lubricants. PCBs concentrate in the environment and the food chain, resulting in health hazards to humans, fish and wildlife. Because of these dangers, Congress banned the manufacture of new PCBs in 1976 and PCBs still in use are strictly regulated.

About the Author

Sandy Smith

Sandy Smith is the former content director of EHS Today, and is currently the EHSQ content & community lead at Intelex Technologies Inc. She has written about occupational safety and health and environmental issues since 1990.

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